Originally published at: http://timeghost.tv/2368-2/
Take it from someone who as worked quite bit in ‘Hollywood’. No matter what anyone might have told you; that ‘Hollywood’ would have an ‘agenda’ is completely impossible. So, here I find myself addressing an urban myth and conspiracy theory that is so basic to see through that I’m myself astonished that I’m even addressing…
Originally published at: http://timeghost.tv/2368-2/
I take it that the most recent Between Two Wars has garnered some…“interesting” comments on Youtube.
That is one way of putting it.
I would not consider it a cabal so much as just the human tendency for like minded individuals to congregate together.
And once one group gains a position of power it shuns ideas and people it finds repugnant.
Are we talking about today or during the age of the Studio System? Hollywood is less relevant now than at any point in its history. During the Studio System, the majority of actors, and especially actresses, had almost no control over the films they starred in or the contents of their characters. They could either tow the line or find another line of work. In this time period, it would have been reasonably possible for Hollywood to have various political agendas because there were few studios and very little opportunity for actors elsewhere in the teeth of the Great Depression.
Today, I see Hollywood as beholden to the whims of Big Tech. Alphabet(Google and Youtube), Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix basically control the entertainment media of the entire Free World. Hypothetically, Google could cook search results and even critic aggregations like Rotten Tomatoes to make anti-Google films look bad. Hollywood is now merely following the whims of these tech companies so they stay as relevant as they’ve been. Keep in mind, Hollywood has a lot more competition now with easy access to foreign films, so it is ever more dependent on promotions from Big Tech. Also, Hollywood needs Big Tech to make its movies for special effects.
We’ll soon see Big Tech flex its entertainment muscles even more than it already has by using “Deepfakes” and synthetic voices to replace voice actors.
Not the first time Hollywood pulled every trick possible to stay relevant. I remember a similar situation (Hollywood vs. “Television City”) 50-60 years ago.
I think Hollywood’s “agenda” circa 2019 is that most of the “insiders” lean leftward, but that if you offer an actor $20M to portray Stalin as a misunderstood artist with a heart-of-gold, they’d sign the contract in an instant. (edit: The majority of Hollywood’s elite have traditionally been very liberal; for every John Wayne, there were a dozen Hepburns and Chaplins and Welleses tipping the scales far to the left. This was not always portrayed in the press, as the studio system publicity departments held a tight rein on their stars’ images, and these sentiments weren’t usually borne-out onscreen, but Hollywood’s elite were typically quite left-wing in their politics (think about it: what “typical” American would get divorced multiple times?).
During the middle of the 20th Century–the Golden Age of Hollywood–Hollywood pictures were more likely to portray a very pro-American theme. During WW2, the US Government sent five great American directors (John Ford, for example) off to cover parts of the war. These were edited into films called “Why We Fight.” Propaganda? Nooooooo! (note sarcasm)
Behind the scenes, the Warner brothers spent a small fortune as soon as the late 1930s getting people away from the Nazis in Europe. They were really the first studio to recognize Hitler’s threat and to do something about it.
I minored in Film Theory & Criticism and have read far too many history books than can possibly be healthy for one person, but this is an anecdote I love.
One of the best-loved films ever is the Warner Brothers 1942 masterpiece, “Casablanca.” It deals with the plight of Europeans fleeing the Nazis in Europe, and how the Nazis can even exert their influence on events in unoccupied French Morocco. In the entire cast of that film, there were three native-born Americans: Humphrey Bogart, Dooley Wilson (Sam), and Joy Page, who was Harry Warner’s step-daughter and played Anina, the young woman fleeing Bulgaria with her husband. Every other actor was from another country. Some, like Sidney Greenstreet, were British and had moved to Hollywood before the clouds of war gathered. But many were actual refugees from the Nazis. In possibly the most ironic casting choice ever, the absolute villain in “Casablanca” is the Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser, a steely bastard who is bound and determined to crush the resistance so his superior Reich could “get used to all climates, from Russia to the Sahara.” Strasser was played by German actor Conrad Veidt, who’d fled Europe because his wife was Jewish. They ended up having to emigrate to Mexico first, then came to Hollywood, where he played the exact type of person he’d risked his life to escape.
