National Socialism and Literary Adaptation: Gustaf Gründgens's Der Schritt Vom Wege and Helmut Käutner's Kleider Machen Leute
German Life and Letters
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Eric Rentschler argues that 'film production in the Third Reich offers a strikingly concrete example' of the theoretical construct of 'the dominant cinema' ('Hollywood') devised by film theorists. But is the era of 'Germany's Hollywood' ideological in the same way as Hollywood, or in a different way? Consideration of National Socialist adaptations of non-Nazi texts may help one determine the specific meaning of the ideological in the Nazi context. The admittedly small area of National Socialist literary adaptation acquires a disproportionately revelatory potential due to the clearly perceptible disparities between the original, pre-Nazi texts and their Nazi-era reworkings. The adaptations considered here are Gustaf Gründgens's Der Schritt vom Wege (1939), based on Fontane's Effi Briest – a parti-cularly problematic work for National Socialist ideology – and Helmut Käutner's version of Gottfried Keller's Kleider machen Leute (1940), whose admission of its own approximate relationship with the original narrative seems to dismiss the probably irresoluble problem of fidelity to the original, but which is also problematic.