On Screen: “Transatlantic”


Stories of heroism never grow old, particularly those emanating from Adolf Hitler’s WW II invasion of Europe.

Set in 1940, the Netflix series “Transatlantic” follows activist journalist Varian Fry (Cory Michael Smith), who flew to the port city of Marseilles with a list of endangered European artists and intellectuals to save from Nazi imprisonment.

Functioning under the aegis of the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), Fry tried to work within France’s strict bureaucracy, obtaining legal visas as quickly as possible without endangering America’s isolationist position of neutrality.

Those endeavors often brought him into conflict with callous American Consul Graham Patterson (Corey Stoll), who was more than willing to cooperate with Vichy collaborators who offered him advancement.

When Fry’s initial capital ran out, he turned to headstrong Chicago heiress Mary Jane Gold (Gillian Jacobs) whose funds were seemingly unlimited and sought help from zany ‘collector’ Peggy Guggenheim (Jodhi May).

They were joined by courageous Resistance fighters Albert Hirschman (Lucas Englander) and Lisa Fittko (Deleila Piasko), American attaché Hiram Bingham (Luke Thompson), and West African hotel concierge Paul Kandjo (Ralph Amoussou).

Then — when the police raided the Hotel Splendide — Fry’s British friend Thomas Lovegrove (Amit Rahav) opened his enormous chateau, Villa Air-Bel — where Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, and Marcel Duchamp sought shelter, along with eccentric surrealists Andre Breton, Max Ernst, and Hans Bellmer — and never lost their ‘joie de vivre.’

Created by Anna Winger (“Unorthodox”) and Daniel Handler from Julie Orringer’s well-researched 2019 novel “The Flight Portfolio,” it’s a compelling historical saga — yet too superficial with speech-heavy dialogue.

I mean, how many people recognize philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin who wrote “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935)?

On the other hand, it’s a somewhat whimsical view on a little-known segment of history — one about which Americans might feel more than a little ashamed for ignoring the festering anti-Semitic genocide in Germany until the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor forced the United States to declare war.

For more in-depth coverage of Fry and the ERC, I recommend Ken Burns’ 2022 documentary series “The U.S. and the Holocaust.”

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Transatlantic” is a stylish, bittersweet 7 — with all seven episodes now streaming on Netflix.


Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.

As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.

During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books. Her website is www.susangranger.com.

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