Artists In Exile Hardcover – Jan 24 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Horowitz's sophisticated case studies explore a tension in the art of 20th-century performers who emigrated from Europe or Russia: they both stayed foreign and became American. A one-time executive director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Horowitz (Classical Music in America) extends his domain beyond music into other performing arts, examining key exemplars in each discipline such as Igor Stravinsky in music composition, George Balanchine in ballet, and Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg in Hollywood. His understanding of the political nuances of immigrants' artistic work, influenced by the circumstances in which they fled their native countries, is fascinating. Yet Horowitz emphasizes the Americanization of the artworks at the expense of their European roots. Based on what Horowitz admits is a highly select group of artists, he often poses broad questions and makes bold, generalized statements, such as trivializing the plight of the immigrant artist in contemporary American society: the tensions of forced migration—of exile and nostalgia—have abated. Still, what Horowitz lacks in balance he more than makes up for in emotion, and in expounding on the political resonance of the immigrants' art, he composes an enlightening, informative read. 31 b&w photos. (Feb.)
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“Heroically researched . . . chock-full of fascinating vignettes, stunning quotations, and shrewd insights on the fly.” (New York Times)
A masterful study of how the Russian Revolution, the rise of European fascism and the second world war all transformed the American performing arts (The Economist)
A persuasive examination of the most compelling of twentieth centurycultural phenomena, how refugees from all across Europe, running the gamutfrom George Balanchine to Billy Wilder, revolutionized American artisticlife. Erudite, incisive, inconoclastic, as readable as it is comprehensive,this is just the kind of treatment the participants themselves would haverelished. (Kenneth Turan, film critic, Los Angeles Times)
“A rich assembly, an unmasked ball teeming with famous names. . . . Horowitz can make judgements boldly, out of deep knowledge. . . . The way Horowtiz raves learnedly...should send any reader diving into Amazon.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I can't judge about the correct year of a movie being 1915 or 1916 or 1918, which another reviewer lists as one of the "wince-making" errors in the book, but in my opinion this is beside the point. Scholars interested in a specific person profiled here will not buy this book; they will buy a biography of that person instead.
This book is for anyone who wants to learn more about the impact of a sudden change in culture on people's ability to make art - the change being of course the ascent of the Nazis to power and World War II, which drove many Europeans to exile in the United States. The author doesn't restrict himself to one genre, instead choosing to cover dance, music, cinema and theater; as a result, he spends only a few pages on each of the many celebrities (Toscanini, Dietrich, etc) he writes about, but there are enough notes at the end of the book to help the curious reader find references regarding this or that person. Besides, many artists with high potential did not fare too well after they arrived in the States and are now largely forgotten. I can see how the lack of space devoted to any one person might frustrate some readers, though. The book is more an overview than an in-depth examination of how exile has affected specific individuals.
I loved that book, and highly recommend it to anyone who wonders how changing cultures in adulthood affects artists and their ability to make art.
He claims in his preface that his chapter on film was read by Richard Schickel - given the circumstances, and the fact that Schickel has had a forty-year career as a film critic, I'm a little surprised that the film section of the book has quite a few wince-making errors of fact:
p. 234 He lists The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916) as having been made in 1916 and 1918, respectively.
p. 234 He follows the lead of several recent trashy biographies in stating that Charlie Chaplin "did not know who fathered him," which is most likely untrue.
p. 235 He claims that Chaplin's family was "sufficiently well-to-do to afford a maid," which shows a complete ignorance of the socio-economic realities of Victorian and Edwardian England, in which household help was plentiful and very cheap. It's like saying that a contemporary American family is rich enough to afford a cell phone.
p. 272 Grand Hotel was released in 1932, not 1944. He may be confusing it with the Americanized remake, Weekend at the Waldorf, which was released in 1945.
p. 300 He has Double Indemnity released in 1945 (it was a year earlier) and The Lost Weekend in 1948 (it was three years earlier).
p. 309 While not strictly speaking an error of fact, saying that Sunset Boulevard is "a well-turned anecdote more conventional than brave" is so idiotic that it deserves mention with the factual errors.
p. 335 Saying that David O. Selznick's 1944 film (for which he also wrote the screenplay) is John Cromwell's Since You Went Away is equally dumb, and takes the auteur theory to the point of lunacy.
Some would say that a handful of errors is not enough to vitiate an otherwise valuable book, and they may be right. But it does mar it sufficiently so that I would wait to read it until a later edition, when these errors can be corrected. Otherwise, stick to the chapters on music and leave the film section alone.
But for me, the book's most glaring fault is that the author fails to explain some of the issues he raises, often instead just using circular logic.
I will admit that I was especially looking forward to the chapter on classical music, and it was such a disappointment! Anybody will be much better off reading Alex Ross' recent masterpiece on classical music in the 20th Century - which, even though it does not necessarily focus on artists in exile in the US, explains in much better detail why American classical music evolved the way it did.
As an expat I also missed any understanding of some of the issues the artists in exile must have faced. For the most part, artists yearning for their countries are being dismissed as irrelevant, whereas those willing to adapt are being praised. The tremendous strain that being in exile must have meant for both are simply ignored. For a book about artists in exile that's a glaring omission.