A STUDY IN MOTION PICTURE PROPAGANDA
by John W. Cones
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Copyright 2005 by John W. Cones All Rights Reserved
Chapter 1--Propaganda in Motion Pictures
Chapter 2--Hollywood Propaganda and World War II
Chapter 3--Positive Portrayals and Other Preferred Hollywood Themes
Chapter 4--The First Half Century of Jewish Portrayals in Hollywood Films
Chapter 5--Jewish Portrayals in Film During the Century's Third Quarter
Chapter 6--The Hollywood Portrayal of Jews in the Century's Last Quarter
Chapter 7--Hollywood's Treatment of Other Religious Minorities
Chapter 8--Concluding Observations
This book is dedicated to all of those people who foolishly believe that movies are merely entertainment. Propaganda works best with them.
INTRODUCTION This book is a study in the nature of the preferred messages of the small narrowly-defined Hollywood control group, that has for nearly 90-years, been able to use the very powerful communications medium of the motion picture as a propaganda vehicle for those very messages.
This work grew out of the observed frustration of film industry critics who have chosen to criticize specific Hollywood movies over the years only to be rebuffed by the overly simplistic studio arguments that such films reflect the real world and that moviegoers vote with their pocket books. After all, if it can be shown that there is a consistent pattern to the choices Hollywood studio executives make with respect to the movies produced and released and the specific content of those movies, it becomes obvious that Hollywood is selectively portraying reality and that moviegoers only have limited options among all of the possibilities that could be portrayed on the silver screen, thus suggesting that their "vote at the box office" is a fair choice is disingenuous.
This study of Hollywood movie propaganda serves as a companion volume to several other books in a series about Hollywood. Two of those books, Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content and Motion Picture Biographies clearly demonstrate that blatant patterns of bias exist in Hollywood films in the sense that whole populations of our culturally diverse society are consistently portrayed in a negative or stereotypical manner. This book in turn, demonstrates that when it comes time for the Hollywood control group to portray itself and its fellows on the screen, it tends to do so in a more favorable light.
Another book in the series: Who Really Controls Hollywood reveals the fact that the Hollywood-based U.S. motion picture industry is controlled by a single very narrowly defined interest group. It further concludes that it is inappropriate for any such group to control a significant medium for the communication of ideas in a society that is as diverse as that in the U.S.
A fifth book in this series on Hollywood, How the Movie Wars Were Won catalogs and discusses a variety of business practices and other techniques used by the Hollywood control group to gain and maintain its dominance over the U.S. film industry for the past 90 years. The book concludes that many of such business practices are unfair, unethical, anti-competitive, predatory, and in some case, illegal. A closely related volume entitled The Feature Film Distribution Deal critically analyzes the single most important film industry agreement and shows how the Hollywood major studio/distributors have abused their excessive power in the film industry marketplace to contractually exploit producers, directors, writers, actors, actresses, investors and others through documents that can only be characterized as contracts of adhesion filled with unconscionable provisions.
Another of the books in this series, Motion Picture Industry Reform takes a serious look at various approaches to instigating significant and long-term reform in the way the motion picture industry operates. It specifically promotes a policy designed to insure equal and fair opportunities for persons of all races, religions, ethnicity, cultures, nations or regions of origin, sexual preferences and so forth to tell their cultural stories through this important communications medium, the feature-length motion picture.
PROPAGANDA IN MOTION PICTURES
This initial discussion incorporates the comments of many of our best thinkers on propaganda generally. Others of the comments quoted here apply to the particular communications medium of primary concern to this book. The effect of the combination is to provide a context within which motion picture propaganda can be discussed and analyzed.
Some Thoughts on Propaganda--Albert Schweitzer was once quoted as saying that the " . . . organized political, social and religious associations of our time are at work to induce individual man not to arrive at his convictions by his own thinking but to take as his own, such convictions as they keep ready-made for him." This book and its companion volumes Who Really Controls Hollywood, Motion Picture Biographies and Patterns of Bias in Motion Pictures provide cumulative evidence in support of the assertion that the institution of Hollywood as controlled by the major studio/distributors is also at work to induce individuals not to arrive at their convictions by their own thinking but to take as their own, such convictions as Hollywood keeps ready-made for them. In other words, Hollywood movies, taken as a whole, represent the systematic propagation of information reflecting the views and interests of those people who control the medium. And of course, the most dangerous propaganda is that which we do not realize is propaganda, and propagandist feature films disguised as entertainment follow that maxim exceedingly well.
Walter Lippmann (speaking about democratic governments and public policy generally) observed that in any society, the insider group tends to feel that "[t]he public must be put in its place . . . so that we may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd . . . If they cannot be subdued by force . . . " Lippmann says the insiders assert that
" . . . their thoughts must be efficiently controlled; lacking coercive force, authority can only turn to indoctrination to achieve the essential ends . . . " Thus, as Koppes and Black report, "[s]ome view . . . propaganda as a positive alternative to coercion of the population."
Propaganda is defined as the dissemination of ideas, facts or allegations with the expressed intent of furthering one's cause or of damaging an opposing cause. It is the " . . . systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those people advocating such a doctrine or cause."
As Rebert Merton observes, "[m]ass persuasion is not manipulative when it provides access to the pertinent facts; it is manipulative when the appeal to sentiment is used to the exclusion of pertinent information." Of course, that is exactly what Hollywood films tend to do, " . . . appeal to sentiment . . . " to the exclusion of a great deal of " . . . pertinent information."
MIT professor Noam Chomsky further explains that a " . . . principle familiar to propagandists is that the doctrines to be instilled in the target audience should not be articulated: that would only expose them to reflection, inquiry, and, very likely, ridicule. The proper procedure is to drill them home by constantly presupposing them, so that they become the very condition for discourse." Numerous false doctrines about the U.S. film industry are routinely circulated as "presuppositions" by the "mouth-piece" of the MPAA, Jack Valenti. On certain issues relating to the film business, Valenti is the chief propagandist of the major studio distributors (see discussions at "The Worlds Greatest PR Machine" and "Myth and Misinformation" in this book's companion volume How the Movie Wars Were Won). Other doctrines or beliefs are routinely and consistently set forth and pre-supposed truths in
numerous Hollywood motion pictures (see Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content and Motion Picture Biographies).
British author Alexander Cockburn admits to a rather negative view of what Hollywood has accomplished around the world:
"Sometimes the American film industry's mundane economic interests were clothed in exalted language, as when the head of Paramount told the New York Times in 1946, 'We, the industry, recognize the need for informing people in foreign lands about the things that have made America a great country, and we think we know how to put across the message of our democracy.' Of course, while mythology tells us that this message was conveyed through the irresistibly combined charm of American stars, stories and production values, it has actually been force-fed to the world through the careful engineering of taste, ruthless commercial clout, arm-twisting by the U.S. departments of Commerce and State, threats of reverse trade embargoes and other such heavy artillery."
In the late '80s, producer David Puttnam said: "In short, cinema is propaganda. Benign or malign, social or anti-social, the factual nature of its responsibility cannot be avoided." Puttnam also told Bill Moyers in 1989, that "[e]very single movie has within it an element of propaganda . . . " Also writing in the late '80s, film historian George MacDonald Frazer wrote that every " . . . generation is brainwashed, and brainwashes itself . . . " All films, according to Frazer, " . . . may be regarded as a sort of propaganda . . . There is not necessarily anything sinister about this; the most telling propaganda is not that which is manufactured by the mischievous, but that which the author genuinely accepts himself . . . Film-makers' outlooks, incidentally, can be eccentric . . . "
In addition, contemporary writer, director, producer, Reginald Hudlin (House Party and Boomerang) says: "Blacks need to see a greater diversity of images . . . It is both healthy and entertaining to see black people as they actually are. That may not be necessarily all peaches and cream, but if you make good art, if you tell the truth and the character, whether he's a doctor or a pimp, is a fully dimensional human being, then that's the most successful propaganda you can make." Also, Michael Medved, writing as recently as 1992, stated that "[m]ost (film) projects are designed . . . to reach a mass audience--though even such commercial ventures are often marred by shocking or propagandistic elements that have been incongruously imbedded within the material."
Finally, Koppes and Black contend that "[a]ccess to information is crucial to democratic citizenship; hence Americans have usually regarded propaganda, with its connotations of tainted information, with suspicion." That is why, of course, that much of the Hollywood insider community would want us to believe that their films are not propagandistic and that only governments disseminate propaganda. On the other hand, actress Bette Midler at least admits that " . . . movies are like propaganda. They are like instruction
. . . " she says, " . . . like messages, and you can't be vague about what you are saying. If you don't have a vision, you are just acting someone else's point of view."
Early Film Propaganda--In any case, as early as 1898, " . . . during the Spanish-American War (the Vitagraph Company) . . . produced Tearing Down the Spanish Flag . . . " described by the Katz Film Encyclopedia as " . . . probably the world's first propaganda film
. . . During WWI, (James Stuart Blackton) directed and produced a series of patriotic propaganda films, the most famous of which, and which he also wrote, was The Battle Cry of Peace--A Call to Arms Against War (1915), based on a hypothetical attack on New York City by a foreign invader."
Thus, film " . . . became an instrument of propaganda in its early years. Lenin considered film 'the most important art,' and popes, presidents, and press agents concurred. During World War I American films such as The Beast of Berlin and My Four Years in Germany touched off anti-German riots in some cities. D.W. Griffith turned his masterful touch to Allied propaganda with Hearts of the World, starring Lillian Gish, in 1918. The Soviet Union had its propaganda masterpieces such as Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin while Nazi Germany could boast of Leni Riefenstah's Triumph of the Will. In any consideration of propaganda, film took a leading role."
The Griffith propaganda film Hearts of the World was made in partnership with Adolph Zukor. The film " . . . netted a quick profit at the box office and helped ease Griffith's financial burdens." Griffith's The Girl Who Stayed At Home (1919) was also " . . . intended as a propaganda piece to help the U.S. government popularize the idea of the selective draft." Actor Karl Dane (Karl Daen) came to Hollywood from Copenhagen during WWI and " . . . impersonated Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg in three anti-German propaganda features of 1918-19." He also appeared as the " . . . tobacco-chewing doughboy in the WWI epic The Big Parade."
Some of the early Hollywood film moguls themselves recognized that movies can be propaganda. For example, Harry Warner, upon the advent of sound with motion pictures, actually stated: "We think of the film as the greatest of all the media for propaganda . . . (with sound, it) may even serve to eliminate war among the nations." Also, as noted above, certain foreign leaders recognized the essential nature of movies. Lenin, again " . . . intended that the cinema first and foremost should provide the new revolutionary regime with its most effective weapon of agitation, propaganda, and education."
During the 1930s the " . . . antagonism to propaganda was reinforced by the suspicion that British propaganda had helped maneuver the country into war in 1917." Also, during this period, according to Lester Friedman, " . . . most Hollywood film producers attempted to ignore events in Europe as much as possible, lest they be accused of edging America into the war. Once World War II was declared, however, Hollywood plunged headlong into the propaganda business, much to the delight of the supportive federal government." As can seen from the discussion below, Friedman's observation appear to be somewhat influenced by what he would like to believe "most Hollywood film producers" were supposedly doing, while omitting a reference to the fact that some Hollywood producers (as reported by Koppes and Black), were in fact doing exactly what Friedman suggests the majority was avoiding, (i.e., making movies designed to edge America into the war).
Fraser also states that "[i]t is common to suggest that films of the thirties, and especially of the forties, were vehicles of propaganda." But he appears to be a bit more honest than Friedman. Fraser says: "Of course they were. The cinema was the most powerful propaganda medium in history . . . during the war it was employed to the full, as television documentaries are never tired of pointing out . . . we knew it was propaganda, and we were all for it . . . Does it ever occur to modern cinemagoers that Dirty Harry and Animal House and Full Metal Jacket and Kramer vs Kramer may be propaganda, too, whether their makers know it or not?" While Fraser admits that many films are propagandistic, he deftly avoided following up on his own earlier statement about films of the thirties and forties by limiting his propaganda label to film released "during the war". As noted below, his earlier statement about films in the thirties also being propaganda appears to be just as accurate. Evenso, most spokespersons for the film industry have denied that such films were propagandistic. It would be more honest to admit that most films are propagandistic. Then, the discussion could move on toward just what point of view is being promoted through film.
One contemporary author, an attorney and a somewhat famous television producer have finally been a bit more forthright about the essential nature of motion pictures. Author Ronald Brownstein (The Power and the Glitter) writing in 1992, reports that the" . . . emerging mindset in Hollywood . . . " reflects " . . . a mass attempt at organizing the industry for a mass public-education campaign . . . " Of course, that is nothing more than using movies as a propaganda vehicle.
Also, Los Angeles attorney Bonnie Reiss and television producer and Norman Lear have both created organizations (the Earth Communications Office and the Environmental Media Association, respectively) specifically for the purpose of insinuating
" . . . environmental messages into television programs and movies . . . the two groups shared a common approach to political communications. Each was built on the belief that, through
its dominant position in the culture, Hollywood can change political attitudes and personal behavior.
As the Lear' organization argued in a message to supporters, 'Films, television programs and music have a unique ability to infuse the popular culture with a particular message . . . the public transmission of private propaganda disguised as entertainment.'" In this single statement Hollywood liberal Norman Lear and his organization admitted what so many others in Hollywood have routinely denied: that films can influence behavior (Why else would it be important to "infuse the popular culture with a particular message?) and that movies are propaganda disguised as entertainment.
What follows in Chapter 2 is a presentation of the case supporting the assertion that a significant number of Hollywood films released prior to the U.S. entry into World War II, were in fact propagandistic, in that they were specifically either anti-fascist, anti-Nazi, anti-isolationist and/or pro-interventionist.
As Koppes and Black report, "[t]here was a nest of communists and fellow travelers in the film colony in the 1930s." On the other hand, Koppes and Black also state that "[b]ecause of the structure of the industry . . . they had virtually no chance to inject their politics into their products." This latter statements appears to be another case of writers protesting an allegation so strongly that their credibility is severely weakend, at least on this particular point. The history of Hollywood and its relationship with both the Production Code Administration headed by Joseph Breen and the Office of War Information's Motion Picture Bureau is repleat with examples of the film industry manipulating the content of films to skirt around the explicit efforts of such offices to control or influence the content of films. How, then can any writer make the claim that the studio executives could be 100% successful in preventing well disguised communist propaganda or other sympathetic messages from being included in a film when virtually no one can make such a claim with regard to the kind of messages the Production Code Administration was trying to prevent or the kind of messages the Office of War Information wanted to see in the Hollywood movies? Further, on some issues, during this period, the Communist position and the American liberal position was so similar as to be indistinguishable. In addition, the entire series of pro-Russian films produced by Hollywood during this period were filled with messages supported by the Communists.
Thus, Koppes', statement that the Hollywood Communists " . . . had virtually no chance to inject their politics into their products . . . " cannot be taken seriously.
HOLLYWOOD PROPAGANDA AND WORLD WAR II
The use of motion pictures as propaganda tools during World War II presents a unique opportunity to study this powerful combination of propagandistic technique and the very powerful communications medium of the motion picture. The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933. According to Patricia Erens the " . . . first film to document the growing anti-Semitism in Germany was independently financed, and chronicled Cornelius Vanderbilt's visit to Germany and Austria in 1934." The film Hitler's Reign of Terror (1934--aka The Reign of Nazi Terror), used " . . . news clips and reconstructed dramatization to give a warning of what lay ahead." Friedman calls the film an " . . . indictment of the Nazi's war on the Jews . . . " It depicts a " . . . bookburning ceremony in which Nazis destroy works by Jews and others considered enemies of the state." Other scenes show " . . . Nazi violence against Jews and of Jews suffering in concentration camps . . . " Again, Freidman states that " . . . these sequences represent just part of a whole panorama of negative images in . . . " what he terms an " . . . obviously propagandistic work . . . " Michael Mindlin directed.
No one is suggesting here that such propagandistic films should not have been made. These examples of the particular World War II propaganda films are merely being used to illustrate that film can, and has been used for propaganda purposes.
That same year, according to Steven Scheuer, Little Man What Now? (1934) was
" . . . the earliest of all of Hollywood's anti-Nazi films . . . " Frank Borzage directed for Universal. Keep in mind that this was 1934, some 7 years before the U.S. actively and openly entered World War II. It is also fair to conclude that any film that can be fairly labeled as "anti-Nazi" is also clearly propagandistic. Subsequently, Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, the satire on Hitler and Mussolini (with Paulette Goddard) was released in 1936 after
" . . . the Nazis became the second largest party in Germany, going from 12 to 107 seats in the Reichstag . . . " after the " . . . body of Charles Lindbergh's baby was found . . . " after
" . . . the first concentration camp opened in Germany . . . " after the Mussolini invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and after Franco started the civil war in Spain in 1936 (with Hitler's support). Even if it is argued that Hollywood entered the fray late, there is probably no time in which the efforts of the Hollywood community to influence world and U.S. opinion and policy through movie propaganda are more clear than the late thirties.
In March 1936, " . . . German troops had entered the Rhineland after Hitler had denounced the Locarno Treaty demilitarizing the region. Four months later a rebellion of right-wing officers, led by General Francisco Franco, launched a civil war in Spain. Germany threw its support to the rebel side, supplying tanks and air power. Italy joined the fray . . . " forming the so-called "Rome-Berlin Axis". That same year, (1936) I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany was released. As Patricia Erens reports, it also " . . . recounts the experiences of an American in Hitler's Germany: Isobel Lillian Steele, a young woman who had spent four months in a German prison on charges of espionage."
In 1937, " . . . the war in Spain shrieked from the front pages of newspapers . . . and thousands of American progressives joined the Lincoln Brigade to fight fascism in Spain. Half never returned." While Hitler's " . . . troops and planes fought with Franco against the Loyalists aided by Stalin's troops and planes . . . [i]solationists and pacifists campaigned against war . . . " however, according to Rosenberg " . . . everyone knew that war was inevitable . . . " That was the same year that Paramount released The Last Train from Madrid, a film that " . . . turns on separate and intermingled stories of people seeking passage on the train . . . " As Rosenberg points out, these were people who " . . . are surrounded by fear of imminent death . . . " In light of the world circumstances during which The Last Train from Madrid was released, it too must be considered a propaganda piece.
Also, in 1937, 20th Century-Fox's Love Under Fire, starred Loretta Young and Don Ameche. George Marshall directed. According to Steven Scheuer, the film was about " . . . spies . . . (and) set against the Spanish Civil War . . . " The Halliwell's Film Guide description differs somewhat, however, saying the film was about a " . . . detective (who) catches up with a lady jewel thief in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War." It strains credibility for anyone to assert that a Hollywood film community that strongly supported the Spanish Republican government in its struggle against the fascists could turn out a film about and during the Spanish Civil War that did not contain some propagandistic elements favoring the Loyalists in Spain or opposing Franco's takeover.
According to Koppes and Black, the first Hollywood film producer to attempt a serious film on events in Europe was an independent, Walter Wanger (born Walter Feuchtwanger). He released Blockade through United Artists in 1938. Koppes and Black report:
"UA had already closed its Spanish office and its European revenues had declined drastically since 1935. Neither Wanger nor UA had much to lose by making a film set in contemporary Spain. However, the national uproar that ensued over the film heightened the apprehension about political films in some major studios. The Spanish Civil War was one of the great divisive international issues of the 1930's. American liberals and the left generally supported the Loyalist government, three thousand of them joining the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight for Republican Spain. The right, including elements of the Catholic Church, generally supported Franco and the fascists. Germany and Italy poured huge amounts of arms and men into Franco's cause and were instrumental in his victory. The Soviet Union supported the Loyalists, but its aid could not match that from Berlin and Rome. Like Great Britain and France, the United States, bound by the Neutrality Acts, stood by. To some, the Spanish Civil War seemed a prelude to World War II."
The Blockade story revolved around an " . . . adventuress (Madeleine Carroll, who) meets and loves a member (Henry Fonda) of the Loyalist forces in Civil War--torn Spain."
The film was directed by William Dieterle . . . " who was actually born Wilhelm Dieterle in Ludwigshafen, Germany. He had emigrated to Hollywood in 1930. In any case, the film
" . . . was released in June of 1938. Although, according to Koppes and Black, the film " . . . was shot with great circumspection to avoid explicit identification with either camp . . . " On the other hand, few politically conscious Americans in 1938 would have been confused over the issues or the sides battling in Blockade . . . Franco supporters considered the film blatant propaganda. Blockade was boycotted and picketed by Catholic organizations throughout the United States."
During the years 1936 through 1938, Walter Wanger also " . . . tried to make Personal History (based on) . . . journalist Vincent Sheean's rambling account of revolution and war in China, and of conditions in the Middle East and Europe . . . " The story is about " . . . a newspaper reporter (who) . . . covers the Spanish Civil War. In Spain he discovers the brutality of the fascists; in Germany he discovers the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazi regime. He dramatically rescues several Jews from persecution and marries a Jewish girl. The film was to be a strong indictment of Franco and Hitler . . . in the opinion of the PCA, the script contained 'pro Loyalist propaganda . . . pro-Jewish propaganda, and anti-Nazi propaganda
. . . " Wanger ultimately abandoned the project " . . . citing 'casting difficulties'." Again, it is the contention of this work that there is nothing inherently wrong with portraying any of the issues cited with concern by the PCA. It can easily be argued that hindsight proved those sentiments to be correct for the time. The real problem arises when we recognize that this very powerful communications medium (the motion picture) is controlled by a small narrowly-defined interest group and it is only presenting one side of important political issues being debated nationally.
In any event, Wanger eventually, retitled his film Foreign Correspondent. In the new version all " . . . references to Spain were removed, and German policy toward the Jews was not dealt with. The picture did not directly attack the Germans or imply that all Germans were evil . . . Foreign Correspondent was mild enough to cause little concern." The film was released in 1940. On the other hand, it would have been healthier for the country if Wanger had been able to make his original film and that others had the economic and political freedom to make films expressing the opposing point of view. Again, the real problem was (and still is) that certain opposing points of view are generally excluded from
Hollywood films, thus, right or wrong, it is only natural that the spokespersons for those excluded positions will complain when Hollywood consistently presents its narrow views.
Also, in 1938, Three Comrades starred Robert Taylor, Robert Young, Margaret Sullivan, Franchot Tone and Lionel Atwill in a film based on Erich Remarque's novel " . . . about post-World War I Germany . . . " Again, Frank Borzage directed. The film (produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz for release by MGM ) was set in " . . . twenties Germany, (where) three friends find life hard but derive some joy from their love for a high-spirited girl who is dying of tuberculosis." Halliwell's Film Guide states that the film was " . . . prevented by censorship from being the intended indictment of Nazi Germany." On the other hand, Patricia Erens reports that the " . . . film did not highlight the 'Jewish problem', but the presence of Dr. Jafe (played by Monty Woolley) and the portraiture of pre-Fascist Germany made its own point."
In addition to the above cited feature films, as the Katz Film Encyclopedia admits,
that " . . . anti-Nazi propaganda documentaries were being made . . . " in the U.S. even before America's entry into the war. "The March of Time led the way with such conscience-raising editions as Inside Nazi Germany (1938), Canada at War (1939), The Ramparts We Watch (1940), and America Speaks Her Mind (1941)." In addition, Koppes and Black report that
" . . . most news coverage in 1940-41 . . . " was pro-interventionist. "Hollywood movies and newsreels that dealt with international subjects were almost wholly interventionist." "Interventionist domination of the news media, attributable in part to the informational propaganda strategy (of the Roosevelt administration), undercut the presumed need for more forceful propaganda--and indeed raised questions about the even handedness of the media."
Thus, when the analysis of propaganda films just prior to World War II is expanded to include documentaries, film shorts and newsreels, as well as features, it becomes quite clear that films were being used as propaganda prior to the U.S. entry into the war.
In 1939, Confessions of a Nazi Spy "nailed Warners' colours to the mast before (World War II) . . . had even begun (and some 2 years before U.S. entry) . . . " According to Frazer, the film is " . . . an outright attack on Nazi subversion in the U.S., with Edward G. Robinson as the G-man exposing the plots of Paul Lukas and George Sanders, and (the film) has that convincing semi-documentary quality which Hollywood was so good at." Sperling calls the film " . . . a well-documented indictment of the Nazis and the condemnation of the officially 'friendly' nation of Germany." Scheuer specifically labels the film "propaganda", saying it was a "[w]ell-done propaganda melodrama about a weak link in the Nazi spy network . . . "
Koppes and Black go on to write that the " . . . tortuous process of making Robert Sherwood's Pulitizer Prize-winning antiwar, antifascist play Idiot's Delight into an innocuous movie (MGM-1939) exemplified the problems the studios faced in making pictures on political themes . . . The play stresses that war is folly and condemns fascism. But the Hays Office would not let the industry make a movie criticizing Mussolini--this in the late 1930s, after Il Duce's aggression against helpless Ethiopia, crucial support for Franco, and adoption of anti-Semitic laws based on those of Nazi Germany. Instead Joseph Breen went to extraordinary lengths to pacify the Italian government."
It is interesting that Koppes and Black seem to blame Breen personally for a policy that was clearly in the economic interest of the studios and was supported by the studio executives. It is also interesting that the criticism is made against conservative forces in the U.S. for possibly influencing the film industry censorship office to prevent blatantly propagandistic films as a counter to the film industry's own efforts to prevent conservatives and isolationists from expressing their views through important motion pictures. It seems that it is hardly fair to condemn the practice of one over the other. As it turns out, Idiot's Delight film was " . . . released in February 1939 . . . But in that year of rising tension, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Estonia banned it, and it did not play in Italy because new commercial restrictions made the exhibition of American movies unprofitable." Of course, if Spain, France, Switzerland and Estonio banned the film, it must not have been as "innocuous" as Koppes and Black would lead us to believe.
Because of the suspicions regarding government-backed propaganda agencies mentioned earlier, "[w]hen war broke out in Europe on September 1, 1939, the United States was the only major power without a propaganda agency." But the private sector, partially made up for this omission. Samuel Goldwyn decided that he " . . . wanted to distribute (the) . . . 1939 British production (Pastor Hall) through United Artists." The film dramatized the inspiring courage of Martin Niemoller, the World War I U-boat captain-turned-pacifist-preacher, in the face of the Nazis. The film . . . vividly illustrated Nazi stormtroopers moving into a German village, conducting a campaign of terror, and sending Niemoller to a concentration camp." Breen considered the film "British propaganda" and said " . . . its distribution by one of our companies would expose us to the charge of going out of our way to propagandize for the allies . . . None of the major studios took the film (but) . . . James Roosevelt, FDR's son and president of Globe Productions, decided to distribute Pastor Hall
. . . It would have been impolitic for Breen or Hays to tell the President's son he could not distribute the film, so Breen had some of the more violent scenes deleted and quietly issued
. . . " his approval. "The film was eventually released through United Artists."
According to Patricia Erens, the film that broke the ice with respect to depicting " . . . Hitler's anti-Jewish policies cam from the USSR. Professor Mamlock (1938), a film about the persecution and eventual death of a German Jewish doctor, was released in the United States in 1939. The story chronicles the gradual political shifts in Germany, incorporating such actual events as the smashing of windows in Berlin, book burning, and the Reichstag fire, which is blamed on the Reds and the Jews." As Erens reports, the " . . . film ends with an inspiring, if appropriately Communistic message." In addition, Erens states that the film " . . . clearly singles out the Jews as the enemies of the Third Reich."
On the other hand, according to Koppes and Black, the " . . . turning point in (the U.S.) political films came with Warner Brothers' Confessions of a Nazi Spy . . . " released in 1939. Again, this was still more than a year before the U.S. entry into World War II. The film was " . . . based on a real incident: Nazi spies who came to the United States had been caught and convicted by a federal court in New York City . . . Confessions was directed by Anatole Litvak (born Michael Anatol Litwak in Kiev, Russia the son of a Jewish bank manager). It was written by John Wexley, and starred Paul Lukas (born in Budapest) and Edward G. Robinson (who was born Emmanuel Goldenberg in Bucharest, came to the U.S. at
age 10, grew up on New York's Lower East Side and " . . . gave up plans to become a rabbi
. . . in favor of acting . . . ")
The film " . . . reflected the anti-Nazi ideology of the production cast. Litvak and Lucas were German emigres, and Wexley and Robinson were active in the Hollywood anti-Nazi movement." The film " . . . pulled no punches in identifying Nazi Germany as a threat to American security. Germany aimed for world domination, the film proclaimed."
The boldness of the Warner Bros. studio " . . . spread apprehension among other studios. The foreign department of Paramount thought Warners was making a grave mistake. Paramount executives recalled that when Charlie Chaplin first proposed his 'burlesque of Hitler'--the picture that eventually became The Great Dictator (and was released by United Artists in 1940) . . . he had been chastized for devoting 'his money-making talents to a film which could only have horrible repercussions on the Jews still in Germany' . . . Luigi Laraschi, of Paramount's Censorship Department, wrote that . . . 'Warners will have on their hands the blood of a great many Jews in Germany.'" Koppes saw this is a " . . . classic case not only of blaming the victim but of traducing those who wanted to help." On the other hand, Jewish people legitimately concerned about what was happening in Germany at the time, were in a very difficult position. Many of the Jews still in Germany at the time recognized that behaving in a reckless manner might endanger their lives. In the background, of course was the knowledge that " . . . some World War I films had triggered anti-German riots in the United States . . . "
The Warners film (Confession) " . . . identified the German-American Bund as an arm of the German government whose purpose was to destroy the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. Robinson, who plays the FBI agent, declares that Germany is at war with the United States . . . In the final scene the district attorney lectures the jury--substitute American public--about the dangers of isolationism." Even the Hollywood Reporter termed Confessions . . . a 'straightforward attack on Nazism . . . " Koppes and Black call Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Hollywood's " . . . first genuinely anti-Nazi film . . . " They point out that "[b]y 1940 Hollywood had crossed an important threshold. Some studios had begun to make explicitly interventionist films. These subjects would remain a small fraction of the industry's output, but the departure from a sole reliance on 'the pleasant and profitable course of entertainment' marked a significant shift in thinking."
Next, in 1940, came " . . . Charlie Chaplin's triumph, The Great Dictator (which) . . . lampooned the pretensions and vulgarity of Hitler and Mussolini. Chaplin, play[ed] . . . the parts of both Hynkle, dictator of Tomania, and a Jewish barber persecuted by the Nazis
. . . " The film was " . . . a daring slap at a time when it was thought Hitler could still be pacified . . . (the film) critique(s) Fascist ideals more convincingly than any political speech." Here we have an admission to the effect that a message carried through film is more effective than if the same message were communicated through a public speech. Thus, if public speeches can motivate human beings, and no one would doubt that they can, and have throughout history, then clearly movies can also motivate human behavior, after all, as stated above, movies can " . . . critique Fascist ideals more convincingly than any political speech."
The Katz Film Encyclopedia called Chaplin's 1940 classic " . . . the most significant antifascist film, both politically and artistically . . . " Even Breen called it "superb entertainment" and only suggested minor changes. Some critics however, " . . . objected to Chaplin's concluding speech . . . " which said: "Now let us fight to free the world--to do away with national barriers--to do away with greed, hate, and intolerance." Chaplin was born in London and came to the U.S. in 1910. He had already been criticized " . . . during WWI . . . for not returning to Europe for service in the armed forces . . . " Also, the fact that in all his " . . . years of U.S. residence he never acquired American citizenship was broadly resented." Chaplin was also " . . . among the first to advocate the opening of a second front in Russia . . . " Clearly, his film was, at minimum, a personal statement of propaganda.
Also, in 1940, Paramount's Arise My Love portrays " . . . two American reporters in Europe as WWII impends. Backdrops include the Spanish Civil War and the sinking of the Athenia." Also that year, 20th Century-Fox released Night Train or Night Train to Munich (actually a British production) starring Rex Harrison, Margaret Lockwood and Paul Henreid. The story was about " . . . a scientist's daughter (who) saves a valuable formula from the Nazis . . . [w]ith the help of the secret service . . . " Carol Reed directed. Paul Henried played " . . . the Gestapo agent . . . "
Another of the early " . . . anti-Nazi pictures from Hollywood, Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (produced by Walter Wanger--1940), received a remarkable accolade, being described as 'a masterpiece of propaganda' by no less an authority than Goebbels." The film was about " . . . an American reporter in pre-WWII London who gets involved with a Nazi spy ring and the kidnapping of a European political figure (played by Albert Basserman)." Another propaganda piece, 20th Century-Fox's The Man I Married (1940) starred Francis Lederer, Joan Bennett, Lloyd Nolan and Anna Sten in an " . . . anti-Nazi film about an American girl married to a German-American. They visit Germany in '38 and she sees her husband fall for Hitler's doctrines." Irving Pichel directed.
Warner Bros. also released Calling Philo Vance in 1940. The film is a " . . . revamping of The Kennel Murder Case with the added topical kick of some WW II spying tossed in." Of course, again, all of these films, clearly propagandistic in nature, were released before the U.S. had entered the war. MGM's Escape (1940) starred Norma Shearer and Robert Taylor in a story " . . . about an American trying to get his mother out of a concentration camp in prewar Nazi Germany." Patricia Erens reports that the film " . . . spoke out against the horrors of anti-Semitism without ever clearly identifying the victims."
Mervyn LeRoy, identified by The Film Encyclopedia as "Jewish", directed.
That same year, Three Faces West (1940) starred John Wayne, Sigrid Gurie, Charles Coburn, Spencer Charters and Roland Varno as the " . . . Duke takes charge of Austrian refugees headed for resettlement in Oregon during WWII." Scheuer calls it an "[u]nusual frontier tale, a combination of western action and anti-Nazi propaganda . . . " Bernard Vorhaus, who had been born in Germany, directed.
20th Century-Fox's Four Sons (1940) starred Don Ameche in a drama " . . . of a Czech family ripped apart by the Nazi invasion . . . " Steven Scheuer describes the film as
" . . . an anti-war story." It was also a remake of a silent classic. Archie Mayo directed for producer Darryl F. Zanuck.
The sudden collapse of France in the spring of 1940, " . . . lent credence to hopes and fears about the possibilities of propaganda, for many observers attributed the republic's fall to a loss of will, induced in part by Nazi propaganda." Also, during this period, "President Roosevelt, the consummate media politician of his day, tried to influence public opinion through his speeches and his manipulation of the news media. In part because of his efforts, the non-interventionist position never received equal time or space." Roosevelt, however,
" . . . wanted to avoid anything that looked like preparation for American intervention in the war before he was re-elected in 1940." Thus, it appears that Roosevelt used propaganda to mislead the American people.
In the summer of 1940 several factors contributed to the development of a cooperative spirit " . . . between the (film) industry and the Roosevelt administration. The outcome was an increasing number of rearmament shorts and sharper portrayals of Nazis in feature films
. . . The brothers Warner, avid Roosevelt backers, offered to make any short on preparedness without cost . . . In 1938 Thuman Arnold, the trust-busting assistant attorney general, had filed an antitrust suit against the five major production and distribution companies . . . In August 1940 the White House told the Justice Department to settle with a consent decree; signed in November, it allowed the companies to continue operations pretty much as they had before." Koppe suggests that " . . . the wily politicians around the Oval Office were already counting on the boost that favorable movie publicity would give the president's unprecedented bid for a third term."
On August 17, 1940, " . . . Germany banned American films from areas under its control . . . An emboldened Metro (MGM) released the industry's first (film) essay on the Jewish question in Germany, The Mortal Storm, in 1940. Directed by Frank Borzage, the picture starred James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, and Robert Young. The film depicts a prosperous university biology professor and his family who are persecuted because he refuses to teach that Aryan blood is superior to all other blood types . . . the conflict is set between good Germans and evil Nazis . . . the film . . . establishes that not all Germans support Nazi racism." "After their families are split between Nazis and anti-Nazis after Hitler's takeover in '33, Stewart and Sullivan try to escape from Germany." George MacDonald Fraser considers the film " . . . equally uncompromising in depicting the effects of
Nazism in a provincial German town . . . " Also, Fraser reports that " . . . as a result MGM productions were banned from the Third Reich." Obviously, the Nazis consider this MGM offering, propagandistic.
Also, in August of 1940, " . . . FDR asked Nicholas Schenck, president of Loew's (parent of MGM), to make a film on defense and foreign policy. By mid-October Eyes of the Navy . . . " was released accompanied by the promise of " . . . a studio executive . . . " that it " . . . would win the president thousands of votes . . . Schenck's interest may have been personal as well as patriotic." As noted earlier, "[h]is brother Joseph, head of Twentieth Century-Fox, was convicted of income tax evasion. President Roosevelt asked Attorney General Robert Jackson to let the Studio chief off with a fine, and so did Roosevelt's son James, to whom Joseph Schenck had lent $50,000 . . . Jackson insisted on a jail sentence. Schenck served four months before being paroled to the studio lot." Should such a chain of events occur today, a huge scandal would likely develop.
As the American defense buildup gathered steam in 1940 and 1941, " . . . Hollywood increasingly found subjects at home. Each arm of the military enjoyed its moment of silvered glory in such productions as I Wanted Wings (1941), Dive Bomber (1941), Flight Command (1940), Navy Blues (1941), Buck Privates (1941), and Tanks a Million (1941) . . . the application of movie glamour and its repetition probably helped create a favorable impression of the armed forces . . . The White House was pleased. In a message to the annual Academy Awards banquet in February 1941, Roosevelt thanked the industry for its 'splendid cooperation with all who are directing the expansion of our defense forces,' and appealed for continued support. The administration found Hollywood more cooperative than radio, or particularly, the press." It is quite fair, however, to question whether the movie colony was motivated by patriotism or by its own self-interests which could be aided significantly by the power of the White House.
Through 1941 " . . . Hollywood films made a distinction between the Nazis and the German people. Four Sons (1940) depicts a family split by its attitude to Nazism . . . Escape (1940) and I Married a Nazi (1940) both contrasted good and evil Germans . . . Chaplin's The Great Dictator made it clear that not all Germans were Jew-hating Nazis." But when " . . . Twentieth Century-Fox submitted Dudley Nichols' adaptation of Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male in March 1941, the . . . film characterized all Nazis as 'brutal and inhuman people' while all Englishmen were 'sympathetic characters.'" Breen felt the film might be accurately characterized as "inflammatory propaganda" and the " . . . studio removed some of the more brutal scenes."
In 1941, Paramount's World Premiere starred John Barrymore and Frances Farmer in a " . . . satire on Hollywood openings (that) involves some Nazis assigned to see that producer Barrymore's film never opens." Ted Tetzlaff directed for producer Sol Siegel. That same year, 20th Century-Fox released Confirm or Deny, starring Don Ameche and Joan Bennett.
The story was about a "[w]ar correspondent (who) finds love in a London blackout . . . " Archie Mayo directed.
Also, in 1941, the Warner Bros. film Dangerously They Live (1941) told the story of
" . . . an English lady spy (who) is sidetracked by an auto accident . . . (and) American Nazi sympathizers try to uncover her secrets." Steven Scheuer says the film is " . . . [p]ropaganda-plus . . . " Another 1941 release, King of the Zombies was " . . . about a zombie-maker who's raising a manageable group of the living dead so they can fight for the Germans in WWII." Jean Yarbrough directed. In Blue, White and Perfect (1941) detective Michael Shayne " . . . gets in the war effort by chasing foreign agents who've been stealing industrial diamonds."
Warner's Underground (1941) starred Jeffrey Lynn and Phillip Dorn in a " . . . melodrama about the underground in Nazi Germany . . . (the) story of people risking their lives to create secret broadcasts under the German's noses." Vincent Sherman directed for producer William Jacobs. Universal released its Paris Calling (1941), starring Elizabeth Bergner, Basil Rathbone, Randolph Scott, Lee J. Cobb and Gale Sondergaard. The film was about " . . . a woman (who) learns that her husband may be playing footsie with the bad buys . . . [w]hile those Nazis are goose-stepping all over Paris . . . " Steven Scheuer again labels this film "[p]ropanganda-plus . . . " Edward L. Marin directed for producer Charles K. Feldman.
As George Frazer reports, "[t]here was a natural concern in Washington that propaganda should not be too overt while America was still officially neutral, and no doubt The Mortal Storm, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, and even Betty Grable in A Yank in the RAF' caused consternation in isolationist circles and fury in Berlin; they were meant to." Despite such concerns, the anti-fascist, anti-Nazi Hollywood films kept coming. UA's 1941 contribution to the cause, So Ends Our Night starred Fredric March, Maragret Sullavan, Glenn Ford, Frances Dee and Erich von Stroheim. It was a " . . . drama of refugees from the Nazis traveling from country to country without passport." John Cromwell directed for producers David L. Loew and Albert Lewin. The script was based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Also, in 1941, the Walter Wanger produced Sundown was released. It starred Gene Tierney, Bruce Cabot and George Sanders in the story of the " . . . British in Africa (who) receive the aid of a jungle girl in defeating the attempts of the Nazis to take over." Henry Hathaway directed.
By March of 1941, with FDR re-elected and the Blitz against Britain still raging, " . . . interventionists pushed for a strong propaganda agency. They argued that conscription, the recently passed Lend-Lease bill, and a military buildup were not enough." As U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes stated: "I do not believe that armaments will be of much use to us if we do not have the will to use them and an understanding of why we are expected to use them." The administration's efforts were " . . . augmented by private anti-isolationist groups." One of the more militant of such groups was " . . . Fight for Freedom
. . . composed of interventionist writers, journalists, and clergymen. FFF sought an immediate declaration of war against Germany . . . by mid-1941 FFF's message could be seen in countless newspapers and magazines, heard on nationwide radio hookups, and encountered at public rallies, petition drives, and street corner rallies. FFF tried to discredit major isolationist figures by . . . " using the extremely vicious tactic of " . . . giving them 'the image of a Nazi, a Fascist sympathizer, or a dupe of the Axis.'" These were the same extremist tactics that came back to haunt the Hollywood liberals/interventionists after the war.
