Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

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bobfells

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Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 12:10 pm

FYI - fascinating new book coming out that explores an unusual aspect of the old studio system. Uncle Carl Laemmle comes out as Hollywood's own Schneidler. that said, I hope the book will be more accurate than this article's reference to THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD. The writer, and hopefully not the author of the book, has obviously never watched this film.

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-an ... azi-urwand
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 12:56 pm

"Jewish characters...all but disappeared from the American screen after Hitler's rise to power." Seem to be quite a few in the pictures I'm watching.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 2:21 pm

This sounds strange. A bit of a Godwin perhaps. Is there any truth in it, or is it just some scattered facts that shouldn't be connected like that? What about The Great Dictator? I also know that cinemas boycotted German films in 1938. (I found that "Amphitryon" (1935) had once been dubbed, but no-one in the US saw it because they couldn't get it shown, despite the fact that it was subtly antinazi.)
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 6:25 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:Is there any truth in it, or is it just some scattered facts that shouldn't be connected like that?


More of the latter than of the former, I suspect. If the raison d'etre of your life and/or organization is to ferret out Nazi collaborators & sympathizers...you'll find them.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 6:38 pm

Spiny Norman wrote: A bit of a Godwin perhaps.


N'ville is my home-school: I'd never heard of Godwin or his "law" until, just now, Wiki enlightened me.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 7:37 pm

Guys,

I think I'll hold off until I read the book before blowing it off. Harvard is publishing it and if indeed the research and documentation isn't there, then shame on Harvard.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 7:50 pm

There's no telling about the book itself, but the review is both inaccurate and determined to paint everything in the worst possible light. One hopes that does not come from the book.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 7:57 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:There's no telling about the book itself, but the review is both inaccurate and determined to paint everything in the worst possible light. One hopes that does not come from the book.


Mike,

I think skepticism here is healthy. I recall the book, HITLER'S POPE, that tried awfully hard to make Pius XII seem like he was in cahoots with the Nazis. The documentation didn't withstand scrutiny. I agree that getting HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD wrong is not an encouraging sign.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 9:16 pm

What happened to 1937's "The Road Back" is an example of Hollywood studio bosses at their most craven. I wonder if one of the reasons John Cheever Cowdin exercised the takeover provision in the loan agreement his Standard Capital Corporation made with Universal was to get Carl Laemmle out of the way. Cowdin's other big business was Ideal Chemicals and Nazi Germany was a world leader in the chemical industry (remember IG Farben, which made Zyklon B, the poison gas used at Nazi extermination camps). So "The Way Back" gets butchered to please the Nazi Party. And James Whale's career went south.

In June 1937, the Nazis held a "Degenerate Art" exhibit in Munich. The artworks shown were avante-garde, modern works of art shown at the exhibit before they were put out of public view. The attitude the Nazis had to modern art were not much different to the attitude Joe Breen, the "Hitler of Hollywood," had when he became Production Code Administrator in 1934. There is a movie clip in the TCM short "Risque Business," in which Breen, wearing a cheap suit too small for him, says the vulgar and the tawdry will no longer be allowed in Hollywood. A movie like 1932's "The Heart of New York" did not fit into the gentile white bread world of the "neuer" Hollywood. Actor George Sidney, who starred in this movie playing an ethnic Jewish type, had a Hollywood career that seems to have hit a brick wall in 1934, right when the new Production Code was enforced. After the Code, you would never hear James Cagney speak Yiddish again in a movie.

Note: By the way, Cardinal Tisserant, who was there at the Vatican when Pope Pius XI died, told his friend Monsignor George Roche that he thought the Pope had been murdered. Tisserant blamed Doctor Francesco Saverio Petacci, who was the second ranking physician for the Pope. Petacci daughter, Clara, was Mussolini's mistress. (From "The Pope's Last Crusade" by Peter Eisner). So there is reason to wonder about Pius's successor, Pope Pius XII.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 10:21 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:There's no telling about the book itself, but the review is both inaccurate and determined to paint everything in the worst possible light. One hopes that does not come from the book.


My feelings exactly - the review gives the impression of an important subject submerged in sensationalism, which probably does not accurately reflect the book itself.

I can say from my own research that it is undoubtedly true that Hollywood was seriously concerned about the loss of foreign markets as the 30s progressed - not just because of the political situation, but because of legislative moves such as local film quotas. Hollywood came very close to pulling out of the Australian market altogether in the early 30s, and totally boycotted the British industry for a short period in the late 40s. They were ready to play hardball to retain their market share.

