The Clare Spark Blog

December 7, 2013

Ben Hecht v. Ben Urwand, the un-Jewish Left, and ‘assimilated’ Jews

Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht

I have read four times the controversial Ben Urwand book that claims that Hollywood was in bed with Hitler. Upon rereading, I saw that Urwand’s sensationalistic argument that Hollywood moguls and established Jewish organizations had failed to oppose the Third Reich in the 1930s and even afterwards, reached its climax with the trotting out of novelist, journalist, polemicist, screenwriter, and playwright Ben Hecht as Urwand’s role model and inspiration. Urwand  appropriated Hecht’s life and politics to demonstrate that there was indeed one Jew who protested against weak-kneed “Hollywood’s” toleration of the Third Reich’s antisemitism,  but who was, like much of the New Left, no “Zionist.”

And so I wrote the following three blogs, but these were formulated before reading Hecht’s autobiography, in which I could see how Urwand, an aspiring screenwriter himself, could pounce on the imagined “collaboration” by moneybags moguls, while distancing himself from “Zionists”—and more, that Urwand failed to understand that Hecht was, for eight years, a strong ally, even a leader, to the “terrorist” Irgun, and that when Hecht referred to “Zionists” he referred solely to the Jewish Agency that was baring its neck to the British Empire that, I suspect, had no intention of giving up the Palestine Mandate and that wanted Moslem allies. Hecht was harshly critical of such Anglophiles as Chaim Weizmann, David Ben Gurion, Moshe Shertok, and Golda Meyerson (later Golda Meir), in the last section of A CHILD OF THE CENTURY (1954). That the “moderate” Palestine Jews could have killed fellow Jews in the sinking of the Altalena and the murder of some of the fighting  underground’s greatest heroes would seem to have broken Hecht’s heart, for he quickly wound up his book after this (intra-Jewish) world-shaking event.

https://clarespark.com/2013/06/13/hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/

https://clarespark.com/2013/09/13/urwands-collaboration-hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/

https://clarespark.com/2013/10/10/urwand-undoes-chaplins-dictator/ (Hecht was an admirer of Chaplin’s “great” artistry.)

https://clarespark.com/2013/11/23/the-pitfalls-in-writing-history-of-the-movies/

Ben Hecht, though clearly an ally to “the common man” even threw FDR overboard, as he recalled FDR’s betrayal of Holocaust survivors seeking a haven in Palestine (soon to be Israel), by making promises to the Nazified Ibn Saud that FDR would keep refugee Jews out of Palestine.

Make no mistake: Ben Hecht was no lover of Hollywood  movies, which he wrote, he says, to replenish his ever dwindling coffers. Nor was he an admirer of the moguls, nor of the quality of the trash that Hollywood generally turned out, to the detriment of the high culture that Hecht embraced as a lifelong autodidact and genius. Hecht admits that his sympathy for Jewish life was aroused initially by his poor immigrant Yiddish-speaking relatives, and then his shock and horror that the Nazi massacre of European Jewry was proceeding apace without publicizing by “good Jews”, e.g. Rabbi Stephen Wise, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, and the entire Jewish establishment. There were two American Jews who stood by him, as he tells it: Moss Hart and Kurt Weill (the latter a refugee from Germany of course).

(For more on Ben Hecht’s pageant that raised funds for the Irgun and the committee led by Peter Bergson, aka Hillel Kook, Google “WE WILL NEVER DIE”.)

Scene from We Will Never Die pageant

Scene from We Will Never Die pageant

I have been through the previously restricted Ralph Bunche UN papers at UCLA, and can testify that Hecht’s rage at the United Nations was entirely justified. Bunche’s early opposition to antisemitism among blacks in America would seem to have been inspired by the communist Left’s opposition to antisemitism in the 1930s. No sooner had Bunche been co-opted by liberals, he was on board with the US Department of State and the British Empire in opposing “Jewish” expansionism.  Ben Hecht, by contrast, ended his autobiography with a shout out to Eretz Israel, a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. (Hecht may have been the most articulate inheritor of Vladimir Jabotinsky.)

eretzisrael

Ironically, Ralph Bunche made a secret visit to Menachem Begin in 1947, and was enthused about an enlarged Eretz Israel, in which there was room enough for all. But all that was before Bunche got the message from on high, and succumbed to his fellow persons of “color,” the classy Egyptians who courted him, unlike the vulgar Jews who assassinated Count Bernadotte, the latter a flunkey for Brits and antisemitic Americans in the State Department.

