By Wes Vernon
Hollywood’s film colony has had a long romance with the Left. Today’s Hollywood, with the help of the “mainstream” media, regularly savages those who stand up to America’s enemies.
Hollywood’s earnest belief appears to be that anyone who attains show-business celebrity?actor, producer, or writer?is automatically possessed of more political wisdom than the rest of us. Americans have come to resent it. Radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham has written a very good book on the subject titled “Shut Up and Sing.” And when no Hollywood parlor politico is within earshot, some liberal politicians have whispered (likely with a smirk) their lack of respect for show business moneybags who open their wallets and purses to the coffers of liberal and pro-Democrat causes. In some insider liberal circles, spending time at a Barbra Streisand soiree in Malibu is necessary to keep the money flowing, but not a source of smart well-thought-out political strategy.
Today’s Hollywood Left is more open in its distaste for Middle American values. Michael Moore is a prime example. He is a cruder and more outwardly hateful propagandist than the Hollywood left of earlier eras.
Americans often wonder exactly why so many of Hollywood’s self-anointed political sages bash America, bash this country’s traditions, bash Christians, bash Western Civilization, bash corporate America, bash traditional marriage, bash anti-communists (of course), and above all bash conservatives of every stripe (including free enterprise economic advocates whose offense seems to be in believing that even people not living in Beverly Hills mansions are entitled to realize the fruits of the American Dream).
Currently, Hollywood denigrates the War on Terror [See “Hollywood Surrenders to Terrorists” by Cliff Kincaid and Roger Aronoff-AIM Report January-B], more or less in the tradition of its previous blindness to the Cold War.
What makes these people tick? Why is Hollywood, for example, so anti-religious? Why is it that films such as “The Passion of the Christ” or TV shows such as “Touched by an Angel” are the exception, not the rule?
For some on-the-ground insight, AIM turned to longtime pop recording and box office star Pat Boone.
Talking To Pat Boone
“I’ve thought a lot about it,” he told me. Of course he moves amongst “all kinds of people who are 180 degrees from me spiritually and politically, and we get along fine.” But the “underlying cause for the ultra-liberalism and humanism here is that Hollywood does not want rules. They don’t want any restrictions on what they can do to make money or be successful. So obviously any religion embodies some form of rules and expectations for behavior, and even consequences, and they don’t want to hear any of that.” To the Left that dominates the Hollywood culture, religion “poses a tremendous threat economically, professionally, and socially [even though] it’s not meant to be that,” Boone explained.
Some Hollywood producers don’t mind actually losing money in order to make their anti-religious, anti-patriotic statements. One noted movie critic, Michael Medved, wrote a book several years ago, Hollywood vs. America, wherein he cited movie-makers who produced films they knew were destined to be total flops at the box office, just so they can get across anti-American and anti-religious messages.
Public outrage and threatened boycotts forced NBC to cancel the pro-homosexual show, “The Book of Daniel.” Unchastened by the experience, NBC struck back at Christians by scheduling for April 13?the night before “Good Friday”?an episode of “Will and Grace” where Britney Spears was to appear on a fictional TV network with a cooking segment called “Cruci-fixin’s,” to mock Christianity. That, too, was canceled due to public pressure.
As Pat Boone tells us, the Hollywood Left not only rejects religion, “but [actually] there is an antipathy to it. Not just Christianity, but Judeo-Christianity” is seen as a threat in “Tinseltown.”
The Hollywood culture is such that known identified religious or political conservatives believe they must try harder to succeed or (perhaps before establishing their celebrity) stay “in the closet” about their beliefs.
Nonetheless, the dominant leftists in Hollywood insist it is they who are the “victims.” For 50 years now, they have been wailing at the “evils” of the “blacklist” of the Forties and Fifties. They have produced about a dozen movies peddling the idea that Hollywood was one happy harmonious family-friendly place until those evil ignorant cowboys from the House Committee on Un-American Activities came along and persecuted innocent artists for their “political beliefs.”
Communism In Hollywood
Ronald and Allis Radosh explode that myth in their book, Red Star Over Hollywood. What the committee investigated was not anyone’s “political belief,” but a well-organized plot by the Communist Party to take over the movie industry and place its considerable influence in the service of the Soviet Union which, in those years immediately following World War II, was gobbling up Eastern Europe. Many of our fighting men who had put their lives on the line to save Europe from Nazism found out after they returned here to civilian life that much of the territory that Adolph Hitler had conquered was instead conquered by Joseph Stalin.
Against that background, the congressional committee believed if this nation was to fight the Cold War as effectively as we fought World War II, we should know exactly what our enemy was up to right here on our soil.
Red Star Over Hollywood is fully documented and heavily footnoted. It clearly shows how the highest echelons of the Soviet Union decided as far back as the late 1920s that they would make the then-burgeoning film capital a prime target. They had learned the lesson of history that the way to undermine any society’s values was not to try directly to influence its leaders (often impossible), but to convey the message to the masses through those who write its entertainment scripts and its songs.