The FFF's executive director was Ulric Bell, " . . . the aggressive former Washington bureau chief of the . . . Louisville Courier-Journal. He later joined the Office of War Information in 1942 and carried his sharply anti-isolationist views to Hollywood, where he exercised great influence as OWI's overseas representative from late 1942 through 1943."
By mid-1941, still prior to U.S. entry into the war, the movies crossed another threshold. They began making " . . . interventionist pitches by analogy. In A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941) and International Squadron (1941) . . . " the American film characters " . . . were so aroused by Britain's peril that they joined the Royal Air Force to take an active part in the fight against Nazism." International Squadron starred Ronald Reagan " . . . in the RAF changing from an irresponsible bum to a great hero." Berlin born Lothar Mendes directed for Warner Bros. About this same time, back in the real world, Germany invaded Russia (June 22, 1941).
The grandest development of the above referenced interventionist film pitches by analogy " . . . was Warner's Sergeant York, which premiered at the Astor Theatre in New York on July 1, 1941. This picture purported to be the story of Alvin York, a former pacifist who became an instant hero in World War I when he killed some twenty German soldiers and captured 132 others in the Argonne." Jewish film pioneer Jesse L. Lasky had been trying to get York " . . . to star in a picture on his exploits . . . " for some time, and in 1940 " . . . Lasky again approached the aging hero, telling him that a film about his life would be an inspiration to young men undergoing the same crisis of conscience he had experienced. York agreed when Lasky delivered $50,000 for the Bible school (York) . . . wanted to build and gave him script control . . . " Once the film was completed, Hollywood and Washington
" . . . exploited Sergeant York for all it was worth. Warners built a huge publicity campaign around the film (and) . . . York was whisked to the White House for an audience with Roosevelt . . . For young men who got the message that they, like York, should go off and fight for democracy, the army was ready with an eight-page pamphlet on the hero and a hard sell of recruitment material." There is hardly no clearer example of a propagandistic Hollywood film.
As Custen reports, the " . . . larger message of . . . (Sergeant York) is one of anti-isolationism." The film " . . . suggests that, in the year America entered the war, there is no such thing as neutrality . . . " "As audiences flocked to see Sergeant York, in the summer of 1941 the isolationists came after Hollywood in earnest." Senator Burton K. Wheeler, Democrat from Montana, " . . . charged that the studios were forcing employees to attend pro-war rallies." (Darryl Zanuck had in fact led a column of extras " . . . to an interventionist rally at the Hollywood Bowl." Also, on " . . . August 1 Senator (Gerald P. Nye, of North Dakota) . . . launched a full-dress attack in a national radio speech . . . " saying the movies
' . . . have ceased to be an instrument of entertainment . . . .' but have become agents of propaganda designed to ' . . . rouse the war fever in America.' . . . Nye considered the interventionist message especially insidious in motion pictures because, expecting entertainment and not politics, audiences had their guard down . . . " Of course, that reminds of the previously expressed sentiment that the most dangerous propaganda is that which we do not realize is propaganda.
The opening scenes of the 1941 20th Century-Fox release Man Hunt were set in Nazi Germany with " . . . Captain Alan Thorndyke (Walter Pidgeon), a famous big-game hunter who has grown bored with killing animals. To add a bit of spice to his life he decides it would be 'amusing to sight a rifle at the bridge of Adolf Hitler's nose . . . But his sport quickly turns sour when he is captured by the Gestapo." After being " . . . [b]eaten and tortured . . . Thorndyke escapes. Now the hunter becomes the hunted . . . In the end Thorndyke secretly parachutes into Germany to begin his quest in deadly seriousness."
This film appears to be a blatant attempt by Hollywood to suggest to someone in this film's potential audience that killing Hitler would be great sport. And, again, the film was released before the U.S. entered the war. It was directed by Vienna-born Fritz Lang .
In the meantime, Senator Nye saw two " . . . forces behind the propaganda pictures. One was the Roosevelt administration, which he believed pressured Hollywood to 'glorify' war so that the public would readily accept intervention. The other element was monopoly control . . . " of the U.S. film industry. "He reasoned that the industry was dominated by a handful of men, who allowed only their own views to grace the screen . . . " The Senators called for a series of hearings on the question, and according to Koppes and Black " . . . Wheeler stacked the subcommittee with isolationists . . . " Of course, if Senator Nye "stacked the subcommittee with isolationists . . . ", it would appear that such action differs little, if any, from a U.S. film industry that was controlled by a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious, "stacking" the executive offices of the film industry with their friends and relatives and "slanting" the messages portrayed in many films to favor one side of an important national debate. In any case, " . . . Nye was the committee's first witness . . . He sharpened his attack on Jewish control of the industry. He
claimed to think it was 'quite natural' that American Jews would support a foreign policy directed against their oppressors . . . "
Unfortunately, Senator Nye was not precise enough in defining who actually controlled Hollywood. In other words, assuming his more general statement regarding "Jewish control of the industry" is an accurate quote, the alternative contention that Hollywood is controlled by a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious (see Who Really Controls Hollywood), more precisely marks the difference between a generalized statement that could reasonably be interpreted to be anti-Semitic, on the one hand, and a more narrowly tailored statement that is clearly not anti-Semitic, on the other. Again, if the U.S. did not enter the war until December of 1941, following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, then the U.S. film industry should not have been making films that took sides, or if it did make such films it should have allowed opposing points of view to be expressed through this important communications medium. In any case, those who write are discuss what actually occurred during that period, should be honest enough to admit that a significant number of American films were clearly being used as propaganda vehicles prior to the U.S. entry into World War II.
The film industry's first reaction to the criticism of Senator Nye and his fellow isolationists " . . . was to revert to its time-worn defense of 'pure entertainment' . . . " a position which was then and continues to be a fiction. The truth is that all movies communicate ideas, concepts and messages. We would hope, but know all too well, that all
of such movies are not entertaining. Thus, to engage in the misleading statement that movies are merely entertainment is blatant and false propaganda in and of itself.
In the meantime, a " . . . leading interventionist group (led by Ulric Bell, went on the offensive and) . . . declared that the Wheeler/Nye hearings were 'the most barefaced attempt at censorship and racial persecution which has ever been tried in this country.'" Wendell Willkie was subsequently hired as counsel for the film industry (at a reported fee of $100,000) and he promptly " . . . denounced Nye's thinking as un-American . . . and questioned the legality of the hearings." He also pointed out " . . . that the committee thus far had not produced any legislation--the ostensible purpose of such hearings--but merely a vague suggestion that Hollywood produce pictures showing 'both sides' of international questions."
Of course, legislation is often not drafted until after the Congressional hearings and investigation are completed. In addition, it is not unreasonable for a committee to determine, following a good faith investigation, that legislation is not the best remedy to solve the problem. Thus, this Willkie argument was a smokescreen.
Willkie argued further that " . . . the motion picture industry and its executives are opposed to the Hitler regime . . . " and that "Hollywood's anti-Nazi pictures were not propaganda but accurate portrayals." On the other hand, propaganda can be both sincere and truthful. No one was accusing Hollywood of using film as a propaganda vehicle to communicate messages the Hollywood decision-makers did not endorse. The more precise accusation, which Willkie did not effectively deal with, was that Hollywood was being extremely one sided on an important national issue.
Willkie also " . . . empathetically and indignantly' denied that such films were made at the behest of the Roosevelt administration." In his testimony before the committee, Harry Warner " . . . proudly announced his opposition to Hitler (and) . . . advocated fighting side by side with England." He went on to say that the " . . . studio's anti-Nazi pictures did not have an ulterior purpose . . . " which is another way of saying that the anti-Nazi films were admittedly designed to influence human behavior on a very significant matter, (i.e., to push the U.S. into the war against Germany on the side of the British). Willkie was also able to effectively make Senator Nye appear to be both ignorant (since he had not personally seen most of the films in question) and "anti-Semitic". This final Willkie argument appears to be another example of Hollywood's all too common use of the anti-Semitic sword (i.e., the affirmative use of the false accusation of anti-Semitism) being used to chill the speech of people who are opposed to what they honestly believe is wrongful conduct or national policy, regardless of who is engaged in the conduct or influencing the determination of that policy. In any case, by 1941, at a time prior to the U.S. entry into the war, moviegoers were, in fact, " . . . receiving a steady, one-sided dose of interventionist propaganda in various guises. The newsreels were strongly interventionist . . . One or more special defense shorts might follow. Then the feature might take up the chant with an anti-Nazi picture . . . " Even a comedy " . . . might include a casual but evident crack, as when the hero sneers at a wimpy rival who refuses to fight: 'Oh, isolationist, eh?'" As Koppes and Black finally point out, the real issue " . . . was control of the industry and the resulting exclusion of an important political perspective from the screen."
Isolationist journalist John T. Flynn attempted to make this very point " . . . during the hearings, but his effort was obscured by Willkie's fireworks." Flynn said, "[s]ometimes the worst kind of propaganda is propaganda which is particularly true." Koppes and Black add that the " . . . danger stemmed from the reiteration of a single point of view." Flynn's proposed remedy was " . . . not censorship but antitrust."  He was suggesting that the ability to dominate the U.S. film industry should not be in the hands of any narrowly defined interest group. He said "[t]ake that out of the hands of a monopoly . . . Break it up." The Nation magazine added that " . . . films are still subject to the worst kind of censorship . . . the censorship of private bigots.'" Unfortunately, for the country, this form of private censorship continues today, and the control of the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry still rests in the hands of a narrowly defined religious/cultural minority (see the well-documented study of this specific issue in Who Really Controls Hollywood).
Koppes and Black go on to write that "[p]ropaganda is a bit like pornography--hard to define but most people think they will know it when they see it." On the other hand, a
" . . . widely accepted definition holds that 'propaganda is the expression of opinions or actions carried out deliberately by individuals or groups with a view to influencing the opinions or actions of other individuals or groups for predetermined ends and through psychological manipulations.' This broad definition, which emphasizes conscious efforts to influence opinion, is to be contrasted with education, which endeavors to present a more balanced discussion of all sides of the issues. Propaganda . . . often has a factual, rational base; but the steady, pervasive repetition of this type of information creates a field from which the individual finds it hard to stand back and form an independent judgment."
Using this definition, it would appear, once again, that Wendell Willkie's argument that the pre-WWII anti-Nazi films of Hollywood were not propaganda because they were true is a false argument. Thus, truth cannot be used as the determining factor with regard to whether information can accurately be characterized as propaganda or not, partly because there are always likely to be opposing points of view as to what truth is with respect to most important issues (i.e., the truth is, in most instances, a very subjective matter). Thus, to take the position that information is not propaganda because it is true is to reverse the proper order, since the truth in most situations has not been established to the satisfaction of all concerned when the information is being disseminated. The essence of propaganda is the steady, pervasive repetition of one-sided information for the purpose of influencing opinion and/or behavior.
In any case, the Wheeler/Nye hearings " . . . were adjourned on September 26 . . . " and during the adjournment the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day, " . . . on December 8, 1941 . . . " the Wheeler/Nye hearings were abandoned " . . . [s]ince the issue of interventionist propaganda was now moot . . . " Also, no committee " . . . report was issued." Thus, in truth, the committee never had a chance to complete its work, either from the standpoint of studying movie propaganda, issuing a report of their findings or drafting legislation. Based on this review of the transaction, it would appear safe to observe that Senators Wheeler and Nye were in fact correct on the point that movies were being used as propaganda, but they were simply defeated in the debate by the more skilled opponent (Willkie) and then ran out of time. Nye also make the mistake of attacking "Jewish control of Hollywood" which was such an overly broad generalization that it invited the effective Willkie "racist" counter-attack, an attack that was designed to and effectively did shift the issue from whether the films were in fact propagandist, (and they were), to whether Nye was anti-Jewish (and it is not clear from the record whether he was or not).
As Koppes and Black point out, however, when Hollywood tackled political subjects like interventionism " . . . it presented only one point of view: varying shades of interventionism. This stood in sharp contrast to other media . . . " As Koppes and Black explain, "[t]he oligopolistic structure of the movie industry produced a monolithic political product. This distortion of the leading forum of popular culture . . . " quite understandably
" . . . angered the isolationists." And, in all fairness, such distortion should anger all reasonably intelligent individuals who believe that every side of important political questions and national policy issues should be examined within the context of each of our important communications media. In other words, no specific medium like feature film should have the power to exclude other important points of view on such issues. That is not healthy for the nation, then or now.
Pearl Harbor, in the meantime, " . . . freed Roosevelt to deal forthrightly with the propaganda situation. His first important step was to appoint Lowell Mellett coordinator of government films on December 17, 1941. Motion pictures could be one of the most effective tools in 'informing' the public, FDR's executive order read . . . Mellett was to establish liaison with Hollywood and insure that the studios implemented their pledge to help the war effort." Just after Pearl Harbor, " . . . Warners released All Through the Night, a comedy-thriller on the same theme as Confession, with Nazi agents plotting sabotage in New York." If nothing else, such films must have certainly created a high level of paranoia among fellow citizens of the day.
Unfortunately, Mellet, a former journalist " . . . was an unknown to Hollywood . . . " another outsider. And, Hollywood has a long history of rejecting the efforts of outsiders to become significantly involved in the industry (see "The Hollywood Outsiders" in How the Movie Wars Were Won). Mellet, did make " . . . a get-acquainted trip to Hollywood in mid-January 1942. Addressing a gathering of the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry, Mellet reaffirmed his belief in freedom of the screen. He praised the industry for alerting Americans to the danger of fascism, even before the war: 'You couldn't have done more in your efforts to educate people. The government, of course, was pleased but we were unable to advertise what you were doing . . . '" In other words, an official of the U.S. government, Lowell Mellet publicly admitted that Hollywood had been producing and distributing anti-fascist, anti-Nazi, anti-isolationist and/or pro-interventionist (propagandistic) motion pictures prior to the U.S. entry into World War II and then publicly admitted that the federal government not only knew it was going on but approved of the activities.
In his study of Hollywood biopics, Custen observed the same phenomenon, reporting that "[b]y the time of World War II, the Capras, Hustons, and Wylers did not have to retool in preparing pro-American propaganda. For in the world of biopics, these lessons on why we fight had already been presented in the guise of how they lived. Propaganda was merely a brighter spotlight illuminating what, in many instances, people already knew." As an example, during WW II, Michael Powell " . . . directed several highly regarded propaganda-oriented films, most notably One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1941) and 49th Parallel (1942)
. . . " The 49th Parallel (1941) starred Laurence Olivier. It was a " . . . war drama of a German U-boat sunk off Canada, its survivors trying to reach safety in neutral territory."
The Office of War Information, in the meantime, believed the "' . . . easiest way to inject a propaganda idea into most people's minds is to let it go in through the medium of an entertainment picture when they do not realize that they are being propagandized.' Entertainment pictures presumably could reach a mass audience impervious to carefully reasoned writing. OWI believed this could be accomplished if propaganda messages were 'casually and naturally introduced into the ordinary dialogue, business and scenes which constitute the bulk of film footage.'" Such basic principles of propaganda were just as valid during those war years as they are today. The nature of the messages being steadily, pervasively repeated are merely different.
On the other hand, during the first 7 months of U.S. involvement in the War, the country's film industry apparently was not keeping its end of the bargain to "help the war effort". That summer, an OWI spokesman " . . . addressed a Hollywood writers group and figuratively spanked them, and the industry at large, for not informing people about the real issues of the war." "The war itself took center stage in 72 pictures that OWI analysts classified as 'war features' between December 1, 1941, and July 24, 1942 . . . " OWI reported that the " . . . studios quickly grafted the war upon their traditional formula pictures: gangster stories, screwball comedies, frothy musicals . . . " but pointed out that the anti-Japanese movies were often " . . . blatantly racist . . . "
In mid-summer 1942 " . . . Twentieth Century-Fox . . . released Little Tokyo, U.S.A.
. . . " which developed " . . . the theme that anyone of Japanese descent, whether alien or American citizen, was loyal to the emperor of Japan and a potential traitor to America
. . . " The film " . . . preached hate for all people of Japanese descent . . . " Such films may have been a contributing factor in allowing the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. "But would these pictures help win the war? Emphatically not, said OWI analysts . . . no picture yet produced would 'give us a true picture of our enemy,' contended Dorothy Jones, OWI's chief film analyst, in July 1942. Virtually everything about the war was missing or muddled, she thought. Serious treatment of the war issues . . . was all but non-existent. If these pictures were Hollywood's down payment on its pledge to help the war effort, OWI intended to up the ante."
As late as the fall of 1942, nearly a year after the U.S. had entered the war " . . . OWI's Bureau of Motion Pictures viewed Hollywood films with mounting frustration . . . " The film industry continued to make the films it wanted regardless of potential damage to the nation's war effort and in the process released films that were offensive to blacks (Tennessee Johnson--1943), portrayed wealthy Americans disregarding the need to make sacrifices during the war (Palm Beach Story--1942), ridiculed the Secret Service and showed the State Department in a negative light (Princess O'Rourke--1943); showed problems in American society (The Grapes of Wrath--1940); were offensive to our Allies by implying that America alone would win the war (So Proudly We Hail--1943) and showed French oppression in North Africa (Desert Song--1943); portrayed women in a derogatory or stereotypical manner (So
Proudly We Hail); and glamorized gangsters stealing war material and then making a killing selling it on the black market (Truck Busters).
OWI officials felt that if Hollywood was left " . . . to its own devices (it) . . . would continue to make films which . . . harmed the war effort . . . " and they " . . . frequently received reports about the bad impression American movies created in foreign countries."
They felt that " . . . most producers were 'merely throwing a sop to the (OWI) . . . office--a sort of 'play a game with their government', as they do with the Hays Office censorship--[to see] how far they can go without getting into trouble. The studios also played government agencies off against each other, in particular using military approvals against OWI objections."
By November of 1942, the head of the OWI office publicly stated that he felt the U.S. film industry was " . . . a powerful, self-obsessed industry . . . " that was " . . . not shouldering its share of the war effort." The arrogance of Hollywood's response, was typical. It was printed in the trade paper the Motion Picture Herald and stated: " . . . we alone know how to make our product, and we can best serve the war by doing things the way we want to do them without outside interference . . . " As Koppes and Black report, and as might have been expected, " . . . most of the industry lined up in solid opposition to . . . " the OWI's demands. This appears to be another example of the all too common reaction of Hollywood insiders to repulse efforts by Hollywood outsiders to influence the content of motion pictures, although in this case, the outsider was the U.S. government and the country was at war (see How the Movie Wars Were Won).
On the other hand, the government officials were " . . . only asking for what the studios found advisable to do routinely with other industry and government offices. The studios submitted all screenplays and finished pictures to the Production Code Administration; and dozens of state and municipal censorship boards passed on the suitability of movies. Further, the industry cooperated eagerly with the army and navy; it often yielded to the pleas of outraged pressure groups; and it packaged scenes with black entertainers so that Southern censors could delete them without affecting the continuity of the film . . . on occasion, as with 'Idiot's Delight', film makers had even submitted scripts to foreign fascist governments. But now, when its own government in wartime asked for similar access, Hollywood was outraged." OWI officials believed that of " . . . the 60 or so war-related pictures . . . in 1942, not more than 20 'could be accepted as respectable representations of plausible events.'" Hollywood, also in typical fashion, demanded that one of its own " . . . a Hollywood heavyweight . . . " be appointed " . . . to run the bureau . . . " (OWI's Bureau of Motion Pictures).
In the meantime, "[s]ome twelve thousand theaters had agreed to accept any picture--chiefly shorts--bearing the seal of the War Activities Committee." On the other hand, many
" . . . industries, such as steel and automobiles, saw their entire production diverted from civilian to war-related goods." According to Koppes and Black, the " . . . filmmakers sincerely wanted to cooperate, but not at the risk of hurting their profits." "While willing to produce four-to-ten minute information films on victory gardens, rubber conservation, or tank production, the industry . . . " according to Koppes and Black " . . . was very uneasy about larding entertainment pictures with explicit propaganda themes. The studio moguls had definite ideas about what worked at the box office, and they resisted outsiders tampering with their time-proven formula." Obviously, the studio executives were willing to release
propagandistic films prior to U.S. entry into the war, encouraging U.S. participation, but during the war, their desire to maximize profits was clearly the higher priority.
In late 1942 and early 1943, when the government considered the idea of using commercial theaters to exhibit the Why We Fight series " . . . produced for the Army by one of Hollywood's finest, Frank Capra . . . " the film industry moguls (again) set about " . . . to protect their commercial interests . . . " telling " . . . the Army, in effect, that despite its technical excellence there was no market for its picture." The one Army film which was briefly exhibited in commercial theaters Prelude to War was not a box office success, which may suggest it was not very good. On the other hand, "[s]ome Army officials accused the industry of sabotaging the picture, claiming that Hollywood could attract 'large audiences to lousy pictures when they felt like it.'" These Army officials were precisely correct and this accurate observation is exactly why the oft-repeated Hollywood rationalization that it produces and distributes the movies audiences want to see (i.e., audiences vote at the box office for the kinds of movies they want to view) is just so much hogwash (see "The World's Greatest PR Machine" in How the Movie Wars Were Won).
Also, in 1943, Warner Bros. released the Hal Wallis produced film, Air Force which
" . . . concerned the flight of the 'Mary Ann', a B-17 Flying Fortress whose routine training flight from San Francisco on December 6, 1941, erupted into adventure and heroism when it encountered the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the next morning." Unfortunately, the film
" . . . revived the theme of disloyalty among all people of Japanese descent."
In the meantime, OWI officials " . . . issued a constantly updated manual instructing the studios in how to assist the war effort, sat in on story conferences with Hollywood's top brass, reviewed the screenplays of every major studio (except the recalcitrant Paramount), pressured the movie makers to change scripts and even scrap pictures when they found objectionable material, and sometimes wrote dialogue for key speeches." On the other hand, all of this was done without much overall success.
During this entire war period, perhaps " . . . the only attempt in a World War II film to define fascism . . . " was RKO's 1943 release The Land is Mine which treated fascism
" . . . as the union between business and government . . . " The film " . . . identified workers and intellectuals as the strength of the nation and accused the middle class of being more concerned with protecting property and position than in maintaining a free society."
By the " . . . spring of 1943 . . . the resurgent conservative coalition in Congress . . . " voted to drastically cut OWI funding and as a result " . . . Stanton Griffis, chairman of Paramount's executive committee, took Mellett's place and operated chiefly as a figurehead
. . . Griffis made clear to his fellow executives that his main objective was to protect the industry." Also as " . . . allied armies liberated potential markets, Hollywood's interest perked up . . . now the propaganda agency could use something besides patriotic appeals in negotiations with the studios--on the one hand, the club of censorship, on the other, the carrot of reconquered markets." To feed this newly created " . . . war-time seller's market, Hollywood increasingly sacrificed artistic standards for short-run commercial objectives."
As Koppes and Black report, " . . . Hollywood often looked upon the war as simply another theme to exploit . . . "
Generally speaking, government officials during the war were " . . . troubled by the manner in which America was portrayed (in Hollywood films), in particular by the emphasis on lawlessness, and by the number of scenes that ridiculed the war effort. Monogram ignored OWI objections and produced Clancy Street Boys (1943) around youth as hoodlums. Universal's comedy Hi Ya Chum (1943) showed a town dominated by gangsters; defense workers were easy prey for crooks. Universal's Cowboy in Manhattan featured gangsters and suggested the lynching was 'a standard method of distributing justice in Texas.' In RKO's Petticoat Larceny law officers were 'stupid and inefficient;' in Paramount's True to Life the satiric portrayals of air raid wardens could have been omitted from export prints; in Columbia's Junior Army American youths came off as 'poor sports, snobs and bullies.'"
"Hollywood's exploitation of 'the sordid side of American life' was unpatriotic. These pictures might undermine support from the Allies and offer the enemy materials with which to blacken America." Of course, Hollywood's exploitation of the sordid side of American life continues today, and even though we are not in the midst of a major war, it could hardly be said that the potential influence of such films on attitudes toward Americans around the world is helpful.
Although not entirely accurate, as we have already seen, Custen points out that the
" . . . priorities of making films during wartime, (and) the creation of positive moral on all fronts, elevated all foreign allies to the ranks of heroes." It would be more accurate to say "some" or "most" allies, but not "all". In any case, Custen does accurately report that "[p]ractically every studio had its Russian film; (and) most of them were released in 1943
. . ." Custen goes on to point out that the " . . . appearance of movies favorable to the Soviet Union was the most striking example of the plasticity of reality under wartime demands. Hollywood paid little attention to the Soviets before World War II, and when it did the Russians fared badly."
In late April 1943, " . . . four thousand people gathered in Washington , D.C., for a gala premiere of Warner Brothers' proud new offering, Mission to Moscow . . . the film skillfully combined fiction, half-truths, and documentary techniques. American-Soviet friendship stood at its height in the spring of 1943 . . . To the Roosevelt administration, which had been deeply involved behind the scenes in the production of the film, Mission to Moscow would help bolster an uneasy alliance. The picture airbrushed out most of the nasty features of Stalin's regime, delivered an all-out pummeling to American isolationists and British appeasers, and attributed an almost super-human prescience about world affairs to Roosevelt, Stalin, and Joseph E. Davis (the former ambassador to the U.S.S.R. whose book of the same name was the inspiration for the movie)." This film represented an example of the highest level of government involvement in the preparation of a Hollywood propaganda film. It demonstrates what can happen when the government wants to make a film that Hollywood also wants to produce. On the other hand, this record confirms that if the federal government wants Hollywood to produce a film that Hollywood does not want to make, even when our nation is at war, Hollywood goes its on way.
Koppes and Black state that upon reflection " . . . virtually no one believed Mission to Moscow rendered Soviet reality accurately--or even American politics faithfully." On the other hand, how can any of use speak for every person who say that film? Mission to Moscow did, however, become " . . . the most notorious example of propaganda in the guise of entertainment ever produced by Hollywood. In 1947 Warner Brothers was so worried by the onset of the cold War that it ordered all release prints destroyed." The film's producer Robert Buckner described the film as "an expedient lie for political purposes' and claimed to have objected frequently, but without avail, during the filming." The director was Hungarian-born Michael Curtiz (of Jewish parentage). "Warners . . . promised to get (Davies') . . . approval of 'the basic story' . . . " and Davies used that " . . . plus his connection with FDR, to exert a good deal of influence over the final product." "Although Mission is usually remembered chiefly for its distortions of Russian reality, the attack on the isolationists contains the most powerful footage. The isolationists appear ignorant, cowardly, and even pro-fascist . . . " The film also " . . . cast legislators as small-minded and complacent."
These were more of the attacks that would come back to haunt Hollywood liberals.
As Koppes and Black point out, Hollywood films generally were racist toward the Japanese and pretty much ignored the Italians, while making a critical distinction about the Germans between good Germans and the Nazis. Curiously, although Koppes and Black gave considerable attention to their analysis of why the Hollywood Ten should not be blamed for the pro-Russian content of many WWII Hollywood movies, they offered little explanation for the stark differences in Hollywood's treatment of the Japanese, the Italians, Germans and Nazis. It is, however, quite reasonable to assume that such differences emanate from the fact that there were very few Italian-Americans or Japanese-Americans in any positions that could exert much influence over the content of Hollywood films, a situation which continues unabated in Hollywood today. On the other hand, there were significant numbers of Germans and Eastern Europeans in Hollywood making such motion pictures and many of these people still had friends and relatives in Nazi controlled territories. In addition, few " . . . films were made about the French Resistance . . . " a development that was consistent with the fact that anti-Semitism in France was particularly high at the time of WWII.
In 1944, David O. Selznick's Since You Went Away featured a main character whose " . . . personal growth (supposedly) parallels that of the nation, from . . . " what is characterized by Koppes and Black as " . . . the isolationist dream world to the stern realities of international responsibility." Another 1944 release, An American Romance originally provided " . . . a negative portrayal of labor unions . . . American industrialists were the heroes . . . Labor existed only as a mute mass; unions were vaguely sinister." The film also
" . . . saluted the contributions of immigrants, (another favored Hollywood theme; see discussion below) and highlighted American freedom of opportunity." OWI representatives stated that such a film which tended " . . . to divide one group of Americans from the other
. . . (was) a fascist tactic pure and simple . . . " The film was modified somewhat but, Hollywood continues to use such fascist tactics today by producing and distributing films with consistent patterns of bias that tend to set one group of Americans against the other (see Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content).
Once Germany became the enemy, " . . . anti-German references could become part of the discourse on what it meant to be a German national. Thus, Darryl Zanuck suggested that, in (his 1944 biopic) Wilson, his writers retain an anti-German remark that alludes to the falseness of the very cultural superiority Hollywood had been packaging as ineluctably linked
to Germany . . . " In that same film, Zanuck also portrays the " . . . opposition of Senator (Henry Cabot) Lodge and his cohorts (to the creation of the League of Nations
following WWI as) . . . simply petty and vindicative. There is no acknowledgement that Lodge and others might have (had) well-founded reasons for opposing the League . . . "
In the 1944 20th Century-Fox release The Purple Heart some " . . . fictionalized 1942 Doolittle raiders are shot down over Tokyo, tried as spies, and executed." According to Lester Friedman, this Lewis Milestone directed film (based on Darryl Zanuck's fictionalized conjecture) seems specifically designed as propaganda to help prejudice American audiences against their 'sadistic' enemy." Finally, in 1944, OWI was able to use " . . . the club of censorship and the carrot of foreign profits to make the studios listen." The government agency was able prevent an export license being issued by the Censorship Office for films it felt were not suitable during the war years. Unfortunately, this occurred only very late in the war.
Thus, it would appear from the record presented by Koppes, Black and others, that Hollywood cooperated with the government before and during World War II when it was in its own interest to do so. Thus, when the U.S. government wanted films favorable to the Soviet Union, the film industry gladly complied, but not necessarily because it was in the interest of the U.S. government. The more likely primary motivation appears to be that the people who controlled Hollywood wanted the U.S. to get along with the Soviet Union precisely at that moment in history (when the Soviets were fighting against Hitler). On the other hand, when the U.S. government wanted Hollywood to insert messages in its movies that would help the war effort, the Koppes/Black record verifies that Hollywood's cooperation (certainly in the early years) was dismal at best. In addition, its limited cooperation late in the war only came after a friend of Hollywood was appointed to the government liaison post and his stated objective was not to help the government achieve its aims, but instead to protect the industry. Furthermore, in the year or so before the U.S. entered the war, Hollywood again pursued its own agenda, by inserting anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi, anti-isolationist and/or pro-interventionist propaganda in its films, well before the U.S. government or a demonstrable majority of the American people were ready to support such positions.
It is clear that "[m]ost of Hollywood's efforts during the war centered around doing what it did best--entertaining people . . . " and making money. In other words, Hollywood exploited the war for its own financial gain. The Hollywood PR machine, as represented in the writing of Lester Friedman, however, would like for us to believe that the Hollywood
" . . . filmmakers added the element of ideological persuasion." According to this self-serving and revisionist view, Hollywood films of the period " . . . not only celebrated democratic virtues and goals for those at home and in allied countries, but they became two-hour furloughs for servicemen, powerful cinematic images depicting just what they were fighting to defend . . . " Again, according to Friedman, "[w]hat emerged from the war years was an acknowledgment of Hollywood's power and influence, forcing industry members and outsiders alike into an even greater awareness of film's impact on society." Of course, this is the same impact on society that many film industry leaders of today would choose to deny (i.e., today, they are claiming that movies do not influence human behavior).
Koppes and Black go on to suggest that the broader issue in Hollywood " . . . involves the question of who actually controls mass market images . . . " and he concludes that the
" . . . studio chiefs retained control to the last cut . . . " although these authors contradict themselves by saying that in the case of Mission to Moscow, the film they label " . . . the most overtly political and most scandalous . . . owed its interpretation of events chiefly to Joseph Davies, not to a member of the Hollywood Ten . . . " or the studio bosses. Koppes and Black go on to say that " . . . Hollywood's brief love affair with the Russians was but a facet of a pervasive trend in the national mass media . . . It would have happened had there been not one communist in Hollywood; indeed, it occurred largely without them . . . The pro-Russian pictures are thus proof not that communist influence in the media was profound but rather that it was trivial. The studio heads, like their counterparts Henry Luce or William Randolph Hearst in the print media, established a position and had employees who willingly carried out their wishes. They were less concerned with giving the public what it wanted (as the Hollywood adage went) than with giving the public what they thought it needed . . . "
This position, once again, illustrates the very essence of propaganda.
Again, it is the contention of this work that Koppes and Black are only partially right on these questions relating to studio executive control of movie messages. The top level studio executives did and still do have considerable influence over the messages contained in the movies their studios release, but there are so many people involved (writers, directors, producers, actors, actresses, etc.) and so many messages to deal with, it is naive to suggest that the studio executives then or now have the time, will, power, judgment or ability to eliminate all messages that are not in the public interest.
Further, the more important question with respect to the Hollywood Ten is not whether they actually succeeded in inserting pro-Communist messages in film, but whether it was reasonable for a Congressional sub-committee to investigate the possibility of that occurring, and of whether such activities might be a threat to the national security of the United States during a period of extremely high tension in international relations. The answer to that question as Koppes and Black would say is " . . . a clear yes!" Again, the Hollywood Ten were not punished for actually succeeding in what was presumed to be their goal, they were punished because they adopted outrageous conduct in the face of clear Congressional authority to investigate.
Koppes and Black continue by arguing that when " . . . the Cold War politics focused attention on the question of 'who collaborated with Russia,' the real answer was not some nest of traitors or fellow travelers, but 'almost everybody' . . . " and unfortunately, this too is somewhat of an exaggeration. It would be more fair for Koppes and Black team to say that a much broader group of people than a nest of traitors or fellow travelers collaborated with Russia during this period, but "everybody" or even "almost everybody" is much too broad. Finally, Koppes and Black suggest that the " . . . media and the government might have limited themselves to explaining the circumstances that had made the tie with Russians necessary, praising the undeniable contribution they made to the victory over the Axis."
It would appear that Koppes and Black would be on firmer ground if they suggested that the Hollywood Ten would have been better off if they had taken this more reasonable stance in their testimony before the Congressional committee instead of being belligerent. If, for example, they had emulated the very liberal Irving Thalberg, who testified before the committee with no subsequent damage to his career, it is possible that there would have been no Hollywood Ten and no controversy worthy of continued debate today.
Koppes and Black accurately suggest that the " . . . origin and outcome of the era of Soviet-American friendship should shed light on the postwar controversy over communist influence in the motion picture. To frame the issue narrowly . . . " they ask the question: "Did Communist Party members and sympathizers determine, or have a significant influence on, the content of films dealing with the Soviet Union?" Koppes and Black say the answer is " . . . a clear no." He points out that of " . . . the Hollywood Ten only John Howard Lawson worked on one of these (pro-Russian) movies."
On the other hand, Koppes and Black again fail to remember that the Hollywood Ten did not go to jail because they were Communists or because they wielded great influence in movies. They went to jail, and thus became the Hollywood Ten, because they were contemptuous of Congress' authority to investigate their influence on movies. Thus, trying to demonstrate that Communists were not involved in using U.S. films for propaganda purposes by citing the examples of the Hollywood Ten alone is quite inadequate. In addition, the insertion of Communist propaganda may well have taken place in many other movies besides the so-called pro-Russian movies of the 1943, thus suggesting that such an examination be limited to just those movies is also misleading.
In any case, this study concludes with regard to movies and propaganda during the era of World War II, that Hollywood clearly engaged in propagandistic efforts that were anti-fascist, anti-Nazi, anti-isolationist and/or pro-interventionist prior to U.S. entry into the war, clearly made propagandistic pro-Russian films during the war and certainly did not cooperate with the U.S. government during the war as much as some of the pro-Hollywood revisionist writers would lead us to believe. In addition, as demonstrated by the patterns of bias studies detailed below (and in this book's companion volumes Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content and Motion Picture Biographies), Hollywood has continued to produce and distribute propagandistic movies following the war, but has merely shifted gears away from the struggle over government propaganda concerns and back to the private propaganda concerns of those who control the film industry. After all, patterns of bias consistently portrayed in a communications medium such as film are implicitly propagandistic.
POSITIVE PORTRAYALS AND OTHER PREFERRED HOLLYWOOD THEMES
This book's companion volume (Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content) examined some of the offensive negative and stereotypical portrayals that consistently appear in American movies. It is also useful to study the other side of these Hollywood biases, by noting the kinds of people, things or issues that seem to be consistently presented in a more favorable light by the U.S. film industry. Among other sources cited for the positions set forth in this section of the book relating to positive portrayals there are four sources in particular that have been quoted quite often. They are (1) David Prindle's Risky Business, (2) Neal Gabler's An Empire of Their Own, (3) Michael Medved's Hollywood vs America and (4) George McDonald Fraser's Hollywood History of the World. Although, the conclusions reported in this series of books on Hollywood have not always agreed with these authors, this chapter presents matters on which we pretty much agree.
Liberal Political Slant--Since so many others have already documented this blatant Hollywood bias, it is not really necessary to re-establish it here. It is important to recognize, however, that Hollywood films, over they years, have generally portrayed a liberal political point of view. Several samplings of the work done in support of this contention are provided for illustrative purposes. For example, as Neal Gabler reports, Warner Bros. films:
" . . . were permeated with a vague underdog liberalism . . . Even the Errol Flynn swashbucklers were cast in terms of class conflict with Captain Blood or Robin Hood befriending the weak and poor against the entrenched powers of privilege . . . Warner Brothers films seemed to have a mission. 'More and more is the realization growing that pictures can and do play an all-important part in the cultural and educational development of the world,' Jack Warner once told a reporter. 'I do not mean we should strive for so-called intellectual films, but we should strive for pictures that provide something more than a mere idle hour or two of entertainment . . . Largely because of his profound sensitivity to his own Judaism, Harry (Warner) could be tirelessly and often tiresomely messianic about racial and religious prejudice . . . One could see the messianism most palpably in the Warners' attacks on prejudice in the brave antilynching film They Won't Forget, (Warner/Mervyn Le Roy-Director--1937) where a southern school-teacher is falsely accused of rape, and in their biographical pictures, many of which showed the contributions and victimization of Jews: Disraeli, The Life of Emile Zola, Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet."
The pattern was true at other studios too. For example, MGM's Gabrial Over the White House (1933) was about a " . . . grafter (who) becomes president and is transformed into a defender of the little people who makes FDR seem like a piker." Interestingly enough, this book is also a champion of the little people, the little people who work in the film industry and the little people around the world who have little or no control over the kinds of movies that are available to be seen at their neighborhood theatres or on television.
David Prindle conducted his own study of films, specifically with regard to their political orientation and concluded that "Hollywood's liberal political slant influences the sorts
of stories its citizens want to tell and colors the way they interpret objections to those stories."
This liberal slant continues through to contemporary times. For example, a subplot of Backdraft (1991) presents a conservative but " . . . crooked politician who may be behind a series of crimes." And, in 1992, The Distinguished Gentleman starred Eddie Murphy as a
" . . . two-bit hustler who schemes his way to a seat in Congress (where he is) . . . surrounded by sycophantic lobbyists, free-flowing perks, and fat-cat politicians . . . " most of whom are portrayed as being aligned with conservative businessmen. The movie Bob Roberts featured Tim Robbins as a " . . . young right-wing demagogue from Pennsylvania, a candidate for the Senate on a platform that ostensibly stands for solid yuppie values such as fighting drugs (while) . . . behind genial, clean-cut Bob, campaigning by means of folk-like songs . . . lurks the threat of right-wing totalitarianism."
Also, the 1994 Orion Pictures release There Goes My Baby claims to be " . . . an episodic character piece in which eight high school grads confront their future on two fateful nights . . . " in 1965 as they look back at what has happened their they graduated several years before. "In the interval, JFK was assassinated, the civil rights movement took root (and) the country began a 'police action' in Vietnam . . . " As Variety reviewer Leonard Klady points out, the film " . . . has a lot to say about the era's political and social landscape." Robert Shapiro produced. Floyd Mutrux directed and wrote the script. the film starred Dermot Mulroney, Rick Schroder, Kelli Williams Noah Wyle, Jill Schoelen, Kristin Minter, Lucy Deakins and Kenny Ransom.
For additional evidence relating to Hollywood's liberal slant in its movies see Ronald Brownstein's The Power and The Glitter--The Hollywood-Washington Connection and Michael Medved's Hollywood vs. America--Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values.
Environmental Issues--Prindle's studies of the Hollywood approach to the specific issues relating to the environment also revealed a clear liberal slant. He reports:
"The liberal mindset that colors all Hollywood thinking thus distorts its portrayal of the problem of the environment as much as on any other issue . . . If Hollywood were not so monolithically liberal, it might be able to produce programs that portrayed environmental problems from a variety of viewpoints
. . . Exposed to arguments from several sides, viewers would be able to make rational choices . . . Instead of informing public opinion, however, Hollywood's simplistic, one-sided approach to the environment can only confuse citizens about the choices they will be asked to make, thereby further degrading national discussion of ecological problems. Hollywood will behave similarly in regard to other issues besides environmentalism, now and in the future."
As Prindle states, "[b]y ignoring the hard questions, Hollywood leaves the false impression that environmental problems could be solved easily, if only we had enough collective will and if only a few bad guys could be eliminated." "The problem is not that entertainment is now taking stands, but that the ideological bent of its messages is so one-sided. Watching American television or motion pictures these days, viewers will never get
the impression that many environmental issues are hotly contested, either scientifically or politically."
Selective History and Historical Revisionism--Hollywood has also not only left huge gaps in its coverage of history, but cannot help but revise history with each movie touching on any historical event. As an example of the former problem, George MacDonald Fraser reports that "Hollywood . . . has done very little (with respect to portraying Greek history in cinema) . . . nothing to compare to the lavish spectacles it has devoted to the Holy Land, Egypt, and Rome, which seems shabby treatment for the cradle of Western civilization."