For the Wiki biography of Ben Hecht see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Hecht. But better still, read all the Hecht you can get your hands on, especially A CHILD OF THE CENTURY (1954). It will clear your head of cobwebs.

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November 23, 2013

The pitfalls in writing histories of the movies

Ben UrwandThere is a sprawling bibliography of both trade books and academic studies of the movie industry.  Into this minefield, strides Ben Urwand, whose book has been received with fury or, in some cases, approbation.

For Ben Urwand’s recent Harvard published book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, “Hollywood”, “Jewish” moguls, “capitalism,” and the ostensibly Nazified/anticommunist/bigoted  American movie industry are conflated and held in contempt. (The “collaboration” that Urwand and the many critics of mass culture and mass media may have in mind is the bond between image and audience. Like other critics of technology and its assistance to demagogues, Urwand turns out to be an antimodern, even a sort of Tory, though he appears to be writing from the left. For instance, writing in the voice of “Doremus Jessup,” Sinclair Lewis wrote, “‘Is it just possible,’ [Doremus Jessup] sighed, ‘that the most vigorous and boldest idealists have been the worst enemies of human progress instead of its greatest creators? Possible that plain men with the humble trait of minding their own business will rank higher in the heavenly hierarchy than all the plumed souls who have shoved their way in among the masses and insisted on saving them?'” So modern mass media enable demagoguery of the kind that Lewis fears. Odd that Lewis doesn’t pin this on FDR in his It Can’t Happen Here  (1935), a book that Urwand admired and wished that it had been turned into a movie. (For a blog on the “cultural Marxists” see https://clarespark.com/2013/07/31/the-nefarious-cultural-marxists/.)

With respect to the Urwand book, the questions for an academic reviewer are easily summarized: Given the magnitude of the claim of the book, that from 1930 onward, “Hollywood” dismissed Jews from the screens it controlled, and worse, allowed Germans in both Weimar and in the Third Reich to censor movies, to the point where even the Holocaust was off limits for filmic presentation after WW2 until the 1960s, by what criteria should Urwand’s thesis be either defended or criticized?

Since Urwand cites German archives in his footnotes, one would expect the author to be fluent in the German language (he is self-taught in the language); to fully understand the culture of Nazi Germany (looking for continuities and discontinuities with the modern German past); and most importantly, to have reviewed the responses of Western Europe and America to the New World Order proposed by the various fascisms, putting up with Hitler and Mussolini until 1939, and keeping their distance from the Spanish Civil War. Urwand seems to know little about the history of anti-Semitism and isolationist suspicions of war-mongering “Jews” who were trying to snare American Christians into their nefarious “collaborationist” schemes. And since Urwand shows no reluctance in declaring (but not proving) why certain “anti-fascist” movie scripts were dropped by such famously conservative, pro-American moguls as Louis B. Mayer and other producers, we would expect the author to understand the intricacies of the movie business and the often chaotic or unrecorded decision-making, including the various forces that pre-censored and post-censored movies, especially after 1934 when the Production Code was established and controlled by Joseph Breen and the Catholic Legion of Decency. But we must not neglect the power that New York financiers exerted over the studios located in California–a matter explored by Cary Beauchamp in her recent biography of Joseph P. Kennedy, drawing upon previously restricted papers in the Kennedy Library (publ. 2008).

Ben Hecht as depicted on anti-Zionist website

Ben Hecht as depicted on anti-Zionist website

Urwand’s book is easily dismissed as the unsupported speculations of an ideologue bent on imitating Ben Hecht by separating antisemitism (‘bad’) and anti-Zionism (‘good’),* but not so an entire genre of movie history written from the academic Left and published by the most prestigious university presses. These authors include Thomas Doherty, Gregory D. Black, Clayton R. Koppes, and Steven Alan Carr. While a few of these academics criticize antisemitism in books depicting “Hollywood” as generically Jewish [Carr],  or note Joseph Breen’s open hostility to the scummy and omnipotent Jews who ran Hollywood [Black], in the end many resent the “Hollywood” representations of a phony melting pot, and idealizations of heterosexual romance, happy families, escapism, spectacle, glamour, happy endings, the suppression of labor vs. capital conflict, racism, and more, but most of all, they are dead set against the Dies Committee and “McCarthyism” as evidenced in the postwar blacklist after the Cold War was begun. Since many of their books were published after the Soviet archives were opened and books published verifying many of HUAC’s or McCarthy’s suspicions and accusations, one might conclude that capitalism and the profit-motive are the real targets of academic interest in the movies. (The authors who have written about the revelations in the Soviet archives include Mark Kramer, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev.)

