Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939

by Thomas Doherty
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Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 by Thomas Doherty

Between 1933 and 1939, representations of the Nazis and the full meaning of Nazism came slowly to Hollywood, growing more ominous and distinct only as the decade wore on. Recapturing what ordinary Americans saw on the screen during the emerging Nazi threat, Thomas Doherty reclaims forgotten films, such as Hitler's Reign of Terror (1934), a pioneering anti-Nazi docudrama by Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.; I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany (1936), a sensational true tale of "a Hollywood girl in Naziland!"; and Professor Mamlock (1938), an anti-Nazi film made by German refugees living in the Soviet Union.

Doherty also recounts how the disproportionately Jewish backgrounds of the executives of the studios and the workers on the payroll shaded reactions to what was never simply a business decision. As Europe hurtled toward war, a proxy battle waged in Hollywood over how to conduct business with the Nazis, how to cover Hitler and his victims in the newsreels, and whether to address or ignore Nazism in Hollywood feature films. Should Hollywood lie low, or stand tall and sound the alarm?

Doherty's history features a cast of charismatic personalities: Carl Laemmle, the German Jewish founder of Universal Pictures, whose production of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) enraged the nascent Nazi movement; Georg Gyssling, the Nazi consul in Los Angeles, who read the Hollywood trade press as avidly as any studio mogul; Vittorio Mussolini, son of the fascist dictator and aspiring motion picture impresario; Leni Riefenstahl, the Valkyrie goddess of the Third Reich who came to America to peddle distribution rights for Olympia (1938); screenwriters Donald Ogden Stewart and Dorothy Parker, founders of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League; and Harry and Jack Warner of Warner Bros., who yoked anti-Nazism to patriotic Americanism and finally broke the embargo against anti-Nazi cinema with Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231163927
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 04/02/2013
Series: Film and Culture Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Thomas Doherty is professor of American studies at Brandeis University. His previous books include Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930–1934; Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture; and Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Judenfilm!
1. Hollywood–Berlin–Hollywood
"The Hitler Anti-Jew Thing"
The Aryanization of American Imports
The Aryanization of Hollywood's Payroll
2. Hitler, "A Blah Show Subject"
The Disappearance of Jews qua Jews
The Unmaking of The Mad Dog of Europe
"What about the Jews
The Story of a Hollywood Girl in Naziland: I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany (1936)
3. The Nazis in the Newsreels
"The Swastika Man"
4. The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League
"Unheil Hitler!"
The Politics of Celebrity
5. Mussolini Jr. Goes Hollywood
6. The Spanish Civil War in Hollywood
"Censored Pap!" Walter Wanger's Blockade (1938)
Loyalist Red Screen Propaganda
7. Foreign Imports
"German Tongue Talkers"
Anti-Nazism in the Arty Theaters
"Nazi Scrammers"
8. "The Blight of Radical Propaganda"
Trouble from Rome Over Idiot's Delight (1939)
Trouble from Berlin Over The Road Back (1937)
Trouble from Washington with the Dies Committee
9. Inside Nazi Germany with the March of Time
10. "Grim Reaper Material"
History Unreels
"The Present Persecutions in Germany"
11. There Is No Room for Leni Riefenstahl in Hollywood
12. "The Only Studio with Any Guts"
The Warner Bros. Patriotic Shorts
The Activist Moguls
"The Picture That Calls a Swastika a Swastika!": Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)
13. Hollywood Goes to War
Epilogue: The Motion Picture Memory of Nazism
Thanks and Acknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

Thomas G. Schatz

Thomas Doherty traces a powerful historical narrative as Hollywood's treatment of European fascism dramatically changes with the rise of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. Hollywood and Hitler, 1933–1939 marks a significant advance in our understanding of the American film industry in the 1930s and also in our appreciation of a wide range of films and filmmaking practices, revealing Hollywood as a social and geopolitical force.

David Sterritt

Meticulously researched and vigorously written, this comprehensive account of Hollywood, Hitler, and all points in between is both a scholarly tour de force and a riveting page-turner. Marshalling his finely-tuned expertise in American studies, film studies, and twentieth-century history, Thomas Doherty unfolds an epic chronicle of dueling ideologies, complicated celebrity politics, and the unstable boundaries between art, entertainment, and propaganda as World War II drew near. This is cultural analysis at its fascinating best.

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Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gina04 More than 1 year ago
Excellent overview of a neglected area of movie history and somethings I didnt even know.
Tennesseedog More than 1 year ago
This was a tremendous book.  A real treat for cinema lovers in that the author works his way through the significant Hollywood movies starting with All Quiet On the Western Front and ending with the post-World War II productions. The emphasis is on how the Hollywood studio owners interacted with the German government as the German government became a Nazi-run operation under Adolph Hitler. The change occurred on Jan 30, 1933 and developments over the next 7 years until the outbreak of World War II in Sept 1939, are the main meat of this book. Of course this means the treatment of Jews and other groups in Nazi Germany. Numerous producers, directors, writers and the Hollywood moguls themselves were Jewish and how the commercial, ethical and political issues were worked out in the production of movies during this era makes this book very interesting reading. All the major players are there and their actions delved into by the author. This includes Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, the Mayer brothers, Carl Laemmle, Leni Riefenstahl, Edward G. Robinson, the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, Fritz Kuhn of the German American Bund, Breen's Production Code Administration and many more characters both here and in Europe. The writing style of author Doherty is free flowing, entertaining and informative to the max. Using content from memos and speeches and primary sources without attaching post-World War II attitudes and information, he presents the world of local bijous, the major newsreels, raucous first showings and the controversies that erupted over how to deal with the propaganda spewed by the Nazis and their demands that Hollywood pictures be censored and shaped in ways that they approved. It was a grand battle leading up to the mass slaughter of the Second World War and much of it was fought over cinema, making money and staying true to democratic ideals which is the essence of America. If you love cinema, especially with the advent of the talkies in late 1920's and through the 1930's, you will find this volume highly entertaining and factually alluring.”
AnastaciaKnits More than 1 year ago
I love history & love reading non-fiction, though I don't read as much of it as I'd like to or should. I was interested in this title & got the book to review back in January & started reading it then, but then life got busy & this book got pushed to the back shelf in favor of lighter, faster reads. I was looking through netgalley & saw the title & was reminded of my obligation to read, and picked it up & reread it from the beginning. Doherty writes about the subject in a fairly lighthearted manner, making this easy to read for those who don't read a lot of non-fiction. Like I said, I love non-fiction but sometimes the language makes it tough for a layperson to read, but this one isn't like that. Admittedly there were some terms I had to look up, such as "hagio-biopic" (still don't know what that means). Besides the obvious, Doherty gives us inside looks into Hollywood's early history and gossip and the background of Nazi movies (often times in much more detail than I would have liked, but movie buffs will certainly enjoy this). Doherty's other books are also on TV & film, so certainly this is a passion of his. My favorite chapter was on Leni Riefenstahl, who directed two popular Nazi propaganda war films. I received this book to read and review from netgalley & was not paid for my honest review.