German Exiles in Southern California
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)
Brecht was one of the most important German writers and playwrights
of the 20th century. He is perhaps best known for his collaborative
work Die Dreigroschenoper (The Three Penny
Opera) with composer Kurt Weill. In Berlin during the
1920s Brecht worked with theater directors Max Reinhardt and
Erwin Piscator; he also collaborated with composers Weill, Hindemith
and Eisler to create a form he called "Lehrstücke" ("exemplary
plays"). All of these artists would later flee from Europe and
live for a time in the United States.
Brecht's political and satrical writing made him an early enemy
of the National Socialists. Brecht escaped first to Switzerland,
then to Scandinavia. With financial help from his friend and fellow
exile, Lion Feuchtwanger, Brecht
was able to come to the United States.
and his wife Helene Weigel first lived briefly in Hollywood on 1954
Argyle Avenue, then moved to this house on 817 25th Street
in Santa Monica between 1941 and 1942.
the rest of his stay until 1947, Brecht lived at 1063 26th Street.
In his August 12th (1942) diary entry Brecht described this house
in this way:
"one of the
oldest, is about 30 years old, california clapboard, whitewashed,
with an upper floor with 4 bedrooms. i have a long workroom (almost
7 meters), which we immediately whitewashed and equipped with
4 tables. there are old trees in the garden (a pepper-tree and
a fig-tree). rent is $60 per month, $12.50 more than in 25th street."
had great difficulties in this country owing to his theatrical
philosophy and political views. One success, however, was his
production of "The Life of Galileo" ("Leben des Galilei") on
which he was assisted by the well-known British actor Charles
Laughton. During these years Brecht and Feuchtwanger collaborated
on a play called the "Die Gesichte der Simone Marchard" ("The
Visions of Simone Machard") which was not produced until after
Brecht's years in Southern California: 1941-1947.
Bertolt Brecht. Bertolt Brecht journals. Translated
by Hugh Rorrison. New York : Routledge, 1993.
For more information contact the Feuchtwanger