Eisner, Lotte H.

Full Name: 
Eisner, Lotte H.
Other Names: 
Lotte H. Eisner
Louise Escoffier, pseudonym
Year Born: 
1896
Year Died: 
1983
Place Born: 
Berlin, Germany
Place Died: 
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Home Country: 
Germany
France
Overview: 
Film and painting historian of German Expressionism. Eisner's father was Hugo Eisner (1856-1924), a textile exporter and magistrate, and her mother Margarethe Feodora Aron (1866-1942). She was raised in a prosperous middle-class Jewish family living in near the Zoo quarter of Berlin. After receiving her Abitur at the Humanistisches Gymnasium in Karlsruhe, 1917, she studied archaeology, art history and philosophy at the universities in Berlin (under Heinrich Wölfflin, q.v.), Freiburg im Breisgau (under Ludwig Curtius, q.v.), Munich and finally Rostock where she was awarded her Ph.D. Her dissertation, written under the classicist Gottfried von Lücken (q.v.) on the compositional development of Greek vases, was accepted in 1924. She worked on Italian archaeological excavations in Italy, 1924-1926 and then journalism for the newspapers Literarische Welt and the Berliner Tageblatt, 1926-1927, writing arts reviews. She met Hans Feld (1909-1992) editor of the Berlin film periodical Filmkuriers in 1927. Feld invited her to review, and Eisner became the first woman film critic. Jewish and an exponent of Expressionism, the hated movement by the Nazis, she became a target of persecution. Filmkuriers was purged of Jews by the Nazis and, after a phone call warned her of her impending arrest, she fled to France in 1933 to live with her sister in Paris. Between 1933 and 1939 she was a film correspondent for the British Film World News, the Czech Internationale Filmschau and Die Kritik, supporting herself as a secretary, nanny and translator. When France entered World War II, Eisner was interned in an enemy alien camp at Gurs, France, for three months. She escaped and, using the name Louise Escoffier, worked as a cook in Figeac (déparetment Lot) of unoccupied France. Her mother perished in the camp at Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, in 1942. Even before the end of the war, Eisner worked for the film preservationist Henri Langlois (1914-1977), inventorying films he had saved from Nazi destruction. In 1945 she was appointed chief conservator for the Cinémathèque française in Palais de Challiot, Paris. She was naturalized a French citizen in 1952. The same year she wrote L'écran démoniaque: influence de Max Reinhardt et de l'expressionisme, her most important book. She co-founded the Musée Cinémathèque with Langlois in 1972. In 1980 a documentary film was made on her by S. M Horowitz, Lotte Eisner in Germany.The Times (London) obituary characterized her film reviews as that of an art historian.
Selected Bibliography: 
L'écran démoniaque: influence de Max Reinhardt et de l'expressionisme. Paris: A. Bonne 1952, English, The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. 0.Metzler
Sources: 
Horowitz, S. M. Lotte Eisner in Germany. New York: New Yorker Films, 1980; Eisner, Lotte H. Ich hatte einst ein schönes Vaterland: Memoiren. 2nd ed. Heidelberg: Wunderhorn, 1984; Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 136-8; [obituaries] "Lotte Eisner." Times (London) December 3, 1983, p. 8; "Lotte H. Eisner." New York Times November 29, 1983, p. B5.