For prior blogs on Ben  Urwand’s book, see https://clarespark.com/2013/10/10/urwand-undoes-chaplins-dictator/, and https://clarespark.com/2013/09/13/urwands-collaboration-hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/. No reviews, even those dismissive of Urwand’s peculiar view of “collaboration”, have sketched in the appropriate historical context for evaluating this academic book’s claims. It was published by Harvard University Press, but those academic readers who supported it are anonymous. But in insisting that Hollywood profits supported the Nazi war machine, Urwand’s thesis reminds me of Edwin Black’s sensationalized work. That Urwand’s book has received some good reviews suggests that many movie journalists are unequipped to evaluate histories of the movie business.

*I am reading Hecht’s Child of the Century (1954) now, and Hecht is a waverer on the subject of Israel. More when I finish this autobiography. Urwand may have misunderstood the extent to which Irgun-admiring Hecht distanced himself from “Zionism.”

October 10, 2013

Urwand undoes Chaplin’s Dictator

Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel

Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel

One of Ben Urwand’s chief claims in his THE COLLABORATION: HOLLYWOOD’S PACT WITH HITLER, is that Jews virtually disappeared from Hollywood films after Hitler “came to power,” owing to Hollywood greed in preserving their business with Germany . One of his examples compares the copyrighted 1938 version of THE GREAT DICTATOR to the version released in 1940.

[Urwand, p.219] …Back on November 10, 1938, when the first reports of Kristallnacht were hitting American newspapers, Chaplin had rushed the first version of his story to the U. S. Copyright Office.  …Hinkle [sic] the dictator of Ptomania, had devised a scientific test to separate Jews from Aryans. All Jews were sent to concentration camps, and one named Charlie, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Hinkle, broke out. He was mistaken for the dictator, and he gave a speech that convinced the country to abandon fascism. Suddenly music filled the streets. Everyone started dancing. Prisoners were released from the camps. Storm troopers were dancing with Jews.

[Urwand, cont.:] The script ended with an epilogue: “Through the music comes the playing of a bugle call. The scene shifts back to the concentration camp. Charlie wakes up with a smile as a storm-trooper enters. The storm trooper starts to smile back, then ashamed of his softness he bellows: ‘Get up, Jew! Where the hell do you think you are?’” [footnote refers to Copyright Records, Ms. Division, Library of Congress]

[Urwand, cont.:] Chaplin took this chilling idea and turned it into a hilarious but less effective film. He shifted the location of the persecution of the Jews from a concentration camp to a ghetto. He gave a long rambling speech at the climax that had virtually nothing to do with the Jewish question. And he replaced the twist at the end…with his audience responding with cheers and applause. [Clare:] The footnote refers solely to the 1940 film; Urwand is perhaps unaware that 19th century German Jews were assimilated and that ghettos were created in Occupied Europe where they did not already exist, as prelude to extermination. A more sensitive reader might have looked at the Chaplin biography, and the emancipation of the Jews in Western Europe, especially Germany. Added: 1012-13: an academic friend has reminded me that Victor Klemperer’s diary describes how Jews were moved around to all Jewish buildings, but there were no walled ghettos as such in Germany.]

“Nothing to do with the Jewish question?!” My first response after a viewing of The Great Dictator was that Chaplin doesn’t do dark and depressing movies very well (e.g. Monsieur Verdoux, that developed a cult following only. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsieur_Verdoux ), in contrast to his comic genius in the tour de force of  this and earlier films. But upon re-reading Urwand’s synopsis, I thought of Chaplin’s ambiguous identity as constructed by others: For antimoderns, he was the Wandering or Eternal Jew as Tramp. (See http://jewishquarterly.org/2010/11/charlie-chaplin-jewish-or-goyish/ ). The 1938 version (assuming that Urwand got it right), suggests that being taken for a Jew was terrifying to Chaplin. Whereas in the 1940 finished film, the Jewish barber finds his voice and gives a ringing speech echoing not only the Hebraism of progressive Protestantism, but one that would imbue his war- weary or isolationist audience with the will to fight the Nazis. His quote from the New Testament is resonant with universal ethics, worldliness, science, technology, and liberty. It is also consistent with the internationalist ideology of the anti-fascist Popular Front, and an affront to the notion of the racially pure organic nation as perpetrated by Nazis and their sympathizers. [Urwand devoted a long, seeminly irrelevant  footnote criticizing the ineptitude of Chaplain as orator,  See endnote 99, pp. 262-263, referring back to p. 41. I am baffled as to why Urwand is so obsessive about Chaplain’s movie.]