I don't doubt that certain moguls either turned a blind eye to the German political situation, either out of naivete or vague support for what they thought was being achieved. The view that Hitler had revitalised the country after its post-WWI slump is quite rightly repugnant to us today, but it was not uncommon in the mid 30s.

However, the idea that 'a film that showed the advantages of democracy over fascism could never be made in Hollywood in the 1930s' is demonstrably incorrect, as is the idea that unflattering Jewish stereotypes only began to turn up in films on the behest of the Nazis.

I do hope the book is more nuanced than that; I suspect it is.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 16, 2013 11:02 pm

Brooksie wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:There's no telling about the book itself, but the review is both inaccurate and determined to paint everything in the worst possible light. One hopes that does not come from the book.


My feelings exactly - the review gives the impression of an important subject submerged in sensationalism, which probably does not accurately reflect the book itself.

I can say from my own research that it is undoubtedly true that Hollywood was seriously concerned about the loss of foreign markets as the 30s progressed - not just because of the political situation, but because of legislative moves such as local film quotas. Hollywood came very close to pulling out of the Australian market altogether in the early 30s, and totally boycotted the British industry for a short period in the late 40s. They were ready to play hardball to retain their market share.

I don't doubt that certain moguls either turned a blind eye to the German political situation, either out of naivete or vague support for what they thought was being achieved. The view that Hitler had revitalised the country after its post-WWI slump is quite rightly repugnant to us today, but it was not uncommon in the mid 30s.

However, the idea that 'a film that showed the advantages of democracy over fascism could never be made in Hollywood in the 1930s' is demonstrably incorrect, as is the idea that unflattering Jewish stereotypes only began to turn up in films on the behest of the Nazis.

I do hope the book is more nuanced than that; I suspect it is.


Well said, Brooksie.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 12:34 am

Mike Gebert wrote:There's no telling about the book itself, but the review is both inaccurate and determined to paint everything in the worst possible light. One hopes that does not come from the book.

Sometimes people can't resist. The temptation of cheap sensationalism is just too great, especially with the WWII fascination. I remember a news article about "Hitler's Muslim Legions", although (once you read further than the headline) that was honest enough to mention that as many, or even more muslims fought on the allied side.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 12:45 am

Brooksie wrote:I don't doubt that certain moguls either turned a blind eye to the German political situation, either out of naivete or vague support for what they thought was being achieved. The view that Hitler had revitalised the country after its post-WWI slump is quite rightly repugnant to us today, but it was not uncommon in the mid 30s.

And that was not necessarily just the film industry, IBM did "good" business there too.

Apart from that, I find it more repugnant to think people would support a guy like that for no reason, than to think he seemed to do some good (without the benefit of hindsight bias, that is). But enough about him.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 1:28 am

The only Hollywood film that I considered nakedly fascist in the Nazi flavour in the 30's was GABRIEL OVER THE WHITEHOUSE. Fascism then was considered by many as a new way and no one in their wildest imagination thought that it would turn out so horrible. 'Many thought it was a viable alternative to communism, weak democracy and capitalism which whatever your beliefs was the cause of all ills of the times. Mussolini even had many wealthy and powerful jewish supporters before he got in with Hitler.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 9:09 am

Changsham wrote: Fascism then was considered by many as a new way and no one in their wildest imagination thought that it would turn out so horrible. 'Many thought it was a viable alternative to communism, weak democracy and capitalism which whatever your beliefs was the cause of all ills of the times. Mussolini even had many wealthy and powerful jewish supporters before he got in with Hitler.


Of course it was...that is, considered by many thoughtful intellectuals in the early '30s to be a "viable alternative to communism, weak democracy and capitalism." Capitalism & democracy (remember?) had produced, or, at least, had been unable to prevent, the Great Depression, communism had unleashed the terror of Stalin. Might there be a superior political system, many at the time--who were not Jew-haters--thought? Of course, that "possibility" turned out in the end to be a disastrous bum steer...but it was not apparent then.

A clear exposition of the thinking, in the early '30s, of non-German, non-Nazi, fascists can be found in Diana Mitford's autobiography--one of the most truthful books I've ever read.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 9:17 am

Brooksie wrote: The view that Hitler had revitalised the country after its post-WWI slump is quite rightly repugnant to us today, but it was not uncommon in the mid 30s.


Of course that "view...was not uncommon in the mid 30s." But why "repugnant? Was it incorrect?
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 11:07 am

entredeuxguerres wrote:Of course that "view...was not uncommon in the mid 30s." But why "repugnant? Was it incorrect?


