Portraits of Expatriate Experience
3 December 2010
Congratulations to Art Spiegelman!
7 February 2011

John Baxter at the Library

Turner Classic Movies on John Baxter’s latest biography Von Sternberg.


Belligerent and evasive, Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969) chose to ignore his out-of-wedlock birth in Austria, deprived New York childhood, abusive father, and lack of education. The director who strutted onto the set in a turban, riding breeches, or a silk robe embraced his persona as a world traveler, collected modern art, drove a Rolls Royce, and earned three times as much as the president. Von Sternberg (University Press of Kentucky) traces the choices that carried the unique director from poverty in Vienna to power in Hollywood.


Historian John Baxter reveals an artist few people knew: the aesthete who transformed Marlene Dietrich into an international star whose ambivalent sexuality and contradictory allure on-screen reflected an off-screen romance with the director. In his classic films The Blue Angel (1930), Morocco (1930), and Blonde Venus (1932), von Sternberg showcased his trademark visual style and revolutionary representations of sexuality. Drawing on firsthand conversations with von Sternberg and his son, Baxter breaks past the classic Hollywood caricature to demystify and humanize this legendary director.

John Baxter is the author of Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas and We’ll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light, as well as biographies of many Hollywood luminaries including Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, Steven Spielberg, Ken Russell, George Lucas, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, and Robert DeNiro. He lives in Paris, France.

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