Veidt’s story is not the only one of its kind, and I’ll happily tell you more if we ever sit down over a few pints, but not here. I will say this, though. In one of the most moving scenes in cinematic history, where the Nazis are drunkenly singing “Die Wacht am Rhein” and Victor Laszlo (resistance leader) storms downstairs and demands the orchestra play “La Marseillaise” and as soon as the first notes ring out, every refugee in the bar stands up to sing down the Nazis, absolutely none of the tears you see were acted. https://youtu.be/lbfcRu4UPbg
My opinion, perhaps cynically, is that Hollywood’s sole agenda today is profit. This is sad, considering I see a number of excellent foreign films that are made through cooperation between gasp different countries’ “funds for the arts”? (Wait. Countries set aside money to help make good films??? What kind of nonsense is that! (more sarcasm)) Some actors–like Robert Downey, Jr–will command $25,000,000+ for an Avengers film that will make a bajillion dollars, then he’ll turn around and work for the union minimum on a small film with artistic merit. George Clooney created a brilliant film called “Good Night, and Good Luck” with bits of money from a bunch of different people, and he got a number of big name actors to waive their usual salaries to make this wonderful little film. Those are too rare these days in Hollywood, where films cost too much to produce and market today to promulgate an agenda.
Then again, considering roughly 94% of Hollywood films today seem to be remakes of previous films, maybe one of those old agenda films will find its way back to the big screen.
There were leftist insiders in Hollywood in 1940 as well. Some of them were outed during the Second Red Scare (the Hollywood Ten). I’m not talking just commies here. Gene Kelly, Orson Welles and most of the cast of Citizen Kane, Henry Fonda, Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1931), Katherine Hepburn were liberals, for example. Just wanted to add a bit more. Not to mention that the American political center was more left-leaning in 1940 than today.
Your post about Hollywood made me think for a while, “what did Hollywood celebrities in 1940 think of the election? Who did they support? Willkie or Roosevelt? Thomas? Would it be like what happened in 2004 or 2016?” So far I only know who Orson Welles voted for.
Oh, a thousand times right. I didn’t make that very clear in my original reply. I answered based on today’s Hollywood, then proceeded to blither on about the Golden Age without providing context. My bad. (I’ve edited my post to reflect this)
In the excellent Dorothy Parker biography What Fresh Hell is This?, there are detailed accounts of Mrs Parker–who was working as a screenwriter at the time–and other Hollywood celebs supporting striking unions and marching to protest the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In later years, Marlon Brando marched with Martin Luther King in support of Civil Rights.
You mention Henry Fonda specifically as a fervent liberal. By sheer fate, he and James Stewart ended up as roommates in New York early in their careers. They became lifelong best friends…except for one gigantic fist-fight that erupted over politics. Fonda was definitely liberal, and Stewart was very definitely not. Stewart actually had to take the Army physical three times before he could enlist (he couldn’t meet the minimum weight of 140 lbs or thereabouts for his 6’3" height (oh, to have such a problem)). He went on to be one of the most celebrated bomber wing commanders in the European Theater. Not one of his group’s planes was lost in 25 missions. That just didn’t happen. Stewart ended up as a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserves. Fonda ended up remaining an anti-war liberal. The two remained best friends, though, often spending hours together not talking, but working together making model airplanes.
Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Thanks for pointing out what I missed. You were most definitely correct.
Oh, thanks. Now what actually interests me more about this is just thinking about what Hollywood’s position was on the election of 1940, which I’m covering in the forum. It’s definitely pro-Roosevelt, but to what extent? I can answer that for Orson Welles, but anyone else? I know the studios had a tighter grasp on their stars than today, but still, it’s interesting to think about (my reasons listed below).
I thought of 1940 because I was thinking of modern Hollywood political stances (for all of their stances, what I remember the most was Susan Sarandon’s support for Nader 2000, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s support for Kerry 2004, and hell, the entirety of 2016) and, as I wondered, a question popped up in my imaginative brain: who were the Sarandons, the Gyllenhaals and the anti-Reps of 1940?
I know it’s tempting to make a comparison to today’s Hollywood, but I wish this happened a lot more.
Also, you spoke of Dorothy Parker’s account of Hollywood celebs supporting strikes. Well, I am planning to cover the 1941 Disney animators strike as it happened. What do you make of it? And speaking of Dorothy Parker, can you list the sources for learning about the politics of Hollywood? (So far, I’m not that well-versed in Hollywood politics pre-1947, only post-1947 – hence the modern celebs I referenced)