Zuckmayer, Carl 1896–1977
Zuckmayer was a German dramatist, novelist, screenwriter, essayist, and poet. He began his dramatic career as an expressionist; however, after two undistinguished plays he turned to realism. It is for his realistic dramas, which show a close affinity to the work of his friend and mentor Gerhart Hauptmann, that Zuckmayer is best known. His most successful works are generally, like The Merry Vineyard, comedies which draw upon German folk traditions; or, like The Captain from Köpenick and The Devil's General, satires on the militarism of Nazi Germany. He also wrote the German screenplay for The Blue Angel. During his career Zuckmayer received many of Germany's most prestigious literary awards: the Kleist Prize, the Georg Büchner Prize, the Goethe Prize, and the Heinrich Heine Prize. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 69-72.)
Diether H. Haenicke
[Carl Zuckmayer] ironically was dismissed from his post as dramatic producer of the theater at Kiel because of his "complete incompetence as an artist." Following his dismissal, he wrote a comedy in the dialect of his home district on the Rhine entitled Der fröhliche Weinberg (The Gay Vineyards, 1925) for which he received the highly esteemed Kleist prize. He has since published numerous plays including the well known The Captain of Köpenick (1930). Zuckmayer's immediate success hinged heavily on his realistic and down-to-earth characters. He thus broke with the tradition of the extremely stylized characters often found on the stage of late Expressionism. Although not a renovator of the theater, Zuckmayer surely stands among the most effective creators of stage drama. (p. 369)
[In] The Devil's General, Zuckmayer's sensitivity and insight enabled him to create a genuine and convincing picture of the mood reigning within Germany without having lived there himself during the last Nazi years. The play centers around a strong character, General Harras of the German air force. He openly despises the Nazi regime and continually scoffs at their twisted Weltanschauung. The play presents the last days of the hero, who is constantly observed by the SS. A feeling of threat and dread, caused by the eternal presence, secret or actual, of the all-powerful authorities of the state pervades the play. In the midst of a...
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SIEGFRIED MEWS and RAYMOND ENGLISH
Both Brecht's direct influence and the general vogue of anarchy and lawlessness—which were associated with America—were the potent ingredients which left their mark on Pankraz Awakens. (p. 84)
[For In the Jungle] Brecht derived his notions about America in general and Chicago in particular (as well as some of his imagery, themes and motifs) from two literary sources: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and J. V. Jensen's The Wheel…. [However,] the proximity of Brecht's early "Chicago and hinterland" was much closer to Zuckmayer's "Log cabin in the Far West" … than one would be inclined to assume…. Not surprisingly, Zuckmayer avoided an urban setting altogether; in his more conventionally realistic stage description of a rustic, if exotic, milieu which does not convey inner landscapes as do the Innenraum scenes of In the Jungle the future author of The Merry Vineyard shows his true colors. The similarity in the setting of Brecht's and Zuckmayer's plays should not induce us to conclude that Zuckmayer's choice of an American setting was due to Brecht's direct influence; rather, the general vogue of America as well as specific literary models provided the initial impetus for the selection of a certain milieu in both cases…. Zuckmayer's Far West was dependent to a considerable extent on James Fenimore Cooper and Karl May. (pp. 84-5)
[It is] their concept of America as...
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Zuckmayer belongs among the relatively few humorists Germany has produced. He has a depth of warmly reflective perception that never fails to hit the target. His generally well-constructed plays produce theatrical effects that ultimately silence many a critical objection. His talent as a storyteller, developed by study of the best traditions, impressively reveals an open, realistic, and humane commitment to the world. Strong imagery abounds in his poetry and epic descriptions of nature.
The sources from which Zuckmayer draws his inspiration can be found in the themes of popular art, songs, fairy tales, chronicles, and anecdotes. Such a basis in the natural and folkloristic is essentially a romantic trait and is most apparent in his poems, stories, and early plays, but it does not preclude astute observation and lifelike characterization of his country-men as real people. (p. 2)
The Merry Vineyard  is a well-made play, based on the best dramatic rules; it is deft and exhilarating and has a hardy eroticism without—according to today's standards—shocking the audience through "pornographic" excursions. But, since it must have seemed rather rustic to a metropolitan public, and its dialect form limited it regionally, no one could have foreseen that it would be universally received with such vociferous exultation. Nor can the humorous depiction of real life or its timely political sidelights fully account...
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Zuckmayer's enormous success of approximately a decade ago [was] his autobiography Als wär's ein Stück von mir. The autobiography will, without doubt, retain a distinguished place in the annals of literary history as both a vivid account of the writer's development and a moving documentary report on the turbulent first half of our century. (p. 299)
Although Zuckmayer himself occasionally expressed his preference for his prose fiction, it is undeniable that the dramas have attracted the major share of critical acclaim and popular attention. The "German Trilogy" of Der fröhliche Weinberg (1925), Der Hauptmann von Köpenick (1931), and Des Teufels General (1946) established Zuckmayer's claim to fame, one may argue, because the individual plays come to grips with important phases of twentieth-century German history. They do so not in abstract terms but by means of vibrant theater with full-blooded characters. Thus Der fröhliche Weinberg, which did away with the abstractions of the expressionistic stage, is a zestful portrayal of life during the Weimar Republic, a state whose opponents … are ridiculed rather than taken seriously. The poor cobbler Wilhelm Voigt in Der Hauptmann von Köpenick cunningly overcomes the all-powerful bureaucracy of militaristic imperial Germany—but the specter of right-wing militarism was clearly visible in the years of economic and political crisis towards the end...
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