Hollywood on the Danube: Hungarian Filmmakers in a Transnational Context


  • Catherine Portuges University of Massachusetts Amherst




Hungary, exile, Hollywood, filmmakers


Exile, emigration and displacement have marked the trajectories of Hungarian filmmakers over the past century. Michael Curtiz, the Korda brothers—Alexander, Vincent and Zoltán—André de Toth, Emeric Pressburger, Vilmos Zsigmond, Miklós Rózsa, Peter Lorre, Géza von Radvány and other talented artists have crossed borders, cultures and languages, creating such classics as Casablanca, Somewhere in Europe, The Red Shoes and The Lost One. The legendary sign posted in Hollywood studios read: "It is not enough to be Hungarian, you have to have talent, too!" Accompanied by film extracts, rare footage, personal interviews, archive photographs, and documentary materials, my presentation explores the transnational odysseys of these Hungarian directors, producers, cinematographers, composers, actors and screenwriters whose artistic contributions became an indispensable part of international cinema, suggesting that the challenges of emigration may also offer opportunities for critique, self-examination and artistic creativity.

Author Biography

Catherine Portuges, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Catherine Portuges is Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Curator, Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival, University of Massachusetts Amherst where she received the Chancellor's Medal for Distinguished Teaching (2010). She was awarded the Pro Cultura Hungarica Medal (Republic of Hungary, 2009) for her contributions to Hungarian cinema, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2007) for her project on Jewish identities in Hungarian filmmaking. With a PhD in French from UCLA, her books include Screen Memories: The Hungarian Cinema of Márta Mészáros (Indiana, l993) and Cinemas in Transition: Post-socialist East Central Europe (co-edited with Peter Hames, Temple, 2012). Her most recent essays have appeared in Cinema's Alchemist: The Films of Péter Forgács (2012); The Reception of the Holocaust in Post-Communist Europe (2012); Blackwell Companion to East European Cinema (2012); and The Blackwell Companion to Historical Film (2012). She is a frequent lecturer at international conferences, an invited programmer, curator and consultant for film festivals and colloquia, and a delegate to international film festivals.






Cluster Articles: Hungarian Borders, Immigration, Diasporas