HOLLYWOOD AND HITLER

The Guardian reports on a new book by Harvard professor Ben Urwand detailing active collaboration between the Hollywood studios and Hitler’s Nazis. Alarmed by the Nazi reaction to ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (perhaps the only anti-war movie a Hollywood studio ever made), and worried about profits from screenings in Germany, American studio heads – many of them recent eastern European Jewish refugees – enthusiastically worked with Hitler’s censors to alter films or even cancel productions entirely in order to protect access to the German film market. All the studios were guilty, though MGM was the worst, using its tied-up Deutschmarks to invest in the German arms industry.

It’s a disgusting story which I can’t wait to read in full: entirely credible if you’ve had any dealing with the Hollywood studios or their London branch offices, where censorship, appeasement and collaboration have always been the order of the day. The story is also suitably ironic in that it follows another Guardian article – published only a month ago – entitled Be Nice To China, which details the Hollywood studios’ current grovelling to the Beijing regime: self-censorship, re-editing films to remove offensive references to China, and including shots of the glittering skyline of Shanghai. Among recent (and upcoming) studio films re-edited to please the Chinese government are DJANGO UNCHAINED, RED DAWN, IRON MAN 3, WORLD WAR Z, and TRANSFORMERS 4.

I don’t mean to suggest an offensive parallel between the Chinese government and Hitler’s Nazis. But both regimes were/are anti-democratic, and opposed to the freedoms we supposedly fight and die for (especially the freedom not to watch another TRANSFORMERS or Tarantino movie). It’s entertaining to read how the Chinese pay no attention whatsoever to our most important freedom of all – “free trade” – and limit the screening of foreign films in China to 34 films a year. The only way to circumvent the trade restraint (long ago abolished in “free” countries like Britain and Mexico, which are as a result swamped with American film and TV garbage) is to make your film a co-production with Chinese producers: censorship requirements apply in either case.

So it goes, when big corporate money is the only thing that matters and film is no longer treated as a personal statement, or an art.

Many thanks to Jerry Donaghy for the copy of Harry Harrison’s original Plague From Space. I’ve read it and am preparing a comparative essay on this and the subsequent Jupiter Plague, for your and his entertainment. One immediate observation: paperback books in the 1960s had much better cover art than in the 1980s. Why?

Meanwhile, modesty forbids me from sharing this review with you. It’s of a little book I wrote about the parallel lives of President Kennedy and his alleged assassin. It comes out next week in the US, courtesy of Feral House, and in the UK in November. The title is The President and The Provocateur.

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