The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood

Donna Rifkind. Other Press, $30 (560p) ISBN 978-1-59051-721-5
Book critic Rifkind debuts with an immersive biography of actor, screenwriter, and salon hostess Salka Viertel, a central figure in the community of European artists and intellectuals who fled Nazi Germany for Los Angeles in the 1930s and ’40s. Rifkind opens the narrative in 1960s Switzerland, where Viertel lived and wrote her memoir, The Kindness of Strangers, after the House Un-American Activities Committee made it difficult for her to get work in Hollywood, then rewinds to 1928, when Viertel and her husband left Berlin for America. A year or two after her arrival, Viertel met Greta Garbo and became close friends, collaborators, and rumored lovers with the Swedish film star. At the same time that Viertel was writing Queen Christina (1933) and Anna Karenina (1935) for Garbo, she was hosting Sunday afternoon gatherings for European émigrés at her Santa Monica home. Her guests included Bertolt Brecht, Charlie Chaplin, Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, and Thomas Mann. Working with the European Film Fund, Viertel helped to obtain U.S. visas and Hollywood jobs for German and Austrian refugees from WWII. Rifkind also delves into Viertel’s role as a leading advocate against fascist sympathizers in America. Chock-full of scandalous affairs and wartime atmosphere, this sparkling account brings overdue attention to a woman who helped make Hollywood’s golden age possible. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/01/2019
Release date: 01/28/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-1-63542-092-0
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