Lothar Mendes (19 May 1894 – 24 February 1974) was a German-born screenwriter and film director.[1] His two best known films are Jew Süss (1934) and The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936), both productions for British studios.


Born in Berlin, Mendes began his career as an actor in Vienna and Berlin in Max Reinhardt's company. After directing his first two films in Berlin, he settled in the United States in the early 1920s and remained there until 1933, directing more than a dozen features, mostly frothy comedies, while under contract to Paramount. His films included the last silent film made in the USA, The Four Feathers (1929) and the murder mystery Payment Deferred (1933) starring British actor Charles Laughton.

After Adolf Hitler came to power, Mendes, who was Jewish, travelled to Britain to work at Gaumont-British Pictures, directing films with Michael Balcon producing. Under that banner, he directed Jew Süss (1934)[2] starring Conrad Veidt, who had also emigrated from Germany. (Mendes' Jew Suss should not be confused with the later Nazi film of the same title released in 1940 which is a virulently antisemitic film.) Mendes' 1934 film version of Feuchtwanger's novel received strong notices at the time, and was considered an important and early film in exposing the origins of the antisemitism of the new Nazi government; in particular, it was praised by Albert Einstein and the Jewish American leader, Rabbi Stephen Wise, though the film itself did not attract an audience in Depression-era America.[3]

Mendes best-known film, The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936), based on the H.G. Wells short story was made for Alexander Korda's London Films, for which Wells co-wrote the adaptation. It features Roland Young and Ralph Richardson,. His last British film was Moonlight Sonata aka The Charmer and starred the piano legend Paderewski as himself; it contains rare performance footage of the legendary pianist, then in exile from his native Nazi-occupied Poland.

After returning to Hollywood in the late 1930s, he directed five more studio films. Mendes co-directed the pro-British International Squadron (1941), starring Ronald Reagan; this was one of several films on the Eagle Squadron of American pilots who volunteered to fly in the Battle of Britain before the US entered the war.[4] His last feature films were based on patriotic World War II themes with such stars as Rosalind Russell as a Navy reconnaissance pilot who must fly one more mission before getting married in Flight for Freedom (1943) and Edward G Robinson as a man who may or may not have married a spy in Tampico (1944).

"A competent, dependable director," commented film historian Larry Langman, "he never achieved the critical success in America that came to some of his compatriots."[5]

Personal life

Mendes' first wife was the actress Eva May, daughter of Mia May and Joe May. From 1926 to 1928, Mendes was married to the British-born silent film actress Dorothy Mackaill. The marriage ended in divorce. In 1935, he married Countess Marguerite de Bosdari (better known as Babe Plunket-Greene), former wife of Count Anthony de Bosdari and of David Plunket Greene.[6]

Mendes retired from films in 1946 and returned to London, where he remained until his death on 24 February 1974 at age 79. He was then living at 54, Embassy House, West End Lane, London NW6.[7]

Partial filmography


  1. ^ "Lothar Mendes profile". Archived from the original on 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  2. ^ Bock, Hans-Michael; Bergfelder, Tim (30 December 2009). The concise Cinegraph: encyclopaedia of German cinema. Berghahn Books. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-57181-655-9. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  3. ^ Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 (2012) by Thomas Doherty, p. 59
  4. ^ "Lothar Mendes". Archived from the original on 2012-07-22.
  5. ^ Larry Langman, Destination Hollywood: The Influence of Europeans on American Filmmaking, p. 79
  6. ^ The American Mercury, vol. 37, 1936, p. 80
  7. ^ "MENDES Lothar of 54 Embassy House West End La London NW6 died 24 February 1974 Administration London 17 April £2450 740112626C" in Probate Index for 1974 at probatesearch.service.gov.uk, accessed 5 May 2019
  8. ^ Biederman, Patricia Ward (3 February 1991). "Infamous but Seldom-Seen Films of the Third Reich Will Get a Rare Screening". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 April 2020.