Chaplin speech

Here is the text of that final speech, with paragraphs added to make the speech more user-friendly:

[Chaplin/Barber speech; the humble character is mistaken for Adenoid Hynkel, conqueror of Osterlitz (the Mussolini character, played by Jack Oakie, suggests Napoleon, but calling Austria Osterlitz fuses Austria with the Battle of Austerlitz:]

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an Emperor, that’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in; machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity, more than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all.

Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say: do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators will die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die liberty will never perish. Soldiers: don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder! Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men!! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate, only the unloved hate. The unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers: don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written: – “The kingdom of God is within man.” Not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men: in you! You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power, let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.

Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! In the name of democracy: let us all unite!”  [end Jewish Barber speech]

For more details on the making of The Great Dictator, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Dictator. It is worth noting that Paulette Goddard, a fighting Jew in the movie, ends the film listening to the speech on the radio,  moves from despair to optimism, with her eyes lifted to the sun breaking through the clouds, confirming the message of Enlightenment and activism on behalf of humanity. The gesture is resonant with, but not identical to, the Christian gaze to Heaven for inspiration and eternal life.

Goddard

September 25, 2013

Ted Cruz, Generational conflict, and Remarque

GermanWarPosterWhile Ted Cruz was calling Republicans to arms to overturn Obamacare, I was watching the movie version of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), in its uncut version.  (Ben Urwand insists that Universal pictures caved to German pressure to remove certain incendiary scenes that impugned the older generation for mindless nationalism that slaughtered their young soldiers. I watched the uncut version that attacked the upper class older generation for murdering their unprepared lower class young men, through glorifying sacrifice for the Fatherland, teaching irrelevant subjects in schools, and for inadequate training, food, leadership, hygiene, and medical care while in combat.)

The original uncut movie reminded me of the pacifism that moved the formation of Pacifica Radio immediately after WW2. Such Remarque-like antiwar sentiments lack an analysis of the lead up to wars, but imagine an undifferentiated class of enlisted men, badly led by undifferentiated old and middle-aged men.  Indeed, Remarque himself was born into a Catholic home (his father was a bookbinder, not a politicized worker), then after his recovery from wounds in the war, went on to write numerous novels after his autobiographical first novel (that of course was banned and burned by the (relatively young) Nazis in power. His brazen book was riotously protested before the Nazis were put in power by…old men: the monarchists and conservative nationalists of Germany who hoped to control Hitler and his hotheads in order to destroy communism and the independent working class movement that opposed the Nazis.

Remarque, a handsome fellow, went on to a successful career as an author and affairs with glamorous movie stars. In trying to place him as if he existed later in the 20th century, I would have to locate him in the counter-culture, not in any political faction. In the 1960s, boys like him might have been draft dodgers or protesters against the Viet Nam conflict. But the more politicized would have had a more sophisticated analysis of WW1. For instance, they might have looked to rival imperialisms, or to the failure of the Socialist Parties to oppose the war in 1914, voting for war credits in Germany.  Or if more attuned to the errors of diplomats, they might have come to agree with Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War.

By the time Remarque wrote his novel, disillusion with the idea of progress pervaded what we now call the Jazz Age. Hemingway had written two antiwar novels (The Sun Also Rises about an aimless generation), then A Farewell to Arms (more overtly antiwar and vaguely autobiographical).  I have found one quote where Remarque prefigured the anti-technology sentiments of the counter culture, arguing for a vague humanism and faith in humanity; he was no nihilist.

paulandyingcomrade

The conflict du jour is over whether or not Ted Cruz is a hothead and ambitious for personal power. I am reminded of a line from the much lauded House of Cards remake, offered by Netflix to its subscribers. This time, a ruthless Southern Democrat, “Francis Underwood” (played by Kevin Spacey), explains to the audience that he isn’t in it for the money but for “power”.  Such is the charge now leveled at Ted Cruz by an older generation that hews to a more bipartisan approach to the management of social policy.