I would have thought that re-ordering a country by oppressing its religious and political minorities, and pandering to the basest instincts of the remainder, is pretty repugnant by most objective measures.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 11:23 am

Re the forthcoming book, COLLABORATION, I'm no expert but there is a strain of Holocaust literature that seems to take the position that even if somebody helped, if they did not do everything possible they are subject to criticism. I hope that is not this book's viewpoint.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 11:35 am

Brooksie wrote:
entredeuxguerres wrote:Of course that "view...was not uncommon in the mid 30s." But why "repugnant? Was it incorrect?


I would have thought that re-ordering a country by oppressing its religious and political minorities, and pandering to the basest instincts of the remainder, is pretty repugnant by most objective measures.

The rest of the world not exactly living in peace and harmony either. Plenty of oppression to go round. That doesn't make it right, of course, I'm just saying don't imagine all the evil was somehow concentrated in Germany.
But apart from that, I think EDG meant ONLY the part where hitler had pulled the whole country back from despression and gloom. Things he could get away with because international politics slackened its grip and played right into his hand, making him appear a succesful saviour. Again, I'd find it more repugnant if people would choose for a man with no redeeming features at all (even if they weren't real).

Wasn't there a thread earlier about how funnily enough in the pre-war fascist period the exis produced the more interesting films?
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jun 17, 2013 12:00 pm

Spiny Norman wrote: I think EDG meant ONLY the part where hitler had pulled the whole country back from despression and gloom.


Exactly. (Or should I say, obviously.) "Revitalizing the country" was the relevant issue; he did that. And it was certainly the relevant issue to the vast majority of Germans, who'd suffered economic privation far worse than Americans during their Depression. Oppression of minorities is of course repugnant...but that doesn't erase the fact of the betterment of the lives of most Germans during these years before Sept. 1, 1939.

Oppression of everyone in Russia during this same period wasn't so terribly repugnant to Jessica Mitford, Lillian Hellman, countless other American & English "fellow travelers."
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostTue Jun 18, 2013 6:46 pm

The article seems to indicate that Hollywood producers let German officials vet scripts and films for objectionable content on a regular basis and altered content on the films to placate the officials.

I'm wondering if these were alterations done specifically for the German market or if it was as common and widespread as the article implies, at least in the documents presented in the book.

The article doesn't mention how Goebbels and the Reich wanted to position the German film industry as a major competitor to Hollywood - that side of it would really need to be acknowledged and considered when looking at any censorship that the Germans may have imposed on US films.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostWed Jun 26, 2013 10:14 am

Agree with others here that the book had better be less simplistic than that article: "As it turns out, Hitler’s love for American movies was reciprocated by Hollywood."

Frank Borzage's "German trilogy" with Margaret Sullavan is interesting in regards to this topic. All three films based on novels dealing with the troubled 1930s Germany, and all three, to various degrees, being cautious about offending with references to Nazis or Jews:

Little Man, What Now? (1934). Based on the novel by Hans Fallada, in which both the Communists and the Nazis play a part in the background. This film version omits any reference to the Nazis, but keeps a comically fanatical and hypocritical communist character played by screen villain Fred Kohler, with Mae Marsh as his wife. The word "Jew" is never used. Aside from such details, the film is pretty much faithful to the novel, and, being one of the last pre-coders, is almost surprisingly explicit about some of the more sordid elements.
Although the Germans produced a film version of their own, it seems this one must have made its way there too, as author Fallada expressed his dissatisfaction with both film versions of his novel.

Three Comrades (1938). Haven't read the original novel by Erich Maria Remarque, but the studio did tone down F. Scott Fitzgerald's screenplay, which has been published in book form. One of the comrades, Robert Young, gets involved with a political movement and gets into violent confrontation with their opponents, neither side named in the film but presumably Communists versus Nazis. No idea whether this was shown in Germany.

The Mortal Storm (1940). By this time, a select few Hollywood films had taken a stand against the Nazis even before USA entered the war. Hitler and the Nazis are explicitly bad news (this time around, Robert Young takes their side). A noticeable peculiarity is the film's reluctance to use the word "Jew" even though the Nazis' anti-semitism is a major element in the plot, instead we get a lot of references to "non-Aryans." Wikipedia's explanation for this seems to me suspect, and I hope somebody here can provide some accurate background:

MGM purposely did not mention the name of the country or the religion of Freya's family because of the large German market for its films, but it was to no avail—the movie infuriated the Nazi government and it led to all MGM films being banned in Germany.


It just seems wildly improbable to me that MGM would have any expectation of Nazi Germany accepting this film at all, even with such minor attempts at "discretion."