Of course, recognizing now that Hollywood is controlled by a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious (see analysis in Who Really Controls Hollywood), Paul Johnson provides one possible explanation for that glaring omission. Johnson reports in his history of the Jews, that during Roman times, " . . . the Jews . . . (felt that they) had an older culture than the Greeks . . . Yet the Greeks, who controlled the cultural policies of the Roman empire, afforded no recognition at all to the Hebrew Language and culture . . . " Johnson says that the Greeks " . . . had exactly the same blindness towards Hebrew, Hebrew literature and Jewish religious philosophy. They ignored it and knew of it only from inaccurate hearsay. This culture-contempt on the Greek side, and the love-hate which some educated Jews had for Greek culture, where sources of constant tension." It would appear that since control of an important medium for the transmission of culture has shifted in more modern times to the above-described small group of Jewish males of European heritage, that the nearly 90-year period of the existence of the Hollywood-based U.S. motion picture industry has effectively provided this Hollywood control group with an opportunity to reciprocate against the early Greeks (whether the pay-back is intentional or not), and to exercise their "culture-contempt" for other cultures.
George Fraser also observes that "[i]f the people of the future had to rely solely on historical films for their knowledge of the Ancient World, they might conclude that Rome's importance was confined to a single century, from the ending of the Republic to the death of Nero in 68 AD . . . Hollywood has concentrated on those first centuries BC and AD for . . . " what Fraser calls " . . . obvious reasons . . . " Apparently, Hollywood also pretty much skipped the Dark Ages. Fraser reports that "Hollywood, like God and his angels, took little notice of the Dark Ages. After the Technicolored lights of Rome went out there was a gap of almost a thousand years which the cameras barely touched . . . "
Fraser also reports that Hollywood producer Cecil B. De Mille " . . . hoped the film (The Crusades--1935) would give an idea of what the Crusades were about . . . " but it fails to do so " . . . since it ignores the economic and social causes (to say nothing of the effects) and concentrates on religious emotion, love interest (and) historical fiction . . . " De Mille was the " . . . son of an Episcopalian lay preacher . . . (and) an Englishwoman of Jewish descent . . . " Steven Scheuer agrees that the De Mille " . . . epic about the third crusade is lavish and fairly entertaining . . . " however, he suggests that " . . . [h]istory is twisted a bit too much in favor of romance."
Another period in European history pretty much ignored by Hollywood was the Thirty Years' War. As Fraser reports, it " . . . was one of the most horrible, wasting wars in European history, arising initially out of Protestant refusal to have a Catholic king on the Bohemian throne, and spreading into a great confused religious-political struggle which achieved nothing except carnage, destruction, plague and famine on an untold scale in Germany and her neighbours." Fraser reports that only once to his knowledge, " . . . has the cinema touched it, in James Clavell's The Last Valley (a British film released in 1971)." This film is the only cinematic " . . . reminder of what happened in Central Europe, 1618-48, (events that) . . . shaped the future of Germany . . . " Fraser also reports that The Private Life of Henry VIII (Great Britain, 1933) was a " . . . deplorable caricature of England's best-known and (at a safe distance) most affectionately remembered king."
George Custen, who conducted a study of Hollywood biopics, also reports that "[t]here is a tendency in Hollywood to limit the presentation of history to a few periods. Where there is no shortage of films set on the American frontier, there are very few films concerning the American Revolution and its heroes." Fraser makes a similar observation, saying that it is really very " . . . odd that so few films have been devoted to the most vital episodes and to the great men. Hollywood, which has given ample coverage to the Armada crisis, the French Revolution, and the birth of Christianity, has seemed comparatively reluctant to volunteer for the War of Independence or the Civil War . . . "
Fraser goes on to report that " . . . while Hollywood has never hesitated to give full treatment to Elizabeth, Napoleon, Nelson, Catherine the Great, and Henry VIII, there have been no corresponding major films about Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Generals Lee and Grant, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Paul Revere, Mad Anthony Wayne, or even Benedict Arnold who saved the Revolution and then betrayed it." Fraser also states that " . . . apart from John Paul Jones (with Robert Stack), and Davy Crockett, the only great American from (the period beginning with the American Revolution to the Civil War) . . . to be given star treatment on the Elizabethan-Napoleon scale is Abraham Lincoln. On the whole, considering American domination of the cinema, it does seem as though the country's earlier history has been under-exploited . . . " It is surprising . . . " Fraser suggests, " . . . that there have not been more U.S. movies " . . . to celebrate one of the most brilliant and exciting chapters in the human story."
Westerns, however, have been favored by Hollywood. Fraser reports that " . . . about 90 percent of (the films about bygone America) . . . are Westerns, which is ridiculous when one considers that American history, for practical purposes, has lasted about 350 years, and the period celebrated in Western films amounts to only one-tenth of that time, from the Civil War to the . . . " 1890s. For example, the outlaw " . . . Billy the Kid may have had ten times more film attention than George Washington." "No bygone period has been shown to us in such minute detail and in such profusion (as the Westerns) . . . Hollywood's practice (has been) . . . to shape and adapt . . . events and people to make them conform to romantic legend . . . Seldom has it made more than a token effort to give a true portrait of a Western hero (who was frequently a villain) or heroine . . . " Instead, Hollywood has concentrated on portrayals of " . . . petty criminals . . . "
Further, "Custer was not as big an ass as he sounds, but he did blunder badly. So did Hollywood when they put his story on film in They Died With Their Boots On, a historical mess which bore little resemblance to Custer, the battle, or the reasons for it . . . " The film " . . . is typical Hollywood dream-rubbish of the worst kind . . . " Fraser wonders " . . . why on earth do they do it when the truth is so much more interesting?"
In addition, " . . . one of the great absences in (Hollywood) biopics is the late nineteenth and early twentieth century entrepreneur. Such symbolic annihilation of Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Frick is all the more significant because written materials of this same period--magazines and newspapers--sang the praises of these men with great frequency." Custen states that "[t]hese absences, as much as what is present, constitute a state of symbolic annihilation (to borrow a term from George Gerbner), in which a sanitized view of history is constructed eliminating problematic areas from public perusal . . . the patterns formed by both presences and absences help cultivate assumptions about history, preserving certain versions of history rather than others." As Custen reports, the " . . . degree to which white, North American, or European males of the twentieth century have dominated this canon is staggering . . . "
Custen, Neal Gabler and Isiah Berlin all seem to agree that the " . . . Hollywood vision of America, created by immigrants who longed to belong to the "inner circles" of power, exhibited "an over-intense admiration or indeed worship for the majority" that manifested itself, in Berlin's words, in a neurotic distortion of the facts' . . . " Custen states further that had " . . . the people who founded the film industry been more insiders to the arenas of power, it is doubtful whether the films they made of America would have displayed a kind of never-never land that sanitized most behavior and moralized individual lives at the expense of their own heritage."
An additional example of the Hollywood revisionist tendency came in 1973, in an early effort to portray events surrounding the John F. Kennedy assassination. The film Executive Action is described by Steven Scheuer as a "[r]eckless thriller purporting to outdo the findings of the Warren Commission with the 'real' facts about JFK's assassination." Scheuer calls the movie "[o]pportunistic and shallow, but genuinely reflective of the conspiratorial mentality of the late sixties and early seventies." The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, based on a story by Donald Freed and Mark Lane. David Miller directed for producer Edward Lewis.
An even higher level of movie propaganda and revisionist theory relating to the Kennedy assassination came in 1991 with Oliver Stone's JFK. Pulitzer Prize-winning media critic Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times says: "On one level I was enthralled by JFK, on another I despised it. I'm deeply offended by people who either distort history or create their own version of history. The way that film was edited it was hard to tell what was what. I would argue to my death that Oliver Stone has no ethical right to create his own version of history and present it as truth. Now, he has said publicly he wasn't presenting it as truth, it was only an alternative for somebody to consider. Bullshit! That was an advocacy picture, and he's so good that people who left that theater believed it . . . I think whenever you misinform the public, when you have the public making decisions on distorted information, then you have a public that can become its own worst enemy." And, of course, partly due to the distorted information regularly provided through movies, this is exactly the kind of public we have today.
Hollywood filmmakers are not only in the business of making filmed entertainment. They are also in the business of rewriting history. On the other hand, filmmakers are dangerous historians because they tend to rewrite history to make it more entertaining, among other things. It also appears that the Hollywood filmmakers believe that history (among other reasons) is almost always more entertaining if the rewritten version reflects their own personal beliefs about what happened or what should have happened or what was really important enough to be presented on film. Thus, Hollywood's treatment of history supports the conclusions set forth in Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content that movies mirror the values, interests, cultural perspectives and prejudices of their makers.
Any way you look at it, the American film industry is in the wrong hands, whether those hands are most accurately described as the powerful commercial interests, the international corporate conglomerates or a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious. This book argues, of course, that it would be in the wrong hands no matter what single or narrowly-defined interest group controlled the industry. It argues for diversity at the top and at all levels in Hollywood.
Racial, Religious and Other Pleas for Tolerance--Other related themes commonly appearing in Hollywood films, throughout the industry's nearly 90-year history are the racial and other pleas for tolerance. A few representative examples, include the 1937 release, Maid of Salem, starring, Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, Louise Dresser, Gale Sondergaard, Beulah Bondi, Bonita Granville and Virginia Weidler. The film was about " . . . the dark side of the early settlements (and) . . . examines how false accusations of witchcraft could proliferate and tear a community apart." Frank Lloyd directed. Also, in 1937, the MGM release, Parnell was a plea " . . . for political and ethical tolerance." The story involved a
" . . . 19th-century Irish (statesman) politician (who) comes to grief through his love for a married woman . . . " and is " . . . involved in a scandalous divorce trial."
Two years later, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) was based " . . . on Hugo's famous novel about the crippled bell ringer and his hopeless love for the beautiful Esmeralda." The film " . . . shows how this piteous creature achieves a measure of dignity by rescuing the gypsy girl who'd once shown him kindness." William Dieterle directed. This film and its favored theme was preceded by a 1923 version, followed by a French version
distributed in the U.S. in 1957, a made-for-TV version in 1982 and Disney's animated version in the mid-90s.
The 1940 Warner Bros. release, Dr. Erhlich's Magic Bullet was also described by Custen as a " . . . plea for political and ethical tolerance." As Custen reports, " . . . Paul Ehrlich, the scientist who discovered a treatment for syphilis, was consciously selected (by the Hollywood filmmakers) as a subject for a biopic (Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet) because he was both German and a Jew. As Warners story editor Finlay McDermid explained to Will Hays (who was concerned with the explicitness of the 'syphilis' angle in Ehrlich), 'the reason for picking Ehrlich as a protagonist had very little to do with syphilis and its cure. Ehrlich happened to be a great humanitarian and a German Jew.'" The Ehrlich biopic also " . . . dealt with anti-Semitism." That same year, in 1940 " . . . Chaplin's early plea for tolerance . . . " The Great Dictator was released. Throughout this film, which is essentially a comedy, " . . . Chaplin discusses anti-Semitic activities more openly than is done in any . . . " other of Hollywood's film to that time.
In RKO's 1948 release, The Boy with Green Hair, a young boy becomes " . . . an outcast when he finds his hair has suddenly turned green . . . " after " . . . he hears that his parents were killed in an air raid . . . " According to the Katz Film Encyclopedia, Clarence Brown's Intruder in the Dust is the only film he directed " . . . with a clear social message, a plea for racial tolerance." Also, the films Pinky and Home of the Brave (1949) " . . . each
. . . explored . . . the personal tragedy of racism." Elia Kazan's Pinky (1949) was considered " . . . a pioneer racial drama considered daring at the time, about a light-skinned
black girl (Jeanne Crain) passing for white." Home of the Brave is also described by Katz as a "racial drama".
No Way Out (1950) starred Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell and Sidney Poitier in a
" . . . drama about a Negro-hating, cop-hating hoodlum who incites a big race riot and almost ruins a Negro intern's chances of becoming a doctor." Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed. This film illustrates another Hollywood movie theme which commonly appears alongside the pleas for tolerance (i.e., the study of mob psychology or mass hysteria). Such themes may be important to many Jewish filmmakers because of the long history of Jewish victimization partly resulting from the phenomenon (i.e., mass hysteria).
Other examples of the Hollywood pleas for tolerance include, Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones (1958), described by Katz as a " . . . moving racial drama . . . " Also, Glen or Glenda? (1953) was about " . . . men . . . with a passion for clinging fabrics . . . (and) redefining male sexuality . . . " The film's lead, Glen, " . . . is lucky to have an understanding fiancee' who gives him the angora sweater right off her back and accepts Glen for what he is." Film critic Steven Scheuer says the film was intended " . . . as a plea for tolerance for transvestitism by the director (an inveterate cross-dresser himself who used to wear ladies' dainties under his combat fatigues in the service) . . . " Edward D. Wood, Jr. directed. The film was reissued in 1981. Also, Tim Burton's biopic Ed Wood (Touchstone Pictures, 1994) told the story within the story of Ed Wood's career as a director, including his preference for ladies' wear.
The Deep Six (1958) was about a "[n]aval lieutenant whose religious beliefs are Quaker (and who) loses the respect of his men but regains it through an act of heroism."
Also, Universal's Mask starred Cher, Eric Stoltz and Sam Elliott in the story of a teenage boy who " . . . suffers from a hideous disease that inflates his head to twice its normal size." Peter Bogdanovich directed.
In 1959's, Odds Against Tomorrow, Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan starred in a story about " . . . a bigoted crook who accepts a shot at a big score, then balks when he finds that his proposed partner is black." Robert Wise directed. Imitation of Life (1959) was
" . . . about two mothers struggling to raise their daughters. The Caucasian Lora becomes an actress while the black woman Annie is her maid. Annie's light-skinned daughter however, has had a taste of the white folks' high life, and she ends up doomed to a twilight world where she is never fully accepted by either race." Douglas Sirk directed.
Sergeant Rutledge (1960) starred Jeffery Hunter, Constance Towers and Woody Strode in a film about " . . . rape, racial prejudice and court-room dramatics . . . " John Ford directed. The following year, A Raisin in the Sun (1961) starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands in a film " . . . about a Negro family attempting to break away from their crowded Chicago apartment by moving into an all-white neighborhood." Daniel Petrie directed.
One Potato, Two Potato (1964) was " . . . about an interracial courtship and marriage between a hesitant white divorcee and a strong, but mild-mannered black man." Larry Pearce directed. A Patch of Blue (1965) starred Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters in a " . . . film about a sensitive relationship which develops between a blind white girl and a black man." Guy Green directed.
Halls of Anger (1969) was about " . . . a black high-school vice-principal, who is the focal point of bussed-in white students." Paul Bogart directed. The Great White Hope (1970) starred James Earl Jones portraying " . . . a character based on Jack Johnson, the first black heavy-weight boxing champion crowned in 1908." According to film critic Steven Scheuer, "[p]laywright Howard Sackler and director Martin Ritt show the way Johnson . . . was victimized and humiliated by a racist, white society, and subjected to . . . being forced to take a dive in a fixed championship fight and lose to a white opponent whom he could easily have beaten."
In 1971's Skin Game, James Garner, Louis Gossett, Susan Clark and Edward Asner were featured in a story about " . . . pre-Civil War days (when) " . . . Garner, a con artist
. . . " kept selling and reselling his buddy, " . . . runaway slave Lou Gossett. Paul Bogart directed. Honky (1971) starred James Neilson as " . . . an all-American boy who falls for the blandishments of a swinging black pusher (Brendy Sykes). William A. Graham directed. The very title of this film raises the question as to whether the word "honky" is more or less offensive to whites as the word "nigger" is to blacks, the word "kike" is to Jews and the word "spick" is to Mexicans, etc. If no one can provide any assurance that the word "honky" is not less offensive, then there is no more excuse for the U.S. film industry to allow a movie with such a title to be produced and/or distributed than if it attempted to produce or distribute a film with one of the other similarly offensive titles.
Continuing with examples of movies with racial themes, which serve as another form of the Hollywood plea for tolerance, Ragtime (1981) focused " . . . on the battle of Coalhouse Waler, a black musician, against the racism inflicted upon him." Milos Forman directed.
In The Neighborhood (1982) when " . . . a predominantly white neighborhood starts changing with the arrival of the black families, bigotry leads to violent confrontations." Lee H. Katzin directed.
Fast Walking (1982) starred James Woods in a film about a " . . . decent white prison guard (who) finds himself caught between white bigots trying to bump off a black leader and the leader's followers who are trying to break him out of jail." James Harris directed. The following year, Marvin and Tige (1983) was about " . . . one of life's little people (white) (who) gives his life meaning by adopting a suicidal youth (black) . . . " in what Steven Scheuer calls a " . . . sincere plea for racial tolerance . . . " Eric Weston directed. If Hollywood can continually generate these "sincere pleas for racial tolerance," why can't it generate sincere pleas for the elimination of regional prejudice in the U.S., the elimination of discrimination against non-European Jewish males and other who try to work in the American film industry as high level studio executives, talent agents, producers, directors and screenwriters?
According to film critic Steven Scheuer, The Lords of Discipline (1983) was " . . . a stern condemnation of the twisted values and false ideas of manliness and racism that permeate 'respectable institutions." The film starred David Keith, Robert Prosky, G.D. Spradlin, Barbara Babcock, Michael Biehn, Rich Rossovich, John Lavachielli, Mitchell Lichtenstein and Mark Breland. Franc Roddam directed. The independently produced John Sayles film, The Brother From Another Planet (1984) was also about race relations.
Soul Man (1986) starred C. Thomas Howell, Arye Gross, Rae Dwawn Chong and James Earl Jones in the story of a student who is denied " . . . the funds he expected for his Harvard tuition, (so, this) . . . crafty white kid turns himself black with supertanning pills so that he can obtain a scholarship slated for the underprivileged." Steven Scheuer calls the film "white-bread comedy . . . " Steve Miner directed. That same year, Native Son (1986) starred Carroll Baker, Akousua Busia and Matt Dillon in a film that sought to " . . . score . . . points about racial injustice . . . " with a " . . . tale of the unfortunate Bigger Thomas, who gets the death sentence after accidentally murdering a white girl . . . " Jerrold Freedman directed.
1987's Cry Freedom begins with " . . . the story of a friendship between a white liberal South African editor and an idealistic young black leader . . . " The movie portrays " . . . the manicured lawns of the whites, who seem to live in country club suburbs, and the jerry-built 'townships' of the blacks, and we sense the institutional racism of a system where black maids call their employers 'master,' and even white liberals accept that without a blink." The movie shows how the editor and the young black leader become friends, the editor sees how life is for the blacks of South Africa first hand, the editor is put under house arrest by the South African government and escapes to England where he is able to write about the situation in South Africa.
The following year, A World Apart (1988) was also set in South Africa. The film was " . . . about the specific ways in which individual lives are affected by a legal system in which one's rights depend on one's race." As noted elsewhere, the 1989 Warner Bros. release Lethal Weapon 2 used white South African diplomats as the bad buys.
MGM's A Dry White Season (1989) was another Hollywood movie about the injustice of apartheid in South Africa. The movie is a " . . . painful examination of one man's change of conscience." Also, Sarafina! (1992) was " . . . about the impossible choice faced by young South African blacks in the years leading up to Nelson Mandela's release from prison."
No argument is being made here, however, that pleas for tolerance are not needed in our films. They clearly are. On the other hand, it appears that the vast majority of the Hollywood pleas for tolerance set in this country are directed toward the white anglo-saxon Protestant majority in U.S. society, suggesting that the only population in our society that is intolerant is that particular group. To the extent that such a pattern of bias exists in American films, the films themselves are propagandistic. In other words, the people who are making the films are aiming their consistent accusations regarding intolerance at one specific group while overlooking the fact that many people from other racial, ethnic, religious and cultural groups are equally prejudiced and intolerant.
In the meantime, of course, as this book (and its companion volumes How the Movie Wars Were Won, Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content, Motion Picture Biographies and Who Really Controls Hollywood) demonstrate, Hollywood itself appears to be characterized by massive nepotism, favoritism, cronyism, blacklisting and other forms of discrimination, principally engaged in by Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and
not very religious; and their prejudice and discrimination is primarily directed not only against non-Jews, but Jewish women and Jews of a non-European heritage.
If, after all, Jewish interest groups can force filmmakers to remove the anti-Semitism of Fagin in Oliver Twist, (see discussion below) why is it not appropriate for Southerners to rid the film's about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of White racists? Such a portrayal is certainly as offensive to contemporary Southerners who are not themselves racist. Such reasoning would also suggest that the same should also be true of all other interest groups in our society. How can Jewish groups justify the sanitization of a literary classic like Oliver Twist while allowing a film industry controlled by a small group of Jewish males with European heritage to churn out racist and hate-mongering movies directed toward other racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and political groups in America? Or, in the alternative, why does the rest of America stand by and allow that to happen? It may be because of the chilling effect of the anti-Semitic sword, discussed in How the Movie Wars Were Won (i.e., the general population is so afraid of being labeled anti-Semitic that only rarely does anyone actually criticize a person of Jewish heritage regardless of the behavior of such persons and regardless of the actual basis of the criticism. It may also relate to the fact that the great Hollywood PR machine and the associated film industry has for so long portrayed the Jew as victim that the Jewish people as a whole are treated with kid gloves (i.e., they enjoy a special somewhat privileged status in our society).
The Hollywood Spin on Slavery--Another example of Hollywood's unique perspective which appears to approach subjects differently depending upon how the subjects relate to the history of the Hollywood control group, is revealed in Hollywood's approach to slavery. One of the first examples of Hollywood's perspective on slavery was presented in the 1913 release, Traffic in Souls (aka Traffickers on Souls). The Universal film, which opened on November 24, 1913, was " . . . a seventy-five minute melodrama about a rigid civic crusader who is actually running a den of white slavery behind the front of his International Purity and Reform League office . . . " In other words, Hollywood's first venture into the subject matter of slavery in America, had nothing to do with the form of slavery that had been predominant in this country for many years (i.e., the enslavement of African-Americans), but about White slavery. As Friedman points out, the film actually portrays an example of " . . . Jewish-Irish cooperation . . . " since the film shows that an " . . . Inspector McGuiness and his Jewish emergency squad join forces with Inspector Levy and his Irish cops . . . (to) break up (the) . . . vicious white slavery ring." On the other hand, the film makes little note of the historical fact that some Jewish merchants were involved in this early American White slave trade, which was one of the reasons other Jews became outraged and worked to rid the country of this problem.
In 1937 Darryl F. Zanuck produced Slave Ship for release by 20th Century-Fox. The story is about an " . . . American slave captain (who) decides to become respectable but finds a mutiny on his hands." Wallace Beery starred. Of course, the well-known David O. Selznick film Gone with the Wind (1939) provided numerous portrayals of white Southern owners of black slaves.
The 1947 film Slave Girl was set in the early 1800s. The story revolves around a diplomat . . . sent to (the Northern African city of) Tripoli (Libya) to ransom sailors held by the power-mad potentate." The 1953 film Slaves of Babylon starred Richard Conte, Linda Christian, Jaurice Schwartz, in the story of " . . . how Nebuchadnezzar was defeated by an Israeli shepherd and his army." William Castle directed. In the 1956 release The Ten Commandments the Hebrew slave Lilia (played by Debra Pagent) is shown resisting " . . . oppression from her Egyptian overlord . . . "
Band of Angels (1957) starred Clark Gable as " . . . a New Orleans gentleman with a past . . . " and Sidney Poitier as " . . . an educated slave." Spartacus (1960) starred Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis in a " . . . spectacle about a slave revolt against the Romans." Douglas is " . . . Spartacus, the Tracian slave whose thirst for freedom makes him a natural choice to lead the oppressed out of bondage." Stanley Krubrick directed.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) starred Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers in a " . . . musical set in ancient Rome with . . . Mostel playing a sly, eager-to-be-free slave . . . " Slaves (1969) starred Stephen Boyd, Ossie Davis, Barbara Ann Teer and Gale Sondergard in a " . . . serving of lust and villainy on the old plantation as a sensitive slave (Ossie Davis) fights for freedom against the dastardly overseer (Stephen Boyd)." Herbert J. Biberman directed.
The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972) portrayed a slave who fled " . . . Virginia after murdering an inhuman slave overseer." Also, that year, in Buck and the Preacher (1972) Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte played " . . . escaped slaves heading West . . . "
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974) told the story of " . . . a 110-year old woman who was an ex-slave, and lived to take part in a civil rights demonstration in 1962." The film uses extensive flashbacks " . . . depicting various episodes in the life of Miss Jane, a fictional character, but the incidents (according to Steven Scheuer) are based on real incidents that happened throughout the South after the Civil War." The film was directed by John Korty.
The Avco/Embassy release, Man Friday (1975) starred Peter O'Toole and Richard Roundtree in an " . . . update of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, with some insight into the flaws behind the master-servant relationship." Jack Gold directed. Mandingo (1975) starred James Mason, Ken Norton, Susan George and Perry King in a film about " . . . a hard-lovin', hard-fightn' stud-slave . . . (on) a slave-breeding plantation in Louisiana circa 1840 . . . " Richard Fleischer (son of Jewish producer Max Fleischer) directed. Nate and Hayes (1983) starred Tommy Lee Jones, Michael O'Keefe, Max Phipps and Jenny Seagrove in a film " . . . about an anti-hero who helps a young missionary recapture his financee' from an evil slave trader." Ferdinand Fairfax directed. No Mercy (1986) includes Kim Basinger as the white slave of a " . . . sleazy (New Orleans) vice boss."
In the early '80s, Peter Bart reports, " . . . a fine script developed by the Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, which dealt with an eighteenth-century slave trader . . . " was offered to MGM, but the studio, then under the supervision of Jewish executive Frank Yablans,
declared that "[f]ilms about slave traders were 'not box office' . . . " It might be quite revealing to determine who was portrayed as a slave trader in that script.
Notwithstanding, the Yablans pronouncement, Jake Speed (1986) " . . . follows the global exploits of a fictional character who comes to life and wins a damsel's heart by rescuing her sister from loathsome white slavers." Andrew Lane directed. Also, A Special Friendship (1987) starred Tracy Pollan, Akousa Busia, LeVar Burton and Josepf Sommer in a " . . . Civil War drama about a bond between a Virginia plantation owner's daughter . . . and her intellectual slave . . . " Fielder Cook directed.
As noted in the discussion about Hollywood's portrayals of Southerners in Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content, the film Crusoe (1989) " . . . takes place in the slave-trading days of the 19th century, when a Southern aristocrat in need of money (Aidan Quinn) sets off on a risky venture to bring back slaves from Africa." One question raised by this movie is why Crusoe is portrayed as a "Southern aristocrat" when many slave traders of the day were other than men from the South? Robinson Crusoe, the hero of Daniel Defoe's novel was actually a " . . . shipwrecked English sailor . . . "
The 1991 feature, 1,000 Pieces of Gold revealed that " . . . years after slavery was abolished in America, Asians were still held in involuntary servitude . . . " The movie " . . . paints an overwhelmingly negative portrait of Chinese men . . . [t]he only man portrayed positively in the film is . . . ." a white man--Charlie (played by Chris Cooper). As noted above, in Stephen Sommers 1993 version of The Adventures of Huck Finn an escaping slave ("Jim") in the South " . . . guides Huck out of the thickets of prejudice and sets him on the road to tolerance and decency . . . " In the movie " . . . Jim . . . explains . . . to (Huck) . . . that black people have the same feelings as everyone else, and are deserving of his respect."
Along the way, the film, once again, portrays a whole slew of Southerners as ignorant, racist, hicks. Aren't Southerns also deserving of respect?
The following year, 1994's Interview With the Vampire inserted a rather non-sensical episode in which newly recruited vampire and Southern plantation owner Brad Pitt announces to all of his slaves, as he burns his mansion to the ground, that they are free. This is non-sensical in that Tom Cruise points out to Pitt that he has just burned everything that he owns, but Pitt is in some unexplained manner able to support his extravagant lifestyle and travels around the globe for most of the rest of the movie without explanation. It would have made more sense to either explain that Pitt had lots of money in the bank, or to have sold his plantation with the slaves so as to finance his eternal life. The release of the slaves appears to have been simply another Hollywood expression of what it would have like to see happen. In any case, the movie provides another example of Hollywood portraying Southerners as slave owners.
Then again, early in 1995, the Touchstone Pictures release Jefferson in Paris starring Nick Nolte, Greta Sacchi and Nancy Marchand, actually portrayed a little of this Virginian's several years in France as a representative of the newly formed U.S. government and glazed over the French revolution, but the film was really about slavery: Jefferson's attitude toward the institution, his relationships with his own slaves and his sexual liaison with one in particular, who turned out to be the half-sister of Jefferson's deceased wife. According to this movie, Jefferson fathered three children with this slave, named Sally Hemmings, who, along with their children, were all granted their freedom upon his death. The script was written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. James Ivory directed for producer Ismail Merchant. The film also starred Seth Gilliam, James Earl Jones, Michale Lonsdale, Thandie Newton, Gwyneth Paltrow Charlote De Turckheim and Lambert Wilson.
This brief survey of the history of slavery in Hollywood films reveals that the slaves themselves at various times (with the number of films in which such slaves are portrayed following the category) include white slaves (5), more specifically, Jewish slaves (3), Asian slaves (1) and black slaves (14). On the other side of slavery, the owners are portrayed as Arab (1), Babylonian (1), Chinese (1), Roman (2) and white (15). Also, of those 15 portrayals of white slave owners, eleven (11) of them were white Southerners in the U.S. Three of the film descriptions used do not make it clear who the slave owners were and these same descriptions do not provide enough information on who the slave traders were to include them in this analysis.
Research Project: Expand the above study regarding the portrayal of slaves, slave traders and slave owners in Hollywood movies. Confirm whether such portrayals exhibit the same patterns of bias revealed above.
In any case, what is clear from this brief survey of Hollywood's portrayal of slaves, slave traders and slave owners (i.e., the Hollywood spin on slavery) is that the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry, controlled by a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious, chooses to completely overlook a long history of Jewish involvement in slave trading and ownership and to focus its attention in its movie portrayals on black slaves owned by white owners, principally from the American South.
In stark contrast to this record describing Hollywood movie portrayals of Jewish involvement in the history of slavery (either as slaves, slave owners or slave traders), here is a brief history of such involvement. In 200 BC, little more than a thousand years since the time when Hebrews were still serving as slaves in Egypt, Judah Gribetz reports that a " . . . class of Jewish entrepreneurs form[ed] . . . a nouveau riche class . . . " in Judea and that foreign slaves were common. As Dr. Geoffrey Wigoder reports, "Jewish law recognized the institution of slavery . . . but (again, according to Wigoder) made detailed provision for its humane regulation . . . Non-Jewish . . . slaves were normally acquired by purchase from neighboring peoples." The males had " . . . to undergo circumcision . . . " and a " . . . master could beat a slave . . . " but not kill him. Obviously, if Jewish law dealt with the subject of slavery, the institution must have been fairly common at one point in Jewish history.
In point of fact, The Timetables of Jewish History reported on Jewish ownership of slaves in 315 AD when Christian Emperor Constantine prohibited, among other things, the emancipation " . . . of slaves circumcised by their Jewish owners." Later, in 337 AD Constantine forbid " . . . Jewish ownership of slaves." Jewish ownership of Christian slaves, apparently continued, however, in Spain, where in 506 A.D., Visigoth law forbade the practice. In 825 A.D. the " . . . Jewish slave trade . . . " in which "pagan slaves . . . " were sold " . . . to Muslims in Africa and Asia . . . " was criticized by the archbishop of Lyons, Agobard. The Jewish slave trade continued, however, into 900 A.D. when it was reported that "Jewish slave merchants . . . " were " . . . losing trade to enterprising Italian Christians." In 1115 AD King Alfonso I of Aragon " . . . restrict[ed] . . . Jews from owning Muslim slaves . . . " And, in 1233 Pope Gregory IX " . . . complained . . . about Jews . . . circumcising Christian slaves . . . "
Wigoder reports that in " . . . the Middle Ages, Jewish merchants engaged . . . in the slave trade . . . (and) the slaves generally remained non-Jewish." In 1281 A.D., the community of Toledo, Spain prohibited " . . . Jews from owning unmarried Muslim female slaves and employing unmarried Jewish women in order to avoid immoral behavior."
In 1380 A.D. King John I of Castile prohibited " . . . Spanish Jews . . . from circumcising Muslim slaves."
At one time, there were also " . . . Jewish slave-owners . . . in the W[est] Indies
. . . " As Wigoder reports, there was " . . . at least one Jew . . . among the companions of Columbus when he discovered . . . " the islands, but " . . . there was no permanent Jewish settlement (there) until the mid-17th century, when refugees (mainly ex-Marranos) settled there after the Portuguese reconquest of Brazil from Holland." During " . . . this period . . . Jews first went to Curacao (among the islands of the West Indies just to the northeast of Brazil) and Surinam (situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the northern border of Brazil; also formerly known as Dutch Guiana) under Dutch rule . . . " where they " . . . were important in the establishment and development of the sugar industry.
Gribetz reports that in 1695, there were " . . . 103 Portuguese Jewish and German Jewish families comprising 570 persons in the Dutch colony of Surinam . . . " and that they owned " . . . more than 40 sugar cane plantations and . . . 9,000 slaves. By 1730 . . . " Gribetz reports they owned " . . . 115 of the colony's 400 plantations . . . " and presumably, even more slaves. Strager reports that during the early 1600's most African slaves were sent to this part of the world (including the West Indies and Brazil) " . . . where the sugar industry kill[ed] . . . them faster than natural breeding (could) . . . replace them."
There were also " . . . Jewish slave-owners . . . in the . . . southern states of the U.S.
. . . " As Howard Sachar reports in his book A History of the Jews in America, there is no record " . . . of any Southern rabbi expressing criticism of slavery . . . .(and) [s]everal of them . . . owned slaves." African-American scholar Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. was also cited by Leonard Dinnerstein, in the Dinnerstein work Anti-Semitism in America confirming that at least a small percentage of " . . . those involved in the slave trade were Jewish . . . " On the other hand " . . . many Jews were prominent in the struggle which finally led to the abolition of slavery . . . " in the U.S.
As Jonathan D. Sarna reports in his article for Commentary in 1984, ("The Jewish Way of Crime") "Jews--scions, in some cases, of notable families--played a conspicuous role in the modern history of vice as pimps, prostitutes, and brothelkeepers." As Sarna says, "[f]or over half a century they actually dominated the international traffic in Jewish women that was centered in Eastern Europe." Sarna goes on to report that Edward J. Bristow . . . recounted the story (about Jewish involvement in the white-slave trade) at length in 'Prostitution and Prejudice: The Jewish Fight Against White Slavery 1870-1939.'" On the other hand, in the 1967 Universal release Thoroughly Modern Millie Julie Andrews unmasks " . . . a white slave racket . . . " in New York city during the twenties but it is centered in
" . . . a Chinese laundry."
Focusing on even more modern times, Kenneth Anger reports that the infamous Jewish mobster Bugsy Siegel was still involved in the white-slave traffic in Los Angeles in the '30s. Even more recent, Los Angeles Channel 4 television consumer rights reporter David Horowitz (without discussing who was actually involved as the slave procurers or traders) revealed as recently as November, 1994, that a sophisticated form of the white slave trade still exists in Hollywood. He reported that unscrupulous talent agents were making the domestic arrangements for desperate actors and actresses to go overseas for what are described as good
paying performance opportunities, only to discover that they have been sold into slavery. As Horowitz reported, some are never heard from again.
Considering this history, it may seem odd (or on the other hand, quite understandable) that the films made in Hollywood about slavery, focus primarily on black slavery and Southern white slave owners as opposed to white slavery either as it was once dominated by the Eastern European Jews or Bugsy Seigel's Los Angeles mob or the white slave traffic that apparently continues today. As historian George Fraser points out, "Hollywood is always eager to suggest that its heroes, be they Christians, Jews, American colonists, or Elizabethan sea-dogs, were champions of universal liberty, and . . . " Fraser states that he is " . . . not aware that this is historic truth. Slave-owners and slave-dealers were numerous among all of them." Again, however, a U.S. film industry controlled by a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious, has apparently provided few if any, examples of Jewish slave owners or traders in their movies, although the other groups of slave-owners and traders have been portrayed quite regularly in Hollywood films. Again, the point of this book is not to condemn anyone for " . . . the alleged crimes of their ancestors . . . " only to be certain that our movies do not consistently portray one population in a negative manner while consistently portraying another in a more positive light. Such consistent patterns of bias are clearly revisionist in nature and rise to the level of private propaganda.
Hollywood filmmakers have seemed all to eager to send up films depicting slave owners and slave traders who are Roman, Egyptian, Libyan, Middle Eastern, Chinese and primarily from the American South, but not nearly as eager to produce and distribute films portraying the facts that some Jewish men were involved in white slave trafficking, owned slaves in the South and the West Indies and were actually involved in some of the slave running and/or dealing that brought slavery to the American South. The Hollywood spin on slavery thus appears to be an example of gross historical revisionism through selective omission. It may in fact be reasonably argued that the body of Hollywood films depicting slavery, again helps to contribute to the impression that a U.S. film industry controlled by Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious, are consciously or sub-consciously, attempting to utilize a "divide and conquer" strategy by using a powerful communications medium to stir prejudice and hatred among African-Americans in the U.S., hatred directed against whites generally, and White Southern males specifically.
Immigrant Stories--Another sub-group of Hollywood films and a pattern of bias that appears to be related to the feelings or background of the Hollywood control group is that category of movies that seek to positively portray immigrants, particularly European immigrants. As an example, the 1917 film The Immigrant was about a " . . . penniless immigrant (who) befriends a girl on the boat and later helps her in a cafe." The film was written and directed by Charlie Chaplin.
Also, in 1936, when Hollywood wanted to make a film about the California gold rush, it focused on the experience of an immigrant, in Sutter's Gold (Universal) James Cruze directed. Other examples, include the 1944 release, An American Romance which told
" . . . of the rise of an illiterate young immigrant to wealth and power between the turn of the century and WWII." Also, Carnegie Hall (1947) was the " . . . story of an immigrant cleaning woman whose son becomes a concert pianist."
It's a Big Country (1952) was an " . . . octet of stories . . . (forming) a big valentine to America. One of the . . . episodes stars (Gene) Kelly as the son of a Greek immigrant who falls in love with the daughter (Janet Leigh) . . . of a Hungarian farmer (S.Z. Sakall)."
That same year, Anything Can Happen (1952) was " . . . about an immigrant who accustoms himself to America and finds himself a wife."
The 1976 film, The Invasion of Johnson County presented another version of the same true-life incident portrayed in Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate. The film tells the story of a
" . . . dapper Bostonian Brahmin (Bill Bixby) who finds himself in the wild west without any funds. He teams up with cowpoke (Bo Hopkins) . . . who confesses he has been hired by a private army of men who plan to take the law into their own hands . . . " and get rid of a recent trainload of immigrants. Henry Jameson directed.
Heaven's Gate (1980) was another attempt to tell the same story, a " . . . monumental epic of the Johnson County (Wyoming) massacre in 1892 of more than 100 immigrant settlers by land barons." Steven Scheuer states that the Heaven's Gate story was " . . . based on a real range war in the 1890s in Johnson County, Wyoming, when the cattle owners declared war on the immigrants who were pouring into the area to establish homesteads on the grazing lands." On the other hand, according to Steven Bach, the script for Heaven's Gate (1980) revolved around " . . . a modest episode of legalized genocide with strong class and racial overtones . . . " which dealt with the "immigrants" and which only "loosely" adhered to "pure history" . . . in addition to all its other problems (the film) represented an example of "historical revisionism". Would this movie have been attempted if it were not for the built-in subject matter biases of the Hollywood film community? In other words, does this film, which nearly bankrupted a major studio/distributor, represent an extreme example of how far the Hollywood film community will go in attempting to put its own cultural perspective on the screen?
Other movies continued the Hollywood bias in favor of immigrants. In David Puttnam's 1981 film Chariots of Fire (1981) (a British production released in the U.S.) the Jewish runner was the son of " . . . an immigrant from Lithuania." (see additional discussion of this film below) Also, in 1981, Ralph Bakshi's American Pop follows the " . . . saga of a (Jewish) family of Russian immigrants in the United States . . . " That same year, Ragtime (1981) contained a " . . . brief . . . portrait of a Jewish immigrant turned filmmaker
. . . "
In 1983, Scarface starred Al Pacino, Michelle Pffeifer, Steven Bauer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the story of an " . . . unscrupulous Cuban immigrant who arrives in the U.S.A. as a boat person but becomes a drug kingpin." Brian De Palma directed.
The film is one of the few American films that portray an immigrant in a negative manner, and the immigrant happens to be Hispanic (see Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content). Director Joan Micklin Silver's first feature was Hester Street (1985) which is described by Katz as " . . . a delicately observed period piece about a Jewish immigrant couple's pains of adjusting to the ways of the New World in Manhattan's Lower East Side during the '20s
. . . " Ms. Silver is the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants.
In We Were So Beloved (1986) "[q]uestions of conscience generated by the Holocaust are examined from a unique angle in a series of interviews with German Jewish immigrants, or the children of these immigrants, who left Nazi Germany just prior to the start of World War II." Manfred Kirchheimer directed. The first so-called " . . . Jewish Christmas movie, An American Tail (1986) . . . " also follows the saga of a family of Russian immigrants to the United States. That same year, the 1986 film American Justice was about two " . . . good guys (who) pool their bravery to battle crooked cops who force illegal immigrants from Mexico into prostitution." Also, in 1986, The Statute of Liberty was a " . . . documentary
. . . with . . . interviews by some famous immigrants." Ken Burns directed.
