Peter Rosen’s mild documentary provides a sketchy overview on lives of Jewish artists, writers and composers who escaped Nazi Germany and Austria during the late 1930s and settled in Hollywood. Most of them were able to re-establish their careers (notably Fritz Lang and Erich Wolfgang Korngold), and the American popular culture was enriched by their contributions.
But the transition was not a unanimous success for these esteemed immigrants. Many had problems embracing English, others could not come to feel at home in their surroundings, and others were forced to leave the U.S. during the Hollywood blacklist era.
The film uses home movies, rare photographs and newsreel footage to detail this distinctive community-in-exile. However, Rosen’s overview has more than a few omissions. No actors are profiled, and only brief glimpses of photographs of Marlene Dietrich and Peter Lorre are inserted for any thespian representation. No mention is made of Otto Preminger and Billy Wilder, too.
Furthermore, there are several passages where Rosen notes how some of the exiles found themselves struggling professionally – yet they appear to have resided in fairly swank homes, so it is unclear how they were able to support themselves in a manner that was clearly a level above middle class.
While “Shadows in Paradise” provides a glimpse into an extraordinary moment in Hollywood history, its lack of depth makes it too shadowy for full value.