We know much more about this political war than Remarque knew about his war as an eighteen year old Catholic boy.  Given what I have studied about the moderate men—i.e, the older generation in charge today, it is difficult not to call them out for utopianism.  (See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/.)

finalshot

September 15, 2013

Authenticity and the “bottled-up”

Free thought by Berkozturk

Free thought by Berkozturk

As visitors to this website are aware, I am a scholar devoted to the propagation of “free thought,” whether those thoughts are directed to the search for truth, or to the unleashed imagination, as transmitted by artists and the creative self that is too often buried by “politeness” and other rules by the dominant culture (I am only criticizing excessive politeness; see https://clarespark.com/2015/03/28/the-neglected-virtues-self-discipline-and-politeness/). I call such “authority” illegitimate and to be avoided at all costs. But to assume such a confrontational posture courts financial disaster unless one is protected by an independent income. That is how censorship and self-censorship work. For purposes of this blog, I will focus on the bottled up woman, for I lived that way until recently, perhaps because I am no longer on the sex/marriage market. (I could have added anti-Semitism to the blog, for there is a strong link between misogyny and anti-Semitism: many “assimilated” Jews are as bottled up as my gender. I made the connection between anti-Semitism and misogyny through reading Symbolist poets, such as James Thomson (“B.V.”) Because this entire subject seems to be off limits to cultural historians, I have of necessity relied upon my own experience as a primary source in this suggestive essay.

In the very first essay I wrote after exposure to Pacifica radio and the civil rights movement, I wrote that “’authenticity’ consists of the right to tell the truth without being abandoned.” My friend, the late political scientist Michael Rogin, found that statement to be “breathtaking.” In retrospect, a New Leftist such as Rogin was, should not have reacted with such amazement, as if he had never thought of such a thing himself. In my naïveté, I thought that the Left had a monopoly on free thought, while everyone else lived in the shadow of self-censorship and hatred of “free spirits.”

(Recently I learned that for those who continue to believe that “race” is the primary way to sort people and their interests out, “authenticity” connotes being true to one’s racial identity. Such a ruse erases class or gender interest from the mind, which of course is the whole point.)

Which brings me to being “bottled up,” a source of harmful stress that can cause fatal diseases.  Yet most of us live with masks, for fear of offending employers, friends, mates, relatives, and our own children. Such is the price we pay for “civilization” such as it is.

What prompted this particular blog was a dispute that broke out on my Facebook page that was apparently about the pro-life versus the pro-choice position, but was, in my view, yet another round in the battle of the sexes. One of my daughters wrote a day or so ago that the two most upsetting words in the language are “God” and “Mother.” All experienced, educated parents are aware that the mother-child bond is the most powerful bond in nature, and that separation from the mother is often mismanaged, with dreadful consequences throughout life. For my insistence in defending the pro-choice position (even with reservations regarding late term abortion/infanticide), I was labeled “a militant atheist”–a term that is often applied to “the Jews.”

Also on Facebook yesterday, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency came up on a friend’s thread. One comment stated that she was too “old and ugly” to get the nomination. A woman on the thread noted that women have “a short half-life”. This did not go over well, but I thought that she was correct. Others jumped on her because she failed to be bottled up in order to please men or other colonized women.

It will not come as a surprise to the thoughtful reader that subjugated populations, including women and many “assimilated” Jews, MUST BE BOTTLED UP. That is what precisely what subjugation consists of. Don’t expect us to tell the truth, for we will be abandoned, and every conscious woman or boundary-crossing Jew knows this.

Barbara Kruger painting

Barbara Kruger painting

On Yom Kippur eve, I wrote a blog criticizing Ben Urwand’s new book Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. The subject of Hollywood movies, anti-Nazi or not, as collaborating with bogus versions of the real world of oppressive relationships, was not his subject matter. I left the Left (of which Urwand is a part)  because those I thought were my friends and allies thought schematically and did not value attachment to the search for truth above ideology; this loyalty to career and status  above mental health killed a few of them. (On my blog on Urwand, see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/13/urwands-collaboration-hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/.)

This website promotes a marketplace of ideas, because that is the only route I know to emancipation from illegitimate authority. [This blog dedicated to my daughters Jenny and Rachel, and to Melville’s novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852); see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/12/call-me-isabel-a-reflection-on-lying/.]

