Kay Dreyfus was inspired to write about the Weintraubs Syncopators after seeing a German documentary at the Melbourne Jewish Film Festival in 2000. The film recounted the story of this interwar dance and variety band, which had earned fame in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930), and later used a European tour to escape from Hitler’s jazz- and Jew-hating régime. After a music-driven adventure across Russia and Asia, the group believed it had found a haven when it reached Australia in 1937, and secured a residency in Sydney’s high-society Prince’s restaurant. Then disaster struck. Accused of espionage, musicians accustomed to celebrity suddenly found themselves interned. Although they were later released, the band never reformed. Dreyfus was intrigued by the Syncopators’ story, but it was the film’s assertion of Australian responsibility for their destruction that piqued her intellectual curiosity.
Such wide skies
Silences and Secrets: The Australian Experience of the Weintraubs Syncopators
by Kay Dreyfus
Monash University Publishing, $34.95 pb, 315 pp, 9781921867804
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Colin Nettelbeck is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne, where he held the A.R. Chisholm Chair of French. He taught previously at the University of California (Berkeley) and Monash University. He has written extensively about twentieth-century and contemporary French literature, cinema, and cultural history, with special focus on the French experience of World War II. His most recent book is Dancing with de Beauvoir: Jazz and the French, published by Melbourne University Press in 2004. His essay ‘Kneecapper: a Trip to Happiness’ (published in the Autumn 2011 Meanjin Quarterly) was shortlisted for the 2010 Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. He was awarded second prize in the 2012 Calibre Prize for ‘Now They’ve Gone’.
By this contributor
- Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'A History of Modern French Literature: From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century' edited by Christopher Prendergast
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- Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Les Parisiennes: How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died in the 1940s' by Anne Sebba
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