ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
You love their movies. Now discover their stories. The exhibition Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950 explores 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. Learn 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 spotlights acclaimed of 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 tells 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 are 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 demonstrates 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.