The 1988 release, Young Guns also works on the immigrant theme. The young cowboys, turned outlaws (Emilio Estevez, Lou Diamond Phillips, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and others), spend a considerable amount of their time revenging the death of their friend and former employer, an immigrant from England. Also, the romantic interest of Sutherland was an Asian immigrant who has been enslaved by the film's villain Jack Palance.
Barry Levinson's Avalon (1990) was about " . . . an immigrant family's legends and eccentricities . . . " The movie was " . . . inspired by the experiences of (Levinson's) . . . own family. His grandparents came to America from Russia, part of a larger Jewish family that pooled its resources and brought over one relative after another until at last the five Krichensky brothers had all settled in Baltimore." The next year, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991) continues " . . . the adventures of Fievel, the little mouse from Russia, who emigrated to America in the first movie and is now living with his family in a tenement in nineteenth-century New York. In the earlier film . . . Fievel's family home was burned by rampaging czarist cats . . . "
The 1994 Fine Features release Little Odessa, was " . . . set against the brooding backdrop of the Mafia-plagued Russian-Jewish emigre community in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach . . . " where " . . . Brooklyn-bred hit man Joshua Shapira (Tim Roth) returns reluctantly to the childhood neighborhood he abandoned years earlier to avoid Mafia score-settling from a previous job." His immigrant parents are played by Maximillian Schell and Vanessa Redgrave. James Gray wrote and directed. The film was produced by Paul Webster.
Again, the argument is not being made here that there is anything inherently wrong with producing and releasing movies that portray immigrants in a positive light. Of course, we should have movies that do that. But, if the Hollywood emphasis does not more evenly distribute the portrayals between positive and negative immigrant or non-immigrants, then we have a consistent pattern of bias in favor of immigrants, or more Hollywood propaganda. There are certainly significant numbers of people in the U.S. who justifiably feel that the country must be able to effectively control its own borders and that the plight of the immigrant, particularly the illegal immigrant does not always deserve our sympathy. Also, if we have a situation in which only certain immigrant groups are portrayed positively, (e.g., immigrants from Eastern Europe as opposed to immigrants from South America), we have a different and even more damaging level of propaganda being disseminated through this important medium of communication. The key is a balancing of the presentation, both in terms of pro and anti-immigrant positions and in terms of which immigrants or positively or negatively portrayed. That balance appears to have been long missing from the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry.
Violence--The portrayal of acts of violence in movies is another consistent Hollywood theme. Even though Michael Medved's book covers the topic of excessive violence in American movies, it is such an important issue that some additional discussion of that issue is provided here in the form of an update. The debate that has been occurring for the past several years with respect to violence on television and in music appears to relate to and be a precursor to a similar national debate that is still yet to occur with respect to violence in the movies. On CNN's Crossfire with guests Jack Valenti and Michael Medved, conservative Pat Buchanan asked the question: "How, other than simple greed, do you explain all this gratuitous violence that is dumped into these TV shows night after night after night? I've seen where one kid, by the time he's 18, has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence on television, 25,000 murders . . . what explains all that . . . other than a . . . competitive desire to make money?" Valenti responds by saying: "How many acts of violence is there in a hockey game or a prize fight? . . . There's some violence in local news shows . . . " Valenti later offers the parental responsibility defense, another way of saying it's not our responsibility, it's the parents' responsibility: "When my children were young, my wife and I monitored very sternly what our children watched, not only in movie theaters but on television. We were very unyielding . . . " Valenti said.
In this same televised debate CNN's resident liberal Michael Kinsley offered an example of the pro-industry "consumer sovereignty" argument that "[t]he free market works, aren't we for that?" Michael Medved answered correctly, I believe by saying " . . . no . . . the market hasn't worked. People have expressed their frustration for years." Buchanan then asks: " . . . why does it take a threat of federal regulation to get cultural polluters to take even a small baby step in cleaning up their act?" In response the MPAA's Valenti says: " . . . I have urged the Motion Picture Association and the studios to join in conducting meetings in Hollywood among the people who create programs (an example of "shifting responsibility"), the Actors' Guild, Writers' Guild, Directors' Guild, studios, and others, to try to see whether or not we can, in discussion, examine and address violence on television. We've done this before . . . We did it with drugs about five years ago and with creative people to reduce the use and appearance of drugs. We've done it with alcohol, and we've done it with smoking. We've done it in the depiction of minorities . . . " (i.e., we have changed our media messages in the past in an effort to positively influence behavior). Buchanan then responds: "Well, you've done it all . . . in reaction to public pressure . . . " Valenti then says: " . . . some people want to do things . . . because they think it's right . . . .I think it's proper (in this case) . . . even though no one's convinced me that so-called violence (and no one's been able to define it) . . . really--has a causal relationship with violence in the streets." This is Valenti's version of the no proof argument. It is similar to the argument made by tobacco companies for 30 years (i.e., no one has proven that cigarettes are addictive). The CNN debate on media violence and Medved's book notwithstanding, the Hollywood fondness for violence continued.
A 1992 film Reservoir Dogs that was released too late to be considered in Medved's book portrayed a botched jewel heist in which several cops are shot. The film also includes buckets of blood, the slicing off of an ear with a razor blade and a torture scene. As film critic Roger Ebert states, "[v]iolence itself seems to sell, even when it's divorced from any context." This tells us that the only way to get rid of violence on the screen is to get rid of the people who are primarily interested in making money through films, as opposed to people who are primarily interested in communicating something important to society (see the
discussion relating to remedies in this book's companion volume Motion Picture Industry Reform).
Boxing Helena, another movie released since the Medved book came out provides one of the most violent acts imaginable. The film portrays " . . . a surgeon so obsessed with a woman that he amputates her limbs to keep her with him . . . " Director Jennifer Lynch (age 24) goes so far as to express her rather bizarre belief that " . . . the main character 'has a need in him that exists in all of us . . . '" a statement that illustrates just how far some filmmakers will go to rationalize their art. As Noam Chomsky warned in 1993, "[t]here's something about the social conditions in which (certain kids are) . . . growing up that makes (violence) . . . acceptable behavior, even natural behavior."
To further illustrate the point that Hollywood still promotes violence, in a February 1994 Entertainment Weekly interview, actress Meryl Streep tells the story about the trailer studio/distributor had prepared for release at Christmas on her upcoming movie The River Wild. In the trailer, Streep says: " . . . the only time you recognize me is this big close-up when I'm pointing a gun at the camera. Now, I hold a gun for 20 seconds of a 120-minute movie, and I don't want that to really represent the movie . . . I don't want my Christmas gift to America to be me pointing a gun (after all) . . . the President was in my agent's office two days before saying, 'People, you have to work on this [depictions of violence] yourselves." The studio representatives said they couldn't find any other piece of film (in the 9,000 feet of film of Streep) " . . . that (presents Streep) . . . in such an effective way . . . ." and they offered to meet with Streep. " . . . the next day they put the trailer on Entertainment Tonight at 7 p.m. in more millions of households than will ever go see the movie . . . that shot of me is somebody's idea of sexy. Or something." This story also illustrates the fact that, contrary to what Jack Valenti would have us believe, the creative people are not always responsible for the violence.
Another example of recent Hollywood violence is seen in the 1994 Geffen Pictures/Warner Bros. release Interview With the Vampire. The film is filled with violence and gore. During one period at least a half-dozen people are killed by the vampire duo of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in gross bloody displays; one vampire gets her head cut off and the filmmakers go so far as to show the head falling to and bouncing on the floor; another vampire's body is cut completely in half and that transaction is shown in grisly detail; other vampires are shown kicking and screaming while burning to death; Tom Cruise actually gets his throat sliced from ear to ear in full view of the movie audience and he lies on the floor with blood pouring out toward the cameras. The film is one of the most disgusting pieces of film rubbish the American film industry has ever foisted on an unsuspecting public and all of those responsible from producer David Geffen to the MPAA Ratings Board need to have their heads examined.
Also, the 1994 Warner Bros. release Natural Born Killers provides " . . . a scabrous look at a society that promotes murderers as pop culture icons, as well as a scathing indictment of a mass media establishment that caters to and profits from such starmaking." The first half of the film " . . . lays out the crazy three weeks during which the lead couple (played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) gun down 52 people out west. The second half presents the insane media circus which surrounds their incarceration, a live-in prison TV interview, a riot and their subsequent amazing escape." Even though it may be Oliver Stone's intent to graphically demonstrate to moviegoers the insanity of media coverage of such events, which scenario is more likely: (1) the audience and society in general, will be so impressed by this movie that it will correct this problem, or (2) some of the less mature and/or uneducated members of that same audience will choose to seek out the opportunity to become "pop culture icons" since they view their lives as not very meaningful anyway?
And, finally, the 1994 Mirimax release (the Disney subsidiary) Pulp Fiction (starring Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel and Bruce Willis) was a throwback to the days of pure violence and gore featuring scenes of blowing out an innocent man's brains all over the insides of a car and the two other men in it, killing two other men after reciting a passage from the Bible, the killing of still another man with an automatic weapon (slamming him through a bathroom door, into the tub and up against the wall, with blood splattering everywhere), a near fatal drug overdose (the victim being brought back with a shot of adrenaline directly into the heart) and the brutal raping of a black gangster by two white perverts. All of this "action" is generously peppered with the words "nigger" and "motherfucker". This Quentin Tarantino directed film (executive produced by Harvey and Bob Weinstein), is, of course, the kind of film that Hollywood rewards with multiple Oscar nominations (the screenplay actually won).
In an interview with Bill Rosendahl (the Century Communications production Personal Best, shown on Century Cable television Channel 10 in Los Angeles, March 12, 1995) former TriStar Chairman Mike Medavoy, admitted that as a younger studio executive, the kind of violence seen in Pulp Fiction would not have been as bothersome. But, Medavoy said, as you get older, you begin to realize that there really is a connection between violence on the screen and the irresponsible behavior of some individuals. For that reason, he said, he was partly responsible for turning down an opportunity to make Pulp Fiction a TriStar release. The executives of the Disney subsidiary Mirimax apparently had no such qualms.
Anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker warned as early as 1950 that " . . . it is possible that a succession of movies in which violence is portrayed by glamorous stars and in which there is no sense of inner morality, even though the 'sinners' are punished at the end, may not be cathartic at all but, instead, give this behavior a kind of permissiveness."
Of course, as George MacDonald Fraser points out, " . . . the violence of the modern cinema is pathological . . . " thus we are not dealing with Hollywood decision-makers who have the capacity for doing what is best for society.
Gangster and Outlaw Movies--Gangster and outlaw movies present a special problem, in that it is difficult to know what effect the portrayals of the lifestyles of criminals will have an any given member of the viewing audience. Many observers would suggest that even though a gangster or outlaw portrayed in a motion picture may come to an early death or be punished for his crimes in other ways, many of the movies portraying gangsters glamorize the calling so much that some in the audience will be encouraged to adopt the life style hoping not to make the same mistakes made by the gangster or outlaw portrayed in the movie.
The survey of Hollywood's gangster/outlaw films prepared for this study revealed that gangsters and outlaws have been portrayed as: disciplined businessmen, good-looking, soft-hearted, ingenious, suave, legendary, as organizational geniuses, attractive, a cool beauty, famous, idolized, cool and collected and as fun loving fellas. The films showed mobsters dallying with the sexually awakened daughter of an attorney, wanting to go straight, as victims of society, saving a town, mingling with entertainers and the wealthy, fleecing the rich and giving to the less affluent and robbing banks as a sideline. Moviegoers watching these films learned that a society girl can learn the true meaning of love from the selfless devotion of a gangster's moll, that ex-soldiers and college grads sometimes choose to become gangsters, that mobsters sometimes get to make movies, that they can be art lovers, that family ties are more important than anything, that mobsters have a special code of ethics or code of honor, that they may be able to buy a bank to launder illegal profits, their careers can flourish even after deportation and after their careers are over, they may be immortalized in movies or honored with a movie film tribute. Who does Hollywood think it is kidding?
Again, Powdermaker observed in 1950 that " . . . it is . . . questionable whether the punishment of the criminal, pointing up the moral that 'crime does not pay,' prevents members of the audience from identifying themselves with him or her, particularly when the character is played by a glamorous star . . . that they are punished at the end would not necessarily destroy the identification of the preceding sixty or eighty minutes." As recently as 1989, historian George MacDonald Fraser reports that the Hollywood film industry is " . . . an industry which has pretty consistently invited its audiences to admire and identify with selfish and unpleasant thugs . . . and it is no defense to say that they are shown in an unsympathetic light--make them central characters and you invite the audience to their side, tying the viewer's emotions in with theirs. Glamorize them as likeable rascals, and you simply compound the felony." "Whether gangster pictures encouraged crime or not is a fruitless
debate; there is no doubt that they glamorized it." For some, that is all that is necessary to create a desire to emulate the behavior seen on the screen.
One of the problems with gangster and outlaw movies is that there will always be some people in the audience for such movies that consider the life of the gangster glamorous, no matter how the movie ends, and, as noted earlier, these viewers will inevitably rationalize that they will not make the same mistakes as their movie role models. After all, no one stands at the theatre door attempting to make judgments about the intelligence or sophistication of moviegoers, thus, Hollywood filmmakers cannot possibly know that their films do not adversely affect members of any given audience.
Of course, the film industry will offer their "no proof" argument (i.e., that there is no proof of such a cause and effect link). There is also no proof that gangster and outlaw movies do not encourage some people to behave in an anti-social manner. The choice is between allowing a small group of greedy movie makers the freedom to make exploitation films that may cause a considerable amount of harm to society, as opposed to, on the other hand, taking reasonable steps to reduce the huge amounts of money these greedy filmmakers receive in the hopes that such a reduction will also reduce their power and ability to ignore public pressure, so that in the long run society as a whole will benefit. For many reasonably intelligent people in our society, that should not be a difficult choice. It merely needs to be implemented in a legal and non-discriminatory manner (see discussion of remedies in Motion Picture Industry Reform).
Another aspect of the outlaw/gangsters genre of Hollywood motion pictures is the extremely uneven treatment of various ethnic groups as the movie bad-guys. For example, the survey of gangster/outlaw films prepared as part of this study covered the period from 1925 through 1994. It included some 156 examples of the genre, the vast majority of which featured Italian mobsters as the central characters. As Patricia Erens points out, "Jewish gangsters existed in America and were part of organized crime dating back to the turn of the century. Although Jews tried to keep such information out of the limelight, news events like the murder of Herman Rosenthal (1912), the electrocution of three Jewish criminals at Sing Sing, and the activities of 'Legs' Diamond and Arnold Rothstein could not be easily concealed. But for the most part, when Hollywood producers sought subjects for their gangster films, the anti-heroes were invariably Italian or Irish Catholics." This then, is another example of the Hollywood control group downplaying the criminal backgrounds of those in the same cultural/religious group while playing up, through shear numbers, the criminal activities of other ethnic groups.
In fact, up until 1984 there were very few major studio releases depicting Jewish gangsters as the central characters, including the biopics. Following hundreds of portrayals of Italian gangsters in American movies principally financed, produced, directed and written by Jewish males of European heritage, the Italian movie director Sergio Leone, finally turned the tables in Once Upon a Time in America (1984). In this movie, Leone took the theme of Jewish crime to its logical conclusion. "The protagonist and many of the other characters in this film are supposed to be stereotypical Jews, and they are every bit as unpleasant as their Italian counterparts in crime." The film starred Robert De Niro, James Woods and Elizabeth McGovern in " . . . a sort of Jewish 'Godfather" . . . " The film " . . . spans over
fifty years in the lives of some Lower East side buddies who believe that crime does pay
. . . "
It is also interesting and quite revealing to note that the long version of this movie and other commentators (e.g., Johnathan Sarna in "The Jewish Way of Crime") make it very clear that the criminals in Once Upon a Time in America are Jewish. On the other hand, although Roger Ebert, in his book (Roger Ebert's Video Companion--1994) routinely calls attention to the ethnic, cultural, religious or racial background other movie characters who are Jewish, and other movie characters who are Italian, Irish, WASP, black, hispanic, etc., when it comes to a major movie about Jewish criminals (a movie primarily made by Italians) Ebert conveniently overlooks the point. Ebert does spend a considerable amount of time in his review of the Leone epic discussing how much better the longer version of Once Upon a Time in America is. That's the version that was shown internationally and is now on video cassette. As Ebert points out the film " . . . was chopped by ninety minutes for U.S. theatrical release into an incomprehensible mess without texture, timing, mood, or sense (and the longer version) . . . was not seen in American theaters . . . "
The fact that the Italian Sergio Leone directed and was the moving force behind the production of this film, combined with the fact of this film's very limited domestic theatrical release raises some interesting questions. It seems that the U.S. film industry which is dominated by Jewish males of European heritage, likes to portray organized crime figures in films as Italians (or more recently as Black or Hispanic), but when an Italian makes a film about Jewish criminals in America, the American film industry severely edits it, does not give the film a wide release and does not keep it in the theatres for very long. This may thus be a case of Jewish and Italian propaganda in films being directed at one another with the American moviegoing population caught in the middle.
The following year, (1984) The Cotton Club, produced by Robert Evans (Shapera) and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, took " . . . place in New York in the 1920s and 1930s, where Irish and Jewish gangsters battled the Italians for the rackets . . . " The film did not perform well at the box office, thus, it may qualify as another example of a film that was not supported in its theatrical release because it included negative portrayals of Jewish gangsters. It is equally interesting, propagandistic and revisionist that the Hollywood film industry chose to make a movie (Hoffa, 1992) about Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa portraying Bobby Kennedy as a "villain". After all, that is exactly the view of Bobby Kennedy that the Mafia prefers. In Hoffa screenwriter David Mamet " . . . minimalizes and rationalizes Hoffa's involvement with the Mafia and, conversely, turns Robert Kennedy, who fought hard and long to put Jimmy behind bars, into a callow Ivy League snot . . . " The consistent glamourization of gangsters, criminals, outlaws and the Mafia by Hollywood might suggest to some reasonable persons that Mafia money is involved in the financing of many of these films (see Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content and Motion Picture Biographies).
The Dubious Concept of Protected Groups--One of the more absurd positions to come out of this research on motion picture pattern of bias issues relates to the concept of protected groups (i.e., the idea that some populations should be more immune than others from negative portrayals in movies). For example, writer, director, producer, Reginald Hudlin (House Party and Boomerang) states: "I look at it from the point of view, who is the butt of the joke? There is difference when a WASP is the butt of a joke versus a gay black man. It's a matter of picking on someone who doesn't have the means to defend themselves." This kind of thinking is based on the erroneous assumption that all "gay black men" are doing less well in society and are therefore more vulnerable than all white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. This is exactly the kind of overly broad generalizations that got us into the problems we have today with respect to prejudice and discrimination. The answer is not to go to the other extreme (i.e., give preferential treatment to certain groups) but to balance all of our interests fairly in the middle.
In addition, George Washington University professor Anitai Etzioni utilizes the same defective reasoning when she states: "Slurs against black people make people hurt who have been hurting for the last 400 years. I don't like to slur anybody . . . " she says, " . . . but [white males are] less vulnerable. Jews suffered for 2,000 years of history so they're more vulnerable . . . it's worse for some than for others . . . " Professor Etzioni then goes on to erroneously proclaim that there is " . . . an objective notion of what are protected groups and what are not." If Professor Etzioni truly believes there is an objective notion of what are protected groups and what are not, then she should lay it out on the table (i.e., put it in writing for all to see). The truth is that any such notion which tends to arbitrarily offer more protection to one racial, ethnic, religious or cultural group over another will be in conflict with provisions of the U.S. Constitution, and thus cannot be tolerated as a standard of conduct in our society.
In all fairness, there is no objective notion of what are "protected groups and what are not". Just because some members of certain groups in our society seem to have a more difficult time than others does not mean all individuals of that group are worse off than individuals in other groups. For example, there are many wealthy or so-called middle-class blacks in this country that are doing much better financially than many whites. Does it make sense then to offer all blacks preferential treatment over poor whites? Certainly not! In addition, within the context of the contemporary U.S. film industry, it is asinine to suggest that the Jewish males of European heritage are "vulnerable" just because they belong to a larger group that some feel needs special protection, and therefore should be considered a "protected group". Thus, it would not be quite fair to say that white Anglo-Saxon males should be used as villains disproportionately more in films than black males or Jewish males of European heritage, or anybody else for that matter.
As stated above, such broad generalizations are at the very heart of the problem of prejudice anyway. The only general rule we can possibly abide by is that all persons should be treated equally regardless of race, religion, color or creed. That is the tradition of this country and the fact that it has not been followed in all cases does not mean that we should go too far in the other direction and create privileged groups of people based on some notion that their grandparents suffered more than the grandparents of others. In other words, we should not discriminate in the present and the future to make up for someone else's discrimination in the past.
This chapter has set forth several of the preferred themes in Hollywood movies: a general liberal political slant; a more specific liberal perspective with respect to environmental issues; huge gaps in Hollywood's coverage of historical events; blatant revisionism in the real-events covered; the racial, religious and other pleas for tolerance; more selective coverage of the reality of slavery; a fondness for immigrant stories, positive portrayals of immigrants and a preference for European immigrants over all others; and finally, pathological choices favoring violence, along with movies that glamorize criminals, gangsters, outlaws and the Mafia. It is once again, the contention of this book, that such preferences should not exist, and they would not exist if there was more diversity at the higher levels in the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry.
THE FIRST HALF CENTURY OF
JEWISH PORTRAYALS IN HOLLYWOOD FILMS
The analysis and discussion provided in this book's companion volumes: Who Really Controls Hollywood, Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content and Motion Picture Biographies, set forth evidence that tends to show that the Hollywood control group has not been very sensitive (throughout its nearly 90-year reign over the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry), to the concerns of African-Americans, Latinos, women, gay/lesbians, Arabs, Asian-Americans, American Indians, people from the South and others, when it comes to the consistent negative or stereotypical portrayals of such populations in movies. Since the combined research of Neal Gabler, Terry Pristin, David Prindle, Patricia Erens and other writer/observers of the Hollywood scene, confirms that traditional Hollywood management still controls and dominates Hollywood, it then becomes materially relevant to consider the results of that control in terms of the kinds of movies produced and released by this control group, (e.g., are Jewish-themed movies actually being produced and released, in disproportionate numbers and do they tend to consistently portray Jewish issues and people in a more favorable manner than these other populations?)
The thesis of chapters 4, 5 & 6 of this book is that a disproportionately high percentage of American-made movies present Jewish characters, stories, themes, sub-plots or issues, and that such presentations are generally more favorable than their counterparts in movies focusing on other religious/cultural groups. This chapter also provides additional support for the contention that such a phenomenon occurs as a direct (or indirect) result of the fact that the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry is controlled by a small narrowly defined interest group. As conclusively established in this book's companion volume Who Really Controls Hollywood, that control rests in the hands of a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious. It must be further noted, that this disproportionate interest in Jewish stories and favorable Jewish portrayals occurs at the expense of the telling of the many important stories of other religious, ethnic, racial and cultural groups in America. This presentation relating to the positive or disproportionate portrayals of Jewish stories, sub-plots, themes and characters in Hollywood films does not generally include the several hundred biopics produced or distributed by the Hollywood-based major studio/distributors over the years (see another of this book's companion volumes, Motion Picture Biographies with regard to that specialized genre).
The reference to Jewish stories, as used herein, does not imply that the relevant motion picture's central theme is essentially a Jewish story, but that a Jewish story is included in the movie either as its central focus or as a sub-plot. Jewish portrayals, on the other hand, are situations in which a movie character is identified in the movie in some way as being Jewish (in either the religious or cultural sense). A few other movies are included because they are identified as Jewish stories and/or have Jewish characters, even though the ethnicity of such stories or characters has been removed or disguised by the filmmakers. It is fair to observe that it is likely that a non-Jewish person will be less sensitive to some portrayals that might be considered negative by some Jews. Evenso, the above stated thesis still rings true.
In the early years of the industry, according to Neal Gabler, some movie industry Jews were hesitant to make movies about Jews or to put Jews in the movies. Gabler claims that "[u]sually the Jewish executives invoked the box office; regardless of how they felt personally, they said, no one else wanted to see a movie about a Jew . . . Some Hollywood Jews admitted that they deliberately avoided Jewish subjects because they didn't want to 'ruffle the goyim . . . when Ring Lardner, Jr., and Jewish writer Michael Kanin submitted their script of Woman of the Year . . . " Jewish studio executive Louis B. Mayor " . . . immediately vetoed a scene where the heroine, a diplomat's daughter and cosmopolite, spoke Yiddish. 'Our impression,' said Lardner, 'was simply that from Mayer's point of view, this kind of thing would be interpreted as the Jewish-dominated motion picture industry trying to promote Jewishness or the acceptability of the Yiddish language . . . " An actual review of the history of the movies produced during this early period, reveals that the attitude described by Gabler may not have been the typical practice (see discussion below), or if even the general rule, the rule was observed in the breach quite commonly.
In other words, even though, as Neal Gabler reports, some of the early Jewish film moguls were reluctant to make films about Jews, many of such films were produced and released anyway. According to Lester Friedman, "[b]etween 1900 and 1929 . . . approximately 319 films featured clearly discernible Jewish characters--a figure far surpassing the number of films featuring other ethnic types . . . " Other writers have also suggested that Jewish studio executives, producers and directors have been reluctant, from time to time, to portray Jews in films for one reason or another, but Friedman reports further that a bibliography compiled by Stuart Fox in 1970 " . . . lists over 700 feature films containing Jewish characters of various types." The Stuart Fox bibliography actually lists approximately 4,000 so-called Jewish films made prior to 1970 including features, short subjects, documentaries, propaganda films, educational films, cartoons, television series and television specials. Even if only the features are considered, however, that does not suggest a very generalized reluctance among Jewish filmmakers to portray Jews on the screen. On the other hand, this unusually high number of films portraying Jewish characters also makes it difficult to place reasonable limits on a review of such films, thus for purposes of this study (relating to stories and portrayals of the Hollywood control group), the principal sources of information relied upon are the films reviewed by Lester Friedman and Patricia Erens in their respective books on Jews in American cinema. Erens' book The Jew In American Cinema provides a historical survey and analysis of more than 800 feature films with Jewish characters and themes. Neal Gabler's book An Empire of Their Own, along with Betty Lasky's work The Biggest Little Major of Them All, also provided some of the source material for this overview of the topic. Other than the brief summary review of representative movies of the early years that follows in the next few paragraphs, the main study presented here in Chapters 4, 5 & 6 covers motion pictures released from 1930 through 1994.
Friedman actually goes so far as to state that "[s]ome of these (early) films " . . . do seem part of an orchestrated effort by Jews in the film industry to convince Jewish newcomers to America that no matter how bad conditions were here, things were measurably worse in other countries." Erens discussed several hundred of those films in just two chapters of her book entitled "The Primitive Years" and "The Silent Era".
An early example of such films included a " . . . silent film version of Disraeli . . . " the British Prime Minister who at one time during his career " . . . preached the innate superiority of . . . [t]he Hebrew . . . race . . . " That film appeared in 1906. A sound version of the same film brought (George Arliss) . . . an Academy Award for 1929-30."
In 1921 Harry Warner " . . . decided to make a series of dramas that dealt with social themes . . . " so Warner Bros. produced and distributed Your Best Friend . . . " as one of its first features. The film was " . . . a soppy story of a Jewish mother who is spurned by her haughty gentile daughter-in-law until the girl discovers that her mother-in-law is the one who has been funding her own high living." Both the 1924 film In Hollywood with Potash and Perlmutter and The Cohens and Kellys series featured Jewish characters. Also, the Fred Niblo directed silent epic Ben Hur (1925) starred Ramon Navarro in the story " . . . about the conflict between the Jews and the Romans in Jerusalem during the lifetime of Jesus." The film was remade in 1959 starring Charlton Heston.
In 1923, a silent black and white version of the biblical story of Salome was released. It was followed in 1953 with a Columbia release of the same title and starring Rita Hayworth. This early version starred the Russian-born Jewish actress Alla Nazimova, Mitchell Lewis and Niegel de Brulier. In biblical history, Salome was the sister of Herod, son of the King of Judea. Herod " . . . regarded her as the only loyal member of his family. . . " As the story goes, she " . . . eludes her licentiouis stepfather, falls in love with a secret Christian and leaves home when her dancing fails to save the life of John the Baptist."
In 1925, the Marx Brothers, the sons of a " . . . Yorkville Jewish tailor of Alsatian origin . . . " began their series of 19 comedies which appeared through the 30's and 40's. Patricia Erens reports however, that the brothers never appeared as " . . . Jewish characters
. . . ." although " . . . their comedy reflects a Jewish urban attitude toward life, a sense of street-smart language learned on the Lower East Side, and linguistic tours de force derived from Talmudic debates." Erens also cites a movie critic that contends the Groucho roles as " . . . Rufus T. Firefly, Otis B. Driftwood, and Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush . . . " were 'the symbolic embodiment of all persecuted Jews for 2,000 years.'"
George Jessel " . . . who was unmistakably and proudly Jewish, was assigned a string of Jewish films; when he came out to California after (appearing on Broadway in ) The Jazz Singer, he was immediately cast in Private Izzy Murphy (1926), about a young Jewish delicatessen owner in an Irish neighborhood who takes the name Murphy, falls in love with an Irish girl, goes off to war and becomes a hero, and then returns to confess that he is really Izzy Goldberg. His girl doesn't care and marries him anyway. Jessel followed this up with Sailor Izzy Murphy (1927) and Ginsberg the Great, which showed that the Warners certainly weren't doing anything to disguise the fact that Jessel was a Jew."
From 1926 through 1933 Universal released seven comedies " . . . about the friendly rivalry of Jewish and Irish neighbours . . . " the Cohens and the Kellys. Jewish comedian George Sidney (born Samuel Greenfield in New York City) played Cohen in all of the series and Charlie Murray played Kelly in five films. He was replaced by J. Farrell MacDonald in Paris and by Mack Swain in Atlantic City." Sidney and Murphy " . . . next made three other Jewish-Irish conflict films in quick succession: Around the Corner (1930), Caught Cheating (1931), and Models and Wives (1931)."
The motion picture The Jazz Singer (1927) starred Jewish performer Al Jolson
and told the story of " . . . a Jewish boy who prefers show business to becoming a cantor like his father before him." Alan Crosland directed. The film was remade and directed by Jewish director Michael Curtiz in 1953 starring Danny Thomas and again in 1980 with Jewish performer Neil Diamond. Richard Fleischer (son of Jewish producer Max Fleischer) directed this version. Question: Were the movie moguls responsible for three different versions of this story really thinking that this was a commercial idea or did the religious/cultural backgrounds of the Hollywood decision-makers pre-dispose them to a fondness for this particular story, and influence this choice over the hundreds, if not thousands of other movie ideas floating around in Hollywood, during this period?
In any case, "Columbia's first talking picture (Frank Capra's The Younger Generation--1928) . . . was a Jewish melodrama . . . about an aggressive Jewish businessman who repudiates his roots, moves himself and his parents to Park Avenue, and then denies his father when the old man arrives one day, like a delivery boy, loaded down with packages." In 1929 Warners Bros. produced Noah's Ark " . . . a retelling of the biblical story . . . " Hollywood's first sound comedy about itself was The Talk of Hollywood (1929). As Patricia Erens, reports, it was " . . . one of the few films to focus exclusively on the Jewish producer. As J. Pierpont Ginzburg, (Jewish comedian) Nat Carr . . . portrays a successful producer trying to make the transition from silent to sound film." Thus, through the twenties, it is difficult to understand why any writer/observer of the Hollywood scene would emphasize the reluctance of some Jewish filmmakers to produce so-called Jewish movies without also
pointing to the above facts, unless such commentators were merely trying to mislead the reader by conveniently overlooking the above record.
According to Lester Friedman, "[t]hroughout the decade (of the thirties), the Hollywood studios found themselves trapped in a cruel financial dilemma regarding how to depict the Nazis and their allies. How could they deal with the momentous events taking place in Europe and still remain sufficiently apolitical so as not to jeopardize their vast foreign markets?" Friedman also claims that " . . . the Jewish studio heads . . . worried lest any mention of Nazi anti-Semitism might be construed as covert propaganda designed to edge America into the war to save their fellow Jews." Again, contrary to the impression Friedman provides, the record of how those concerns of the studio moguls were actually handled was presented earlier (in Chapter 2) and that presentation detailed a reality that is quite different than that suggested by Friedman.
In addition to the '30s movies discussed in Chapter 2 ("Hollywood Propaganda and World War II), "[b]uried among the backlog of projects that (Jewish producer David O.) Selznick scrutinized when he arrived at (RKO) . . . " in the early 1930s, " . . . was an adaptation of a short story by the popular (Jewish) novelist Fanny Hurst called Night Bell
. . . it mined the traumas of a young Jewish surgeon from the lower East Side of New York who abandons the ghetto clinic for the ritzy ladies of Park Avenue. Mindful of the anti-Semitic feeling aimed at the cinema industry that was stimulated by barbs from the press, Selznick seized the opportunity to enrich the script with a realistic and warm portrait of Jewish home life and tradition. Selznick handed the directoral reins to Pathe's Gregory La Cava, who had several strikes against him: He was a non-Jew and overly fond of the bottle. As it turned out, La Cava's creative method of working enhanced the picture . . . to play Felix Kaluber, the neurotic doctor, Selznick selected (Jewish actor Ricardo Cortez, who had changed his name from Jacob Krantz), . . . who ironically had buried his heritage in order to become a Valentino clone . . . Gregory Ratoff, blessed with a fertile Russian accent, fitted into the ethnic atmosphere (played) . . . Papa Klauber (he was discovered playing in the Yiddish Theatre) . . . Anna Appel, a New York actress, also contributed to the positive Jewish image in the role of the mother."
The 1930 MGM release Hot Curves featured Jewish comedian Benny Rubin as " . . . Benny Goldberg, a soda vendor who becomes a star baseball player." As Patricia Erens, reports, from 1929 through 1935, Rubin performed in nine musicals and light comedies, playing " . . . a recognizable Jewish type . . . " most of the time. Jewish performer Harry Green starred as Marcus Lazarus in the 1930 release The Kibitizer, a comedy " . . . that focuses exclusively on Jewish life . . . " on the Lower East Side. The film was directed by Edward Sloman, based on a stage comedy by Jo Swerling and Jewish actor Edward G. Robinson (Emanuel Goldenberg). According to Patricia Erens, Green also " . . . took Jewish roles in Be Yourself (1930), Honey (1930), True to the Navy (1930) and others."
Like the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges were Jewish, but did not play explicit Jewish characters on screen. The comedy team initially consisted of Moe Howard (Moses Horwitz), his brother Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz) and Larry Fine (Louis Fineburg). In the early 1930s, Shemp left the team, and he was replaced by his brother Curly Howard (Jerome Lester Horwitz). "When Curly retired in 1947 because of ill health, Shemp returned to the team. After Shemp's death in 1955, he was replaced by others for the last decade of the team's existence." On the other hand, unlike the Marx Brothers, neither Lester Friedman or Patricia Erens, considered the Three Stooges' " . . . violent, vulgar slapstick . . . " comedy to be representative of Jewish humor, thus, their many feature films and some 200 shorts produced between 1930 through 1965 were not included in the Friedman and Erens compilations.
In 1931, Jewish comedian George Sidney appeared in the Universal release The Big Butter and Yegg Man (aka: The Butter and Egg Man). This film version of the story had first appeared as a play and then as a silent film in 1928. The character's name was Lehman in all three of those versions, " . . . but when remade as Dance, Charlie, Dance (with Stuart Edwin) in 1937, Lehman somehow becomes Morgan and when it emerges once more in 1940 as An Angel from Texas (with Eddie Albert) he becomes Allen." In other words, the Jewishness of the original character was removed or disguised in the later versions.
The 1931 Samuel Goldwin release Street Scene portrayed the Kaplan family who live in New York slums and the " . . . romantic relationship between Sam (Kaplan) and Rose Moran, an Irish girl (played by Jewish actress Sylvia Sidney). "The Kaplan family is portrayed as intellectual . . . " They are non-observing Jews with Socialist leanings . . . "
Jewish writer Elmer Rice wrote the script. King Vidor directed. The film also starred William Collier, Jr., Max Mantor, David Landau, Estelle Taylor and Russell Hopton.
The 1931 RKO release Cimarron dealt " . . . with the settling of Oklahoma (1890-1915). Among the characters who travel west is . . . " the Jewish homesteader Sol (played by George E. Stone) as the outsider who in " . . . this rugged environment . . . serves as the butt of casual jokes devised to emphasize his lack of physical strength." Howard Estabrook wrote the script (based on the novel by Jewish author Edna Ferber). Wesley Ruggles directed for producer Louis Sarecky.
In the 1931 Fox release The Yellow Ticket a " . . . Jewish girl (during the pogroms of Russia) pretends to be a prostitute in order to get a travel permit to see her dying father."
According to Patricia Erens, the film was " . . . more concerned with showing the evils of Czarist Russia . . . than in concentrating on the plight of the Jews." Friedman calls it the
" . . . decade's most direct attack on anti-Semitism . . . " The film was actually a remake of a 1918 silent film of the same title. Thus, anti-Semitism was an early theme in Hollywood films. Jules Furthman and Guy Bolton wrote the script (based on Michael Morton's play). Raoul Walsh (of Irish-Spanish heritage) directed. The film starred Elissa Landi, Laurence Olivier (Anglican clergy father), Lionel Barrymore, Walter Byron, Sarah Padden, Mischa Auer and Boris Karloff.
In the 1931 Warner Bros. release Svengali a " . . . hypnotist turns a girl into a great opera singer (in 1890s Paris) but she does not reciprocate his love." Although Svengali's Jewish background goes unstated, the original novel (by George Du Maurier) portrayed him as a Jew and " . . . his character is adapted (for the screen) unchanged." The story had been presented in film under it original title Trilby in 1896, 1915 and 1923. J. Grubb Alexander wrote the script for this version. Archie Mayo directed. The film starred John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Louis Alberni, Lumsden Hare, Donald Crisp and Poul Porcasi.
The 1932 Warner release Heart of New York focused on the theme of the Jewish self-made man in telling the story of a " . . . plumber (who) invents a washing machine and becomes a millionaire." Arthur Caesar and Houston Branch wrote the script. Jewish director Mervyn LeRoy directed. The film starred Jewish comedians Smith and Dale, Jewish comedian George Sidney, Anna Apfel, Aline MacMahon and Donald Cook.
Also in 1932, the RKO release Symphony of Six Million portrayed a Jewish doctor who " . . . drags himself from New York's slums to Park Avenue, but feels guilty and demoralized when he can't save the life of his own father." Bernard Schubert and J. Walter Ruben wrote the script based on a novel by Jewish writer Fannie Hurst Gregory La Cava directed for Jewish producer Pandro S. Berman. The film starred Irene Dunne, Jewish actor Ricardo Cortez, Gregory Ratoff, Anna Appel, Noel Madison and Julie Haydon. The 1932 release Hearts of Humanity, starred Jean Hersholt " . . . as a Jewish antique dealer (who) . . . takes in a young boy (Jackie Searle) in when his father is killed by a burglar."
The 1932 release The Golden West featured an important supporting Jewish character, a " . . . traveling merchant . . . " by the name of Dennis Epstein. Patricia Erens reports that his portrayal is sympathetic and that he " . . . becomes a well-beloved figure who drifts in and out of the story over the years." In the 1932 release No Greater Love Alexander Carr played " . . . Sidney Cohen, a Jewish grocer (who) . . . takes in a crippled orphan girl named Mildred (Betty Jane Graham)." The film includes the singing of " . . . Hebrew ballads . . . by Cohen to young Mildred."
RKO's What Price Hollywood? (1932) served " . . . as the narrative forerunner for the three versions of A Star is Born. In this movie, directed by Jewish director George Cukor
and produced by Jewish producer David O. Selznick, Gregory Ratoff plays (the Jewish character) Julius Saxe, head of one of Hollywood's major studios . . . Ratoff recreated this character again in several other films, including Once in a Lifetime (1932) and Let's Fall in Love (1934), and then as a Jewish theatrical agent in Sitting Pretty (1933)." According to Patricia Erens, Once in a Lifetime was " . . . filled with in-jokes about the Jewish moguls."
The Jewish studio executive " . . . continued to fascinate Hollywood for the rest of the decade. Similar roles were taken by Jewish comedians Joe Smith (Joseph Sultzer) and Charles Dale (Marks) as Lou and Jake Delman in 'Manhattan Parade' (1931); Robert McWade as Kitterman in Movie Crazy (1932); Alexander Carr as the cost-conscious Leon Grossmith in The Death Kiss (1933); Walter Connolly as the Jewish theatrical agent Sam Lewis in Start Cheering (1938); (Jewish actor) J. Edward Bromberg (from Hungary) as Davie Spingold, a composite of many Hollywood producers in Hollywood Cavalcade (1939); and Donald Meek as Sam Wellman . . . in Star Dust (1940)."
According to Patricia Erens, because of the Nazi threat, there were fewer " . . . stories about Jews and Jewish life . . . filmed . . . " from 1933 to 1940. On the other hand, it would appear to be more accurate to report that the Hollywood bias toward such stories and characters continued, only somewhat in disguise. Thus, as noted earlier, Jewish writer George S. Kaufman's The Butter and Egg Man was " . . . refilmed in 1937 and 1940 under the titles Dance, Charlie, Dance and An Angel from Texas . . . ", and the Jewish character Sam Lehman " . . . became Morgan and then Allen. Likewise, Irving Pincus, who brings the Governor's reprieve in (Jewish writer) Ben Hecht's newsroom comedy The Front Page (1931), directed by Jewish director Lewis Milestone, becomes Joe Pettibone in the remake, His Girl Friday (1940). A similar transition occurs in Jewish writer Clifford Odet's Golden Boy (1939). On stage the boxing promoter is named Roxie Gottlieb; on film he is called Roxie Lewis. Other examples: Jewish writer John Howard Lawson's Success Story, filmed as Success at Any Price (1934), wherein Ginsburg becomes Martin and Glassman becomes Griswold; (Jewish author) Irwin Shaw's The Gentle People, retitled Out of the Fog (1941), where the Jewish tailor Goodman becomes the Irish tailor Goodwin; and Arthur Kober's play Having a Wonderful Time (1938), which transforms Stern into Shaw, Kessler into Kirkland, Aaronson into Armbruster, and Rappaport into Beatty."
