Skirball Cultural Center presents
February 3–May 8, 2005

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90049 (Exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405)
(310) 440-4500, fax (310) 440-4595
Contact: Mia Cariño (310) 440-4544
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Galka Scheyer in a Corner Window of Her House, 1936. Photo by Lette Valeska.
© Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection Archives

Los Angeles—Driven into Paradise: L.A.’s European Jewish Émigrés of the 1930s and 1940s, the first exhibition to focus exclusively on the major contributions that Jewish exiles made to the cultural foundation of Los Angeles, will be on view at the Skirball Cultural Center from February 3 through May 8, 2005. The exhibition traces the dramatic and highly personal journeys of eleven talented men and women as they escaped from Nazi-dominated Europe, adjusted to life in the United States and became leading figures in the burgeoning cultural landscape of Los Angeles, in particular Hollywood. On display will be informative and interactive graphic panels exhibiting musical scores, manuscripts, novels, letters and photographs, along with film and music clips, drawn from archives in Los Angeles, Berlin and Vienna. Together these materials convey a profound sense of personal and artistic freedom made possible by the émigrés’ new surroundings of Southern California.

The émigrés whose lives and careers are highlighted in the exhibition are filmmakers Michael Curtiz and Billy Wilder, composers Arnold Schoenberg and Ernst Toch, artists Otto and Gertrud Natzler, art collector Galka Scheyer and writers Vicki Baum, Lion Feuchtwanger, Salka Viertel and Franz Werfel. With the rise of Nazism, these luminaries, ranking among the cultural elite in their homelands, either fled Europe and sought refuge in Los Angeles or were living in Los Angeles and became political refugees when stripped of their European citizenship. For practical as well as creative reasons, many émigrés were compelled to work in the nascent, lucrative film industry of Hollywood. Yet, even as they found a safe haven in Los Angeles, some of them were officially considered “enemy aliens” by the U.S. government. As exiles, they were forced to re-conceptualize the very meaning of freedom.

“This exhibition explores the many forces at work in the lives of these culture shapers, whose experiences as European Jewish émigrés reveal both triumph and pathos,” explained Lori Starr, Senior Vice President of the Skirball Cultural Center and Director of the Skirball Museum. “Displaced from their own lands, they came to the United States despite the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which had shut the doors on immigration to America. How they managed to make a life in L.A. is part of their remarkable story.”

Starr continued, “What they created had an impact that extended well beyond Los Angeles, influencing the world’s view of American cinema, music, literature and art. Given our institution’s mission to explore the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals, we are proud to explore the immigration experience of these political and cultural exiles and their means for artistic expression in a new land.”

Art collector Galka Scheyer (1889–1945) expressed her individual sense of freedom through her tireless promotion of modernism, Hitler’s despised art. In particular, it was through her collecting efforts that the Blue Four artists—among them Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee—received significant attention in the United States.  In a much different way, the politically active writer Lion Feuchtwanger (1884–1958) embraced his newfound freedom through his varied humanitarian efforts. These included actively speaking out against Fascism, supporting the founding of a Jewish state, and helping individuals escape from Nazi Europe and come to the United States. Feuchtwanger did all of this as an enemy alien who never received American citizenship.

Driven into Paradise has been organized by Skirball Associate Curator Tal Gozani. Materials in this exhibition come from the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library and Warner Bros. Archives at USC, Special Collections and Music Library Special Archives at UCLA, The Norton Simon Museum, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Archives, Bison Archives, Los Angeles Public Library, New York Public Library, the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna, the Berlin Film Museum, as well as from several private collections.

Gozani remarked, “In trying to recapture what life must have been like in Los Angeles for these displaced cultural icons, it was wonderful to discover the cultural treasures that we have right here in our own backyard. We are indebted to the many fine local and international institutions that have helped preserve and cultivate the legacies of these remarkable Los Angeles émigrés.”

Driven into Paradise is presented concurrently with the exhibition Einstein, on view through May 29, 2005. Albert Einstein (1879–1955) spent three winters as a visiting scholar at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in 1931, 1932 and 1933 after which he became an émigré to the United States. Driven into Paradise helps to illuminate the social, political and cultural milieu that Einstein himself experienced in Southern California.

Related programs (visit <>  for more information):

- Sunday, March 20, 4:30 p.m.: Kaffee und Kultur: L.A.’s Émigré Life of the 1940s and 1950s. CalArts’s New Millennium Players perform music composed by Arnold Schoenberg while he was living in Los Angeles, followed by traditional Viennese Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and pastries). The afternoon program will culminate in an enlightening conversation about the development of the cultural life of Los Angeles as shaped by the émigré community of the 1940s and 1950s. Moderated by Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s Morning Edition and featuring art historian Naomi Sawelson, UCLA German professor Ehrhard Bahr and writer Lawrence Weschler, who is the grandson of émigré composer Ernst Toch.

- Tuesdays, March 22–April 19 (5 sessions), 7:00–10:00 p.m.: Paradise Found Film Series, offered by the Skirball’s Lifelong Learning department, presenting five intriguing works created by some of the European Jewish émigrés who revitalized the American film industry during the 1930s, 1940s and beyond. Films to be screened are Queen Christina (1933; screenplay by Salka Viertel), Hold Back the Dawn (1948; screenplay by Ketti Frings and Billy Wilder), Mission to Moscow (1943; directed by Michael Curtiz), A Foreign Affair (1948; directed by Billy Wilder) and Julia (1977; directed by Fred Zinnemann). Participants will dissect the revealing cultural history that these films ultimately conveyed. Film critic and writer Stephen Farber will lead the discussions.

- Sunday, May 1, 2:00 p.m.: A talk exploring the lives of women in exile by Andreas Lixl, Professor of German and Head of the Department of German, Russian and Japanese Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Organized jointly by the Skirball and the Villa Aurora.

- Docent-led tours will be given on Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. throughout the run of the exhibition. Free. No reservations necessary.

- Driven into Paradise is one of a number of exhibitions and programs being presented in association with Einstein. For more information about Einstein-related talks, classes, films, contemporary art exhibitions, theater, dance and family programs, visit <>.


Visiting the Skirball Cultural Center
Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405).  Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday noon–5:00 p.m.; extended hours on Thursdays until 9:00 p.m. through May 29, 2005 only; Sunday 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays. Admission to Driven into Paradise is free. Admission to exhibitions is always free to children under 12 and Skirball Members. Admission to Einstein only (includes admission to all other exhibitions): $12 General, $10 Group Rate, $8 Seniors and Students. Admission to other ticketed exhibitions: $8 General, $6 Seniors and Students. Ruby Gallery exhibitions are always free to the public. Parking is free. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit

The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music, and more.

About the Skirball
Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections  between four thousand years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through public programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through scholarship in American Jewish history and related publications; and through outreach to the community.

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