A German lobby card for a post-WWII release:

Image

Sullavan followed her three Germany-themed films for Borzage with So Ends Our Night (1941), directed by John Cromwell. Also released prior to December 7th, this one again deals with persecution of the Jews. I'd have to re-watch it, but I seem to recall that Sullavan's character, along with others, is explicitly stated as being Jewish this time.

Margaret Sullavan played Germans in one fourth of her total filmography (consisting of 16 features). A mere coincidence, or did the actress take a special interest in the subject? She also happened to play Hungarians twice, in The Good Fairy and The Shop Around the Corner.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostWed Jun 26, 2013 3:56 pm

Three Comrades (1938). Haven't read the original novel by Erich Maria Remarque, but the studio did tone down F. Scott Fitzgerald's screenplay, which has been published in book form. One of the comrades, Robert Young, gets involved with a political movement and gets into violent confrontation with their opponents, neither side named in the film but presumably Communists versus Nazis.


Yeah, and I think it's worth noting that that's not supposition either. It's pretty easy to tell from Young's workman's cap and shirt on one hand, and Lionel Atwill's crisp shirt with a strap across it and his close-cropped temples, which is which.

About as hard to guess as, say, the name of the country that Mr. Memory was about to say when he was shot in The 39 Steps.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 30, 2013 9:13 pm

If Hollywood was pulling it's punches in regard to Germany, we might note that the British film industry was doing it too in the 1930's. I'm thinking of the Hitchcock films like "The Lady Vanishes" where they are hinting that the bad guys are Germans but never come out and say it.

I don't know enough about the French films of that era to say.

Do we know that all of this was just for market reasons?

Was anyone in the US government asking Hollywood not to irritate relations with Germany in the 30s?
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostSun Jun 30, 2013 9:53 pm

Ben Urwand's book The Collaboration, damning Hollywood in the 1930s, received a very favorable article in the New York Times on 6/26:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/books ... ided-nazis

Obviously we must wait to read the book to assess it, but it's noteworthy that Thomas Doherty's work is deemed inadquate by both the Tablet and the Times -- and Doherty has proven himself a fine historian in his earlier books.

On a related topic I must disagree with the poster who criticized Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes for being evasive. It's actually a very bold film -- everyone in 1938 knew what the film was talking about and what country the villains are from. It's an allegory with everyone on the train a particular type. There's the despicable, Chamberlain-like appeaser, and then there's the two average, don't bother me Englishmen (the cricket fanciers) who rally to the cause when necessary. Hitchcock was ahead of the curve as a foe of fascism, something for which he (and his colleagues who made these films) are still insufficiently praised for.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jul 01, 2013 12:13 am

Gregg Rickman wrote:
On a related topic I must disagree with the poster who criticized Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes for being evasive...


I am "the poster" and I'd say I described it accurately... it's all hinted at but never said. They are obviously trying to maintain some fig leaf of deniability.

And it's hardly bold for a British movie to have British characters who "rally to the cause"... every British movie has those. :D
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jul 01, 2013 3:40 am

Re " The Lady Vanishes " don't forget that the British Board of Film Censors, reacting to explicit criticism of specific countries in some films and consequent protests from embassies and letters from the Foreign Office, closely vetted subjects like this. IIRC - it may have been the Italians who had loudly complained about some movie.

As well as the risk of being banned by the offended state, there was a strong risk of censor imposed cuts. Hence the fondness for Ruritania or Freedonia over using named countries. Of course while Germany is the likely target here, there were plenty of other states in the Balkans, and elsewhere, with dictatorial and evil governments in the 1930's.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jul 01, 2013 7:09 am

barry byrne wrote:... Of course while Germany is the likely target here, there were plenty of other states in the Balkans, and elsewhere, with dictatorial and evil governments in the 1930's.


Yes, and there was another, somewhere north of the Balkans, and east of Poland...but the name escapes me; that one, however, seemed immune to censure in the '30s.
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostMon Jul 01, 2013 6:39 pm

I reiterate that The Lady Vanishes was a bold anti-Nazi statement by Hitchcock, producer Balcon, and screenwriters Gillliat and Launder. It took more than cricket balls in 1938 to assert that a Chamberlain-like appeaser would be shot down for his folly -- Chamberlain was the Prime Minister.

Here is a commentary from a conservative website:

http://thehollywoodblacklist.blogspot.c ... ishes.html

Here is a commentary (mostly on the wonderful Charters and Caldicott characters, with some background on the, yes, Balkans origin for the story) from the liberal Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/dec/29/film
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Re: Hollywood's Creepy Love Affair with Hitler

PostTue Jul 02, 2013 9:37 am

Every college freshman is probably going to believe Urwand's tripe.
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