In Counsellor at Law (Universal--1933) John Barrymore was " . . . oddly cast as a Jewish lawyer who has educated himself up from poverty (Jewish actor Paul Muni played the part in the stage production by Jewish author Elmer Rice) . . . " Jewish director William Wyler (a distant cousin of Jewish studio owner Carl Laemmle) directed the film. Also, in 1933, the Dickens classic Oliver Twist about the " . . . luckless orphan . . . (and the) mean old Fagin . . . " was released. The story has been told through film at least four times. William Cowen directed a U.S. version in 1933 and David Lean (of Quaker parents) directed a British version in 1948. In another British version, released in 1968 (directed by Carol Reed) " . . . the role of Fagin . . . has been sanitized of the anti-Semitic implications of the original story." Clive Donner then directed a made for TV version in 1982. Dickens himself had always " . . . hotly resented claims that Oliver Twist was anti-Semitic" (see discussion of relating to the anti-Semitic sword in this book's companion volume How the Movie Wars Were Won).
The 1933 Fox release Pilgrimage focused on a Jewish widow (played by Henrietta Crosman) " . . . who stands in the way of her son . . . (played by Norman Foster, originally Norman Hoeffer), and his love for . . . (Marian Nixon)." Dudley Nichols, Philip Klein and Barry Conners wrote the script. John Ford (of Irish heritage) directed. The film also starred Heather Angel, Maurice Murphy, Charley Grapewin and Hedda Hopper (originally Elda Furry).
In the Fox release One More Spring (1935) " . . . three victims of the Depression live in a tool shed in Central Park. The group consists of a former antique dealer, Mr. Otkar (played by Warner Baxter), an unemployed actress, Elizabeth (Janet Gaynor), and an irate violinist, Mr. Rosenberg (Walker King.) Despite the odd match, the three, forced by circumstance to depend on one another, learn to work out their differences." Edwin Burke wrote the script (based on Jewish author Robert Nathan's novel). Henry King directed for producer Winfield Sheehan.
The 1936 RKO release Winterset deals " . . . with the lives of one Jewish family; Miriamne, her brother Garth, and their father, Rabbi Esdras. When adapted for the screen (from the Maxwell Anderson stage drama) all traces of the family's religion were carefully erased." Anthony Veller wrote the script. Alfred Santell directed. The film starred Burgess Meredith, Eduardo Ciannelli, Margo, Paul Guilfoyle, John Carradine, Edward Ellis, Stanley Ridges, Jewish actor Maurice Moscovitch (Maaskoff), Myron McCormick and Mischa Auer. The Great Ziegfeld a " . . . lavish, flamboyant musical salute to (the Jewish) . . . master showman . . . " Florenz Ziegfeld won the Best Picture Oscar of 1936." Jewish actor Paul Muni starred in The Life of Emile Zola (1937) in what is characterized as a "bio-pic" about a French writer who defended " . . . the falsely accused Captain Dreyfus . . .
" (who was Jewish). The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, although Steven Scheuer claims (for some reason) it was one of "Oscar's saddest hours."
In the British production Father Takes a Walk (released in the U.S. in 1936 as Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk) Paul Graetz plays Jake Cohen " . . . a kindly Jewish merchant who feels useless once his son Sam (Ralph Truman) takes over the business." As Patricia Erens points out, " . . . this Warner Brothers production, filmed at the Teddington studios, highlights Jewish success, treats ghetto life nostalgically, sentimentalizes the family and supports the notion of intermarriage, all (Jewish) themes from the twenties."
In the 1936 MGM release After the Thin Man Jewish actor Sam Levene " . . . plays investigator Abrams." Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote the script. W.S. Van Dyke II directed for producer Hunt Stromberg. The film also starred William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart, Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph and Alan Marshal.
The 1939 film The Women (starring Joan Crawford, the Jewish convert Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell and Jewish actress Paulette Goddard, born Paulette Levy) included a portrayal a " . . . Jewish chorus girl . . . " (played by Goddard) as one of the more sensible of women having to deal with divorce among the idle rich. The Paulette Goddard character is seen giving advice to Norma Shearer whose husband has strayed. Jewish director George Cukor directed. Also, in 1939 The Light Ahead, directed by Jewish director Edgar Ulmer was released. It was " . . . a restored version of an old Yiddish film." It is about " . . . a crippled peasant in love with a blind girl in a village stricken with a cholera epidemic."
In the 1939 release Golden Boy, based on Jewish writer Clifford Odets' stage drama, " . . . both the tenement neighbor, Mr. Carp (played by William H. Strauss) and Siggie (played by Jewish actor Sam Levene) retain their Jewish characteristics despite the fact that manager Roxy Gottlieb has become Roxy Lewis." Thus, despite expressed concerns regarding jeopardy to foreign markets, films portraying Jewish stories, themes sub-plots and characters were still plentiful during the '30s.
In the 1940s a group of Los Angeles Jews including members of the film community formed an organization ultimately called the Community Relations Council to serve as " . . . the official liaison between the Jews and the rest of Los Angeles . . . " The organization also had a committee called the "Uptown Committee, which was the motion picture branch of the CRC; its function was to present Jewish concerns about prospective movies to the movie executives--mostly the same executives who constituted the committee." In the meantime, the 1940 film, The Great Dictator was released. That was the film that involved a mistaken-identity plot with Charlie Chaplin in " . . . dual roles: as a poor Jew in a ghetto, and as Hynkel, the Great Dictator . . . " Charlie Chaplin also directed.
Also, in 1940 the Paramount release Christmas in July told the story of a " . . . young clerk and his girl (who) win first prize in a big competition." The film is peopled with Jewish characters, including the department store owner Mr. Schindel (played by Alexander Carr), Mrs. Schwartz (Ferike Boros) and Mr. Zimmerman (Julius Tannen). In one scene,
" . . . Schindel . . . at first attempts to repossess the merchandise that hero Jimmy MacDonald (Dick Powell) is handing out to the local poor. But after observing the destitution and joy of the crowd, he relents and passes the bill onto a more affluent candidate." James Ursini cites this as an example of the Jewish businessman coming " . . . out on top . . . as basic humanity overcomes greed." Preston Sturges wrote and directed. The film also starred Ellen Drew, Ernest Truex, Al Bridge, Raymond Walburn and William Demarest.
In another of the films portraying Jews in Western settings, the 1940 Republic release Three Faces West focused on a " . . . dust bowl community (that) is helped by an Austrian doctor fleeing from the Nazis, but his daughter is followed by a Nazi suitor." F. Hugh Herbert, Joseph Moncure March and Jewish writer Samuel Ornitz wrote the script. Bernard Vorhaus directed for producer Sol C. Siegel. The film starred John Wayne, Charles Coburn, Sigrid Gurie, Roland Varno, Spencer Charters and Sonny Bupp.
In the 1941 UA release So Ends Our Night refugees " . . . from Nazi Germany are driven from country to country and meet persecution everywhere." "One couple, a Jewish boy and girl, move across Europe until they reach safety in America. The roles of Josef Steiner and Ruth Holland are played by a young Fredric March and Margaret Sullavan."
Talbot Jennings wrote the script (based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque). John Cromwell directed for Jewish producers David L. Loew [son of Jewish studio and theatre executive Marcus Loew) and Albert Lewin (whose mother was Jewish). The film also starred Glenn Ford, Frances Dee, Anna Sten, Jewish actor Erich Von Stroheim, Joseph Cawthorn, Leonid Kinskey, Alexander Granach and Sig Rumann (born Siegfried Albon Rumann in Germany).
Everett Sloane played the role of the Jewish character Bernstein in the 1941 RKO release Citizen Kane. He was portrayed as Kane's "loyal assistant" a "feisty" warm individual. Jewish writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles wrote the script (with help from John Houseman, whose father was of Jewish-Alsatian origin). Welles produced, directed and starred. The film also starred Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Ray Collins, Paul Stewart, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford, Agnes Moorehead, Harry Shannon, George Coulouris, William Alland and Fortunio Bonanova.
Also, in 1941 Jewish actor Lee J. Cobb (originally named Leo Jacobi) played the Jewish character Dave Morris in the MGM release Men of Boys' Town, described as the "[f]urther adventures of Father Flanagan." The script was written by James Kevin McGuinness. Norman Taurog directed for producer John W. Considine, Jr.. The film also starred Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Bob Watson, Larry Nunn, Mary Nash, Henry O'Neill, Darryl Hickman and Anne Revere. In the 1941 release Shadow of the Thin Man, Jewish actor Sam Levene returned as investigator Abrams.
In the 1942 20th Century-Fox release The Pied Piper an " . . . elderly man who hates children finds himself smuggling several of them out of occupied France." One of the children, " . . . an angry, dark-haired lad . . . " named Pierre was Jewish. The man was also asked by a Nazi to " . . . take his own seven-year old niece, who is half-Jewish." Jacques Demy, Mark Peploe and Andrew Birkin wrote the script. Demy also directed for producers David Puttnam (also "half-Jewish") and Sanford Lieberson. The film starred Donovan, Donald Pleasence, Michael Hordern, Jack Wild, Diana Dors and John Hurt.
The 1942 RKO release Once Upon a Honeymoon followed " . . . the romantic adventures of Katie O'Hara (played by Ginger Rogers) and Pat O'Toole (Cary Grant), an investigative reporter on the tail of Hitler's fingerman, a Baron (Walter Slezak), who turns out to be the husband of Katie. During their travels across Europe, Katie grows from a social-climbing adventuress into a responsible citizen committed to fighting Fascism. The turning point occurs when Katie helps her Jewish maid escape arrest." Sheridan Gibney and Leo McCarey wrote the script. McCarey also produced and directed. The film also starred Albert Dekker, Albert Bassermann, Ferike Boros, Harry Shannon.
In the 1942 release To Be or Not to Be Jewish actor Felix Bressart played the role of the Jewish character Greenberg. The story revolved around a troupe of "Warsaw actors (who) get involved in an underground plot and an impersonation of invading Nazis, including Hitler." Patricia Erens refers to the film as " . . . a frontal attack on Nazi oppression . . . " Jewish screenwriter Edwin Justus Mayer wrote the script. German Jew Ernst Lubitsch directed and produced with Jewish filmmaker Alexander Korda. The film also starred Jewish comedian Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack, Stanley Ridges, Lionel Atwill, Sig Rumann, Tom Dugan and Charles Halton.
As Erens points out, Lubitsch gave " . . . Greenberg one of the film's most poignant moments. Throughout, he has recited the famous lines from Shakespeare: 'If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?' Each time this is repeated, the meaning changes. The first delivery is not more than a famous speech from an actor's repertoire, although it also serves to identify him as a Jew. The second delivery, after the Nazi invasion, is a commentary on the plight of all Poles, and especially Polish Jewry. The last delivery is an act of heroism in which Greenberg uses this speech to distract the Gestapo so that (another actor, Joseph Tura, played by Benny) . . . can make his getaway. To mark this rendition as different, Greenberg's speech includes the line 'And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?' which has been carefully withheld in all previous renditions. The inclusion of this line, together with Tura's escape, indicates a call to action on the part of Lubitsch and screenwriter Mayor."
In the 1943 20th Century-Fox release Margin for Error Jewish actor Otto Preminger
plays a Nazi " . . . preparing to sabotage life in a small American town." Jewish comedian Milton Berle plays " . . . the Jewish policeman, Moe Finkelstein, the film's prime defender of democracy." Lillie Hayward wrote the script (based on the play by Clare Boothe Luce). Preminger also directed for producer Ralph Dietrich. The film also starred Joan Bennett, Carl Esmond, Howard Freeman, Poldy Dur, Hans Von Twardowski.
In the 1943 Paramount release The Miracle of Morgan's Creek "[c]haos results when a stuttering hayseed tries to help a girl accidentally pregnant by a soldier she met hazily at a dance." Julius Tannen played a Jewish character in the film, Mr. Rafferty, the local merchant. "When heroine Trudy Kockenlocker (played by Betty Hutton) is in desperate straights, it is Rafferty who comes to her aid . . . Also included in the cast is (another Jewish character) the tailor Mr. Schwartz (Harry Rosenthal), who sells hero Norval Jones (Eddie Brackent) an army uniform several sizes too small." Preston Sturges wrote, produced and directed. The film also starred William Demarest, Diana Lynn, Porter Hall, Russian-born Jewish actor Akim Tamiroff, Brian Donlevy and Alan Bridge.
The 1944 Columbia release None Shall Escape portrays the " . . . career of a Nazi officer (thru) . . . flashbacks from his trial as a war criminal." The film includes " . . . a scene of a Jewish massacre." Jewish screenwriter Lester Cole wrote the script. Andre de Toth directed for producer Sam Bischoff. The film starred Alexander Knox, Marsha Hunt, Henry Travers, Dorothy Morris and Richard Crane.
The 1944 Columbia release Address Unknown directly confronted " . . . the situation of Jews in Nazi Germany . . . " and " . . . specific references are made to the identity of the victims." Dressman Taylor and Herbert Dalmass wrote the script. William Cameron Menzies produced and directed. The film starred Jewish actor Paul Lukas, Carl Esmond, Peter Van Eyck, Mady Christians and Emory Parnell. In the 1944 British feature "Mr. Emmanuel" (distributed in the United States in 1945) " . . . an elderly Jew visits Germany (in 1936) in search of the mother of an orphan boy." Patricia Erens reports that the film " . . . presents an unmistakable portrait of Jewish oppression in Nazi Germany." Gordon Wellesley and Norman Ginsburg wrote the script (based on Louis Golding's novel). Harold French directed for producer William Sistrom. The film starred Felix Aylmer, Greta Gynt, Walter Rilla, Peter Mullins, Ursula Jeans, Elspeth March and Meier Tzelniker.
The 1944 MGM release The Seventh Cross deals with " . . . seven men who escape from a Nazi concentration camp. Six--one of whom is a Jewish grocery clerk--are caught, and all are crucified." Helen Deutsch wrote the script (based on Anna Seghers' novel). Fred Zinnerman directed for Jewish producer Pandro S. Berman. The film starred Spencer Tracy, Signe Hasso, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Agnes Moorehead, Felix Bressart, George Macready and George Zucco.
In the 1944 Warner Bros. release Mr. Skeffington, Claude Rains " . . . appears as Job Skeffington, a Jewish financier married to a self-centered American beauty (Fanny, played by Bette Davis)." Patricia Erens reports that the " . . . major emphasis is upon Skeffington's Job-like character and Fanny's eventual spiritual growth which leads her to her recognition of his true value." Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein wrote the script and produced. Vincent
Sherman directed. The film also starred Walter Abel, Richard Waring, George Coulouris, John Alexander and Jerome Cowan.
In 1945, a Jewish officer named Jacobs was portrayed in the World War II Warner Bros. picture Objective Burma. In the 1946 Warner Bros. release Humoresque an " . . . ambitious (Jewish) violinist (played by Jewish actor John Garfield, born Julius Garfinkle)
gets emotionally involved with his wealthy patroness (Joan Crawford)." Jewish writer Clifford Odets and Zachary Gold wrote the script (based on a novel by Jewish writer Fannie Hurst). Jean Negulesco directed for Jewish producer Jerry Wald. The film also starred Jewish actor Oscar Levant J. Carrol Naish, Joan Chandler, Tom D'Andrea, Craig Stevens and Ruth Nelson.
The 1946 MGM release Ziegfeld Follies was " . . . a variety show in which many leading entertainers of the forties portray[ed] themselves on film. William Powell impersonates . . . " Jewish showman and theatrical producer Florenz Ziegfeld and Jewish performer " . . . Fanny Brice (Borach) did a rendition of Look at Me, a song about an Indian girl with a Yiddish accent." Vincente Minnelli (Italian-born father) directed for Jewish producer Arthur Freed (Grossman). The film also starred Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Jewish performer Jimmy Durante, Edward Arnold, Lena Horne, Lucille Bremer, Esther Williams, Judy Garland, Red Skelton, Gene Kelly, James Melton, Hume Cronyn, Victor Moore and Marion Bell.
Also, in the 1946 UA release Abie's Irish Rose told the story about an Irish girl marrying a " . . . Jewish boy, leading to a clash of families." Anne Nichols wrote the script. Edward A. Sutherland produced and directed. The film starred Joanne Dru, Richard Norris, Michael Chekhov, Eric Blore and Art Baker. A silent version of this same story appeared in 1928.
In 1947, " . . . Zanuck's Gentleman's Agreement (was) one of several pictures about anti-Semitism, in this case featuring the arch-WASP Gregory Peck who passes for Jewish
. . . " Peck played the part of a " . . . magazine writer who masquerades as a Jew in order to report first hand on high-society discrimination." The film was " . . . considered at the time a courageous breakthrough indictment of anti-Semitism . . . " although we know there were films focusing on the theme of anti-Semitism as early as 1931 (The Yellow Ticket) and its silent era predecessor in 1918. In any event, Patricia Erens states that the film stressed
" . . . the commonality between Jews and other people . . . " Jewish writer Moss Hart
wrote the script (based on the novel by Jewish author Laura Z. Hobson). Elia Kazan (of Greek parents) directed for producer Darryl F. Zanuck. The film also starred Dorothy McGuire, Jewish actor John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere, June Havoc, Albert Dekker, Jane Wyatt and Dean Stockwell.
Also, in 1947, Edward Dmytryk directed Crossfire, described by Katz as " . . . Hollywood's first serious attempt to deal with the subject of racial discrimination (anti-Semitism in this case, though the subject of the original novel on which the script was based was homosexuality). Robert Ryan appeared in the film as " . . . a psychopathic bigot." Before the film was released, Dick Rothschild, a representative of the American Jewish Committee, " . . . had learned that RKO was making a film of The Brick Foxhole, a contemporary novel that used the murder of a homosexual as the pretext for a sermon on tolerance. There was nothing wrong with that, except that in adapting the book, RKO had decided to make the victim a Jew instead. 'Dick understood perfectly that the producers of the picture were animated by the best of motives,' stated an AJC memo, 'but he felt that the basic idea of killing Jews just because they are Jews, was an extremely dangerous idea to project on the screen before 50 million or more people of all shades of emotional maturity or immaturity.'" Of course, this is a very good argument that should apply across the board to all film subjects including violence in general. For similar reasons, it is also not a good idea to consistently portray any populations in our diverse society in a negative or stereotypical manner.
In any case, "Rothschild . . . immediately contacted (Dore) Schary (who was the production head at RKO and a committed Jew that also served on the CRC) with astounding insensitivity, he suggested making the victim a black instead. But Schary, who had lectured on anti-Semitism to soldiers during the war, wouldn't budge. A few days later Rothschild received the film's script, now called Crossfire . . . and arranged to meet RKO's president, Peter Rathvon, who apparently expressed his own doubts about the movie (the movie was released anyway) . . . Crossfire, starring Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Ryan, became a modest commercial success, but it had a profound effect on the leaders of the Jewish community, especially in the East, by sensitizing them to a new issue: since Hollywood promulgated the image of the Jew to most Americans and since Jews controlled Hollywood, why couldn't they be coaxed into presenting a more positive image of their own people?"
Interestingly, Gabler, here makes the same generalized statement about control of Hollywood that so many people often find offensive (i.e., " . . . Jews controlled Hollywood
. . . "). On the other hand, the latter part of the statement, suggesting that Jewish film industry leaders need coaxing to present a more positive image of Jews through movies is not exactly in accord with the record of such movies set forth above.
In any case, what Rothschild was " . . . recommending in 1947 after the tempest over Crossfire was something more than a lobby. What he was proposing was a kind of Jewish clearance board that would look at scripts involving Jews and give its approval. The attitude of the big New York Jewish organizations, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, and the Anti-Defamation Leagues, was 'We left it to Mendel Silberberg and his guys to watch over this and . . . they fell down.' So now each organization began scouting Hollywood with an eye toward establishing its own clearinghouse and, not incidentally, establishing its own connections with Hollywood money and influence."
Of course, what is being referred to here by Gabler as a "Jewish clearance board" would in any other circumstances be more accurately labeled "private interest censorship". If it is or was ok for Jews to have such a clearance board, why not the African-Americans, the Latinos, women, gays/lesbians, Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, Christians, Muslims, Southerners, and so forth. The only reason Jewish leaders could conceive of such a Jewish clearance board is precisely because Jewish males of European heritage controlled Hollywood and might give other Jews preferential treatment with regard to such matters.
For the Eastern Jews, " . . . patrolling the portrayal of their co-religionists on screen was a perfectly legitimate and plausible way to get to that money and influence. 'Jewish organizations have a clear and rightful interest in making sure that Hollywood films do not present Jews in such a way as to arouse prejudice,' declared a memo from an umbrella group of Jewish organizations called the National Community Relations Advisory Council (NCRAC), early in 1947. 'In some cases, such pictures should be taken out of production entirely. In other cases, scripts should be edited carefully to eliminate questionable passages. Everything should be done to eliminate unfortunate stereotypes of the Jews . . . ' What NCRAC recognized, however, was that the highly suspicious movie industry was apt to resent anyone interfering in its business--even, or especially, other Jews." [Gabler, 302]
Once again, if " . . . Jewish organizations have a clear and rightful interest in making sure that Hollywood films do not presents Jews in such a way as to arouse prejudice . . . " so do all other interest groups in the U.S. In addition, the very recognition that movie portrayals may raise prejudice in the attitudes of moviegoers goes to the very heart of the issue as to whether movies influence behavior, something that has long been denied by Hollywood studio executives. In addition, how can a Jewish group claim the authority to censor films based on their fear that negative portrayals might instill prejudice against Jews, without recognizing that negative portrayals of other populations might also instill prejudice against all other groups so portrayed?
Setting aside such questions for the moment, and continuing the chronology of favorable treatment of Jews in Hollywood films, Dore Schary subsequently " . . . announced that Crossfire's producer, Adrian Scott, would next tackle 'a different type of movie' that would deliver 'a message for bettering the world, and still entertain." The 'different title' . . . was The Boy with Green Hair (1948) . . . But Shary's satisfaction in getting the daring subject matter he believed in into production was short-lived . . . investigators of the House Un-American Activities Committee (subsequently) . . . informed him that Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk, Crossfire's much-praised producer and director, were under investigation." The film was produced anyway, however, with Stephen Ames directing. It told the story of a boy whose " . . . hair turns green . . . " when " . . . he hears that his parents were killed in an air raid . . . " Other war orphans encourage the boy " . . . to parade himself publicly as an image of the horror and futility of war."
In a continuing display of favortisim extended to Jewish subjects in Hollywood films, Patricia Erens reports that throughout the '40s, the " . . . producers excised any references to Jewish criminals . . . " just as they had done in the '30s. As an example, Erens points out that when Jewish writer " . . . Daniel Fuchs's 1937 novel, Low Company, was filmed in 1947 as The Gangster, the Jewish restaurant owner Spitzbergen becomes Nick Jammey, although he is played by Jewish actor Akim Tamiroff." Fuchs also wrote the script for the film. Gordon Wiles directed. The film also starred Barry Sullivan, Belita and John Ireland.
Other films featuring Jewish stories, themes, sub-plots and characters continued to be produced and distributed in the late '40s. In another 1947 release, Body and Soul a " . . . young (Jewish) boxer (played by the Jewish actor John Garfield) fights his way unscrupulously to the top." The script was written by Jewish writer Abraham Polansky.
Jewish director Robert Rossen (son of Russian-Jewish immigrants) directed for producer Bob Roberts. The film also starred Jewish performer Lilli Palmer (Lillie Marie Peiser),
Hazel Brooks, Anne Revere, William Conrad, Joseph Pevney and Canada Lee.
The 1948 MGM release The Search focused " . . . on the European refugees stranded in Europe . . . " "During the course of the film, directed by Fred A. Zinnemann, we are introduced to two Jewish youths . . . Miriam, a girl who learns of her mother's death when she finds a blouse among the clothing of the dead (and) . . . Joel Makowsky (played by actual refugee Leopold Borkowski) . . . The film closes with a party for the Jewish children who are preparing to leave for Palestine." Richard Schweizer, David Wechsler and Paul Jarrico wrote the script. Lazar Weschler produced. The film starred Montgomery Clift, Aline MacMahon, Ivan Jandl and Wendell Corey.
The 1948 Universal release Sword in the Desert told the story of Jewish refugees being smuggled to the Palestine coast during World War II. As Patricia Erens reports, the film was " . . . set in late 1947, a time of great tension between the Zionists and the British." Erens goes on to state that " . . . the film is biased in favor of the Jews (and that this) . . . tendency will continue (in U.S. films) through Exodus and the films of the seventies, although the enemies change from British soldiers to Arab adversaries." As this chapter and the companion volumes Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content and Motion Picture Biographies demonstrates, this bias in favor of Jews, acknowledged by Patricia Erens as early as 1948, would continue through the early '90s, which is when this book was written.
Robert Buckner wrote the script for Sword in the Desert. George Sherman directed for producer Robert Arthur. The film starred Dana Andrews, Marta Toren, Jewish actor Jeff Chandler (born Ira Grossel), Stephen McNally and Phillip Friend.
The 1948 MGM release Big City told the " . . . tale of a young orphan (girl) raised (on New York's East Side) by a Protestant minister (played by Robert Preston), a Jewish cantor (Danny Thomas), and an Irish Catholic cop (George Murphy)." The plot " . . . reflects the notion of one big, happy family, a microcosm of the larger community." Whitfield Cook and Ann Chapin wrote the script. Norman Taurog directed for Jewish producer Joseph Pasternak. The film also starred Margaret O'Brien, Karin Booth (born Katharine Hoffman) Jackie Butch Jenkins, Betty Garrett, Lotte Lehmann and Edward Arnold.
Jewish actor Lee J. Cobb played the role of a Jewish character in The Miracle of the Bells (1948), a story about the " . . . death of a glamorous film star (that) causes a small-town miracle and a nationwide publicity stunt." Jewish writer Ben Hecht wrote the script (based on Russell Janney's novel). Jewish director Irving Pichel directed for Jewish producer Jesse L. Lasky. The film also starred Fred MacMurray, Alida Valli and Frank Sinatra.
In 1948, Rope starred James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger and Cedric Hardwicke, in " . . . a story related to the Leopold-Loeb case . . . two (Jewish) college boys who kill for thrills." Sidney Berstein and Alfred Hitchcock directed. The 1959 release, Compulsion provided a second filmic " . . . account of the . . . trial of (the) two twisted youths . . . " for the 1920's thrill murder. Neither Erens nor Friedman included this film in their respective discussions of Jews in American cinema, thus it would appear that the film did not reveal the ethnic idenities of the youth involved, although all three were Jewish (see discussion relating to Compulsion below). Alfred Hitchcock directed this 1948 version.
When the J. Arthur Rank production company of England, " . . . attempted a faithful rendering . . . " of the Dickens novel Oliver Twist in 1948, including " . . . a thoroughly unattractive . . . " portrayal of the Jewish character Fagin, the attempted release of the film in the U.S. " . . . provoked a controversy that lasted for two and a half years." As Patricia Erens reports Rank was " . . . met with opposition from organized Jewish groups who protested Production Code approval and dissuaded theater owners (except in Texas and New Mexico ) from screening the film." As Erens states, some " . . . Jews . . . feared the repercussions of ugly Jewish stereotypes (both villainous and repulsive ) in the mass media."
Again, it is the contention of this book that such fears are not unreasonable, that the consistent portrayals of anyone through this powerful communications medium in a negative or stereotypical manner does in fact influence people's perceptions in real life. On the other hand, such fears also legitimize the similar fears expressed by others besides Jews. In other words, it is quite unreasonable to permit one group to express such fears and to obtain favored treatment in films while other groups express the same fears but are being consistently turned away with charges of attempted censorship.
In any case, as Ayer, Bates and Herman reports, this Oliver Twist film actually " . . . had few showings in this country . . . " and when it was finally released in the U.S. (May 3, 1951) certain "deletions" had been made. According to Erens, " . . . open and covert acts of intimidation, boycott and arbitrary censorship . . . " had been involved in the Jewish campaign to stop showings of the original film in the U.S.
While the Oliver Twist controversy was still ongoing, Jewish comedian Jerry Lewis (born Joseph Levitch) " . . . made his first Hollywood appearance in My Friend Irma (1949) along with Dean Martin . . . " The story-line of that film focused on a dumb blonde, named Irma, whose " . . . con man boyfriend lends her apartment to two soda jerks." Patricia Erens reports that "[l]ike other Jewish comedians before him, (Lewis) . . . drew on Jewish traditions, although he seldom played specifically Jewish characters. Most especially his anarchic humor derived from two specific themes--his position as an outsider and his situation as an adolescent, dependent on the adult world, especially a mother figure. The first theme . . . " Erens says, " . . . is intricately connected with the Jews' position in society . . . (the) second theme, related to mother-son relationships in the Jewish family, (became) . . . a major theme in the films of the 1960s and 1970s."
Also, in 1949, Shepard Menken played the role of a Jewish character in The Red Menace, the story of a " . . . discontented war veteran (who) is preyed upon by communists." Albert DeMond and Gerald Geraghty wrote the script. R.G. Springsteen directed. The film also starred Robert Rockwell and Hanne Axman.
The first half century of films portraying Jewish characters, stories, themes, sub-plots or issues does not appear to demonstrate any hesitation on the part of Hollywood filmmakers to provide such portrayals on the screen, as suggested by other writers. There only appears to have been a temporary emphasis shift in the '30s and '40s with respect to how obvious the ethnicity of Jews on the screen was, and that appears to have been primarily or, at least partially, instigated for business reasons (i.e., in an effort to preserve market share in European countries).
JEWISH PORTRAYALS IN HOLLYWOOD FILMS
OF THE CENTURY'S THIRD QUARTER
As the approximate middle of the movies' first century approached, several Jewish organizations, which objected to films showing Jews in an unfavorable light, had already been effective. But as a result of the ongoing concerns expressed by the NCRAC a new Jewish organization was created: " . . . the Motion Picture Project . . . Ostensibly . . . to maintain a full-time liaison with the Hollywood Jews . . . The project's chairman was a former English teacher from New York who had come to Hollywood as a writer in 1919 and later moved into production. John Stone, formerly John Strumwasser, was to be a watchdog on the industry--reviewing scripts, cajoling producers, keeping the big Jewish organizations informed of any movie that might help or hurt the Jews. One member of the Motion Picture Committee described the project's operation this way: 'They'd give us the scripts. We'd tell them what was right or wrong. They would do it.' (examples of) Stone's work (included): influencing the producer of The Sands of Iwo Jima to incorporate a fictitious Jewish soldier; advising the producer of I Can Get It for You Wholesale, a film about the garment industry, that he must proceed cautiously since the general public associated Jews with the garment trades; trying to beef up the role of Justice Brandeis in a film biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes (see the discussion of The Magnificant Yankee--1950, below); leaning on the writer of Murder, Inc., about the Jewish gangster Louis Lepke, to include a crusading Jewish prosecutor as well; and . . . suggesting that Sammy Glick, the conniving Jewish protagonist of the Jewish writer Budd Schulberg's novel What Makes Sammy Run?, be changed to someone of indeterminate ancestry (the novel was an account of an ambitious first-generation American Jew named Sammy Glick who claws his way to the top of the Hollywood heap by forsaking everything decent)." This kind of Jewish interest group pressure on Hollywood was so effective, that this particular project was never made into a movie. In the meantime, of course, the Hollywood-based film industry has vigorously resisted every other attempt by anyone else to censor its films.
Also, according to Lester Friedman, the " . . . total number of films featuring Jewish characters produced during (the decade of the fifties) . . . is smaller than in any other except the thirties, and most fifties screen Jews have even more minor roles than their celluloid predecessors." Patricia Erens reports that during this period it was " . . . clear that efforts were made by studios, perhaps in response to pressure by the Motion Picture Project, to keep negative portrayals (of Jews) off the screen. Therefore, criminals, gangsters, and money-hungry businessmen were not developed as Jewish . . . " although other ethnic groups were.
When Jewish " . . . writer Garson Kanin suggested Judy Holliday (Tuvim), a Jewess for the lead in Born Yesterday (1950), the producer, also a Jew, told him: 'This show is by Jews and for Jews, but it can't be with Jews.' (she was hired anyway)." The Columbia release told the story of an " . . . ignorant ex-chorus girl mistress of a scrap iron tycoon (who) takes English lessons, falls for her tutor, and politically outmanoeuvres her bewildered lover." Albert Mannheimer wrote the script. Jewish director George Cukor
directed for producer S. Sylvan Simon. The film also starred Broderick Crawford, William Holden and Howard St. John. The film was remade in 1993 starring Melanie Griffith, John Goodman and Don Johnson.
Also, in 1950, Molly starred Jewish actress Gertrude Berg and Jewish actor Philip Loeb in a film about "[l]ife with the Goldbergs, as Molly's former suitor pays the family a visit." Walter Hart directed. In the 1950 release The Enforcer a " . . . crusading District Attorney tracks down the leader of a gang which murders for profit." As Patricia Erens reports, this was the film that was "[o]riginally intended as an expose of (Jewish gangster) Lepke Buchalter entitled Murder, Inc., (it's title in Great Britain) . . . " but " . . . the title and leading character were eventually altered and Lepke became Joseph Rico (played by Ted De Corsia)." Martin Rackin wrote the script. Bretaigne Windust directed for Jewish producer Milton Sperling (the son-in-law of Jewish studio executive Harry Warner).
The film also starred Humphrey Bogart, Everett Sloane, Jewish performer Zero Mostel,
Roy Roberts and King Donovan.
The 1950 MGM release The Magnificent Yankee presented "[e]pisodes in the later life of Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes." However, " . . . an important subplot concerns Holmes' (Louis Calherm) efforts to place his close (Jewish) friend, Louis Brandeis (Eduard Franz), on the Supreme Court." The script was written by Emmet Lavery, based on his play. But, as Patricia Erens reports, " . . . the producers enlarged the role of Brandeis for the screen." Motion Picture Project chairman John Stone called the film a " . . . positive force in Jewish public relations." John Sturges directed for producer Armand Deutsch. The film also starred Ann Harding, Philip Ober, Richard Anderson and Edith Evanson. Of course, John Stone's comments with regard to this film raise the legitimate question relating to what Hollywood films have served as a "positive force" in the public relations for other racial, ethnic, religious or cultural groups in America. Or was it his position that the movies ought to be used as a public relations tool for a single group to the exclusion of all others?
Research Project: Identify organizations in the U.S. that represent the interests of various racial, ethnic, religious and cultural groups and survey them with respect to whether they consider any Hollywood film or films as "positive public relations" for their group. Also, determine to what extent Hollywood studios have solicited or permitted their input with respect to the portrayal of members of their group on the screen. Then compare that record with that of the Jewish Motion Picture Project and other Jewish organizations that have been allowed to consult on movie scripts from time to time. Also, determine whether the results confirm the Hollywood favoritism expressed toward Jews that is demonstrated by this study.
In the meantime, the Motion Picture Committee of the CRC, " . . . which survived even though it was essentially deprived of any function now except to pressure the Motion Picture Project, suggested that none of Stones' activities be publicized, fearing that it could draw 'the charge that [a] Jewish group is trying to censor the industry,' which in fact, was exactly what it was trying to do . . . " Ironically, many of the Hollywood Jews found that after " . . . having spent the better part of their lives trying not to antagonize gentiles, they now found they had to be careful not to antagonize Jews as well." In effect, the Jewish sponsored film censorship activities were being conducted behind a veil of secrecy.
In the 1950 20th Century-Fox release All About Eve an " . . . aging Broadway star suffers from the hidden menace of a self-effacing but secretly ruthless and ambitious young actress." The film includes a portrayal of a Jewish theatrical entrepreneur Max Fabian (played by Gregory Ratoff). As Patricia Erens reports, the Max character was " . . . a paternal figure, reflecting the growing sentimentalization of Jews on the screen." Joseph L. Mankiewicz (son of German-Jewish immigrants) wrote and directed for producer Darryl F. Zanuck. The film also starred Bette Davis, George Sanders, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Marilyn Monroe, (who converted to Judaism in 1956) Barbara Bates and Walter Hampden.
Also in 1950, the Paramount release Molly told about "[l]ife with the Goldbergs, as Molly's former suitor pays the family a visit." The film was originally entitled The Goldbergs and was based on the successful radio series of the same name. Patricia Erens reports, however, that "John Stone held several meetings with Paramount personnel . . . " and the studio eventually " . . . changed the title . . . to downplay the Jewish connotation . . . " As Erens explains, to some the film represented " . . . an offensive throwback to the old burlesque Jews, in this case a buxom mother who runs other people's lives, yells out the back window, and murders the English language . . . " Walter Hart directed. The film starred Jewish actress Gertrude Berg, Jewish actor Philip Loeb, Eduard Franz and David Opatoshu (who began his career in Yiddish theatre).
The 1951 Paramount release Detective Story presents a " . . . day in a New York precinct police station . . . " The film includes the portrayal of a philosophic Jewish news reporter (Joe Feinson, played by Louis Van Rooten." Patricia Erens interprets the portrayal as a " . . . Jew utiliz[ing] . . . his traditional wisdom to comment on life." Phillip Yordan and Robert Wyler wrote the script (based on the play by Jewish author Sidney Kingsley). Jewish producer/director William Wyler produced and directed. The film also starred Jewish actor Kirk Douglas (born Kanielovitch Demsky), Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Cathy O'Donnell, George Macready, Horace MacMahon, Gladys George, Jewish actor Joseph Wiseman, Jewish actress Lee Grant (originally Lyova Haskell Rosenthal), Gerand Mohr and Frank Faylen.
The 1951 20th Century-Fox release I Can Get it for You Wholesale tells the story of an " . . . ambitious young mannequin (who) starts her own dressmaking firm and sets her sights high." Patricia Erens reports that film is an " . . . example of the sensitivity of both the industry and Jewish agencies to keeping negative Jewish images off the screen." Although the novel on which the film was based " . . . represented an unflattering picture of Jews . . . " a decision was made by the filmmakers " . . . to change character names and delete offensive elements." Thus, a memo " . . . from a staff member of the National Community Relations Advisory Council, a sponsoring organization of the Motion Picture Project, reported . . . " that the " . . . few characters who are identifiable as Jews, particularly the leading part of Sam Cooper, which is played by (Jewish actor) Sam Jaffe, are warmly and very sympathetically presented." The script was written by Jewish writer Abraham Polonsky (based on the Jewish author Jerome Weidman's novel). Michael Gordon directed for producer Sol C. Siegel. The film also starred Susan Hayward, Dan Dailey, George Sanders, Randy Stuart, Jewish actor Marvin Kaplan and Harry von Zell.
The 1952 MGM release It's a Big Country presented "[s]even stories (that) show the diversity of the U.S. and the glory of being one of its citizens." "During one sequence, a Jewish veteran visits a Gentile soldier's mother, only to find her bigoted attitude a shocking contrast to her dead son's humanity." William Ludwig, Helen Deutsch, George Wells, Allen Rivkin, Dorothy Kingsley and Isobel Lennart wrote the script. Richard Thorpe, Don Weis, John Sturges, Don Hartman, William Wellman, Charles Vidor and Clarence Brown directed for producer Robert Sisk. The film starred Ethel Barrymore, Keefe Brasselle, Nancy Davis, Van Johnson, Gene Kelly, Janet Leigh, Marjorie Main, Fredric March, George Murphy, William Powell, S.Z. Sakall, Lewis Stone and James Whitemore.
The 1952 20th Century-Fox release What Price Glory starred James Cagney and Dan Dailey in a World War I saga (in 1917 France) in which " . . . Captain Flagg and Seargent Quirt spar for the same girl." A Jewish soldier by the name of Lipinsky (played by Wally Vernon) helps maintain company morale with his jokes. Jewish writers Phoebe and Henry Ephron wrote the script (based on the Maxwell Anderson and Lawrence Stallings play). John Ford directed for producer Sol C. Siegel. The film also starred Corinne Calvet, William Demarest, Robert Wagner, Marisa Pavan and James Gleason.
The 1952 release Singing in the Dark told the story " . . . of a cantor and a clown. Moishe Oysher . . . plays Leo, a German refugee suffering from amnesia. Working as a desk clerk at an American hotel, he meets Joey Napoleon (played by Jewish actor Joey Adams),
a night club entertainer. One night while drunk Leo belts out a song and Joey immediately signs him to a contract. In no time, Leo reaches stardom. Misadventures ensue, but all ends happily with Leo once again in possession of his memory." Adams also produced.
The 1952 MGM release Ivanhoe portrays the "[d]erring-do among the knights of medieval England." and according to Patricia Erens includes a " . . . subtheme of anti-Semitism . . . " The film was based on a 19th-century novel which included the portrayal of " . . . Isaac of York, the Jewish moneylender . . . " Early on in the development of the project Jewish studio executives Dore Schary and Barney Balaban disagreed on how or whether to portray the Jewish character. As Erens reports, he ultimately emerged as the man who " . . . makes it possible for Richard the Lion-Hearted to free England from the feudal Norman yoke." "Of equal importance . . . " according to Erens " . . . is the love story between Ivanhoe and two women, the blond-haired Saxon, Rowena (played by Joan Fontaine), and the raven-haired Jewess, Rebecca (played by Elizabeth Taylor who converted to Judaism in real life in 1959)." As Erens states, the " . . . film adaptation went a long way in dispelling negative attitudes toward Jews." In other words, this film is an example of Hollywood insiders using their power to revise a literary classic so as to provide a more favorable impression of the religious/cultural group of which the Hollywood insiders are members. Noel Langley and Aeneas MacKenzie wrote the script. Richard Thorpe directed for Jewish producer Pandro S. Berman. This action raises the question as to when and under what circumstances have members of any other racial, ethnic, cultural or religiouis group had the same or similar opportunities with respect to the production or distribution of an important motion picture?
