Exile, Authorship, and 'The Good German'
: A Reconsideration of the Screenplays and Novels of Emeric Pressburger

  • Caitlin Elizabeth McDonald

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Despite being an equal in the most significant partnership in British cinema, Emeric Pressburger has largely been overshadowed by his long term collaborator Michael Powell in both critical and academic studies. While there have been countless books on Powell and Pressburger as a team, those who have sought to separate the partnership have, until now, focussed almost exclusively on Powell. This thesis will attempt to redress the balance within Powell and Pressburger scholarship and attempt to break away from director-centric film
    studies. It will aim to examine Pressburger’s morally ambiguous characters, such as the recurring “good German” and his propensity to humanise characters who would normally be termed evil or corrupt, in conjunction with the central themes of displacement and exile within Pressburger’s screenplays and novels. The thesis will also utilise both unpublished and unfilmed material and demonstrate that the study of these works that exist only in archives provide a greater insight into the working practises of authors and filmmakers, while providing a valuable point of comparison to their more widely known works.

    Specifically, this thesis will address four separate aspects of Pressburger’s canon. First, it will discuss Pressburger’s war films which he made with Powell, which have suffered to an extent from neglect by many Archers’ scholars. It is clear that Pressburger’s key hallmarks and mirroring of his own experiences during the war can be seen to develop within these works and provide an ideal point of comparison with that of his later projects such as his novels. Chapter two will then examine the often overlooked filmed operetta, Oh...Rosalinda!! (1955) along with Pressburger’s unfilmed screenplay The Golden Years
    (1951) a biopic of Richard Strauss, and provide a comparison to demonstrate the manner in which Pressburger’s love of opera overlapped with his development of complex characters and response to the war. Chapter three will analyse Pressburger two published novels, both of which have been largely ignored by both cinema and literary critics. Through the study of these novels, the difference in approach after the transition from screenwriter to novelist will
    be examined, along with the further development of his seeming neutrality in the portrayal of morally unsound characters. Chapter four will then focus on Pressburger’s two unpublished novels, The Unholy Passion and A Face like England, with consideration of Pressburger’s developing ideas of morality and forgiveness in his later years. In conclusion, by closely examining works that have been overlooked by Powell and Pressburger scholars, the thesis
    will shed new light on Pressburger, both as a filmmaker and an author and demonstrate the complexities of both his characters and his writing.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBrian Hoyle (Supervisor) & Keith Williams (Supervisor)


    • Emeric Pressburger
    • Exile
    • Authorship
    • Film Studies
    • Post-war Literature
    • Holocaust
    • Trauma
    • British Cinema
    • Powell & Pressburger
    • Michael Powell
    • Collaboration
    • Auteurism
    • Adaptation
    • Screenwriting
    • Germany
    • Hungarian Filmmaker
    • Refugee
    • WWII
    • Unfilmed Screenplays
    • Unpublished Novels
    • Archives

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