World War II changed production in Hollywood, with the government taking tighter control to ensure a supportive home front and producing pro-Allies propaganda. But until now the narrative has been that Jack Warner and other studio heads opposed the Nazis out of a moral imperative. Ben Urwand, a musician and currently a member of Harvard’s Society Of Fellows, alleges the opposite in his new book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler. Working from archival documents unearthed in Berlin and Washington, D.C., Urwand’s evidence is stunning, and this profile in Tablet gives a brief glimpse into his detailed account of the specific communications between Jewish Hollywood executives and the Third Reich in order to “wish to 'keep the German market safe for American movies.'” Contrary to books that didn’t have this new evidence, like Thomas Doherty’s Hollywood And Hitler, 1933-1939, Warner Bros. and other studios were ousted from Germany because they couldn’t hold the rigid standard of the Nazi regime:
“During the 1930s, Georg Gyssling, Hitler’s consul in Los Angeles, was invited to preview films before they were released. If Gyssling objected to any part of a movie—and he frequently did—the offending scenes were cut. As a result, the Nazis had total veto power over the content of Hollywood movies.”
The Tablet piece covers other aspects of the book, from the studios firing Jewish staff members in Germany and negotiating to employ others, pressure to kill projects like an adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ antifascist novel It Can’t Happen Here, and how Jewish characters disappeared from Hollywood films almost entirely in the 1930s to avoid German ire. This is damning evidence against the well-trodden narrative, and yet more proof that money has controlled everything in Hollywood for a century. Urwand's book comes out in October.
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