The 1953 Columbia release, The Juggler starred Jewish actor Kirk Douglas and Milly Vitale in a film " . . . about the Jewish refugee camps and the fight for rehabilitation
. . . " Edward Dmytryk directed. The film told " . . . the story of Hans Muller (played by Douglas), a once-famous German magician and juggler whose whole family died in the Holocaust." Patricia Erens reports, it was the " . . . first American film to be made entirely on location in Israel . . . " and it was " . . . successful in depicting the difficulties of life in the new State of Israel." Friedman calls it " . . . the first film to approach Israel as a homeland rather than as a battlefield." Without suggesting that Israel should be portrayed on film as something other than a homeland, such films and comments raise the question as to whether the Hollywood insiders are giving preferential treatment to Israel in terms of the number of movies portraying that country and how it is portrayed compared to other countries, such as, for example, our neighbors Canada and Mexico. Michael Blankfort wrote the script for this movie (based on his own novel). Edward Dmytryk directed for Jewish producer Stanley Kramer. The film also starred Paul Stewart and Joey Walsh.
In the 1953 20th Century-Fox release Titantic "[p]ersonal dramas aboard the Titantic in 1912 come to a head as the ship hits an iceberg." Patricia Erens calls the film a " . . . fictionalized version of the great disaster . . . " which included the moving scene in which a Jewish character " . . . the elderly Mrs. Isador Straus (played by Rellen Van Tuyl) chooses to remain on board with her husband (Roy Gordon) rather than join the other women in the lifeboats." As Erens states, the lady's " . . . heroism distinguishes her from the other members on the ship." Charles Brackett produced and wrote the script with Walter Reisch and Richard Breen. Jean Negulesco directed. The film also starred Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Wagner, Audrey Dalton, Thelma Ritter, Brian Aherne, Richard Basehart and Allyn Joslyn.
The 1953 Columbia release Salome, once again told the story of Salome, the daughter of Judean King Herod's son " . . . and the events leading up to her famous dance of the seven veils." In some quarters, Salome is believed to have been responsible for the death of John the Baptist. Russian-born Harry Kleiner and Jesse Lasky, Jr. (son of Jewish producer Jesse L. Lasky) wrote the script. German-born William Dieterle directed for producer Buddy Adler. The film starred Rita Hayworth, Charles Laughton, Stewart Granger, Judith Anderson, Cedric Hardwicke, Alan Badel, Basil Sydney, Jewish actor Maurice Schwartz, Rex Reason and Arnold Moss. Such presentations by Jewish film producers of Jewish-related film stories raise the question as to whether such movie portrayals are presented in a more favorable fashion in Hollywood films than Christian or Muslim-related religious stories.
The 1953 remake of the Jazz Singer (Warner Bros.) starred Danny Thomas in the role of Jewish performer Al Jolson. As Patricia Erens reports the film was " . . . primarily concerned with establishing the Jews as a priori Americans." Frank Davis, Leonard Stern and Jewish screenwriter Lewis Meltzer wrote the script. Jewish director Michael Curtiz
directed for producer Louis F. Edelman. The film also starred Peggy Lee, Mildred Dunnock and Eduard Franz.
In the 1954 Warner Bros. release Miracle in the Rain a " . . . plain New York girl falls for a soldier . . . (but) when he is killed in action, he keeps their appointment on the church steps as a ghost." The film includes portrayals of two Jewish characters Grace Ullman (played by Eileen Heckart) and Sgt. Gil Parker (played by Jewish actor Alan King.) Jewish writer Ben Hecht wrote the script. Rudolph Mate directed for producer Frank P. Rosenberg. The film also starred Jane Wyman, Van Johnson, Fred Clark, and William Gargan.
During the first half of the 1954 Columbia release The Caine Mutiny a group of young naval officers led by the Van Johnson character (Maryk) take command of a peacetime destroyer. The second half chronicles Maryk's trial. "As his defense attorney the Navy appoints (a Jewish character) Barney Greenwald (played by Jose Ferrer)." As Patricia Erens points out, his " . . . final speech is a classic defense of the position of minority groups in American society." Stanley Roberts wrote the script (based on the Jewish author Herman Wouk's novel). Edward Dmytryk directed for Jewish producer Stanley Kramer. The film also starred Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMuray, Robert Francis, May Wynn, Tom Tully, E.G. Marshall, Lee Marvin and Claude Akins. In this instance, a Jewish producer made a film based on the writing of a Jewish author, and in the film a Jewish character makes an important speech providing a defense of the position of minority groups in American society. This could hardly be fairly described as mere entertainment, but more accurately as a clear effort by people in powerful positions within the Hollywood-based film industry using their power to communicate what they consider to be a significant message through film. Unfortunately, not all population segments of our society have had an equal and fair opportunity to exercise such power and to tell their important stories or express their messges through this important medium.
In the 1955 UA release The Big Knife a " . . . depressed Hollywood star (played by Jack Palance) who wants better things for himself is blackmailed into signing a new contract." The dictatorial Jewish studio mogul Stanley Hoff was played by Jewish actor Rod Steiger. He " . . . emerges as a violent, vulgar man, full of ego and self-pity. With bleached hair and dark sunglasses, he looks like a gangster, a reflection of the manner in which he conducts business." Patricia Erens reports that the "[c]onsensus in Hollywood when the picture was released point to Columbia's Harry Cohn as the model for Hoff." James Poe wrote the script (based on the play by Jewish writer Clifford Odets) Robert Aldrich produced and directed. The film also starred Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Everett Sloane, Jean Hagen, Jewish actress Shelley Winters (originally named Shirley Schrift), Wendell Corey, Ilka Chase and Wesley Addy.
In the 1955 20th Century-Fox film Good Morning, Miss Dove, " . . . a small-town schoolmistress (played by Jennifer Jones) looks back on her career . . . [w]hile recovering from an operation . . . " The narration for the school teacher's story is provided by (a Jewish character) Maurice Levine (played by Jerry Paris), a former pupil, now a famous New York playwright. In flashback we hear Maurice's story." In one scene, the teacher gives " . . . the children a lesson in tolerance . . . " and refers to Palestine as " . . . the original home of the Jews . . . " Again, John Stone credits producer Sam Engel for the "fine positive Jewish content." The script was written by Eleanor Griffin (based on the novel by Frances Gray Patton). Jewish director Henry Koster (Hermann Kosterlitz) [Sachar, 498.] directed. The film also starred Robert Stack, Robert Douglas, Kipp Hamilton, Peggy Knudsen, Marshall Thompson, Chuck Connors and Mary Wickes.
Research Question--Can any Hollywood films be fairly and objectively acknowledged for their "fine" African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Italian-American, Southern, Christian or Muslim "content"?
In the 1955 MGM release Love Me Or Leave Me "Twenties singer Ruth Etting (played by Doris Day) is befriended by a racketeer who pushes her to the top but drives her to drink and despair in the process." Etting's boyfriend was Jewish mobster Martin Snyder, better known as "The Gimp". He was played in the film by James Cagney. But, as Patricia Erens reports, his Jewish background was not clearly identified. Jewish writer Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart wrote the script. Charles Vidor directed for Jewish producer Joseph Pasternak. The film also starred Cameron Mitchel, Robert Keith, Ton Tully, Harry Bellaver and Richard Gaines.
The British-American co-production The Man Who Never Was (1955) portrayed " . . . the life of an English naval officer who infiltrated Nazi intelligence within the homeland." As Patricia Erens reports, in actuality, " . . . Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu (played by Clifton Webb) . . . was a Jew; however, all references to his religious background were removed by the executive producer." Nigel Balchin wrote the script (based on Ewen Montagu's book). Ronald Neame directed for producer Andre Hakim. The film also starred Robert Flemyng, Gloria Grahame, Stephen Boyd, Laurence Naismith and Josephine Griffin.
In the 1955 UA release Not As a Stranger the " . . . central character is Lucas Marsh (played by Robert Mitchum, an ambitious, but poor, medical student. One professor who instructs Lucas is Dr. Aarons (Broderick Crawford). As Aarons angrily points out, 'I'm part of the five percent they let in here because they're ashamed to keep us out entirely.'" As Patricia Erens explains, "Aarons represents the accomplished Jew with first-rate credentials, a token Jew admitted into the professional fraternity." Edna and Edward Anhalt wrote the script (based on Morton Thompson's novel). Jewish producer/director Stanley Kramer produced and directed. The film also starred Olivia de Havilland, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Grahame, Charles Bickford, Myron McCormick, Lon Chaney, Jr., Jewish actor Jesse White, Henry Morgan, Lee Marvin and Virginia Christine.
In 1956, Everett Sloane played the part of " . . . Cohen, the crusty old pro who manages the career and life of difficult boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me . . . " Graziano was an ". . . . East Side kid with reform school experience (who) becomes middleweight boxing champion of the world." The film stars Paul Newman as Graziano. Pier Angeli plays Norma Unger, the boxer's wife, and Everett Sloane is Irving Cohen, Graziano's trainer. "The two latter characters are clearly identified as Jewish, as is a minor figure named Benny (played by Joseph Buloff), who owns a neighborhood candy store and serves as Rocky's moral spokesman . . . Together, the Jewish characters in this film serve as moral guides who keep Rocky on the straight and narrow." Charles Schnee produced for MGM. The film also featured Eileen Heckart, Sal Mineo, Harold J. Stone and Robert Loggia. Earnest Lehman wrote the script and Robert Wise directed (see Motion Picture Biograhies for expanded discussion of this movie genre).
The 1956 20th Century-Fox release Three Brave Men documents " . . . a U.S. case brought against Abraham Chasanow, a government employee of long standing, on suspicions of Communist activities." Halliwell's states that the film was a "[s]emi-factual anti-McCarthy drama proving that America is a great place to live--when you're winning."
Chasanow's name was changed to Bernie Goldsmith and as Patricia Erens points out, there was " . . . nothing in the looks or characteristics of the Goldsmith family that marks them as Jews." Instead, the studio used the film as a means to " . . . substantiate the degree to which Jews are and have been good Americans." Thus, this film qualifies as another in a long list of favorable portrayals of of persons of Jewish heritage in Hollywood films. According to Lester Friedman, the film was one of the decade's " . . . more intriguing treatments of Communist witchhunts . . . (it) featured a Jewish protagonist, though it concentrates more on his patriotism than his Jewishness." Phillip Dunne wrote the script (based on news stories by Anthony Lewis). Dunne also directed for producer Herbert B. Swope. The film starred Ray Milland, Ernest Borgnine, Nina Foch, Dean Jagger, Frank Lovejoy, Edward Andrews, Frank Faylen, James Westerfield and Jewish actor Joseph Wiseman.
The 1956 UA release Attack is described by Steven Scheuer as a " . . . drama of cowardice and heroism during the Battle of the Bulge in WW II." The " . . . wise cracking (Jewish Private Berstein) keeps the company amused. But when he breaks a leg and cannot walk, comedy turns to deadly earnest. Rather than leave him behind, his comrades decide to carry him, knowing well his fate at the hands of the Germans. In the end, it is Berstein who delivers a (Hebrew) prayer . . . for the Company's fatally wounded sergeant." James Poe wrote the script. Robert Aldrich produced and directed. The film starred Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, Buddy Ebsen, Jewish actor Robert Strauss, Richard Jaeckel, William Smithers and Peter Van Eyck.
The 1956 Paramount release Hollywood or Bust was the last film of Dean Martin and Jewish comedian Jerry Lewis as a team. The story was about a " . . . movie nut (who) journeys west to meet his favorite star, (and) picks up a gambler along the way." The film includes the portrayal of a Jewish character named Benny (played by Jewish actor Maxie Rosenbloom). Erna Lazarus wrote the script. Frank Tashlin directed for Jewish producer Hal Wallis. The film also starred Pat Crowley and Anita Ekberg.
The 1956 MGM release The Catered Affair told the story of " . . . the daughter of a New York taxi driver (who) gets married, (but) her (Bronx) mother insists on a bigger function than they can afford." Jewish actor Jay Adler played the Jewish character Sam Leiter. Gore Vidal wrote the screenplay (based on Jewish writer Paddy Chayevsky's TV play). Richard Brooks directed for producer Sam Zimbalist. The film starred Bette Davis, Erenst Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald, Rod Taylor, Robert Simon, Madge Kennedy and Dorothy Stickney.
In 1957, Mr. Rock and Roll starred Alan Freed and Little Richard in a story" . . . about how rock and roll began, with Alan Freed getting the lion's share of the credit." In what may be an example of his own anti-WASP prejudice, film critic Steven Scheuer adds "[b]etter him than Dick Clark." Charles Dubin directed.
In the 1957 20th Century-Fox release The Sun Also Rises (based on the Ernest Hemingway novel) the Jewish character Robert Cohn (played by Mel Ferrer) plays " . . . a college friend of hero Jake Barnes (Tyrone Power). As Patricia Erens reports, the Cohn character " . . . was a middleweight champion (at Princeton) . . . " then later as a " . . . writer he floats around Europe like the other characters in the film. Hopelessly infatuated with Lady Brett Ashley (Ava Gardner), he incurs the jealousy of her husband and the pity of Jake. Brett claims Cohn enjoys 'his suffering." Peter Viertel wrote the script. Henry King directed for producer Darryl F. Zanuck. The film also starred Errol Flynn, Eddie Albert, Jewish actor (and later studio executive) Robert Evans (Shapera), Juliette Greco, Gregory Ratoff, Marcel Dalio and Henry Daniell.
In the 1957 MGM release Don't Go Near the Water the " . . . Navy sets up a public relations unit on a South Pacific island." Patricia Erens reports that the Jewish main character, Lt. Max Siegel " . . . retains his name, but unpleasant traits are deleted. Further, as played by Glenn Ford, the sense of ethnic distinction which existed in the play becomes nonexistent." Dorothy Kingsley and George Wells wrote the script (based on the novel by William Brinkley). Charles Walters directed for producer Lawrence Weingarten. The film also starred Fred Clark, Gia Scala, Romney Brent, Mickey Shaughnessy, Earl Holliman, Anne Francis, Keenan Wynn, (the son of Jewish performer Ed Wynn whose original name was Isaiah Edwin Leopold) Eva Gabor, Russ Tamblyn, Jeff Richards and Mary Wickes.
In 1958, the Columbia release Me and the Colonel starred Jewish actor Danny Kaye (David Kaminsky), Curt Jurgens and Nicole Maurey in the story of " . . . a Polish Jew pitted against an anti-Semitic colonel during the final days of WWII." Peter Glenville directed for Jewish producer William Goetz (son-in-law of Jewish studio executive Louis B. Mayer).
That same year, Majorie Morningstar (Warner Bros.---1958) featured Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly in a story about "a suburban Jewish girl out to realize her career ambitions in the Big Apple, only to end up as a happy housewife." As Patricia Erens points out, the
" . . . film opens on New York's Upper West Side and reflects the lives of the first and second-generation Jews who moved from the lower East Side to the Bronx and finally back to Manhattan, leaving behind the memories where their parents and grandparents first settled." The film concentrates " . . . completely on Jewish family life." Everett Freeman wrote the script (based on the Jewish author Herman Wouk's novel). Irving Rapper directed for Jewish producer Milton Sperling. The film starred Natalie Wood, Gene Kelly, Claire Trevor, Everett Sloane, Jewish performer Ed Wynn, Martin Milner, Carolyn Jones, George Tobias, Jewish actor Jesse White and Martin Blasam.
The 1958 20th Century-Fox release The Young Lions focused on the "World War II adventures of two Americans and a German skiing instructor." One of the two Americans is a Jewish soldier (played by Montgomery Clift) At one point, he falls in love with a Gentile women (Hope Lang), whose family is "visibly disturbed" upon learning he is Jewish. The Clift character also encounters anti-Semitism in Europe, thus, as Patricia Erens reports, the film implies that " . . . there is as much anti-Semitism in America as in Germany, although the protective laws of democracy do not allow it to surface except on rare occasions." Edward Anhalt wrote the script (based on the novel by Jewish author Irwin Shaw, son of Jewish immigrants from Russia), Edward Dmytryk directed for producer Al Lichtman.
The 1958 Columbia release Me and the Colonel, also dealt with European anti-Semitism. The story was about " . . . an anti-semitic Polish colonel (who) is obliged to flee from France (in 1940) in the company of a Jewish refugee." Patricia Erens observes that by " . . . film's end, the two men have reached a condition of brotherly love suggesting the mutual dependence of the Jew and the Gentile--(what Erens refers to as) clearly a Jewish fantasy in light of the Holocaust." Jewish writer S.N. Behrman and George Froeschel wrote the script (based on Franz Werfel's play). Peter Glenville directed for Jewish producer William Goetz. The film starred Jewish actor Danny Kaye, Curt Jurgens, Nicole Maurey, Francoise Rosay, Jewish actor Akim Tamiroff,  Martita Hunt, Alexander Scourby, Liliane Montevecchi and Ludwig Stossel.
In the 1958 Warner Bros. release Home Before Dark a " . . . college professor brings his wife (Charlotte) home after a year in a mental hospital, but trouble starts again as the circumstances are unchanged." In the meantime, the professor " . . . has taken in a Jewish boarder, Jacob Diamond (played by Jewish actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.). As Patricia Erens, explains, the " . . . Jew, through his suffering as an outsider, teaches the Gentile a greater sense of humanity and provides for greater inner strength." Also, as Friedman reports,
" . . . only the Jewish character in the film recognizes Charlotte's personal worth."
Eileen and Robert Bassing wrote the script. Jewish producer/director Mervyn LeRoy produced and directed. The film also starred Jean Simmons, Dan O'Herlihy, Rhonda Fleming and Mabel Albertson.
The 1958 RKO release The Naked and the Dead presents the "[a]dventures of an army platoon in the Pacific war." As Patricia Erens points out, the " . . . narrative includes two Jews--Roth (played by Joey Bishop) and his friend Goldstein (Jerry Paris). The two men banter around Yiddish words . . . " make a toast in Hebrew and one " . . . wears a silver Star of David." Roth, the " . . . new recruit . . . becomes the butt of anti-Semitic slurs." The Motion Picture Project's John Stone wrote that it " . . . is significant though, that the Jew is the only character who still nurtures ideals and doesn't seem to have been scarred by his war experience." Denis and Terry Sanders wrote the script (based on Jewish author Norman Mailer's novel). Raoul Walsh (of Irish-Spanish heritage) directed for producer Paul Gregory. The film also starred Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson, Raymond Massey, William Campbell, Richard Jaeckel, James Best, Robert Gist and L.Q. Jones.
In The Deep Six (1958) " . . . a Quaker naval officer (Lt. Austen, played by Alan Ladd) is rejected by his crew because of his pacifism. Only (the Jewish petty officer) Shapiro (William Bendix) . . . supports him." Shapiro " . . . tries to explain to the men how the officer is not a coward but a man of conviction. Finally, Ladd gains the respect of his crew by an act of heroism, thereby justifying Shaprio's evaluation of his character." Martin Rackin produced and wrote the script with John Twist. Rudolph Mate directed. The film also starred Jewish actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Dianne Foster, Keenan Wynn (the son of Jewish performer Ed Wynn) James Whitemore, Jewish actor Joey Bishop (born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb) and Jeannette Nolan.
The 1958 Columbia release The Last Hurrah told the story of an Irish-Catholic " . . . political boss (Spencer Tracy) of a New England town (who) fights his last campaign."
The film also provides what Patricia Erens describes as " . . . a humane portrait of a people's man . . . " the Jewish character Sam Weinberg (played by Jewish actor Ricardo Cortez).
As Erens points out, "[b]oth are presented as men who lack education and polish, but who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps." Frank Nugent wrote the script. John Ford produced and directed. The film also starred Jeffrey Hunter, Dianne Foster, Pat O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, Edward Brophy, Donald Crisp, James Gleason and John Carradine.
According to Halliwell's, the 1958 Allied Artists release Never Love a Stranger was about a " . . . Catholic boy who has become a gangster (and who) helps his Jewish friend who had become assistant district attorney, to trap a vicious hoodlum." According to Lester Friedman, however, the so-called "Catholic boy" was actually Jewish, but grew " . . . up as a non-Jew in a Catholic orphanage . . . " then went on to become the " . . . Jewish gangster . . . head of a multimillion-dollar liquor racket . . . " This Jewish character was played by John Drew Barrymore. Salem Ludwig also played another Jewish character in the film, Moishe Moscowitz. Jewish writer Harold Robbins and Richard Day wrote the script (based on Robbins' novel). Robert Stevens directed for producer Peter Gettinger. The film also starred Steve McQueen, Robert Bray, Lita Milan and R.G. Armstrong.
In the 1958 MGM release The Proud Rebel a " . . . Southerner wanders the Yankee states in search of a doctor to cure his mute son; he falls for a lady farmer and his son finds his voice at a crucial moment." As Lester Friedman reports, the film included the portrayal of " . . . a traditional Jewish shopkeeper (played by Eli Mintz), thereby becoming one of the earliest films to acknowledge the presence of Jews in the Old West." Joseph Patracca and Lillie Hayward wrote the script. Jewish director Michael Curtiz directed for producer Sam Goldwyn, Jr. (son of Jewish producer Samuel Goldwyn) The film starred Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, David Ladd, Dean Jagger, Cecil Kellaway, Dean Stanton, Henry Hull, John Carradine and James Westerfield.
The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) was " . . . about the true, harrowing experiences of the Jewish Frank family and their friends when they are forced to hide from the Nazis in a factory attic in Amsterdam for two long years." The Anne Frank role was played by a little known actress named Millie Perkins. As Patricia Erens report, the " . . . other roles went to well-established actors, almost all Jewish." Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote the script. George Stevens produced and directed. The film also starred Jewish actor Joseph Schildkraut, Jewish actress Shelley Winters, Jewish performer Ed Wynn, Richard Beymer, Gusti Huber, Jewish actor Lou Jacobi and Diane Baker. The film was remade in 1980 afterwhich film critic Steven Scheuer said: " . . . this could be the story of any group of human beings forced to live in fear, while giving way to irritations caused by constricted conditions." That is a common rationalization used by Hollywood to help explain why so many films portraying, Jewish themes, Jewish sub-plots or Jewish points of view are made. On the other hand, since the argument for the universality of the human experiences is being made, it could also be used as an effective argument for actually substituting other cultural, racial, ethnic or religious groups in such films. In other words, if in fact The Diary of Anne Frank and other Jewish stories " . . . could be the story of any group of human beings . . . " why hasn't the industry made more films depicting the stories of these other human beings?
Another 1959 release, Compulsion provided a second " . . . account of the . . . trial of two twisted (Jewish) youths for a (1920's) 'thrill' murder . . . " The earlier version was the 1948 film entitled Rope. This later portrayal was " . . . based on (the Jewish author) Meyer Levin's fictionalized version of the sensational Leopold-Loeb case of 1924 in which two Jewish college students kidnapped and murdered a young Jewish boy named Bobby Frank. The boys were well-educated and came from wealthy Chicago homes." Patricia Erens calls it the " . . . least ethnic of all the films dealing with Jews in the late fifties . . . " Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman were cast in the roles of the killers and their names were changed " . . . to further camouflage ethnic identity." In other words, as reported by Patricia Erens, " . . . the characters were completely de-Judanized."
The famous criminal attorney Clarence Darrow pled insanity and " . . . supported by psychological testing . . . " he " . . . won a verdict of life-imprisonment (for the two killers), instead of the expected death penalty." And, according to Steven Scheuer, this 20th Century Fox release actually focused on and featured " . . . a bravura performance by (Orson) Welles as the defense lawyer . . . " Welles " . . . played the character of Jonathan Wilk, a thinly veiled version of Clarence Darrow . . . "
As Lester Friedman reports, the " . . . case revolved around two college students who attempted to " . . . commit the perfect crime in order to demonstrate their elitist disgust for American society and to realize their Nietzschean fantasy. The act they commit is the brutal murder of an innocent, arbitrarily chosen fourteen-year-old boy." The filmmakers chose to exclude all " . . . scenes representing the actual kidnapping or murder . . . " and according to Welles biographer Frank Brady, producer Richard D. Zanuck " . . . used the film as a plea against capital punishment." Brady called the movie " . . . propagandistic to that extent
. . . "
Not only did the film Compulsion serve as propaganda against capital punishment, it also became propagandistic in the hands of the Hollywood filmmakers who wanted to disguise the backgrounds of the two youths who committed the murder. It would be an understatment to say that all filmmakers would love to have the power to be able to arbitrarily omit or include essential details of real-life events being portrayed in film. Unfortunately, the Hollywood insiders have a great deal more of such arbitrary decision-making power than others. Richard Murphy wrote the script. Richard Fleischer (the son of Jewish producer Max Fleischer) directed. The other stars were Diane Varsi, E.G. Marshall, Martin Milner, Richard Anderson and Robert Simon. The incident was to be portrayed a third time on the screen in 1992 as Swoon.
The Last Angry Man (1959) starred Jewish actor Paul Muni in the Daniel Mann (Chugerman) directed film based on Gerald Green's best-selling novel about a dedicated and lovable old general practitioner in (1930s) Brooklyn . . . " the " . . . Jewish doctor . . . Samuel Abelman . . . " The doctor chose to continue to live and practice " . . . in a slum neighborhood . . . despite the crime and poverty there, to care for the poor whether or not they can pay." Gerald Green wrote the script (based on his own novel). Daniel Mann directed for producer Fred Kohlmar. The film also starred David Wayne, Betsy Palmer, Jewish actor Luther Adler, Dan Tobin and Robert F. Simon. The film was remade in 1974 starring Pat Hingle, who according to Steven Scheuer brought " . . . a dignity and quiet force to the role . . . " This second version was directed by Jerrold Freedman.
In the 1959 Columbia release Middle of the Night, an " . . . elderly garment manufacturer falls in love with a young girl." As Patricia Erens reports, the film " . . . presents an entirely Jewish world (although highly de-Semitized). Fredric March played the role of Jerry Kingsley, " . . . a fifty-six-year-old (Jewish) widower (who) falls in love with his young Gentile secretary . . . " (played by Kim Novak). Jewish screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky wrote the script (from his TV play). Delbert Mann directed
for producer George Justin. The film also starred Glenda Farrell, Jan Norris and Jewish actress Lee Grant.
The UA release A Hole in the Head (1959), " . . . presents the conflict in lifestyle between Tony (played by Frank Sinatra), an easy-going promoter who wants to enjoy life and make a big killing, and his brother Mario (Jewish actor Edward G. Robinson), a stable, hard-working family man. The scene is Miami Beach, the largest Jewish community in the South . . . " As Patricia Erens reports, "[a]lthough the stage production featured a Jewish family, when author Arnold Schulman adapted it for the screen their name was changed to Manetta so as to render the characters Italian." Jewish author Leonard Spigelgass said he suspected the change was made because the film portrayed "money-grubbing" characters and that " . . . Columbia and Capra did not wish to show Jews as anything but excellent citizens
. . . " In any event, Erens reports that " . . . the story, the characters, and their values remain basically Jewish." Frank Capra directed and Sinatra produced. The film also starred Eleanor Parker, Eddie Hodges, Carolyn Jones, Thelma Ritter, Keenan Wynn (the son of Jewish performer Ed Wynn) and Joi Lansing (Wassmansdoff).
The 1959 MGM release Ben Hur (a remake of the 1925 silent film of the same name) told the story of " . . . a Jew (who) suffers mightily under the Romans (during the time of Christ)." With reference to the filming of Ben Hur, the Motion Picture Project's John Stone reported that all of his suggestions were accepted. Karl Tunberg wrote the script. Jewish director William Wyler and Andrew Marton directed for producer Sam Zimbalist. The film starred Charlton Heston, Jewish actress Haya Haraeet, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Jewish actor Sam Jaffe,  Cathy O'Donnell, Finlay Currie, Frank Thring, Terence Longdon, Andre Morell and George Relph.
The 1959 Roger Corman release Bucket of Blood dealt with " . . . the rise of Walter Paisley (played by Dick Miller), a bus boy . . . at a Long Beach coffee house. Longing for acceptance among the local Beat artists and the love of the attractive Carla (Barboura Morris), Walter hits upon the idea of entombing human bodies in clay . . . " so that they appear to be high quality human sculptures. Chris Morris, who studied Corman's work, concluded that the conflict in this film represents the conflict " . . . between WASP society and the archetypical unassimilated Jewish schlemiel." Charles B. Griffith wrote the script. Corman produced and directed. The film also starred Antony Carbone and Ed Nelson.
Lester Friedman claims that in the sixties, " . . . Hollywood responded to the country's growing obsession with ethnicity . . . " by presenting " . . . Jews in a number of new roles. On the other hand, based on the foregoing review of Hollywood's generally favorable portrayals of Jews in film it may be more accurate to suggest that Hollywood actually played a part in helping stimulate the nation's interest in ethnicity and continued its pattern of favorable portrayals in film into the '60s.
In any case, Friedman goes on to report that a " . . . new generation of filmmakers delved into areas of Jewish life previously and studiously avoided: Jewish criminal figures, the Holocaust, and the plight of alienated Jewish intellectuals . . . During these ten years, Jewish figures appear in more films than ever before." Again, it may be fair to report that Jewish figures began to appear in more films in the '60s, but it can hardly be accurate to suggest that such portrayals had in any way been avoided prior to the decade.
The 1960 UA release, Exodus was " . . . about the hardships of Jewish refugees in the new Israel . . . " Halliwell's says the film portrays " . . . the early years of the state of Israel, seen through various eyes." The concept for the film actually " . . . originated at MGM with Dore Schary, who had once before been successful with a Jewish theme (RKO's Crossfire). Now, as head of MGM . . . he wanted to film the birth of the State of Israel." Jewish novelist Leon Uris was hired and "MGM financed (his) trip to Israel, where he spent two years researching and conducting interviews. This resulted in a 626-page novel which MGM then optioned."
It is, of course, fair to ask the question: Has a Hollywood major studio/distributor ever hired a non-Jewish novelist and financed his or her trip to a foreign country, where he or she spent two years researching and conducting interviews for the purpose of writing a huge novel which then would be optioned as the basis of a screenplay for a major motion picture? Or is this another example of preferential treatment toward the portrayal of Jewish stories in Hollywood films, as well as the preferential treatment of a Jewish author?
As Patricia Erens reports John Stone seemed completely pleased . . . " with the results of the Exodus project, saying that " . . . the picture shows to the world . . . Jewish heroism in their struggle for freedom." Dalton Trumbo wrote the script. The Jewish producer/director/actor Otto Preminger produced and directed. The film starred Paul Newman, (whose father was Jewish) Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Richardson, Peter Lawford, Jewish actor Lee J. Cobb, Sal Mineo, John Derek, Hugh Griffith, Gregory Ratoff, Felix Aylmer, David Opatoshu, Jill Haworth, Alexandra Stewart, Martin Benson and Jewish actor Martin Miller.
Esther and the King (1960) tells the Old Testament biblical story of " . . . a Persian king (who) chooses a Judean maiden to replace . . . (his murdered queen, and his new wife tries " . . . to influence him in ceasing persecution of the Jews." Michael Elkins and Raoul Walsh wrote the script. Walsh also produced and directed. The film starred Richard Egan, Joan Collins, Dennis O'Dea, Sergio Fantoni and Rik Battaglia.
The 1960 Warner Bros. release The Dark at the Top of the Stairs focused on the relationship between a " . . . handsome, self-assured . . . " Jewish boy named Samuel David Golden (played by Lee Kinsolving) and a Gentile girl " . . . on the threshold of womanhead
. . . " (played by Shirley Knight). At one point in the movie when " . . . Sammy is asked to leave the country club, (presumably because he was Jewish) Reenie tries to comfort him . . . " but according to Patricia Erens, Sammy " . . . summarizes what has been the classic position of the Jew: 'I'll stay where I was put the day I was born, on the outside looking in.'"
Thus, Erens, concludes that this film represents another example of the Jew being used as
" . . . a symbolic character." Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch wrote the script (based on William Inge's play). Delbert Mann directed for producer Michael Garrison. The film also starred Robert Preston, Dorothy McGuire, Angela Lansbury, Eve Arden, Frank Overton and Robert Eyer. It is quite ironic that a film industry controlled by a small group of Jewish males of European heritage would produce and release so many movies depicting Jews as victims and outsiders, when in the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry itself, the Jewish males of European heritage are the insiders and beneficiaries of preferential treatment.
In the 1960 UA release The Apartment a " . . . lonely, ambitious (rising young executive, played by Jack Lemmon) . . . rents out his apartment to philandering executives and finds that one of them is after his own girl." The Jewish Dr. Dreyfuss (played by Jewish actor Jack Kruschen) and his wife Mildred (Naomi Stevens) live next door to the apartment and render critical aid when one of the girls (Shirley MacLaine) takes an overdose of sleeping pills. Jewish director Billy Wilder (born Samuel Wilder) produced, directed and wrote the script, with Jewish writer I.A.L. Diamond (born Itek Dommnici in Rumania).
The film also starred Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Joan Shawlee, Edie Adams and David Lewis.
In the Columbia release All the Young Men (1960) a " . . . marine patrol in Korea is commanded by a black man (played by Sidney Poitier), and racial tensions take precedence over fighting the enemy." As Patricia Erens points out, the Jewish soldier in the platoon (played by Jewish actor Mort Sahl) served as the group comedian. Hall Bartlett wrote,
produced and directed. The film also starred Alan Ladd, Ingemar Johansson, Glenn Corbett and James Darren.
In the 1960 Roger Corman release Little Shop of Horrors a " . . . dim (Jewish) flower-shop assistant nurtures a man-eating plant." As with the earlier Corman film A Bucket of Blood (1959) Chris Morris sees the conflict of this film as representative of the conflict " . . . between WASP society and the archetypical unassimilated Jewish schlemiel." As Morris reports, "Corman visualizes his Jewish protagonists as slight, quiet (though prone to monologizing), and inarticulate . . . unsuccessful and trapped in menial positions under a cretinous, materialistic, and tyrannous boss. Despite their position, they still dream of material success in the profession on the margins of which they work and the affection of their 'secret loves . . . " In this particular film, the Jewish flower-shop assistant discovers that one of his plants thrives on human blood, and he then proceeds to feed " . . . his oppressive Gentile neighbors . . . to the demanding plant." Charles B. Griffiths wrote the script. Corman again produced and directed. The film starred Jonathan Haze, Jack Nicholson, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Myrtle Vail, Dick Miller and Leola Wendorff. The film was re-made as a musical in 1986.
The 1960 MGM release Cimarron was a remake of the 1930 RKO release of the same name and based on the novel of Jewish writer Edna Ferber. Both films portrayed the " . . . life of an Oklahoma homesteader from 1890 to 1915. According to Patricia Erens, Ferber had experienced anti-Semitic " . . . brutality and ignorance . . . " in the small Iowa town in which she grew up, and this film " . . . recreated that treatment . . . " for the character Sol Levy (played by David Opatoshu). The script was written by Arnold Schulman. Anthony Mann (born Emil Anton Bundmann) directed for producer Edmund Granger. the film also starred Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter, Jewish actress Lili Darvas, Russ Tamblyn, Henry Morgan, Charles McGraw, Aline MacMahon, Edgard Buchanan, Arthur O'Connell, Mercedes McCambridge, Vic Morrow, Robert Keith, Mary Wickes, Royal Dano and Vladimir Sokoloff.
The 1960 British production (released in the U.S.) of Hand in Hand, portrayed how the " . . . friendship of two 7-year olds is affected by racial prejudice because one is Catholic and the other Jewish; but after misunderstandings their friendship is confirmed by priest and rabbi." Diana Morgan wrote the script. Philip Leacock directed for producer Helen Winston. The film starred Lorette Parry, Phillip Needs, Sybil Thorndike, John Gregson and Finlay Currie.
A Majority of One (1961) starred Rosalind Russell, Alec Guinness, Ray Danton and Madlyn Rhue in a " . . . comedy of the romance between a Jewish matron from New York and a Japanese businessman." Patricia Erens suggests that the movie was " . . . about breaking barriers and in the end opts for intermarriage in the name of humanity and brotherhood." The script was written by Jewish writer Leonard Spigelgass. Jewish producer/director Mervyn LeRoy produced and directed. The film starred Rosalind Russell, Alec Guinness, Ray Danton and Madlyn Rhue.
In the 1961 UA release The Young Doctors an old Dr. Joseph Pearson (played by Fredric March) " . . . resents his modern young assistant (David Coleman, played by Ben Gazzara) and almost causes a tragedy." Patricia Erens reports that " . . . their differences are an outgrowth of their different religious backgrounds." Joseph Hayes wrote the script. Phil Karlson (born Philip N. Karlstein, of Jewish-Irish parentage) directed for Jewish producer Lawrence Turman and Stuart Millar. The film also starred Dick Clark, Eddie Albert, Jewish actress Ina Balin, Aline MacMahon, Edward Andrews, Arthur Hill, Jewish actor George Segal and Rosemary Murphy.
The 1961 UA release Judgment at Nuremberg was a " . . . fictionalized version of the 1948 trial of the Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity." According to Patricia Erens, the film " . . . attempted to raise the question of how a fascist mentality could gain the support of an entire population." Jewish writer Abby Mann (born Abraham Goodman)
wrote the script. Jewish producer/director Stanley Kramer produced and directed. The film starred Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximillian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, Jewish actor William Shatner, Edward Binns, Werner Klemperer, Torben Meyer, Alan Baxter and Ray Teal.
In the 1961 UA release The Hoodlum Priest a " . . . Jesuit teacher (played by Don Murray) tries to help young criminals, especially a condemned murderer." The film includes a positive portrayal of a " . . . hardworking (Jewish) criminal lawyer . . . " (Louis Rosen, played by Larry Gates). Don Mankiewicz (son of Jewish writer Herman Mankiewicz), Joseph Landon and Murray (working under the pseudonym "Don Deer") wrote the script. Irvin Kershner directed for producers Walter Wood and Murray. The film also starred Kier Dullea, Cindi Wood and Logan Ramsey.
The following year (1962), the 20th Century-Fox release Lisa (aka The Inspector) portrayed " . . . a flight across Europe by a disturbed young Jewish refugee right after World War II, and the aid she gets from a (Dutch) police officer who accidentally teams up with her." The script was written by Nelson Gidding. Philip Dunne directed for producer Mark Robson. The film starred Stephen Boyd, Dolores Hart, Leo McKern, Hugh Griffith, Donald Pleasence, Harry Andrews, Robert Stephens and Marius Goring.
The 1962 Warner Bros. release Gypsy portrayed the " . . . early days of stripteaser Gypsy Rose Lee, and the exploits of her ambitious mother." As Patricia Erens reports, the film " . . . assiduously avoids mentioning the fact that Rose Hovick (played by Rosalind Russell) and her two daughters Gypsy Rose Lee (Natalie Wood) and June Havoc were Jewish." The script was written by Jewish writer Leonard Spigelgass. Jewish director Mervyn LeRoy produced and directed. The film also starred Karl Malden and James Milhollin.
In the 1962 UA release Two For the Seesaw (produced and directed by the Jewish producer/director Robert Wise) a " . . . New York dance instructress has a tempestuous affair with an Omaha attorney on the verge of divorce." Shirley MacLaine plays the role of the Jewish dance instructress named Gittel Mosca, whose real name was Moscowitz. Isobel Lennart wrote the script. The film also starred Robert Mitchum.
In the 1962 Continental release David and Lisa "[t]wo disturbed adolescents at a special school fall in love." The Jewish psychiatrist " . . . Dr. Alan Swinford (played by Jewish actor Howard Da Silva, born Harold Silverblatt) ministers to the needs of his patients." Jewish writer Eleanor Perry wrote the script. Frank Perry (married to Jewish writer Eleanor Perry) directed for producer Paul M. Heller. The also film starred Keir Dullea, Jewish actress Janet Margolin, Neva Patterson, Clifton James and Richard McMurray.
Come Blow Your Horn (Paramount--1963) starred Frank Sinatra and Tony Bill in Jewish writer " . . . Neil Simon's Broadway comedy about a Jewish family in New York City . . . " Jewish writer Norman Lear wrote the script. Bud Yorkin produced and directed. The film also starred Jewish actor Lee J. Cobb, and Jewish actresses Molly Picon and Jill St. John (Jill Oppenheim), Barbara Rush and Dan Blocker.
The 1963 Universal release Captain Newman MD told the story of a Jewish " . . . psychiatrist (who) has varied success with his patients . . . [a]t an army air base during World War II . . . " The script was written by Richard L. Breen, Jewish writers Phoebe and Herny Ephron (based on Leo Rosten's novel). David Miller directed for producer Robert Arthur. The film starred Gregory Peck, Jewish actor Tony Curtis (originally named Bernard Schwartz), Angie Dickinson, Eddie Albert, Bobby Darin, James Gregory, Jane Withers, Bethel Leslie, Robert Duvall, Jewish actor Larry Storch, Robert F. Simon and Dick Sargent. In the UA release The Best Man (1964) " . . . two contenders for a presidential nomination (Cliff Robertson and Henry Fonda) seek the support of the dying ex-president."
As Patricia Erens reports, a " . . . manipulative and petty . . . " Jewish character " . . . Sheldon Bascomb (played by Jewish actor Shelley Berman) " . . . stands ready to give testimony against . . . " the Robertson character " . . . who he claims indulged in degenerate acts during World War II." Gore Vidal wrote the script. Franklin Schaffner (Church of Christ background) directed for Jewish producer Lawrence Turman and Stuart Millar. The film also starred Lee Tracy, Margaret Leighton, Edie Adams, Kevin McCarthy, Ann Southern, Gene Raymond and Mahalla Jackson.
