Hitler in Hollywood

David Denby weighs in on two recent books which push a ‘jewish Hollywood collaborated with Nazism by not making explicit anti-Nazi movies’ meme. It’s a meme I find rather bizarre, and one that — given the prevalence of anti-Nazi movies once the U.S. entered WWII, such as Casablanca (1942) — presumes anti-Nazi propaganda should have been a priority of Hollywood film production in the earliest years of the Nazi regime.

I found this paragraph most interesting:

In their hesitations and their timidity, [Hollywood studio bosses] were supported, as both Doherty and Urwand demonstrate, by such organizations as the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee, both of which took the line that the Jews had to be careful about thrusting themselves before the public. “They will get tired of us,” Cyrus Adler, the head of the A.J.C., said. “What I want them to do is to get tired of Hitler”—a line that is too sad for tears. These organizations, adding to Breen’s efforts, lobbied successfully against the making of “The Mad Dog of Europe” and “It Can’t Happen Here.” But were they overestimating the dangers of domestic anti-Semitism? In 1934, they did everything possible to get Fox to halt its production of “The House of Rothschild,” a historical account of the rise of the Rothschild banking family. What troubled them most was the early scenes, set in the eighteenth century, in which Mayer Rothschild (George Arliss) attempts to hide some taxable money from a collector. Later, Mayer instructs his sons to set up banks in multiple European cities as a way of attaining power and dignity, which the movie, in its second half, shows them achieving. The film is a celebration, and, when it opened, it was widely admired by Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike. The feared anti-Semitic reaction in the United States never materialized, though the Anti-Defamation League remained unhappy. Apparently, no Jew should be shown as greedy and power-seeking. Urwand quotes a representative of the A.D.L. saying of the film, “It’s too bad that it was made at this time, for it corroborates the basic Nazi propaganda, and this corroboration is furnished by Jews.” The A.D.L. quickly remedied the situation, in 1934, by holding a meeting with a group of studio bosses and production heads, the result of which was that Jewish characters were banned altogether.

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