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Der Kaiser von Kalifornien

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Kaiser of California
Directed byLuis Trenker
Screenplay byLuis Trenker
StarringLuis Trenker
Distributed byTobis Film
Release date
  • 1936 (1936)

Der Kaiser von Kalifornien (English: The Emperor of California), is a 1936 film that was the first Western film made in Nazi Germany. Some exterior scenes were shot on location in the United States at Sedona, Arizona, the Grand Canyon, and Death Valley in California.

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The film follows the life story of Johann Augustus Sutter, the owner of Sutter's Mill, famous as the birthplace of the great California Gold Rush of 1849. However much of the story re-writes the actual history of Sutter.[1] While the basic story of Sutter's life is retained, the producers inserted some notable changes reflecting the political environment of the film's creation: though Sutter was a Swiss-German, the film emphasizes his German ethnicity, and though he changed his name to John when he came to the United States, throughout the film he retains the name Johann.

The film opposes the "easy" money of gold-digging with the wealth and values created by hard work, as the gold rush eventually destroys Sutter's fortunes and creates social disintegration and the loss of solidarity and companionship.

In the final scene the aged and impoverished Sutter is shown in Washington, D.C., where he has a vision of America's future industrial might, seeing a land full of skyscrapers and factories.

Unlike most American Westerns of the 1930s, The Emperor of California offers a sympathetic portrait of the Native Americans, whom Sutter respectfully befriends. In this it follows the Karl May tradition of German Western stories, which often featured noble Native Americans and German immigrants turned pioneers and gunmen.[citation needed]


The film was loosely based on the book L'Or (1925) by Blaise Cendrars.[2] The screenplay was written and directed by the Tyrolean Luis Trenker, who also starred as Johann Sutter. Trenker had previously directed Der verlorene Sohn (The Prodigal Son, 1934), the story of an Alpine immigrant in New York City, which is the only other film produced in Nazi Germany with scenes photographed on location in the United States.

Awards and honors

The film won the 1936 Mussolini Cup for best foreign film at the Venice Film Festival.[3] It was screened as part of the "Venice Days" series at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in September 2011.

When the film was released in Germany, Hitler attended the premier.[2] When the film was released in the United States, The New York Times gave it a positive review on May 8, 1937, however it never reached any commercial success.[2]


See also


  1. ^ Hales, Barbara; Petrescu, Mihaela; Weinstein, Valerie (2016). Continuity and Crisis in German Cinema, 1928-1936. Boydell & Brewer. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-57113-935-1.
  2. ^ a b c Reimer, Robert Charles (2002). Cultural History Through a National Socialist Lens: Essays on the Cinema of the Third Reich. Camden House. pp. 44–48. ISBN 978-1-57113-134-8.
  3. ^ Kapczynski, Jennifer M.; Richardson, Michael David (2012). A New History of German Cinema. Boydell & Brewer. p. 272. ISBN 978-1-57113-595-7.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 December 2023, at 04:27
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