Skip to comments.NewsBusters Interview: Rediscovering the Old Hollywood Right
Posted on 01/23/2014 8:18:29 PM PST by Kaslin
Its hard to imagine but for many years, conservatives and Republicans were rather common in Hollywood. Exploring that history is worth doing not just because it is informative but also because it illustrates that there is no good reason that people on the Right could not have a bigger presence in that industry today.
Arizona State University professor Donald Critchlow has done an important service in this regard with his new book When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. I had the pleasure recently of speaking with him about his work, the transcript of which follows this introduction.
Although today the top executives at the major studios and television networks are almost uniformly partisans of the Left, the reverse was actually true in the 20th century. The earliest and most successful titans of early Hollywood were actually quite conservative. As Critchlow discusses in minute detail, men like Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, and Walt Disney were active in politics for many decades.
According to Critchlow, the Hollywood Right was originally not that interested in politics until 1934 when socialist author Upton Sinclair managed to become the Democratic Partys candidate for governor of California. Pushing a policy platform that was far more radical than anything that the Roosevelt Administration was promoting nationally, Sinclairs candidacy energized the founders of the entertainment industry.
Together, the studio heads along with newspaper moguls William Randolph Hearst and Otis Chandler attacked Sinclair with the written word but also through newsreels played before entertainment feature films that slammed the Democratic candidates policies. (Media bias, anyone?)
While most of the early media moguls were conservative, many of the most famous actors in the time period also leaned Rightward including Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Robert Taylor, Rock Hudson, and Ronald Reagan.
Beyond the discussion of the Hollywood Right, Critchlows book is also worth reading because it takes a fair approach to 20th century Hollywood in his examination of the controversies surrounding the activities of the Communist Party in the United States.
This is important because, as the Hollywood Blacklist has faded into history, the vast majority of the treatments of communists in entertainment have tended to focus on the excesses of their opponents and never really disclose to readers that the Soviet Union actually was deeply interested in infiltrating the American entertainment industry and using it for propagandistic purposes.
While the Communists did not have nearly the success that some of their contemporaries imagined, it is indisputable that many of the scribes affiliated with the Screen Writers Guild were active members of the Party. As loyal Party members, they were instructed to use their positions to spread the message.
One illustrative anecdote that Critchlow provides about this in his book comes from a successful screenwriter who had been a Party member but later testified before the House Committee for the Investigation of Un-American Activities. According to his testimony, Communist screenwriters were instructed to insert short lines bashing capitalism directly into very expensive scenes. Because of the cost of staging these scenes, it would make it much more difficult for them to be removed in post-production.
Imagine the movie “The Sands of Iwo Jima” being made today...
But that makes it sound as if whoever would want to remove that line would notice it only after it was shot. Wouldn't someone who cared about the content and was influential enough to direct the removal, but for the cost, read the script before it was shot? And why wouldn't it be caught on the spot and another take done?
I don't think China fared much better, though their country, from what I've read of their history, could only go UP with any other system than what they had: dog eat dog.
Am I being harsh?