Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hitler in Hollywood - Did the studios collaborate?

From The New Yorker: (...) "The future moguls came from the backwaters of Eastern Europe and arrived in the United States with nothing, not even fathers (who were mostly feckless or missing). Desperate for respectability and for cash, they worked at whatever trade lay at hand: peddling scrap metal, furs, gloves. Then, soon after the emergence of storefront nickelodeons, in 1905, they threw in their lot with a new, primitive art form that many regarded as a passing fad. Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Adolph Zukor, Carl Laemmle, Jesse Lasky, and the four Warner brothers built their enterprises with a speed that even now, in the age of venture capital and mobile-app entrepreneurs, seems remarkable. And yet, outside their domain, as Neal Gabler has chronicled in his 1988 history, “An Empire of Their Own,” they were silent or utterly conventional. They acted as if all their power and their personal wealth could be taken away if they made a mistake.

"Their fears were not entirely irrational, since anti-Semitism was widespread in America in the twenties and thirties. It could be found in the radio broadcasts of demagogues like Father Coughlin, in the street rallies of Nazi and pro-German groups in New York and other cities. The Jews were blamed in some quarters for the worldwide economic crisis. Henry Ford, Theodore Dreiser, and Charles Lindbergh, along with a variety of outraged organizations, fulminated over Jewish control of the movie business, whose leaders were variously excoriated as “Asiatics,” greedy buffoons, sexual predators, and Bolsheviks.

"n response, the studio bosses wrapped themselves in Americanism, generating in their movies, as Gabler points out, an ideal country: “It would be an America where fathers were strong, families stable, people attractive, resilient, resourceful, and decent.” In that America, there was no room for the kind of Jewish characters and actors who had appeared in the silent and early-sound-period movies—the ghetto dwellers, the Yiddish dialogue comics, the Jewish boy in the first sound film (from 1927), “The Jazz Singer,” who turns his back on the Lower East Side and assimilates into American society.

"By acting as they did, the studio bosses fell into the trap that they had allowed men like Gyssling and Breen to set for them. Because they were Jews, they believed, they couldn’t make anti-Nazi movies or movies about Jews, for this would be seen as special pleading or warmongering." Read the article: Hitler in Hollywood - Did the studios collaborate? By David Denby, The New Yorker, September 16, 2013

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Related articles:

The Chilling Story of How Hollywood Helped Hitler - by Ben Urwand, The Hollywood Reporter, 7/31/2013

I Married a Jew by Anonymous, Jan. 1, 1939, The Atlantic