In the 1965 Paramount release Judith the " . . . wife of an escaped war criminal . . . " (an ex-Nazi officer hiding in Damascus) is rescued and asked " . . . to identify him, but she takes her own revenge." According to Patricia Erens, the enemy of Israeli Jews during this period (1947) were " . . . the British, not the Arabs . . . " because " . . . acting in accord with the regulations set forth in the White Paper of 1939, (the British) . . . established quotas for Jewish immigration. The Jews, however . . . set up a network for illegal absorption." John Michael Hayes wrote the script. Daniel Mann directed for producer Kurt Unger. The film starred Sophia Loren, Peter Finch, Jack Hawkins, Hans Verner and Andre Morell.
In another film described by Patricia Erens as a comedy about Jews, the 1965 independent film Goldstein told " . . . a symbolic tale of an Old Testament patriarch come back to life amid the bleakness and confusion of modern-day society." This " . . . bedraggled modern-day prophet . . . rises out of a lake near Chicago to wander the city streets." The film is described by Katz as " . . . a modest mystical-satirical film based on a Hasidic tale by Martin Buber." Philip Kaufman (grandson of German-Jewish immigrants)
directed with Benjamin Manaster. Kaufman also starred with Lou Gilbert, Ellen Madison, Nelson Algren and Severn Darden.
According to Patricia Erens, the 1965 Columbia release Ship of Fools documents " . . . the rise of anti-Semitism . . . " in Europe prior to World War II. The story focuses on the interaction between a " . . . mixed bag of passengers . . . " aboard " . . . a German liner" . . . that leaves Vara Cruz for Bremerhaven . . . " in 1933. Jewish writer Abby Mann wrote the script. Jewish producer/director Stanley Kramer produced and directed. The film starred Vivien Leigh, Jewish actress Simone Signoret, Oskar Werner, Heinz Ruhmann, Jose Ferrer, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Ashley, Michael Dunn, Jewish actor George Segal, Jose Greco, Charles Korvin, Alf Kjellin, Werner Klemperer, John Wengraf, Lilla Skala and Karen Verne.
In The Pawnbroker (1965) a " . . . Jew in slummy New York (Spanish Harlem) is haunted by his experiences in Nazi prison camps." He was " . . . the sole member of his family to survive Auschwitz (and) . . . he remains tied to his past (twenty years later) by a sense of both suffering and guilt." Patricia Erens states that the film clearly implies that the " . . . oppression of Blacks in Spanish Harlem parallels the oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany." Of course, regardless of what the film implies, it would never be accurate to suggest that conditions anywhere in this country parallel the oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany, unless we limit the analogy to the very earliest years of Nazi control, and probably not even then. If we are going to draw such analogies, then we might also want to point out that the oppressive circumstances (i.e., employment discrimination and anti-competitive business practices) imposed on Hollywood outsiders (e.g., Latinos, African-Americans, women, gay/lesbians, Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, Southerners, Christians, Muslims, etc.) in the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry must rank quite high on any list of oppressive conditions in this country. David Friedkin and Morton Fine wrote the script for The Pawnbroker (based on a novel by Edward Lewis Wallant). Jewish director Sidney Lumet directed for producer Worthington Miner. The film starred Jewish actor Rod Steiger, Brock Peters, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jaime Sanchez, Thelma Oliver and Juano Hernandez.
The 1965 20th Century-Fox release Up From the Beach portrays American GIs battling in a Normandy village just after D-Day. "One of the major characters is (a Jewish) Pvt. Harry Devine (played by Jewish actor Red Buttons), a loquacious G.I., who is intent upon keeping a captured Wehrmact officer (Marius Goring) alive to be displayed as a menace in a P.O.W. cage." Stanley Mann and Claude Brule wrote the script. Robert Parrish directed for producer Christian Ferry. The film also starred Cliff Robertson, Francoise Rosay, Irina Demick, Broderick Crawford, James Robertson Justice and Slim Pickens.
In the 1965 Paramount release The Spy Who Came in from the Cold a " . . . .British master spy is offered a chance to get even with his East German opponent by being apparently sacked, disillusioned, and open for recruitment . . . " as a double agent. "In order to protect the project, it becomes necessary to eliminate his competent Jewish assistant
. . . " who is labeled as "suspect". Thus, once again, as Patricia Erens points out, " . . . the Jew serves as scapegoat." Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper wrote the script (based on the John Le Carre novel). Jewish producer/director Martin Ritt produced and directed. The film starred Richard Burton, Jewish actress Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Peter Van Eyck, Sam Wanamaker, Rupert Davies, Jewish actor George Voskovec, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, Robert Hardy, Bernard Lee and Beatrix Lehmann.
The 1965 20th Century-Fox release The Saboteur, Code Name Morituri (aka Morituri: The Saboteur) deals with " . . . a British intelligence plot to plant a German anti-Nazi, Robert Crain (Marlon Brando), on board a blockade-runner carrying rubber from Tokyo to France. While at sea, the ship picks up a group of American soldiers, who are taken prisoner. Among them is a Jewish girl, Esther Levy (played by Jewish actress Janet Margolin), who has escaped from a concentration camp. The ship is manned by the idiosyncratic Captain Mueller (Yul Brynner), who holds his own notions about Nazism." Jewish writer Daniel Taradash
wrote the script (based on Werner Jeorg Kosa's novel) Bernhard Wicki directed for producer Aaron Rosenberg. Trevor Howard also starred.
Also, in 1965, the Czechoslovakia film The Shop on Main Street was released in the U.S. It told the story of " . . . a well-meaning carpenter (who) tries to shield an old Jewish lady (during the German invasion of Czechoslovakia) but his own rough treatment kills her." Jewish actress Ida Kaminska " . . . won international fame as the aged Jewish shopkeeper facing deportation . . . " Jewish writer/director Jan Kadar (of Slovakian Jewish parents) Ladislav Grosman, and Einar Klos wrote the script. Kadar and Klos directed. The film also starred Jozef Kroner, Hana Silvkova and Martin Holly.
The 1965 MGM release Doctor Zhivago was not included in either Lester Friedman's book The Jewish Image in American Film or Patricia Erens' book The Jew in American Cinema. However, the script for this film was written by Robert Bolt, but based on the novel by Russian-Jewish writer Boris Pasternak, and as Michael Shapiro reports "Zhivago was in many ways his own story." The movie told the story of a " . . . Moscow doctor (who) is caught up in World War I, exiled for writing poetry, forced into partisan service and separated from his only love." It was was produced and directed by David Lean. It starred Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Jewish actor Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Rita Tushingham, Ralph Richardson, Tom Gourtenay, Geraldine Chaplin, Siobhan McKenna, Noel Willman, Geoffrey Keen and Adrienne Corri.
In the 1965 UA release What's New Pussycat? Jewish writer/actor Woody Allen
" . . . plays Victor Shakopopulis, a struggling painter, who supports himself by helping strippers change between numbers." As Maurice Yacowar describes the character, "[h]e must overcome his discreet cowardice to fight a Nazi-type in the public library . . . A menorah beside his bed bears silent witness to the fact that Victor is Jewish. And though lecherous, he is sexually inexperienced." Allen also wrote the script. Clive Donner directed for producer Charles K. Feldman (Gould). The film also starred Peter O'Toole, Jewish actor Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Romy Schneider, Capucine and Paula Prentiss.
The following year, (1966) The Bible . . . In the Beginning retold the (Old Testament) stories of Abraham and Sarah . . . " John Huston directed this U.S./Italian co-production released in the U.S. by 20th Century Fox. The script was written by Christopher Fry and others. Michael Parks appeared as Adam, Ulla Bergrd as Eve, Richard Harris as Cain, John Huston as Noah, Stephen Boyd as Nimrod, George C. Scott as Abraham, Ava Gardner as Sarah and Peter O'Toole as the three angels.
Also, in the 1966 Paramount release The Oscar " . . . a friend recalls a heel's rise to stardom . . . [o]n the night of the Academy Awards . . . " Patricia Erens calls it an " . . . expose about Hollywood . . . " Jewish characters in the film included Jewish performer Milton Berle " . . . as Kappy Kapstetter, the philosophical agent, and (Jewish costume designer) Edith Head, making a cameo appearance as herself." Harlan Ellison, Russel Rouse and Clarence Greene wrote the script (based on the Richard Sale novel). Rouse also produced and directed. The film also starred Stephen Boyd, Elke Summer, Tony Bennett, Eleanor Parker, Joseph Cotten, Jewish actress Jill St. John, Edie Adams, Ernest Borgnine, Ed Begley, Walter Brennan, Broderick Crawford, James Dunn, Peter Lawford, Hedda Hopper, Merle Oberson, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.
In the 1966 release What's Up, Tiger Lily? a " . . . Japanese agent searches for the world's greatest egg salad recipe." As Patricia Erens points out " . . . references to items like egg salad . . . " have " . . . Jewish connotations because of its common appearance on delicatessen menus . . . " In addition, she reports that " . . . Allen spices up the comedy with Yiddish words and phrases . . . to the point that the film probably was entirely comprehensible only to urban Jewish audiences who recognized the in-jokes." Kazuo Yamada, Jewish writer Woody Allen and others wrote the script. Senkichi Taniguchi directed. Allen also produced. The film starred Allen, Tatsua Mihashi, Mie Hama, Akiko Wakabayashi, Tadeo Nakamuru, Susumu Kurobe, Frank Buxton, Len Maxwell, Jewish actress Louise Lasser and Mickey Rose.
The 1967 Columbia release Enter Laughing is described by Patricia Erens as a " . . . Jewish domestic comedy . . . " The film was " . . . based on an autobiographical novel by (Jewish writer/director) Carl Reiner The story focuses on " . . . David Kolowitz's ambition to be an actor." In other words, it was " . . . about a young Jewish boy from the Bronx who wants to be a star of stage 'n screen . . . " Reiner and Joseph Stein wrote and produced. Riener also directed. The film starred Reni Santoni, Jose Ferrer, Jewish actresses Shelley Winters, Janet Margolin and Elaine May, Jewish actor Jack Gilford, David Opatoshu and Michael J. Pollard.
The 1967 Universal release Tobruk told the story of " . . . a British major and some (German-born Palestinian) Jews (who) try to blow up the Nazi fuel bunkers . . . " and stop Rommel at Tobruk, during the North African campaign. The " . . . soldiers are Jewish volunteers under the command of Capt. Kurt Bergman (played by George Peppard), also a Jew." Leo V. Gordon wrote the script. Arthur Hiller directed for producer Gene Corman. The film also starred Rock Hudson, Nigel Green, Guy Stockwell, Jack Watson, Liam Redmond, Leo Gordon, Norman Rossington and Percy Herbert.
Also, in 1967, director Roman Polanski (of Polish-Jewish parents) cast his future wife Sharon Tate in the female lead--as a Jewish innkeeper's daughter in The Fearless Vampire Killers. The film was produced in Europe but released in an edited version in the U.S. by MGM (titled Dance of the Vampires). The film includes a portrayal of a " . . . strange Jewish vampire, Yoine Shagal (Alfie Bass). After he is bitten by Count von Krolock (Perdy Mayne) and turned into a vampire, the lusty Shagal heads straight for the voluptuous blonde, Magda (Fiona Lewis), who has rejected him in life. When Magda tries to defend herself with a crucifix, Shagal gleefully exclaims, 'Oy! Have you got the wrong vampire!'" Lester Friedman reports that " . . . Polanski injects a few social comments . . . For example, Shagal remains an outsider even in vampire society, much as he was in his former life. The Count and his ghoulish aristocracy ostracize him, and his coarse, wooden coffin is dragged out to the barn, segregated from the other vampires' resting places." Polanski also wrote the script with Gerard Brach. Gene Gutowski produced. The film also starred Jack MacGowan, Iain Quarrier and Terry Downes.
In the 1967 Columbia release Divorce American Style "[w]ell-heeled Los Angeles suburbanites (played by Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds) toy with divorce but eventually resume their domestic bickering." The film includes a negative portrayal of
" . . . fast-talking, money-hungry . . . " Jewish lawyer David Grieff (played by Jewish actor Shelley Berman) who " . . . is available only on the golf course." Jewish writer/producer Norman Lear produced and wrote the script. Bud Yorkin directed. The film also starred Jean Simmons, Jason Robards, Jr., Van Johnson, Joe Flynn, Jewish actor Martin Gabel,
Jewish actress Lee Grant, Jewish actor Tom Bosley and Dick Gautier.
In the 1967 Paramount release Targets an " . . . elderly horror film star confronts and disarms a mad sniper at a drive-in movie." The Jewish actor/director Peter Bogdanovich (Greek Orthodox father and Jewish mother) played a Jewish character " . . . Sammy Michaels, an aspiring young Hollywood director." Bogdanovich also produced, wrote and directed the film. Other stars included starred Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, James Brown and Sandy Baron.
In the 1967 Universal release Thoroughly Modern Millie " . . . a young girl (Julie Andrews) comes to New York (in the twenties), becomes thoroughly modern, falls for her boss, and has various adventures unmasking a white slave racket centering on a Chinese laundry." Millie is portrayed as " . . . an all-American Protestant girl trying to become a 'new woman' in the Jazz Age . . . " During one segment of the film, involving "Jewish material", she " . . . finds herself at a Jewish wedding. After the groom breaks the glass, Millie bursts into song, warbling a medley consisting of 'Mazel Tov', 'L'chayim', and 'Cheerie Bib Bim', while wedding guests perform a stylized wedding dance." Richard Morris wrote the script and George Roy Hill (from a Catholic family) directed for producer Ross Hunter. The film also starred Mary Tyler Moore, John Gavin, James Fox, Carol Channing, Beatrice Lillie, Jack Soo, Pat Morita and Anthony Dexter.
In the 1967 release The Incident, Jewish actor Jack Gilford and Thelma Ritter played " . . . an older Jewish couple, Sam and Bertha Beckerman. The story concerns a group of adolescents who terrorize passengers on the New York subway . . . When the adolescents take over the subway car, most of the passengers remain passive, hoping to be ignored. Sam, on the other hand, is outraged. Ignoring his personal safety, he stands up to the hoodlums and shouts against meaningless violence." The film also starred Tony Musante, Martin Sheen, Beau Bridges, Ed McMahon, Ruby Dee and Brock Peters. Jewish director Larry Peerce directed.
In 1968, The Fixer presented a " . . . drama about anti-Semitism in Tsarist Russia around 1911, based on (Jewish writer) Bernard Malamud's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel." According to Steven Scheuer, the film was also "[b]ased on a true story of a Russian Jewish peasant . . . who was wrongly imprisoned for the 'ritual murder' of a Gentile child in Kiev." Dalton Trumbo wrote the script. Malamud's story was based on the tale that became the subject of earlier films like Accused by Darkest Russia (1913). John Frankenheimer (of Jewish-Irish heritage) directed and produced with Edward Lewis. The film starred Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde, Jewish actress Georgia Brown (Klot), Jewish actor Jack Gilford,
Hugh Griffith, Elizabeth Hartman, Ian Holm, David Warner, Carol White, Murray Melvin, Peter Jeffrey and Michael Goodliffe.
In the 1968 20th Century-Fox release The Detective a " . . . disgusted NYPD detective (played by Frank Sinatra), carrying an overload of both professional and personal problems, railroads the wrong man into the electric chair while seeking a homosexual's killer. He loses his job and leaves his nympho wife (Lee Remick). A Jewish police officer (played by Jewish actor Jack Klugman) was portrayed as " . . . just a cop doing his job . . . " His supportive wife Rachel was played by Jewish actress Renee Taylor (Wexler). Jewish writer Abby Mann wrote the script (based on the Roderick Thorp novel). Gordon Douglas directed for producer Aaron Rosenberg. The film also starred Jacqueline Bisset, Ralph Meeke, Horace MacMahon, Jewish actor Lloyd Bochner, William Windom, Tommy Masante, All Freeman, Jr. and Robert Duvall.
According to Variety, Jewish producer/director Sidney Lumet's Bye Bye Braverman (1968) starring Jewish actor George Segal and Jack Warden was an " . . . underrated, caustically funny Jewish comedy about death . . . " The film is " . . . a comedy on the mores of would-be Jewish intellectuals in New York City (and) [f]ocuses on a day when a group of friends attend Braverman's funeral." Patricia Erens reports that the film is " . . . steeped in the Jewish milieu and utilizes Yiddish phrases and in-jokes accessible only to a small percentage of Americans, primarily those who reside in large urban areas or within fifty miles of New York City." Herbert Sargent wrote the script (based on Wallace Markfield's first novel). The film also starred Jewish actors Joseph Wiseman, and Alan King, Sorrell Booke, Jessica Walter, Jewish actress Phyllis Newman, Zohra Lampert and Godfrey Cambridge (who appears as a Black-Jewish taxi driver).
Producer Ray Stark was the son-in-law of the legendary (Jewish performer) Fanny Brice (born in New York as Fanny Borach) and " . . . he struck it big as the producer of her screen biography, Funny Girl (1968), starring (Jewish actress) Barbra Streisand . . . "
Brice earned a "major biography" in Darryl Lyman's book Great Jews on Stage and Screen.
Isobel Lennart wrote the script. Jewish director William Wyler directed. The film also starred Omar Sharif, Walter Pidgeon, Kay Medford, Anne Francis, Lee Allen, Gerald Mohr and Frank Faylen.
Patricia Erens reports that the 1968 Warner Bros. release I Love You, Alice B. Toklas was " . . . peopled almost exclusively by Jewish characters." It told the story of an " . . . asthmatic Los Angeles lawyer (who) escapes his bullying fiancee by joining the flower people." Jewish writer/producer Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker wrote and produced. Hy Averback directed. The film starred Jewish actors Peter Sellers and Herb Edelman,
along with Jo Van Fleet, Joyce Van Patten, Leigh Taylor-Young and David Arkin.
In the Paramount release No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) a " . . . mass murderer of women . . . is also a master of disguise (and) has a running battle with . . . " the " . . . Jewish cop chosen to track him down." The film also dealt " . . . with a Jewish/Gentile romance . . . " John Gay wrote the script (based on the book by third-generation Jewish novelist William Goldman). Jack Smight directed for producer Sol C. Siegel. The film starred Jewish actors Rod Steiger, and George Segal, along with Lee Remick, Eileen Heckart, Murray Hamilton and Michael Dunn.
Research Question--Are there a disproportionate number of novels or other books by Jewish authors selected by Hollywood studios as the basis for screenplays made into feature films? If so, does this suggest that the major studio executives, talent agents and others in the film community (who make the decisions about which books will be filmed) commonly engage in favoritism, the primary beneficiaries of which are Jewish writers? In addition,
is there also a tendency by such studios to favor the books published by Jewish owned publishing houses?
In the 1968 Avco release The Producers a Broadway producer " . . . seduces elderly widows to obtain finance for his new play, sells 25,000 per cent in the expectation that it will flop, and is horrified when it succeeds." As Patricia Erens points out, " . . . both the film producers and the movie characters are Jewish . . . Had they been otherwise . . . " she says, " . . . the Jewish public (may)..have responded with accusations of anti-Semitism . . . "
On the other hand, Lester Friedman states that " . . . the Jewish characters (in this film), however unappealing they may be, are far more attractive and loveable than the people they exploit." Jewish filmmaker Mel Brooks wrote and directed for producer Sidney Glazier. The film starred Jewish actors Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder (born Jerry Silberman, the son of an immigrant from Russia), and Dick Shawn (Richard Schulefand), Kenneth Mars, Estelle Winwood and Jewish actress Renee Taylor.
The 1968 Columbia release of Oliver! (a British production) was a musical version of Oliver Twist. The Jewish character Fagin (typically portrayed in an extremely negative manner) was turned " . . . into a likeable, sympathetic character . . . " In addition, as Patricia Erens points, out, although the original Dickens novel ended with Fagin's death, " . . . here the Jew survives." It would be an understatement to suggest that all racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and/or regional groups in the U.S. would love to have the power to make such drastic changes in the portrayals of their fellows in Hollywood motion pictures. Unfortunately, because Hollywood is controlled by a small narrowly defined interest group that routinely and arbitrarily denies opportunities for such outsiders to occupy the key decision-making positions in Hollywood, only rarely to such persons have such power. Vernon Harris wrote the script for Oliver! (see Who Really Controls Hollywood and How the Movie Wars Were Won). Carol Reed directed for producer John Woolf. The film starred Jewish actor Ron Moody, Oliver Reed, Harry Secombe, Mark Lester, Shani Wallis, Jack Wild, Hugh Griffith, Joseph O'Connor, Leonard Rossiter, Hylda Baker, Peggy Mount and Megs Jenkins.
In the 1968 UA release The Night They Raided Minsky's various " . . . human problems are posed and solved during a night at a burlesque theatre." The story was set
" . . . in New York, in 1925, on the Lower East Side. Show business people mix with Hasidim (the Jewish Orthodox sect), while men parade up and down the streets as walking advertisements for Minsky's." As Patricia Erens points out, "Jews played an important role in early burlesque and vaudeville and Minsky's was one of the most famous houses." Erens further explains that the " . . . two Minskys, father and son, are played by Jewish actors Joseph Wiseman and Elliott Gould . . . " and that " . . . religious and generational differences between the Minskys provide a running subplot in the film." Arnold Schulman, Sidney Michaels and Jewish writer/producer Norman Lear (who also produced) wrote the script. Jewish director William Friedkin directed. The film also starred Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Norman Wisdom, Forrest Tucker, Jewish actor Bert Lahr, Harry Andrews, Denholm Elliott and Jack Burns.
The 1968 Palomar release Take The Money and Run told the story of a " . . . social misfit (who) becomes a bungling crook." Patricia Erens calls the film " . . . a comic spoof on gangster and prison films . . . " in which Jewish filmmaker Woody Allen " . . . utilizes more Jewish material." As in the earlier Allen film, What's Up, Tiger Lily?, this film also uses " . . . Jewish words as in-jokes." Allen wrote and directed for producer Charles H. Joffe. The film also starred Jewish actress Janet Margolin and Marcel Hillaire.
In the 1968 MGM release The Legend of Lylah Clare a " . . . mad director (played by Peter Finch) brings an unknown actress (played by Kim Novak) to Hollywood because of her resemblance to a former star, his creation, who had died mysteriously." " . . . Milton Selzer plays the role of a (Jewish) Hollywood talent agent who discovers (the) . . . sexy, young actress As Bart Langer, Selzer plays a rough, hard-nosed ten-percenter." According to Patricia Erens, "[b]oth he and his wife Becky (played by Jean Carroll) are rather slovenly, unattractive people." Hugo Butler and Jean Rouverol wrote the script. Robert Aldrich produced and directed. The film also starred Ernest Borgnine, Carol Browne, Rossella Falk, Gabrielle Tinti, Valentina Cortesa and George Kennedy.
In the AIP release Three in the Attic (1968) a " . . . college Casanova (played by Christopher Jones) is locked in an attic by three girls who . . . " take turns seducing him
" . . . until he cries for mercy." The girls include " . . . one WASP, one Black, and one Jew . . . " The Jewish girl was played by Maggie Thrett as a raven haired character with an attraction to the hippie philosophy. Stephen Yafa wrote the script (based on his own novel). Richard Wilson produced and directed. The film also starred Yvette Mimieux, Judy Pace and Nan Martin.
The 1969 Paramount release, Goodbye, Columbus was about a " . . . spoiled Jewish American Princess . . . a contemporary story of a family set in the world of nouveau riche Jews . . . " Patricia Erens says the film was " . . . probably the most significant Jewish film of the 1960s because of the pervasiveness of the Jewish milieu and the centrality of its Jewish themes." The screenplay was written by Arnold Schulman, adapted from a novel by Jewish author Philip Roth and was produced by Jewish producer Stanley Jaffe. The film starred Jewish actor Richard Benjamin, Ali MacGraw, Jewish actor Jack Klugman, Nan Martin, Michael Meyers and Lori Shelle. Jewish director Larry Peerce directed.
In the 20th Century-Fox release Justine (1969) " . . . the beautiful wife (played by Jewish actress Anouk Aimee) of a wealthy banker (in Alexandria, Egypt during the thirties) influences the lives of all who meet her." The couple are members of the Christian Church of Egypt (the Coptic Church). "One of the supporting characters is Cohen (played by Jewish actor Jack Albertson) a pitiable middle-aged Jewish furrier who cares for a young belly dancer. When Cohen lies dying in the hospital, he tells Justine, 'When I was alive I always worried about money. Now that I am dying, I have sufficient funds.'" The script was written by Lawrence B. Marcus (based on the novel by Lawrence Durrell). Jewish director George Cukor directed for Jewish producer Pandro S. Berman. The film also starred Michael York, Dirk Bogarde, Anna Karina, John Vernon, George Baker, Phillippe Noiret, Robert Forster, Michael Dunn, Barry Morse, Cliff Gorman and Severn Darden.
Also, in 1969, the Avco/Embassy release Don't Drink the Water was about a " . . . Jewish caterer (who was) . . . accused of spying in a Communist country and (he took) . . . refuge with his family in the American embassy . . . " The script was written by R. S. Allen and Harvey Bullock, based on a play by Jewish comic, actor, director and playright Woody Allen. Howard Morris directed. The film starred Jackie Gleason, Estelle Parsons,
Ted Besell, Joan Delaney, Michael Constantine, Howard St. John and Danny Meehan. Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe produced.
The Song and the Silence (1969) starred Harry Rubin, Annita Koutsouveli, Nana Austin in a " . . . film about a group of Hasidic Jews in Poland in 1939 . . . " Nathan Cohen directed.
Another 1969 picture, Me, Natalie focuses on " . . . the identity crisis . . . " of a " . . . Jewish-American female . . . " an " . . . unattractive 18-year old girl (who) moves into Greenwich Village and learns to accept herself as she is." A. Martin Zweilback wrote the script. Fred Coe directed for producer Stanley Shapiro. The film starred Patty Duke, James Farentino, Jewish actor Martin Balsam, Elsa Lanchester, Salome Jens, Nancy Marchand and Al Pacino.
According to Lester Friedman, "Jews increasingly appeared on America's movie screens in the seventies . . . " On the other hand, the record set forth above clearly indicates that a disproportionate number of American movies of the prior decades had already been actively utilized as vehicles to feature Jewish actors, actresses, directors, producers, screenwriters and authors, in addition to focusing an equally disproportionate number of such movies on Jewish stories, sub-plots and characters. Thus, the increasing apperance of Jews in such movies in the '70s means that such appearances were at an extraordinary high level indeed.
Friedman also points out that " . . .two major Jewish-American filmmakers . . . rose to prominence during . . . " the '70s decade, " . . . Woody Allen and Paul Mazursky." According to Friedman, "[b]oth populate their films with Jewish characters and both offer audiences a Jewish slant on American life." Friedman further contends that " . . . few filmmakers wanted to risk Arab boycotts by making pro-Israeli pictures. Some Jewish moviemakers feared charges of bias, or even racism, if they made films that depicted positive Jewish characters clashing with evil Arabs. On the other hand, a film that showed the Arab side of the Mid-Eastern problem ran the risk of inciting the wrath of American Jews, as well as of vocal Jewish organizations like the B'nai B'rith." In addition, " . . . the American attitude toward Israel seemed less clear in the seventies than it had been in the sixties. Many in this country viewed Israel as the obstacle to a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East." These Friedman statements appears to be similar to those expressed earlier about filmmaker apprehension regarding making films that might be deemed offensive by the Nazis prior to WWII. Of course, the record in both instances indicates that such films were made anyway (see Chapter 2 discussion and The Jerusalem File--'71, The Next Man--'76 and Black Sunday--'77 following). Thus, it would appear to be more accurate to state that some filmmakers were concerned about such problems and some were not.
The Angel Levine (UA--1970) was about " . . . a black angel (who) comes to earth to redeem an aging Jew who has lost his faith." Bill Gunn and Ronald Ribman wrote the script (story by Jewish writer Bernard Malamud). Czechoslovakian-born Jan Kader directed for producer Chiz Schultz. The film starred Jewish performer Zero Mostel, Harry Belafonte, Jewish actress Ida Kaminska, Milo O'Shea, Jewish actor Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson and Gloria Foster.
The 1970 20th Century-Fox release The Great White Hope was about " . . . a black boxer (who) becomes world heavyweight champ (in 1910) but has trouble through his affair with a white girl." Lou Gilbert plays the Jewish manager named Goldie. Patricia Erens reports that "[u]nlike the other whites who heap disdain upon Jack, Goldie treats him as an equal, admiring his ambition and pride, sympathetic to his suffering." Howard Sackler wrote the script. Jewish director Martin Ritt directed for Jewish producer Lawrence Turman. The film also starred James Earl Jones, Jane Alexander, Joel Fluellen, Chester Morris, Robert Webber and Hal Holbrook.
In the 1970 release Where's Poppa? (directed by Jewish director Carl Reiner), a
" . . . Jewish lawyer's aged mother constantly harms his love life, and he considers various means of getting rid of her." According to Patricia Erens, the film " . . . serves as the model for contemporary Jewish family films, especially in its representation of the emotionally dependent Jewish son . . . " On the other hand, Lester Friedman says the film presents the " . . . decade's most vicious screen portrait of a Jewish mother . . . " Gordon Hocheiser (played by Jewish actor George Segal). The script was written by Robert Klane for producers Jerry Tokovsky and Marvin Worth. Other stars included Ruth Gordon, Trish Van Devere and Jewish actor Ron Leibman.
The 1970 20th Century-Fox release Move is about a " . . . frustrated (Jewish) playwright (who) writes pornography to make money; he moves to a larger apartment but his mind is full of fantasies." The " . . . story covers three days in the life of Hiram Jaffe (played by Jewish actor Elliott Gould), the weekend of his move to a new apartment on New York's West Side." The script was written by Joel Lieber and Stanley Hart. Stuart Rosenberg directed. The film also starred Paul Prentiss, Genevieve Waite, John Larch and Joe Silver.
In the 1970 MGM release Alex in Wonderland, Donald Sutherland played " . . . a director who has one hit behind him and doesn't know what to do next." Paul Mazursky (of Russian-Jewish descent) took the " . . . role of a hip (Jewish) film producer, Hal Stern, and turns in . . . " what Patricia Erens calls " . . . a derisive, ironic portrayal." As Lester Friedman explains, the character searches " . . . for an identity in hippiedom and drugs, (then) finally accepts his own heritage and becomes an Orthodox Jew." Mazursky wrote and
directed for producer Larry Tucker. The film also starred Jeanne Moreau, Ellen Burstyn and Federico Fellini.
In The Boys in the Band (1970) " . . . tempers fray and true selves are revealed when a heterosexual is accidentally invited to a homosexual party." According to Patricia Erens, "[a]mong the group of eight men, Harold (played by Leonard Frey), the Jew, stands out for his ethnic defensiveness as well as his sexual self-loathing." Mart Crowley wrote the script and produced with Kenneth Utt. Jewish director William Friedkin directed. The film also starred Kenneth Nelson, Cliff Gorman, Frederick Combs, Reuben Greene, Robert La Tourneaux, Laurence Luckinbill, Keith Prentice and Peter White.
The 1970 Paramount release Catch-22 was set on " . . . a US Air Force base in the Mediterranean during World War II . . . " Jewish actor Alan Arkin starred as " . . . Yossarian who tries desperately to be certified mad so that he can stop flying missions."
Steven Scheuer described the film as " . . . Heller's black comedy about war and all it really means to the common man . . . " and as " . . . Heller's antiwar crusade against war profiteers. The script was written by Buck Henry (Zukerman), based on Jewish author Joseph Heller's novel. Jewish director Mike Nichols directed for producers John Calley and Martin Ransohoff. The film also starred Jewish actors Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, Jack Gilford, along with Buck Henry and Bob Newhart.
The following year, (1971), the UA release Sunday Bloody Sunday told the story about " . . . three people in a rather novel love triangle: A London doctor in his forties, a divorced woman in her thirties, and the young man they are both in love with . . . They accommodate themselves to life as it must be lived. The doctor, for example, is not at all personally disturbed by his homosexuality, and yet he doesn't reveal it to his close-knit Jewish family; maintaining relations-as-usual with them is another way for him to survive." John Schlesinger (son of a Jewish pediatrician) directed for producer Joseph Janni. Penelope Gilliatt wrote the script. The film starred Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, Murray Head, Peggy Ashcroft, Maurice Denham, Vivian Pickles, Frank Windsor, Tony Britton and Harold Goldblatt.
UA's 1971 release, Fiddler on the Roof was set in " . . . a pre-revolutionary Russian village, (where) Tevye the Jewish milkman survives family and political problems and when the pogroms begin cheerfully emigrates to America." Norman Jewison produced and directed. Joseph Stein wrote the screenplay (based on a story by Sholem Aleichem). The film starred Jewish actor Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey and Jewish actress Molly Picon.
Although not the central focus of the movie I Never Sang for My Father (1971) the film includes an incident in which the father in the movie (played by Melvyn Douglas, originally named Edouard Hesselberg, of a Jewish father) " . . . had banished . . . " his daughter (Estelle Parsons) " . . . for marrying a Jew." Also, in 1971, A Safe Place,
directed by Henry Jaglom, starred Orson Welles as " . . . a thoroughly lovable, Jewish, chess-playing magician . . . "
That same year, Universal's Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) was a " . . . study of two dissimilar but lonely people . . . " and their " . . . unlikely romance . . . Minnie is an art curator with a duplex apartment and a large library. Moskowitz is a parking lot attendant, and they meet when Minnie's blind date threatens her in Moskowitz's lot." As Erens points out, the Seymour Moskowitz character (played by Seymour Cassel) " . . . is a thirty-year-old hippie with little to identify him as Jewish other than his large nose and a Jewish name." He is referred to by Erens as a "Jewish dropout". He " . . . parks cars, speaks unintelligible English, and has no ambitions to get ahead." As Friedman states, however, the film " . . . approached mixed marriage with gentle humor . . . " John Cassevetes wrote and directed for producer Al Rubin. Gena Rowlands also starred.
That same Year (1971), the Allied Artists release Romance of a Horsethief was a U.S./Yugoslavia production starring Yul Brenner, Jewish actor Eli Wallach,
Jane Birkin, Oliver Tobias, Lainie Kazan and David Opatoshu in a " . . . farce of Jewish ghetto life in a Russian village at the turn of the century . . . ." According to Steven Scheuer, the film " . . . builds toward a revolutionary view of a people and of history."
Patricia Erens adds that the film's " . . . mythologized nostalgia . . . lends dignity to the Jews . . . " Jewish director Abraham Polonsky directed for Polish-born producer Gene Gutowski. David Opatoshu wrote the script.
Also, in 1971, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971) was " . . . an exquisite, hauntingly beautiful, and deeply disturbing film about the gradual disintegration of Jewish freedom and dignity in Fascist Italy . . . " Although an Italian-West German co-production, the film was released in the U.S. and won the Academy Award as Best Foreign Film. The film was directed by Vittorio De Sica for producers Arthur Cohn and Gianni Hecht.
The 1971 release The Steagle (directed by Paul Sylbert) deals with a Jewish man's
" . . . efforts to cope with a midlife crisis. Harold Weiss (played by Jewish actor Richard Benjamin), a college professor, lives in a world of adolescent sexual desire and male hero
worship." The film also starred Cloris Leachman, Chill Wills, Susan Tyrell and Jean Allison.
In the 1971 release Jennifer On My Mind, the hero " . . . is an upper-class (Jewish) dropout, grandson of a millionaire. Twenty-four--old Marcus Rottner (played by Michael Brandon) narrates the story of his romance with Jenny (Tippy Walker), now dead from an overdose of heroin." According to Patricia Erens, the story is " . . . based on the lives of Robert Friede, heir to the Annenberg publishing fortune, and his wealthy girlfriend, Celeste Crenshaw." "The one guiding light in Marcus's life is his admiration for his dead grandfather . . . " who " . . . turns out to have been a racketeer and bootlegger . . . " The script was written by Jewish writer Erich Segal. Noel Black directed. Peter Bonerz also starred.
The 1971 20th Century-Fox release Made for Each Other represents an inversion of the more traditional " . . . Jewish-boy-and-the-Shiksa." The " . . . story concerns (the Jewish) Pandora Gold (played by Jewish actress Renee Taylor) and her Italian boyfriend, Gig Pinimba (played by Joseph Bologna.)" The Pandora Gold character is portrayed as " . . . an unattractive middle-class Jewish female . . . " According to Halliwell's the film is a
"[r]omance between two New Yorkers with inferiority complexes." Taylor and Bologna also wrote the script. Robert B. Bean directed for producer Ray Townsend.
The 1971 Paramount release Such Good Friends portrays " . . . modern Jewish-American Princesses . . . " In the story, " . . . Richard Messinger (played by Laurence Luckinbil), a successful magazine art director . . . enters a hospital for minor surgery. Complications ensue and within days Richard dies. During this trauma, Julie Messinger (played by Jewish actress Dyan Cannon) finds a little black book and discovers her husband's flagrant unfaithfulness." Jewish writer Elaine May wrote the script. The Jewish producer, director/actor Otto Preminger produced and directed. The film also starred James Coco, Jennifer O'Neil, Nina Foch, Ken Howard, Burgess Meredith, Jewish actor Louise Lasser, Jewish actor Sam Levene, Rita Gam and Nancy Guild.
In the UA release Bananas (1971) a " . . . meek and mild product tester (played by Jewish actor Woody Allen) for a New York corporation accidentally becomes a South American rebel hero." According to Patricia Erens, Allen's character, Fielding Mellish, " . . . represents the perennial (Jewish) outsider trying to gain entrance." Allen wrote the script with Mickey Rose. Allen also directed for producer Jack Grossberg. Other stars included Jewish actress Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban and Jacobo Morales.
The 1971 MGM release The Jerusalem File (a U.S./Israeli production), deals with
" . . . the efforts of an Israeli intelligence officer, Major Samuels (Donald Pelasence), and a group of Israeli activities, to make connections with an Arab terrorist, Rashid, in order to explore the possibilities of peace." The script was written by Troy Kennedy Martin. John
Flynn directed for producer Ram Ben Efraim. The film also starred Bruce Davison, Nicol Williamson and Ian Hendry.
In the 1971 20th Century-Fox release The French Connection, "New York police track down a consignment of drugs entering the country in a car." Patricia Erens points out that " . . . the American drug boss Weinstock (an ugly, mean man) is a disreputable Jew." Ernest Tidyman wrote the script. Jewish director William Friedkin directed for producer Philip D. Antoni. The film starred Gene Hackman, Jewish actor Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey and Tony Lo Bianco.
In the Warner Bros. release Klute (1971) a " . . . policeman (played by Donald Sutherland) leaves the force to investigate the disappearance of a research scientist, and takes up with a (New York) call girl (Jane Fonda) who is involved." "Morris Strassberg plays Mr. Goldfarb, an elderly Jewish client . . . " of the prostitute. Andy K. Lewis and Dave Lewis wrote the script. Jewish producer/director Alan J. Pakula produced and directed. The film also starred Charles Cioffi, Jewish actor Roy Scheider and Rita Gam.
The 1971 release Fritz the Cat was an animated feature about an " . . . alleycat student in New York (who) seeks new and varied experience." "In one episode Fritz escapes from an orgy as the cops (pigs) burst in. Finding refuge in an Orthodox synagogue where rabbis (dogs) mumble their prayers, Fritz sneaks off to the washroom where he molests a cleaning woman. While there, the radio broadcasts that the Jews have just won U.S. government support for the Six-Day War. In celebration the rabbis dance the hora and Fritz sneaks off again. It is then announced that the Zionists plan to 'return the cities of New and Los Angeles to the United States.' Later Fritz meets a Jewish girl from Brooklyn, again a dog, who is hell-bent on marriage." Patrician Erens points out that these " . . . scenes are offensive and vicious . . . " therefore it " . . . would be easy to cry-anti-Semitism . . . " except that the film's writer/director Ralph Bakshi is Jewish, (the son of Jewish immigrants from
Russia) and he " . . . denigrates all of the characters . . . " some of which are not Jewish. Steve Krantz produced.
The 1972 comedy, The Heartbreak Kid chronicled the story " . . . of a young New York Jewish couple whose marriage disintegrates on the Florida turnpike, while they head south, just days after the wedding." Jewish actress Jeannie Berlin portrays " . . . a middle-class Jewish bride who gets dumped by her husband while on their honeymoon." The film was directed by Berlin's mother, (the Jewish director) Elaine May (Berlin), for producer Edgar J. Scherick. The film also starred Charles Grodin, Cybill Shepherd, Eddie Albert, Audra Lindley, William Prince and Art Metrano.
The 1972 UA release Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex presents seven sketches on sexual themes by Jewish filmmaker Woody Allen, two " . . . with recognizable Jewish characters . . . " and one of those was quite offensive to many in the Jewish community. "In this sequence, modeled on a television quiz show, Rabbi Cheim Baumel (Baruch Lumet) enacts his fantasy of being tied to a chair with a silk stocking and whipped by a beautiful blonde, while watching his wife eating pork." Patricia Erens points out that in " . . . addition to the irreverent tenor of the scene there is the implication that the Jew lusts after all that has been denied him--sexual pleasure and pork." Allen starred, wrote and directed the film for producer Charles H. Joffe. Other stars included Lynn Redgrave, Anthony Quayle, John Carradine, Jewish actor Lou Jacobi, Jewish actress Louise Lasser, Burt Reynolds, and Jewish actors Tony Randall (originally Leonard Rosenberg)
and Jewish actor Gene Wilder.
The 1972 Warner Bros. release Portnoy's Complaint was about a " . . . young New York Jewish boy (who) has mother and masturbation problems." The hero of the film " . . . is an intellectual young urbanite, Alexander Portnoy (played by Jewish actor Richard Benjamin), whose sexual problems and fantasies pervade his life." The film was written and directed by Jewish writer/director Ernest Lehman, who also produced. The other stars included Karen Black (born Karen Ziegler), Lee Black, Jack Somack and Jewish actresses Jill Clayburgh and Jeannie Berlin.
