The Ufa Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945by Klaus Kreimeier
Universum-Film AGbest known by its signature logo, Ufawas once the largest film company in Europe. Founded by the German High Command as a propaganda medium during World War I and always central to Germany's nationalistic big-business interests, Ufa was also home to the most innovative talents of the Weimar Republic. Fritz Lang, Marlene Dietrich, Emil
Universum-Film AGbest known by its signature logo, Ufawas once the largest film company in Europe. Founded by the German High Command as a propaganda medium during World War I and always central to Germany's nationalistic big-business interests, Ufa was also home to the most innovative talents of the Weimar Republic. Fritz Lang, Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings, and Ernst Lubitsch were Ufa stars; Metropolis, The Blue Angel, and Dr. Mabuse were only a few of its finest works. From its dazzling theaters to its state-of-the-art studios and processing labs, from its comprehensive multimedia publicity campaigns to its avant-garde art films, Ufa challenged Hollywood for cultural dominance and market share in Jazz Age Europe. But the story grows darker after the simultaneous advent of sound films and National Socialism. The story of Ufa under Hitler, when technically suberb films continued to be made, is the story of the corruption and destruction of this vital company by the state that brought it into existence.
Ufa, the Universum Film-Aktiongesellschaft (Universal Film Corporation), was the heart of German cinema from the early 1920s through the fall of the Third Reich, "Germany's imperial purveyor of magical images." As Kreimeier explains in this exhaustively complete history of the company, Ufa's roots were in the ultranationalist German right wing, and from the very beginning, the corporation's vision was linked to the political agenda of the Wilhelmine old guard. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, the company was the brainchild of General Ludendorff and his underlings, who felt that the film industry had't done enough to propagandize on behalf of German armed forces during the recently concluded world war. With the Deutsche Bank playing a principal role throughout its history, Ufa would continue to be linked to Pan-German ideologues with ties to heavy industry; in 1927, the company was taken over by Alfred Hugenberg, chairman of the Krupp armaments empire and head of one of the ultra-right political parties. And when the Nazis came to power, Ufa, which had already swallowed many of its competitors, was the perfect vehicle for Goebbels's vision of a state-controlled film industry serving the needs of the Nazi Party. In spite of its political roots, Ufa managed to produce many memorable films and a host of great talents, including directors like Fritz Lang and Ernst Lubitsch, stars like Emil Jannings and, perhaps most important of all, producer Erich Pommer. Kreimeier is more concerned with the political and economic machinations of the company and the cultural history that produced it than with the films themselves, but the book that results is a model of unflinching corporate history.
An essential piece of film history and riveting reading. Only star-gazing film buffs will be disappointed.
Meet the Author
Klaus Kreimeier was cultural editor for Der Spiegel and has taught at the German Film and Television Academy. A freelance journalist, he lives in Berlin.
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