Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Archive

Biographical Note

Martin Miller, actor and director, was born Rudolf Müller in Kremsier, Moravia. He trained in Vienna and Prague, and spent the early years of his career in theatre and cabaret in Austria and Czechoslovakia. A member of the Jewish League of Culture in Berlin in 1938-39, he emigrated to Britain in March 1939. In London he co-founded the celebrated emigré cabaret and theatre at the Austrian Centre, the Laterndl, where he made his name above all through his Hitler parodies, and which he was soon asked to reprise as part of the BBC German Service's propaganda campaign. His English film debut came in 1940 in the comedy Let George Do It, featuring George Formby. Not long after, Miller also made his debut on the English stage, in Alec Clunes's Awake and Sing (1942), appearing in the same year in the role of  Dr Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, which ran until 1946. This firmly established Miller in British theatre and film, an achievement few other emigré actors were able to match, and he enjoyed a highly successful theatrical career here. As well as his English-language work, however, he continued his work in the German language for the BBC's German and Austrian services, which he served as author, actor, presenter and producer for the rest of his life.

Hanne (later Hannah) Norbert (originally Nussbaum), later known as Norbert-Miller trained at the Reinhardt Seminar and embarked on a promising acting career in Austria that was interrupted by the Anschluss. She arrived in Britain just before the outbreak of war, and joined the Laterndl company at the Austrian Centre. She too was soon recruited by the BBC German Service to assist in its propaganda broadcasting. She married Martin Miller in 1946. In the post-war years, Hanne carved out a distinguished broadcasting career for herself in the BBC World Service, and performed in a number of radio and television plays and films (among them Sunday, Bloody Sunday).

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The Papers

This collection contains photographs, publicity material, press reviews, correspondence and audio recordings, as well as scripts, poems and source material created or collected by Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller in the course of their work in the theatre, film, television and radio. A substantial amount of the material relates to the theatrical and radio work of the German-speaking exile community in London during World War II, above all the productions of the Austrian exile theatre, the Laterndl, of which there are photographs, scripts, reviews and theatre programmes. This material includes multiple draft scripts of Miller’s Hitler parody sketches, written for the Laterndl and BBC radio, as well as scripts by other Laterndl writers in exile in the UK and by the Austrian cabaret writer, Jura Soyfer, who died in Buchenwald in 1939.

There are also photographs, scripts, press reviews and publicity material relating to other aspects of the careers of Miller and Norbert-Miller in the performing arts and broadcasting. In the case of Miller, this material consists mainly of newspaper cuttings and a small number of photographs of his early acting and directing work in theatres in Czechoslovakia and Austria in the 1920s and 1930s; programmes and photographs from his four-month engagement at the Jüdischer Kulturbund in Berlin in 1938-1939; and a larger number of photographs, publicity material and press reviews relating to his wartime and post-war career in theatre, film, television and radio broadcasting mainly in the UK. In the case of Norbert-Miller, the material is weighted towards her early career success in theatres in Vienna, Innsbruck and Biel-Solothurn (Switzerland), and includes press reviews, programmes and photographs. From the wartime and post-war period there are scripts relating to Norbert-Miller's career in radio broadcasting, as well as a large number of studio photographs.

Amongst the correspondence (most of which is incoming) there are letters from notable British theatre and television actors and directors, including Richard Attenborough and Michael Redgrave, and from Austrian and German exiles known for their cultural or intellectual achievements, such as Erich Fried, Hugo Garten and Franz Theodor Csokor. The audio recordings are mainly of BBC German Service programmes featuring Miller or Norbert-Miller, and include the first of Miller's Hitler parodies, broadcast in April 1940, as well as an episode of the anti-Nazi Kartenstelle series. There is also a recording of a public reading by Miller in 1957 of Karl Kraus's Die letzten Tage der Menschheit, and several miscellaneous recordings, including a copy of a gramophone recording of the Austrian actor, Josef Kainz, dating from 1902.

The collection also contains a small number of personal documents and personal photographs, and various miscellaneous items. Amongst the latter is a set of autographed photographs of mainly late 19th- and early 20th-century German and Austrian actors and singers, as well as a series of watercolours inscribed and signed by Hermann Hesse.

One item, a 15th-century parchment manuscript leaf, is of a substantially earlier period than the rest of the material, and a few items dating from the later 19th and early 20th century (the Kainz recording, some of the autographed photographs, and one of the personal documents). The rest of the material, pertaining to the lives and careers of the Millers themselves, dates from between 1921 to 1969 in Miller’s case (of which the 1920s material is mainly photocopies), and 1935 to 1996 in Norbert-Miller's case.

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Archival Arrangement

MILLER

When the collection was transferred to the Institute of Germanic Studies in 2001, the correspondence, photographs and exile-related material (including the records of the Laterndl theatre company) were extracted from the rest of the collection and filed in separate boxes. The present system loosely follows this arrangement.

1. Scripts, Plays, Source Material and Production Notes

2. Correspondence

3. Photographs

4. Personal Documents

5. Publicity Material and Publications: Activities of the Exile Community as a Whole incl. those of Das Laterndl

6. Publicity Material and Publications: The Work Activities of Martin Miller (other than those undertaken with the exile community)

7. Publicity Material and Publications: The Work Activities of Hannah Norbert-Miller (other than those undertaken with the exile community)

8. Audio Recordings

9. Professional Agreements and Financial Documents

CATALOGUING AN AUSTRIAN JEWISH EXILE THEATRE COLLECTION

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THEATRICAL LIVES FROM VIENNA TO LONDON

Hannah Norbert-Miller as Elisabeth (Innsbruck, 1938)

London Exhibition, 2013

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POLITICAL CABARET IN EXILE: MUSIC FROM THE MILLER ARCHIVE

Der Lechner Edi (Laterndl, 1940)

Bloomsbury Festival, 2013

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