You may never have heard of Willi Munzenberg. The German native was specifically assigned by the Soviets to plant the seeds of communism in Hollywood. As the Radoshes comment: “What better place for the Russian Revolution’s promise of a classless society to take hold than in Hollywood, the capital of dreams?”
This book smashes to smithereens the poignant myth of the brave and unflinching Lillian Hellman (a Stalinist playwright), the persecuted Hollywood Ten, and the supposed contemptible rats who cooperated with the committee.
Red Star Over Hollywood documents chapter and verse the hard cold fact that every single hostile witness in those congressional hearings was either a hard-core member of the Communist Party or at the very least hip-deep in Communist discipline.
Just so there is no misunderstanding: These were no “parlor pinks.” They were true believers?part of a group that advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. They were pivotal in the ongoing effort to insert the propaganda line of a foreign power into the movies seen by millions of us. The 1st Amendment gives them the right to propagandize to their heart’s content. The committee’s point was that if they were spreading propaganda on behalf of this country’s enemies, the movie-goer was entitled to know that he was being lectured on behalf of that agenda. Suppose some Nazi brown-shirts had been found making our movies in those days. Does anyone doubt that Washington would have taken more than a casual interest?
The congressmen initially focused on the infamous Hollywood Ten. Those were witnesses with Communist affiliations and activities as far as the eye could see. They were writers and producers who defied the House committee, refused to answer its questions and spent some time in jail for doing so.
One of them was producer John Howard Lawson, described by the Radosh husband-and-wife team as “the top Hollywood Communist.”
According to All Media Guide, Lawson “began writing numerous plays, most of them promoting Marxism.” In yet another book, the 1998 volume Hollywood Party, author Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley quotes the producer as saying, “As for myself, I do not hesitate to say that it is my aim to present the Communist position and to do so in a most specific manner.”
The Radosh book cites as an example of Lawson’s work the 1943 film “Action in the North Atlantic,” which the authors describe as “a unique propaganda effort” on behalf of the Communist-run union that represented sailors on the East Coast, Joe Curran’s Maritime Union-CIO.”
The film also portrays the Soviet Union in a most favorable light. Lawson is described as using the film as an “opportunity” to “show support for the Party,” and also it “implies that in every sense the Soviet Union was America’s most noble and reliable ally”
Toward the end, Soviet planes arrive on the scene just in time to save an American vessel from Nazi dive-bombers. Then an American says of the Soviet planes, “They’re ours!” as a close-up shows the Red-star insignia on the fuselage. The vessel arrives on shore to the cheers of Russian men and women yelling, “Comrade! Comrade!” The American sailor responds in kind.
The Communist Line
The movie followed the twofold Communist Party line of that era. First, make Americans forget that only a short time earlier, the Soviet Union had helped bring on World War II by collaborating with Hitler in the first place. Secondly, soften up Americans for the postwar era when Stalin would make his move to swallow the countries of Eastern Europe and arm the Chinese Communists. Ron and Allis Radosh describe “Action in the North Atlantic” as “unique” in the sense that it is “a perfect representation of the wartime Party line; patriotic and pro-Soviet at the same time.”
John Howard Lawson, who beamed that “soft” propaganda into theatres from coast-to-coast, testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities on October 27, 1947 (starting on page 290 of the transcript). He was disruptive, shouted defiance at the committee and was ejected from the hearing room. Committee investigator Louis Russell cited 34 instances of Communist activities on Lawson’s part, including his Communist party Card No. 47275.
The Hollywood Ten
Similar defiance marked the testimony of the others in the Hollywood Ten. And today it is an article of faith in Hollywood that the most dastardly evil that befell film-land was “the blacklist,” i.e., actors and directors who had problems finding work. We are asked to believe that nobody was guilty and those who were exposed were persecuted for their “political beliefs.” Even the popular TV series “Touched by an Angel” bought into that line in a 1997 episode. Communism, of course, was not a “political belief,” but was in fact a conspiracy aimed at bringing down the United States. Studio moguls did not deny Communists jobs merely because of “political beliefs.” They simply realized many Americans did not want to feed America’s enemies at the box office. It was a business decision.
The real blacklist?totally mean-spirited?has been directed against those in Hollywood who cooperated with the Un-American Activities Committee’s efforts to root out Communists.
Take producer Elia Kazan, for example. He told the House committee on April 10, 1952 that he had joined the Communist Party in the mid-Thirties, explaining he had been motivated by the threat of Hitler and sympathy for the poor. In his testimony, Kazan?by then a fierce anti-Communist? named eight others who were in the Party with him and suggested they shared his own humanitarian motivations for joining. This charitable explanation won him no points from the Hollywood Left. He took out an ad in the New York Times urging others who had seen the “conspiracy” from the inside to join him in coming forward. That drove the Hollywood culture over the top. Kazan heard that Communist Party meetings were held to isolate Kazan in the show business community. The Communist Daily Worker accused him of “belly-crawling.”