September 13, 2013

Urwand’s THE COLLABORATION: HOLLYWOOD’S PACT WITH HITLER

URWANDCOVERThis is an impression of Harvard Junior Fellow Ben Urwand’s new book, to be released in October.  I was initially appalled when I saw a puff-piece in TABLET. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/06/13/hollywoods-pact-with-hitler/. I had not yet read the book and expected some archival research that would establish the veracity of Urwand’s title.) In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined such a mendacious book published by one of the most prestigious academic presses. In this brief blog, I will mostly focus on the depths of antisemitism between the wars, and then suggest that calling the moguls “Jews” plays fast and loose with what it means to be a “Jew” in America, today or any other day. For a related blog that quotes from Urwand, see https://clarespark.com/2013/10/10/urwand-undoes-chaplins-dictator/.

I suggest that the interested reader look at both an article from History News Network from circa 2002 on Joseph P. Kennedy’s antisemitism, which may look “extreme” to the eyes of the reader, but was not different in intensity from that of his contemporaries, let alone from that of much of the Left today. See http://hnn.us/article/697  “Joseph Kennedy and the Jews.” Or, see Steven Alan Carr’s Hollywood and Anti-Semitism (Cambridge UP, 2001), that poses “the Jewish question” as “the Hollywood question” in a masterful review of antisemitica in America, and nullifying Urwand’s claim that there were lots of good Jews in the movies before the cowardly, money-mad moguls capitulated to Hitler’s German consul in Los Angeles. Carr also shows, through implication, that Urwand’s startling thesis is nothing new. Quoting The Nation, September 20, 1941: ” ‘Far from being too vigorously anti-Nazi’…the film industry ‘as long as they could, avoided making films that might endanger their markets in Germany and Italy. Business was their first consideration.’ ” (p.269)

Then read David Denby’s recent unfavorable review of Urwand’s book, that makes many points I would have made, namely that Urwand spends much time in speculation about why such and such a film was not made, but makes wild surmises that are not verified by his evidence. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2013/09/16/130916crbo_books_denby, also http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/09/how-could-harvard-have-published-ben-urwands-the-collaboration.html.  (Yet another unfavorable review says mostly that business is business, and Urwand is naïve to make so much of the censorship; see http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/09/did-hollywood-collaborate-with-hitler-a-new-book-makes-bold-claims.html. ) In yet another review (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/does-collaboration-overstate-hollywoods-cooperation-595678), Thomas Doherty’s competing book HOLLYWOOD AND HITLER, 1933-1939, is compared with Urwand’s nasty book, but the description of Doherty’s conclusions does not match what Doherty actually wrote: Doherty is said to praise Hollywood for resisting Nazism, but Doherty trotted out the Warner brothers as exceptional only to castigate them as caving to HUAC and the Martin Dies Committee by producing super-patriotic movies that hid controversies in U.S. history, such as labor unrest. And in his concluding sentences, he wonders what he, Doherty, would have done about coming out against the Third Reich were he in the shoes of the Hollywood moguls.

None of this should surprise us. Ben Urwand begins his acknowledgments with tributes to some of the New Left Berkeley faculty: Michael Rogin, Lawrence Levine, Leon Litwack and Martin Jay (the latter a noted critical theorist and historian of the Frankfurt School  that blamed mass media for the corruption of the working class, hence the working-class failure to stop Hitler). And the book is getting support in high liberal venues: see http://chronicle.com/article/When-Hollywood-Held-Hands-With/140189/, in a long and informative article by Alexander C. Kafka.

The novelty of COLLABORATION exists in the claim that Jewish moguls allowed Hitler and his minions to control “Hollywood” not only throughout the 1930s, but on into the war years, and worse, inured to the Pact, Hollywood continued its baleful influence by suppressing the horrors of the Holocaust until decades after it became known. Urwand’s earlier work was on aboriginal rights in Australia, and his latest work wants to present America as a capitalist, hence fascist country, in cahoots with the Third Reich, and carrying on its mission. There are even suggestions that American movies “infused” Nazi culture, an innuendo comparable to Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/03/10/jonah-goldbergs-liberal-fascism-part-one/. I do not intend to blame Goldberg for his take on movies (not his target), but rather on the progressive nanny state and eugenics as inspiring fascist programs in Germany.)

WHAT IS A JEW?

I have only dipped into the vast literature on the history of film. As far as I could tell, Joseph P. Kennedy’s role in virtually inventing the complicated financing of the movie industry (as revealed in Cari Beauchamp’s book published in 2008 after crucial Joe Kennedy papers were unsealed in the Kennedy Library), was unknown to the various authors I have read: two by Thomas Doherty (1993, 2013); David Welky (2008); and one co-authored by Clayton Koppes and Gregory Black (1987).  Of these scholarly works, Welky’s seemed the least biased.