Also, in 1972, Paramount's Play It Again Sam Jewish actor Woody Allen stars as a " . . . neurotic Jewish film reviewer . . . " Allan Felix who " . . . is abandoned by his wife
. . . " She was " . . . fed up with his neurotic habits and fanatical film viewing . . . " According to Patricia Erens, the film " . . . includes little information to call attention to Felix's Jewishness . . . " but he " . . . suffers from . . . " what she calls " . . . Jewish angst--extreme anxiety and an obsession with sex and death." Allen also wrote the script. Jewish director Herbert Ross directed for producer Arthur P. Jacobs. Other stars include Diane Keaton, Jarry Lacy and Susan Anspach.
In the 1972 Allied Artists release Cabaret the " . . . primary Jewish character is Fraulein Natalia Landauer (played by Marisa Berenson), a proper young lady of upper-class origins . . . The story takes place in Berlin in 1931, on the eve of Hitler's ascent to power."
At that time, Berlin was " . . . a hot-bed of vice and anti-semitism. In the Kit Kat Klub, singer Sally Bowles (played by Liza Minnelli) shares her English lover with a homosexual German baron, and her Jewish friend (Natalia) . . . has troubles of her own." "Beyond the world of romance, the Nazis are gaining power. On the streets Jews are assaulted and even killed." Patricia Erens points out that " . . . as part of a popular (film) musical, the plight of the Jews was conveyed to millions of moviegoers who might not have chosen to see a film on the Holocaust." Jay Presson Allen wrote the script. Bob Fosse directed for producer Cy Feuer. The film also starred Jewish actor Joel Grey (originally Katz), Michael York, Helmut Griem and Fritz Wepper.
In the 1972 20th Century-Fox release The Poseidon Adventure a " . . . luxury liner is capsized, and trapped passengers have to find their way to freedom via an upside down world." "Among the group who struggle to reach safety are Belle and Manny Rosen (played by Jewish actress Shelley Winters and Jewish actor Jack Albertson), an elderly (Jewish) couple on their way to Israel to visit their grandchildren . . . Towards the end of the movie Bellie rescues . . . " the Reverend Frank Scott (played by Gene Hackman) but suffers a heart attack in the process. Sterling Silliphant and Wendell Mayes wrote the script. Ronald Neame directed for producer Irwin Allen. The film also starred Ernest Borgnine, Jewish actor Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Leslie Nielson, Arthur O'Connell, Pamela Sue Martin, Roddy McDowall, Eric Shea and Stella Stevens.
The 1972 release The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds told " . . . the story of a child's (Matilda, played by Nell Potts) struggle to assert her emotional and intellectual independence from a stifling and neurotic mother (Beatrice, played by Joanne Woodward). Only at school does Matilda find room to grow, primarily in the classroom of (her Jewish teacher) Mr. Goodman . . . " who " . . . comes to represent intellectual pursuits, order, inspiration, and unselfish generosity, as opposed to Beatrice's destructiveness." Alvin Sargent wrote the script. Paul Newman (whose father was Jewish) produced and directed. The film also starred Roberta Wallach (daughter of Jewish actor Eli Wallach) and Judith Lowry.
In the Warner Bros. release The Candidate, (1972) a " . . . young Californian lawyer (Bill McKay) is persuaded to run for senator . . . " McKay is played by Robert Redford and according to Patricia Erens, appears as " . . . .the ultimate WASP . . . ") In winning the election, McKay " . . . alienates his wife and obscures his real opinions." Erens, also points out that the Redford character was persuaded to run for office by an ambitious Jewish man, Marvin Lucas (played by Peter Boyle), although his " . . . Jewishness is never made explicit." In any case, according to Erens, Lucas " . . . surrounds McKay with Jews . . . " and as part of the " . . . effort to win, Lucas also " . . . hires an ad-agency genius named Klein (played by Allen Garfield, born Allen Goorwitz), who uses high-powered methods to win the vote." Erens concludes that the " . . . implicit message . . . " of all of this activity is that " . . . Jews have duped the WASPs". Jeremy Larner wrote the script. Michael Ritchie directed for producer Walter Coblenz. The film also starred Don Porter, Karen Carlson, Quinn Redeker, Morgan Upton and Melvyn Douglas (born Melvyn Hesselberg of a Jewish father).
In the 1972 20th Century-Fox release The Hot Rock, "[f]our crooks plan to rob the Brooklyn Museum of a priceless diamond." The group of four included two Jewish characters whose Jewish identities, according to Patricia Erens, are "pronounced". Those characters were Alan Greenberg (played by Paul Sand) and Stanley Murch (played by Jewish actor Ron Leibman). The other two non-Jewish crooks were played by Robert Redford and (Jewish actor) George Segal. Jewish novelist/screenwriter William Goldman wrote the script and Peter Yates directed for producers Hal Landers and Bobby Roberts.
The following year (1973), the UA release Jeremy starred Jewish actor Robby Benson (born Robert Segal, son of writer Jerry Segal) as " . . . a Jewish would-be cellist, meeting and wooing a Gentile lass who loves to dance." Arthur Barron directed for producer George Pappas. Also, in 1973, The Columbia release The Way We Were concerns the shaky marriage between " . . . a Jewish bluestocking girl . . . " named Katie Morosky (and played by Jewish actress Barbra Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford,) a New York WASP." According to Patricia Erens, the film presented " . . . the most dignified and positive Jewish heroine . . . of the decade . . . " It was " . . . one of the few films to depict a Jewish heroine and a Gentile hero . . . " and served " . . . as one of the few Hollywood films to portray Jewish social commitment . . . " The script was written by Jewish writer Arthur Laurents. Sydney Pollack (son of first-generation Russian-Jewish Americans) directed for producer Ray Stark. Other stars included Patrick O'Neal, Viveca Lindfors, Bradford Dillman, Lois Chiles, Allyn Ann McLerie, Jewish actor Herb Edelman
and Murray Hamilton.
In his 1973 film Sleeper (UA), Jewish filmmaker Woody Allen " . . . once again plays a Jewish Shlemiel . . . " In this film, Allen is a " . . . health food store owner (who) is deep frozen after an operation and wakes two hundred years in the future . . . In the middle of his futuristic comedy, Allen inserts a Jewish shtik: two robots named Ginsberg and Cohen
. . . " and as Friedman reports, "[e]thnic jokes, many of them about Jews, abound . . . "
Allen co-wrote the script with Jewish writer Marshall Brickman. Allen also directed for producer Jack Grossberg. Diane Keaton, John Beck and Mary Gregory also starred.
The 1973 Warner Bros. release Blume in Love was about a " . . . divorced (Jewish) American lawyer in Venice (who) reminisces about his love life." In other words, the Jewish lawyer (played by Jewish actor George Segal), " . . . does not discover how much he loves his wife until they are divorced." Jewish filmmaker Paul Mazursky wrote, produced and directed. The film also starred Susan Anspach, Kris Kristofferson, Marsha Mason and Jewish actress Shelley Winters.
The 1973 Paramount release Save the Tiger (directed by John G. Avildsen) also takes a " . . . low key approach to Jewish identification. The story concerns the midlife crisis of Los Angeles garment manufacturer Henry Stoner. With business on the rocks and an indifferent marriage, Stoner (played by Jack Lemmon) temporarily seeks answers from the hippie generation." One of his partners " . . . Phil Green (played by Jewish actor Jack Gilford) represents an ethical businessman who speaks with a Yiddish inflection . . . " A material cutter " . . . named Meyer (William Hansen) . . . speaks with an immigrant accept, yet he remains the one dignified person in the film." Steve Shagan wrote the script and produced. Other stars included Laurie Heineman, Norman Burton and Thayer David. The 1973 Universal release Jesus Christ Superstar (directed by Norman Jewison) portrayed young tourists in Israel re-enacting " . . . episodes of the life of Christ." According to Patricia Erens " . . . questions of censorship and religious offense were raised (in connection with the film) by Jewish and Christian clergy alike." A " . . . spokesman for the American Jewish committee, compared ' . . . the film to the old Passion Plays which have always type-cast the Jewish people as the villains in events leading to Jesus's death . . . " Erens reports that the film " . . . points a finger at the entire nation of Jews (rather than at individuals)." Jewison also wrote the script with Melvyn Bragg and produced with Robert Stigwood. The film starred Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman and Barry Dennen.
In the 1973 release The Last of Sheila a " . . . conniving Hollywood-producer (played by James Coburn) . . . invites six friends for a cruise, during which he plans to discover which one killed his wife at a party a year ago." "As Christine, Dyan Cannon (born Samile Diane Friesen) plays a sarcastic, (aggressive) often funny, seductive (Jewish) talent agent
. . . " The film also starred Jewish actor Richard Benjamin, James Mason, Joan Hackett, Raquel Welch and Ian McShane. Jewish composer and writer Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins wrote the script. Jewish director Herbert Ross directed.
In the 1973 UA release The Long Goodbye detective Philip Marlowe (played by Jewish actor Elliott Gould) " . . . helps an eccentric friend who is suspected of murdering his wife." The film includes a negative portrayal of a Jewish character (a Jewish hoodlum) played by Mark Rydell, who " . . . wears a Star of David . . . prominently displayed . . . around his neck . . . " but in " . . . one devastating scene he cuts the face of his girlfriend with a Coke bottle to prove he 'means business'." Leigh Brackett wrote the script. Robert Altman (of Catholic background) directed for producer Jerry Bick. The film also starred Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden and Henry Gibson.
In the 1973 Paramount release Hit!, a " . . . federal judge . . . (played by Billy Dee Williams) vows revenge against the white Marseilles dope exporters whom he holds responsible for the death of his daughter. To achieve this revenge he enlists a group of men and women who have all been scarred by their contact with drugs. Two of the members are Ida (Janet Brandt) and Herman (Sid Melton), a middle-aged Jewish couple whose son overdosed." Alan Trustman and David M. Wolf wrote the script. Sidney J. Furie directed for producer Harry Korshak.
In the 1973 Warner Bros. release The Exorcist a " . . . small girl (Linda Blair) is unaccountably possessed by the devil and turned into a repellant monster who causes several violent deaths before she is cured." A " . . . Jewish detective, Lieutenant Kinderman (played by Jewish actor Lee J. Cobb) . . . is assigned to the case." According to Patricia Erens, "Kinderman represents rational intellect over mystical religious belief. As he investigates this Christian phenomenon, he emerges as the archetypal disbeliever and his Judaism takes on symbolic proportions." William Peter Blatty wrote the script and produced. Jewish director William Friedkin directed. The film also starred Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and Kitty Winn.
The 1973 MGM release Soylent Green portrays New York city in the year 2022 with a population of 40 million. Its residents exist " . . . in perpetual heat on synthetic foods . . . " Jewish actor Edward G. Robinson ". . . plays (a Jewish character) Sol Roth, the old friend of the hero Thorne (played by Charlton Heston)." Thorne learns from " . . . his elderly friend about an earlier time when things were better." As Patricia Erens points out, it is " . . . Sol who discovers that the soylent green distributed by the government is really dead bodies and thus the Jew becomes the bearer of truth." The script was written by Stanley R. Greenberg. Jewish director Richard Fleischer directed for producers Walter
Seltzer and Russell Thatcher. The film also starred Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Brock Peters and Joseph Cotton.
The 1974 20th Century-Fox release Harry and Tonto (1974), features Art Carney in a portrayal of " . . . a Jewish old man on the road to discovery and independence." Paul Mazursky (born Irwin Mazursky to parents of " . . . Russian-Jewish descent . . . ") produced and directed. He also wrote the script with Josh Greenfield. The stars were Art
Carney, Ellen Burstyn, Chief Dan George, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Larry Hagman, Arthur Hunnicutt and Herbert Berghof.
Also, in 1974, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, a Canadian production released in the U.S., starred (New York-born Jewish-American actor) Richard Dreyfuss as a " . . . hustling Jewish teenager on the make in Montreal." Erens calls the film an " . . . insider's tale peopled almost entirely with Jewish characters." The script was written by the Canadian-Jewish writer Mordecai Richler. Canadian Ted Kotcheff directed for producer Gerald Schneider. The film also starred Micheline Lanctot, Jack Warden, Randy Quaid, Denholm Elliott and Jewish actor Joseph Wiseman.
The 1974 Warner Bros. release Lepke is described by Patricia Erens as " . . . an American-Jewish gangster film . . . " that " . . . clearly acknowledges its Jewish criminals
. . . " one of the few Hollywood films about Jewish gangsters that acknowledges the lead character's Jewishness. The film starred Jewish actor Tony Curtis as Lewis "Lepke" Buchalther and Jewish performer Milton Berle appears " . . . as Buchalter's old-world father-in-law." Of course, one of the messages being communicated by such movies and casting is that if you work hard enough to become a notorious crime figure, you may be immortalized with a major motion picture and you may be represented on the screen by a handsome and glamorous movie star. Others featured in Lepke were Anjanette Comer, Michael Callan, Jewish actor Warren Berlinger, and Gianni Russo. Wesley Lau and Tamar Hoffs wrote the script for Israeli native Menahem Golan who produced and directed.
As Patricia Erens points out, " . . . the Jewish narrative content is slim . . . " in the 1974 Warner Bros. release Blazing Saddles but when " . . . .the cowboys ride out onto the plain (in this parody of the western) they come upon Yiddish-speaking Indians. On the headband of one Indian (played by Brooks) are Hebrew letters reading 'Kosher for Passover'
. . . the film also includes Yiddish phrases . . . (and) references to the killing of every first-born male child; a reminder of the Passover story . . . " Norman Steinberg, Jewish writer Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Alan Unger and Jewish filmmaker Mel Brooks all contributed to the script. Brooks also directed for producer MichaelHerzberg. The film starred Clevon Little, Jewish actor Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Jewish actor Harvey Korman, Jewish actress Madeline Kahn, Burton Gilliam and Alex Karras.
The 1974 Columbia release The Odessa File was about a young German reporter, Peter Miller (played by Jon Voight) who, in 1963, tracks down the former commandant of a Nazi concentration camp and in the process " . . . learns of the existence of Odessa, a secret organization of ex-SS officers, who hold positions of power in commerce and government and who work to destroy Israel." Kenneth Ross and George Markstein wrote the script. Ronald
Naeme directed for producer John Woolf. The other stars included Maria Schell, Maximilian Schell, Mary Tamm, Derek Jacobi, Peter Jeffrey and Noel Willman.
The 1974 Paramount release The Godfather, Part II starred Al Pacino as Italian gangster Michael Corleone and attempts to explain " . . . the present in terms of the past
. . . " The film also presents Jewish actor/teacher Lee Strasberg as Jewish gangster Hyman Roth, a portrayal " . . . based on one of the most powerful Jewish criminals in American history--Meyer Lansky." Francis Ford Coppola (of Italian-American parents)
and Mario Puzo wrote the script. Coppola also produced and directed. The film also starred Robert de Niro, (of Italian-Jewish heritage) Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Michael V. Gasso, Talla Shire and Troy Donahue.
In the Columbia Pictures release For Pete's Sake (1974) a " . . . New York taxi driver's wife (Henrietta, played by Jewish actress Barbra Streisand) borrows money and finds herself heavily committed to work off the debt . . . " so, she turns to prostitution. Jewish actress "Molly Picon plays the (Jewish) entrepreneur Mrs. Cherry, who helps housewives turn a trick in the comfort of their own homes . . . She reassures Henrietta . . . that the clients are just little boys with fantasies, who are searching for their 'finest hour'." Stanley Shapiro and Martin Richlin wrote the script. Peter Yates directed for producers Shapiro and Martin Erlichman. The film also starred Michael Sarrazin, Estelle Parsons and William Redfield.
THE HOLLYWOOD PORTRAYALS OF JEWS
IN THE CENTURY'S LAST QUARTER
For purposes of analysis and presentation, the material covered in this chapter has been organized along topical lines as opposed to purely chronologically as in the previouis two chapters. Such a presenation makes it clear that some of the previously established patterns relating to how the Hollywood control group portrays its fellow Jews continues through the century's last quarter. Also, most of such portrayals are favorable. By far the most popular setting for feature films portraying Jewish characters is the entertainment industry. Approximately 30 of the 186 films (16%) of this group focused on the entertainment industry. The next largest sub-category tends to be so-called relationship films of one sort of another. There were 23 of such films during the last quarter of the century through the early '90s. Following close behind were the films dealing with the Holocaust and in a related area, films dealing with various forms of prejudice, including intolerance, race relations and anti-Semitism. Another grouping involved films portraying Jewish females. Then another category sometimes overlapping the prejudice and relationship categories dealt with cultural conflict. There were 12 films presenting those sorts of situations in this group. Beyond that, the films of the last quarter of century included 9 about Jewish gangster/hoodlums, 8 presenting various aspects of Mid-East politics, 6 highlighting immigrant stories, 6 featuring Jewish scientists or other bright individuals including an electronics genius, 5 films about Jewish youth, another 5 focused on religious themes and 4 autobiographical films. Other categories include films about Jewish attorneys (3), detective/investigators (2), police (3), vampires (2), Western characters (2), wealthy Jews (2) and World War II events, other than the Holocaust (2). Although not treated as a separate
category of films for purposes of this analyis, another common thread running through these movies is the portrayal of the Jewish character as an outsider.
With respect to geograhical settings, New York, Europe and the Mid-East came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd, among these films, far outpacing any other locales. Based on the information provided in these reviews, it appears that one movie each, in this group of the last quarter century, were set in Africa, Canada, New England and South America. Although, 3 of these movies were set in the American South, these films portrayed most white Southerners in a negative or stereotypical manner (see "Hollywood's Rape of the South" in Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content).
Specifically, with reference to the film's of the '80s decade, Lester Friedman makes the statement that the " . . . films of the eighties have . . . been filled with portraits of Jews. Sadly, (according to Friedman) most of these Jewish characters have been negative . . . ."
On the other hand, this study reveals that the accuracy of Friedman's observation is dubious, at best, although it may be true that most portrayals of Hollywood studio executives appear to be somewhat negative. On the other hand, if actually compared with the real-life behavior of this particular group, the movie portrayals may actually be positive. Also, admittedly, a portrayal of a Jewish person may not appear negative to a non-Jewish person but may be considered negative to a Jewish person. The same is true with respect to the film portrayals of members of any other religious, ethnic, racial, cultural or religious group. The differences lie in the degree of negativity, whether the negative portrayal is set within the context of a comedy, who is responsible for the portrayal and whether the portrayal is part of a larger pattern of bias.
In other words, some negative portrayals in film are vicious, (e.g., the comment by Robert Duvall in Geronimo that "Texans are the lowest form of human life.") That comment was not made within the context of a comedy. If the screenplay was written by a non-Texan, the film was directed by a non-Texan and most of the people who had any authority to include or exclude such a statement were non-Texans, then such a statement is even less acceptable. Such a statement becomes even more offensive when it appears to be a part of a much larger pattern of bias in films against Texans or people from the South, in general, and that does, in fact, appear to be the case.
If the roles were reversed, and a film was produced and released by a major studio/distributor which was predominantly owned and controlled by Texans (and none are), and the film included a comment by a non-Jewish character who said "Jews are the lowest form of human life . . . " such a statement would not only be unacceptable, it would be considered outrageous by most fair-minded people in the world today. If then it is outrageous to make such a statement about Jewish people, it should also be outrageous to make such a statement about African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, women, gay/lesbians, Christians, Arabs, Asians, people from the South and Texans, particularly, if these groups seem to have been the targets of the film industry's negative portrayals over the years and the film industry is controlled by a small group of Jewish males of European heritage, who are politically liberal and not very religious, and who also seem to favor the hiring of Jewish producers, directors, writers, actors and actresses, particularly for projects relating to Jewish concerns. Besides, if Lester Friedman wants to see some really negative and stereotypical portrayals of a human population, he only has to review the chapter referred to above dealing with Hollywood's many decades of treatment of people, places and things from the American South in this book's companion volume, Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content.
Entertainment--Within the broader category of entertainment industry films from this last quarter century 13 of these films were about the movie industry, 7 focused on Broadway, 5 dealt with television, 3 featured vaudeville performers, and one each presented rock singers and a stand-up comic.
The 1975 release Hearts of the West told the story of " . . . an aspiring young writer from Iowa in the early (1920's) . . . who heads for Titan, Nevada, and winds up in Hollywood." As Patricia Erens reports, the film was " . . . about the early days of movie production on Poverty Row . . . " and portrays " . . . two idiosyncratic Jewish characters: Kessler (played by Jewish actor Alan Arkin), a low-budget film producer, and A.J. Nietz (Donald Pleasence), a mogul who has made his fortune from publishing pulp fiction . . . " Erens also states that there was " . . . a whole array of Jewish types (floating in and out of the movie) in the capacity of executives, technicians, costumers, and party guests . . . " and that " . . . the Jews came off as exploiters . . . " Film critic Richard Goldstein, of the Village Voice, described the film as " . . . a win-some little comedy, in which venal Jews oppress innocent Christians, while in the background romance and ambience keep us from taking it to heart." Jewish director Howard Zieff directed. The film also starred Jeff Bridges, Blythe Danner and Andy Griffith.
In the 1975 MGM release, The Sunshine Boys two veteran vaudevillians who have shared a hate-love relationship for decades come together for a television spot, and ruin it. As Patricia Erens points out, the film possesses " . . . a Jewish aura although the milieu is left rather vague." The script was written by Jewish writer Neil Simon. Jewish director Herbert Ross directed for producer Ray Stark. The film starred Jewish actor Walter Matthau, Jewish performer George Burns (Nathan Birnbaum), Jewish actor Richard Benjamin and Carol Arthur.
The 1976 Universal release Gable and Lombard was set following " . . . Carole Lombard's death in a 1942 air crash . . . " and the film portrays Clark Gable recalling " . . . their years together." The film also presents the character of Jewish studio boss Louis B. Mayer (played by Allen Garfield, originally Goorwitz) " . . . one of the obstacles to their marriage." According to Patricia Erens, Mayer also " . . . emerges as a disingenuous personality, more concerned with selling films, making money, and preserving his personal power than with the welfare of his 'family'." Jewish writer Barry Sandler wrote the script. Sidney J. Furie directed for producer Harry Korshak. The film's other stars were James Brolin, Jewish actress Jill Clayburgh, Jewish actor Red Buttons and Joanne Linville.
In another film about a "Jewish son" the 1976 Columbia release The Front focuses on " . . . the blacklisting of television personalities during the 1950s. Alfred Miller (Michael Murphy) attempts to use his old high school chum, Howard Prince (a small-time Jewish bookie, played by Jewish actor Woody Allen), as a front for several unemployed writers." As Patricia Erens reports, "[l]ittle is made of the ethnic elements in The Front although the cast and characters are overwhelmingly Jewish." Jewish writer Walter Bernstein wrote the script. Jewish producer/director Martin Ritt directed and produced with Charles H. Joffe. The film also starred Jewish actors Zero Mostel and Herschel Bernardi, along with Andrea Marcovicci and Lloyd Gough.
In the 1976 Paramount release Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Art Carney and (Jewish actor) Phil Silvers " . . . play J.J. and Murray Fromberg, a low-budget studio chief near bankruptcy, and his brother-in-law." According to Patricia Erens, J.J. and Murray are composite figures probably modeled on the (Jewish) Warner Brothers, who, according to some film historians, were saved from bankruptcy by the success of the Rin Tin Tin films." Erens says that "[t]ogether they offer another portrayal of the Jewish mogul as nasty exploiter." Arnold Schulman and Cy Howard wrote the script. Michael Winner directed for Jewish producer David V. Picker, who produced with Schulman and Winner. The film also starred Jewish actress Madeline Kahn, Bruce Dern, Jewish actor Ron Leibman, Dennis Morgan, William Demarest, Virginia Mayo and Jewish performer George Jessel.
In another 1976 Paramount release The Last Tycoon the " . . . lead character, movie producer Monroe Stahr, is clearly identified as Jewish." When the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel on which the film is based " . . . was published, most people recognized Stahr as a thinly veiled portrait of Irving J. Thalberg." Jewish writer Harold Pinter wrote the script. Elia Kazan directed for Jewish producer Sam Spiegel (son of Russian Jew Simon Spiegel). Robert de Niro (of Italian-Jewish heritage) starred with Robert Mitchum, Jewish actor Tony Curtis, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Boulting, Donald Pleasance, Ray Milland, Dana Andrews and John Carradine.
In the 1976 20th Century-Fox release Silent Movie, an " . . . alcoholic producer gets the idea that a silent movie would be a great novelty, and tries to get stars to take part." Jewish filmmaker/actor Mel Brooks and Jewish comedian Sid Caesar " . . . play ethnic studio types." Brooks directed and wrote the script with Ron Clark, Rudy de Luca and Barry Levinson. The film also starred Jewish actor Marty Feldman, Dom de Luise, Bernadette Peters, Harold Gould, Fritz Feld, Jewish comedian Harry Ritz (son of Max Joachim of Austria) and Jewish comedian Henny Youngman.
The 1976 Warner Bros. release A Star is Born was a remake of earlier versions appearing in 1937 and 1954. Jewish actress Barbra Streisand starred as Esther Hoffman and Kris Kristofferson as John Norman Howard. Both are rock singers. As Patricia Erens points out, "[l]ittle in the film deals with ethnicity, but it is of interest that Streisand, who produced (with Jon Peters) and therefore had control over the script, found it important to portray herself as Jewish." Credit for writing the script went to John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion and Frank Pierson (who also directed). Others featured included Jewish filmmaker Paul Mazursky and Gary Busey.
According to Patricia Erens, the 1977 Columbia Pictures release You Light Up My Life was "[a]nother film which features the Jewish milieu of Hollywood . . . " The film told the story of a " . . . child veteran of the vaudeville circuit, Laurie Robinson (who) aspires to be a singer, despite her father Si's (Joe Silver) encouragement to remain a comedian. Several of the minor characters flesh out the ethnic background, including Laurie's friend Annie (Melanie Mayron), Richard, the director, and Mr. Nussbaum (Marty Zagon), the wedding
director." Joseph Brooks wrote, produced and directed. The film also starred Didi Conn, Michael Zaslow, Stephan Nathan, Melanie Mayron, Amy Letterman and Jerry Keller.
In the 1977 UA release Valentino reporters " . . . quiz celebrities at a star's funeral and his eccentric life unfolds." The film includes appearances of characters representing both Jewish producer Jesse Lasky (played by Huntz Hall) and Jewish actress Nazimova (played by Leslie Caron) . . . Like most of the other moguls portrayed, (Lasky's) . . . first concern is for the studio. Likewise, he has a tendency to treat his stars as innocent children." Ken Russell directed and wrote the script with Mardik Martin. Harry Benn produced. The film also starred Rudolf Nureyev, Michelle Phillips, Jewish actress Carol Kane, Felicity Kendal, David de Keyser, Alfred Marks, Anton Diffring, Jennie Linden and John Justin.
The 1978 Warner Bros. release Hooper was about " . . . an aging stunt man (who) decides on one last sensational stunt before retiring." The film included a sendup of Jewish director Peter Bogdanovich (played by Jewish actor Robert Klein). Bogdonovich was portrayed as a "petulant", "arrogant", "pretentious auteur", although " . . . famous for his single takes . . . " The film starred Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Brian Kieth, Jan-Michael Vincent, John Marley, James Best and Adam West. Hal Needham directed the script written by Thomas Rickman and Bill Kerby for producers Lawrence Gordon and Hank Moonjean.
The 1978 Paramount release The One and Only features " . . . Henry Winkler (of Jewish origins) as Andy Schmidt, a starry-eyed kid who wants to make it on the Great White Way. Instead, he is promoted as a boxer by a jaded (Jewish) entrepreneur, Sidney Seltzer (Gene Saks). Despite Sidney's disreputable business practices, he emerges as a warm-hearted human being with a real concern for the boy." Steve Gordon wrote the script and produced with Jewish producer David V. Picker. Jewish director Carl Reiner directed. The film also starred Kim Darby, William Daniels, Polly Holiday, Herve Villechaize, Harold Gould and Richard Lane.
The 1980 movie Those Lips, Those Eyes feature Jewish characters in central roles. The film is " . . . a comedy about a third-rank vaudeville actor, Harry Chrystal (Frank Langella), stuck in a small town for the season. Here he meets Artie Shoemaker (Thomas Hulce), a stagestruck kid who wants to be a big star . . . The film also includes the cynical Broadway agent Mickey Bellinger (Kevin McCarthy)." Michael Pressman directed.
As noted earlier, The Jazz Singer was remade in 1980, starring Jewish performer Neil Diamond. Friedman states that the message of this modern version " . . . is that American success and Judaism are not mutually exclusive . . . " Richard Fleischer (the son of Jewish producer Max Fleischer) directed for producer Jerry Leider. In this version " . . . the story concerns a contemporary (Jewish) family who have immigrated to the United States after the Holocaust."
The MGM release Fame (1980) included the portrayal of " . . . a Jewish girl, Dores Feinsecker (Maureen Teefy), who tries to make it in show business." Alan Parker directed for producers David de Silva and Alan Marshall. The film also starred Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Laura Dean, Paul McCrane, Barry Miller and Gene Anthony Ray.
In addition, Jewish actor Alan King played " . . . an egotistical Jewish tycoon (Hollywood mogul) . . . " in the Warner Bros. release Just Tell Me What You Want (1980). Jewish producer/director Sidney Lumet (the son of Yiddish stage actors) directed and co-
produced with Jay Presson Allen. As Erens points out, the film " . . . goes out of its way to announce its Jewishness and to insert ethnic material tangential to the plot."
The 1981 Paramount release Mommie Dearest provided an account of the private life of Joan Crawford, from the biography by her adopted daughter Christina, who claimed spectacular ill-treatment." The film also included a portrayal of Jewish studio executive Louis B. Mayer, who Crawford (played by Faye Dunaway) discovers is " . . . the one person she can't manipulate . . . Despite his cordiality and paternalism, he is all business, and once he decides to drop Crawford's contract, no amount of persuasion will change his mind." According to Patricia Erens, the movie makes it " . . . clear that the real power in Hollywood resides with the producers . . . " (i.e., the studio executive)." The film was written and produced by the Jewish writer/producer/studio executive Frank Yablans. Frank Perry (husband of Jewish writer Eleanor Perry) directed. Other stars included Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest, and Jewish actor Howard da Silva (as Mayer).
Also, in 1981, Soup for One follows " . . . the ups and downs of Allan Martin (played by Saul Rubinek), a (Jewish) television writer who dreams of the perfect women." Marcia Strassman plays the " . . . Italian free spirit . . . " that Allan eventually marries. Jonathan Kaufer directed. The film also starred Gerrit Graham.
Also, in 1981, Ragtime (1981) contains a " . . . portrait of a Jewish immigrant turned filmmaker . . . " "Tateh (Mandy Patinkin) " . . . ekes out a living creating silhouettes . . . " but " . . . eventually . . . recognizes the future of moving pictures and rises to fame as Baron Ashkenazi (a spoof on Jewish directors like Erich von Stroheim, who hid his Jewish origins and adopted noble European airs)." Czechoslovakia-born Milos Foreman (" . . . son of a Jewish professor of education and (a) . . . Protestant . . . " mother) directed for producer Dino de Laurentiis. The script was adapted from Jewish writer E.L. Doctorow's novel. The film also starred James Olson, Mary Steenburgen, James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Elizabeth McGovern and Moses Gunn.
The 1982 MGM/UA release My Favorite Year was directed by Jewish director Richard Benjamin. The film " . . . focuses on the aspiring young Jewish comedy writer Benjy Stone (played by Mark Linn-Baker) during the hectic years of early television." The script was written by Norman Steinberg and Dennis Palumbo for producer Michael Gruskoff. The film also starred Peter O'Toole, Jessica Harper, Joseph Balogna, Bill Macy, Lainie Kazan, Jewish actor Lou Jacobi and Cameron Mitchell.
The 1982 EMI/Brooksfilm release Frances portrayed the " . . . downhill career of 30s actress Frances Farmer." It also included a negative portrayal of a Paramount studio executive named "B.B." "Condescending and insulting, he cautions Frances Farmer (Jessica Lange) about stepping out of line and sets about to ruin her when she does not take orders from the studio like other starlets." As discussed in Motion Picture Biographies, the film also " . . . contains an unflattering depiction of (Jewish writer) Clifford Odets." The script was written by Eric Bergre, Christopher Devore and Nicholas Kazan. Graeme Clifford directed for producer Jonathan Sanger. Kim Stanley, Sam Shepard, Bart Burns and Jeffrey de Munn also starred.
In the 1982 Columbia release Tootsie, about " . . . an out-of-work actor (who) pretends to be a woman in order to get a job in a soap opera . . . " Jewish filmmaker " . . . Sydney Pollack takes the role of a Jewish talent agent . . . " Pollack also produced and directed. The script was written by Jewish writer Larry Gelbart and Murray Shisgal. The film also starred Jewish actor Dustin Hoffman, along with Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning and George Gaynes.
The 1982 Warner Bros. release Best Friends was about [t]wo writers who have enjoyed a peaceful professional relationship (but) find problems when they get married and visit their respective families." The film includes a negative portrayal of a Jewish film producer by a Jewish actor " . . . Ron Silver (who) impersonates an aggressive, manipulative Hollywood movie man (Jerry) who hides behind his young son for excuses. Deferring to his secretary, he spends most of the day sporting tennis attire and leaving the work to others." The script was written by Valerie Curtin and Jewish writer/director Barry Levinson. Norman Jewison directed and produced with Joe Wizan.
The 1982 Columbia Pictures release Tempest (produced, written and directed by Jewish filmmaker Paul Mazursky) featured several Jewish characters, " . . . Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfield, a Broadway producer and his wife, played by . . . Mazursky and his wife . . . " along with Henry Gondorff (Jerry Hardin), a Jewish comedian . . . " The film starred John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandan and Paul Stewart.
The 1982 20th Century-Fox release Author, Author! was about a " . . . Broadway playwright (who) has worries about his wife's fidelity." Jewish actor " . . . Alan King takes the role of Kreplich, a bearded Jewish producer. Also in the cast is the Jewish theatrical director, Morris Feinstein." The script was written by Israel Horovitz. Arthur Hiller directed for Jewish producer Irwin Winkler. The film also starred Al Pacino, Jewish actress Dyan Cannon, Tuesday Weld, Bob Dishy and Bob Elliott.
The 1983 20th Century-Fox release The King of Comedy starred Robert De Niro (of Italian-Jewish heritage) as Rupert Pupkin, " . . . an aspiring television comedian, (Jewish performer) Jerry Lewis as Jerry Langford, a successful television host, and Sandra Bernhard as Masha, a wealthy groupie." As Patricia Erens reports, "[a]ll three are quirky individuals, who are difficult to like; (and) all three are Jewish." Erens raises the question as to why director Martin Scorsese (of Sicilian-American parents) whose " . . . works have been steeped in Roman Catholic anguish and guilt . . . would suddenly choose a Jewish milieu . . . " for this film. She answers by suggesting that one " . . . possibility is the obvious fact that Jews are dominant in the entertainment business . . . especially in the world of film and television comedy." The script for the film was written by Paul D. Zimmermann for Israeli-born producer Arnon Milchan.
The 1983 film The First Time is described by Patricia Erens as a " . . . genial tale of Jewish involvement with entertainment. It is " . . . a story of the education of Charlie Lichtenstein (Tim Choate) . . . " who aspires " . . . to become the great American director
. . . " As directed by Charlie Loventhal, the film also serves as a comment on " . . . the pretentiousness of film schools . . . " Others featured in this film include Krista Erickson, Marshall Efron and Wallace Shawn.
In 1984, the Orion release Broadway Danny Rose, featured a Jewish theatrical agent and former comic who runs afoul of the Mafia while promoting a client. The agent " . . . represents some of the worst talent ever assembled . . . " Jewish filmmaker Woody Allen wrote and directed for producer Robert Greenhut. Allen also starred with Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte, Crag Vandenbergh and Herb Reynolds.
In 1992, Jewish performer Billy Crystal's Mr. Saturday Night was " . . . about a stand-up comedian who doesn't have a good feel for his room . . . " He " . . . gives his best
performance at his mother's funeral . . . when . . . the rabbi says, "if anyone has a few words
. . . '" Crystal's character has " . . . a mysterious and relentless craving in the pit of his Brooklyn-Jewish soul that forces him to turn his parents and relatives into a captive but convulsed audience." "Buddy's jokes emerge from both his Jewish-family background and his own screwy, neurotic personality . . . " The film is actually a tribute to and " . . . a synthesis of all the famous Jewish comics who flourished between the decline of vaudeville and the explosion of the pop '60s." Crystal wrote the script with Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Crystal also directed. Other stars included David Paymer, Julie Warner, Helen Hunt and Ron Silver.
Finally, in 1994, the Miramax release Bullets Over Broadway, told the story of a Jewish writer/director on Broadway (played by John Cusack) who obtained financing for his third play by promising an important part to a gangster's girlfriend. Jewish writer/director Woody Allen wrote and directed. The film also starred Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Tilly, Jewish actor Harvey Fierstein, Chazz Palminteri, Rob Reiner (the son of Jewish director Carl Reiner), Jim Broadbent, Tracey Ullman, Joe Viterelli, Jack Warden and Mary-Louise Parker.
Relationships--Of course a great many films feature portrayals of relationships, and within the category of Hollywood feature films of the last quarter century, portraying Jewish characters, stories, themes, sub-plots or issues, a significant portion focus on relationships (23 out of 186 or nearly 12.3%).
In the 1975 Columbia release Shampoo the wife of " . . . a hard-nosed (Jewish) businessman, Lester Karp (played by Jack Warden) . . . sleeps with her beautician, George (Warren Beatty)." The angry daughter " . . . spends her time on the family tennis court (and) . . . can think of little beyond stealing (her mother's) . . . lover ." Robert Towne wrote the script with Beatty, who also produced. Hal Ashby directed. The film also starred Julie Christie, Jay Robinson, Tony Bill and Jewish actresses Lee Grant, and Goldie Hawn.
The 1977 20th Century-Fox release Fire Sale focused on the "[m]isadventures of a frantic, eccentric New York-Jewish family who own a department store." The film was considered derogatory to Jews and received very limited distribution. Robert Klane wrote the script. Jewish actor/director Alan Arkin starred and directed for producer Marvin Worth. Other stars included Rob Reiner, (the son of Jewish director Carl Reiner) Vincent Gardenia, Anajanette Comer, Kay Medford, Jewish comedian Sid Caesar and Alex Rocco.
The 1977 Warner Bros. release The Goodbye Girl was a " . . . romantic comedy set in New York." Marsha Mason starred as " . . . a Broadway chorine whose lover skipped town and sold his apartment lease to . . . (a Jewish) . . . stage actor from Chicago (played by Jewish actor Richard Dreyfuss) trying to make it in the big city." The trouble is, Mason and her worldly ten-year-daughter . . . are still in the apartment." Erens calls the film " . . . another Jew and Shiksa story . . . " Jewish writer Neil Simon wrote the script. Jewish director Herbert Ross directed for producer Ray Stark. The film also starred Quinn Cummings, Paul Benedict and Barbara Rhoades.
In the 1977 UA release Annie Hall, Jewish writer/director Woody Allen played a self-conscious, liberal, intellectual New York Jewish comedian who has an affair with a midwestern girl (Diane Keaton). According to Roger Ebert the movie is saying that " . . . enduring relationships are very likely impossible . . . (but) . . . that life without the search for relationships is unthinkable." As Patricia Erens points out the film's " . . . Jewish/Gentile relations serve as the work's theme, the reason for the couple's attraction and the cause of their ultimate parting." Allen wrote the script (with Jewish writer Marshall Brickman) and directed for producers Jack Rollins, Charles H. Joffe and Fred T. Gallo. The film also starred Tony Roberts, Jewish actress Carol Kane, Jewish singer/actor Paul Simon and Shelly Duvall.
The 1977 release Fingers was about the " . . . child of an emotionally disturbed Jewish mother, who wants him to follow in her footsteps as a concert pianist, and an Italian father, who involves him in the shady world of the loan shark." Jewish writer James Toback wrote and directed for producer George Barrie. The film starred Jewish actor Harvey Keitel, Tisa Farrow, Jim Brown, Marian Seldes and Danny Aiello.
In the 1978 Avco release A Different Story a lesbian character (Stella, played by Meg Foster) " . . . finds happiness in the arms of a gay lover. As her girlfriend, Phyllis Pearlman (Valerie Curtin) is naturally jealous. Desperate for attention and love, Phyllis locks herself in the bathroom, threatens suicide, and emerges only when Stella threatens to call her mother." Patricia Erens states that "[l]ike other Jewish women, Phyllis retains a symbiotic relationship with her mother . . . " Also, "[r]iddled with guilt about her sexual tendencies, she cannot face her mother, who is still trying to find her a 'nice Jewish boy'." Henry Olck wrote the script. Paul Aaron directed. The film also starred Perry King and Peter Donat.
That same year (1978), The Summer of My German Soldier, a so-called made for TV movie, starred Kristy McNichol in the story of " . . . the relationship between a Jewish teenager, luminously played by McNichol, and an escaping anti-Nazi German POW . . . " As noted earlier, the film is " . . . set in a small town in the deep South during WWII (and) . . . deals with the hatred of the townsfolk for the German POW's interned in their midst, and the bonds of friendship that develop between the girl, rejected by her father, and the young man." Michael Tuchner directed.
Another script by Jewish writer Neil Simon with a Jewish character was the 1978 Columbia release California Suite. The film was about the "[m]isadventures of four groups of guests at the Beverly Hills Hotel." According to Patricia Erens the film " . . . makes ethnicity unmistakable . . . In one episode Marvin Michaels (played by Jewish actor Walter Matthau) comes west for his nephew's Bar Mitzvah. Arriving one day ahead of his wife, Millie (played by the Jewish actress Elaine May),