But that did not deter him from producing some widely acclaimed motion pictures, most notably “On the Waterfront,” which glorified whistleblowers against the forces of evil.
Ultimately, due to friends he had in Hollywood and despite the many others who had turned their backs on him, Kazan finally received a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award on Oscar night in 1999. Even then, the venom reappeared not only among aging Stalinists, but in the liberal mainstream media. When Kazan died in 2003, Allan H. Ryskind in Human Events cited Maureen Dowd (New York Times), Sharon Waxman (Washington Post), and Robert Koehler (Los Angeles Times) as among those who supported the charge that Kazan had behaved badly.
Other anti-Communists in Hollywood have suffered for their “apostasy,” some post-humously. Years after his death, a monument to actor Robert Taylor was removed precisely because he “named names.”
Today’s Hollywood blacklist targets conservatives. It is not written down anywhere. But it’s there. As Pat Boone told AIM in our interview, “[T]here is sort of the unspoken?but very real?wish that anybody who subscribes to these ancient Judeo-Christian concepts would get out of Hollywood.”
The very fact that, as the entertainer says, “It’s not something that somebody has sat down and written out,” arguably makes it all the more insidious. He adds, “It’s just sort of a collective recognition of certain people that are not ‘in’?[who] are not welcome in the circles of those who feel that there are no restrictions on their behavior.” Those who are “openly committed to and ?.vocal about moral precepts or conservative political ideas” are considered outsiders.
From other credible sources, I have heard?but for obvious reasons cannot confirm?that Hollywood workers in all parts of the film industry who are political conservatives and/or are religious people meet in private. Nothing formal. No minutes are kept. No one takes any names. There are probably no dues. All they do is meet and offer each other moral support. That reflects a fear of making Hollywood’s informal “blacklist.”
The Pat Boone Case
Pat Boone believes he has at times been targeted by that informal list. He cites an example:
“Even a movie like Robert Wise’s ‘Sand Pebbles,’ a role that Steve McQueen played, and of course, he did it beautifully. But I was up for that role, and Robert Wise, when I was proposed by a casting director?I was perfect for that role?[Wise] said, ‘No, I don’t want a singer. I want an actor.’ Well, I had been in the top ten [at the] box office, and I think I had proven that I could act.” Boone saw “a certain disdainful view of me as a singer, a guy with a wife and four kids, and pretty straight-laced if not totally square.”
The film capital has tried to use Pat Boone’s clean-cut image against him, and to mock traditional values. He says “the last half dozen” roles that he had been offered “would have caused me to portray a Pat Boone-like person?a preacher, a husband, a citizen who on the surface lives like I do, and then it comes out that he’s a hypocrite, a pedophile, an abuser. In other words, they want me to play those roles because it would have been tremendously effective.” Of course, he turned down the roles.
Another point: The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which restricts citizen groups from advertising their views within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election, benefits Hollywood and the media, which are exempt. Any such ad could incur a stiff fine. The intent of the law is that such advertising should be the exclusive responsibility of the campaign of the candidate supported by the ad. So Pat Boone believes left-tilting propaganda TV shows such as “Commander-in-Chief” and “West Wing” be counted as “in-kind” contributions to the Democratic National Committee.
“‘Commander-in-Chief,’ recognized by many as free advertising for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, comes off as “suspicious” in that regard, says Boone, though he allows as how the TV show is “beautifully acted, written, and portrayed.” That, of course, makes it all the more effective.
From the Cold War era right up to the present terrorist threat, Hollywood has had a curious inclination to soft-pedal the offenses of America’s enemies. One can cite the 1975 Academy Awards Night, with its gloating rhetoric about how “in a few days” anti-Communist South Vietnam would be “liberated” by Communist North Vietnam. There was Hollywood’s sympathy for the Communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the Eighties. Actor Ed Asner flew south of the border in 1990 to celebrate the anticipated Sandinista victor in Nicaragua’s election. He was to be disappointed. The Nicaraguan people elected the pro-freedom forces. And then today, Michael Moore produces movies that viciously attack America and excuse?if not support?our enemies.
To this day, Hollywood still clings to the myth of martyrdom on the Left?a Left that defended Communism and today soft-pedals the terrorist threat?as Billingsley put it?”while earning, substantial fortunes in the very country they attacked as repressive and fascist.” In Hollywood’s land of dreams, as author Richard Grenier once said, “Capitalism is evil except for the three-picture deal with Paramount, the Malibu mansion, the swimming pool, the tennis court, and the Mercedes Benz.”
To which Billingsley adds, “Or, as Marx himself might have framed it: From each according to his credulity, to each according to his greed.”
Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer & broadcast journalist.
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