For one thing, Welky gave several paragraphs to Joe Kennedy’s speech to fifty Hollywood “moguls” in late 1940, which I quote here: “…Recalled to the United States during the British negotiations [regarding the import of US films], the ambassador accepted Jack and Harry Warner’s invitation to speak to movie executives. His talk during the three hour lunch on the Warner Bros. lot left the gathering of fifty industry leaders speechless. Kennedy told them the United States should limit aid to Britain in case the Nazis won the war, an event he thought likely. More important, he asked producers to “stop making anti-Nazi pictures or using the film medium to promote or show sympathy to the cause of the ‘democracies’ versus the ‘dictators.’” Pictures like The Mortal Storm, Escape, and Arise, My Love, an anti-Nazi comedy released by Paramount a few weeks before Kennedy’s visit, did more harm than good because they highlighted Jewish control of the movies. Many Anglos blamed the war on the Jews, Kennedy warned, and anti-Semitism was on the rise in Britain. He advised producers to “get those Jewish names off the screen.” After Kennedy’s lecture, screenwriter Ben Hecht remembered, “all  of Hollywood’s top Jews went around with their grief hidden like a Jewish fox under their Gentile vests.” MGM and Paramount canceled several anti-Nazi projects, including Heil America, Heroes, I Had a Comrade, and Invasion.

[Welky, cont., quoting Kennedy] …The “Jewish boys…are quite nervous about the conditions and they have reason to be…Smart British interests have already taken over the Jewish boys…and have sold them an idea they already had, that they must work for England, even if it means getting us into war.” (pp.244-45, THE MOGULS AND THE DICTATORS) Compare these quotes to Urwand’s brief reference to the Kennedy speech, referring to Ben Hecht’s warning to the movie heads: “Hecht told the studio heads not to buy into Kennedy’s arguments that such pictures would lead to an increase in anti-Semitism in the United States. He said that such thinking had been designed merely to play on their fears.” (p.234) (Which contradicts Urwand’s earlier axiom that profits were primary and fears of increased antisemitism were either minor or submerged in the lust for shekels.)

Ben Hecht is the only good Jew in Urwand’s book; indeed his departure from his early Zionism seems to have inspired Urwand. But Urwand hasn’t cited  PERFIDY (by Hecht) that displayed Hecht’s own social climbing and insult at the home of an antisemitic New York socialite, while Hecht went on to blame Rudolf Kastner,  a Hungarian Jew,  for collaboration with the Nazis.  (See http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Power-and-Politics-Perfidy-revisited. This is a big and apparently unresolved fight.) Urwand is following longstanding trends among left-wing Jews: apparently to condemn anti-Semitism (thus distinguishing themselves from contemptible commercial Jews), while separating antisemitism from anti-Zionism. The remainder of this blog considers the distinction between “intellectual Jews” (like Urwand and his mentors at UC Berkeley) and “commercial Jews” (like the moguls). [Update: since writing this blog, I have read Hecht’s autobiography, and Urwand utterly misunderstood Hecht’s objection to “Zionists.” Hecht supported the Irgun and called the Anglophile Jewish Agency members “Zionists.” Could Urwand have even read the final section of A CHILD OF THE CENTURY? See my blog on that subject https://clarespark.com/2013/12/07/ben-hecht-v-ben-urwand-the-un-jewish-left-and-assimilated-jews/.)

The money-grubbing commercial Jews. I write these thoughts on Yom Kippur eve, September 13, 2013. I have asked the question, “What is a Jew”? Urwand and multiculturalists in general, take ruling definitions of Jewishness for granted.  As readers of my blogs know by now, the multiculturalists in the dominant culture define Jewish identity by race. It is not only a practice and belief system, much of which I share as a secular Jew.  Rather, the “intellectual Jews” [liberals and leftists] are put in a different box from the lower-class and unseemly “commercial Jews.”

I first heard this distinction in 1959, at a party hosted by the Harvard Law Review. It might have been a prominent professor who made that statement, and being twenty one years old and a babe in the woods, I had no comeback, and it would have been impolite to embarrass my fiancé, whom I married shortly afterward. His name was Ron Loeb, and he told me at the time how recruiters from the big NYC and Washington law firms would come to Harvard, warning that “our clients don’t want Jewish lawyers in our firms.” Ron (who made Law Review) told them that was really too bad, because 18 out of the 25 Harvard Law Review third year crop were Jewish. Note the date.  It is 1959.

