Light & Noir

Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950

October 23, 2014–March 1, 2015

About the Exhibition

The exhibition Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950 explored how the experiences of German-speaking exiles and émigrés who fled Nazi Europe—many of them Jews—influenced the classic films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Visitors learned in depth how beloved movies such as Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, Casablanca, and Ninotchka were shaped by the light and dark experiences of these pioneering film artists.

The exhibition spotlighted acclaimed actors, directors, writers, and composers, focusing on their impact on American cinema and culture. Film directors—including such luminaries as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann—made their way to California and shaped the look of classic movies. Oscar-winning composers such as Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Franz Waxman created the sound, and acclaimed writers—from Lion Feuchtwanger to Salka Viertel—the stories. Already established émigrés, such as producer Carl Laemmle, director Ernst Lubitsch, actress Marlene Dietrich, and talent agent Paul Kohner, helped the new arrivals find their path in Hollywood.

Through a never-before-assembled selection of film footage, drawings, props, costumes, posters, photographs, and memorabilia, Light & Noir told the story of Hollywood’s formative era through the lens of the émigré experience, focusing on genres in which the exiles and émigrés were especially productive: the exile film, the anti-Nazi film, film noir, and comedy. On view were costumes worn by Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, and Joan Crawford, as well as one of Billy Wilder’s Academy Awards, Ernst Lubitsch’s twenty-five year anniversary album, the Max Factor Scroll of Fame, and original props from the set of Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

The exhibition demonstrated how the experiences of exodus and exile affected the lives and work of émigrés in many different ways. It is a story of immigration, acculturation, and innovation that intersects with the flourishing of Hollywood as an American cultural phenomenon.

Organized by the Skirball Cultural Center and co-presented with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Tour Schedule

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
Skokie, IL
October 11, 2015–January 10, 2016

National Museum of American Jewish History
Philadelphia, PA
Fall 2017

Additional venues may be announced.