Reading Urwand’s  book gave me anxiety attacks. It was not only horribly written from a historian’s point of view, for it was based almost entirely on speculation and innuendo, not to speak of its subtextual identification of Jews with Nazis.  Yet, in today’s ideological atmosphere, so toxic to “the Jews” (all of whom may be imagined exactly like the immigrant Jews who were prominent in founding the international business of cinema, unless as acceptable, assimilated Jews they are antisemitic themselves). Though Urwand’s book will find even more kvetchy reviewers, the fundamental questions will remain unanswered: “What is a Jew” and what institutional constraints have figured in the censorship of movies?

So far, besides the constraints of an international market, I have found through reading, the Will Hays Office (supported by Joe Kennedy), Joseph Breen and the Legion of Decency, and the Office of War Information (described in detail in Koppes and Black). But more than these censors, like other immigrants, the early movie moguls adapted to the regnant populism that appealed to the mass market, inhabited as it was by other immigrants. (Upper and middle class WASPs were mostly off elsewhere uplifting urban folk.)  And the movies remain populistic, with the support of movie critics and other journalists who partake of the general  sadism and masochism we see all around us.

The following photo and caption was used in David Denby’s New Yorker review (linked above), but not in the Urwand book.

"Breen (center) had power to censor anti-Nazi films"

“Breen (center) had power to censor anti-Nazi films”

June 13, 2013

Hollywood’s “pact” with Hitler?

Illustration used byTablet

Illustration used byTablet

The May 10, 2013 issue of Tablet magazine featured a review of a forthcoming book published by Harvard University Press, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler, that is said to reveal a “creepy love affair” with Hitler. See http://tinyurl.com/lnbengk. I had a negative response to this article nailing Hollywood executives such as Carl Laemmle Sr., Jack Warner, and (by implication) MGM’s Louis B. Mayer. For many decades, I have studied the U.S. appropriation of Nazi methods in controlling the” little people” that prominent German refugees held responsible for the rise of Hitler. Indeed, the Frankfurt School critical theorists, elitists that they were, blamed mass media for Hitler’s appeal. I have detailed analysis of the populist and progressive support for Nazi methods of mind control on my website, and have shared them here.

But what I find particularly ironic is that David Mikics, the author of the Tablet piece is a postmodernist exponent of Jacques Derrida (the hero whose dubious alliances have been questioned by other postmodernists), while the author of the forthcoming book Ben Urwand, is  a Harvard Junior Fellow. How ironic? Harvard was the site of many ardent proposals that Nazi and German methods of managing the masses be taken up by progressives and populists in America. See for example this series of essays posted on my website: https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/, https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.

One of the principal disseminators of protofascist social psychological methods, Henry A. Murray, former director of the Harvard Clinic, has sealed papers at Harvard University Archives, controlled by his widow Caroline Fish Murray (I tried to get into them in 1995 and was rebuffed unless I provided Mrs. Murray with an outline of the book I planned to write!)  Murray’s role in these propaganda offensives has been effectively covered up by the professoriate. Other figures associated with Murray, such as Gordon Allport and Walter Langer, have been similarly protected from academic scrutiny.

All the facts unearthed in Urwand’s dissertation research are disturbing. But to neglect the widespread fascination with Hitler and Mussolini among American populists (Father Coughlin comes to mind), as well as the admiration of Mussolini’s corporate state by FDR, suggests to me that Urwand’s forthcoming tome on Hollywood may serve as revenge for the Hollywood blacklist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_blacklist), as if leftists and liberals were holding up Hitler signs in protests against the Tea Party and Republicans in general. It should never be forgotten that the Hollywood left and its sympathizers today nailed Republicans and big business in general for supporting the Third Reich. (For a recent interview with Urwand see http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/author-ben-urwand-talks-hollywoods-597114.) UPDATE: I have read the book once and will write something brief set of impressions and reservations for Friday the thirteenth and Yom Kippur.  It is a bad book, but I never dreamed that Harvard would publish anything this outrageous. [Update 12-21-13: the documentation of “fact” in the Urwand book is highly suspect and even unpersuasive to a professional historian or to any careful reader who checks footnotes. Mark Horowitz did a good job taking the book apart in a recent TABLET, probably in response to widespread academic skepticism on the social democratic Left, the political position that Urwand seems to represent.]

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