Monday, December 2, 2013

Hiding on the silver screen

Book: The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler
Author: Ben Urwand
Published: 2013 (Harvard University Press)
Pages: 253

Not going to lie, guys; I took the bookjacket off this so I could read it in public without getting weird looks. 

It's about how Hollywood basically complied with Nazi Germany's rules of what movies could be like so the major studios wouldn't have to lose the biggest chunk of their overseas revenue even as a second world war was gathering all its forces and such. 

Apparently Hitler loved movies, screened them all the time when that was still a pain in the ass, recorded his thoughts, and had advisers who saw their massive propaganda potential. And his skill as an orator and propagandist made him and his people super paranoid about what Germans saw on the big screen during the national socialist rise to power. But they didn't just say get rid of anything Jewish; they said get rid of anything that makes fun of Germany like this *pulls out giant list of arbitrary rules*. 

And the major studios were like, "Well, I guess, I mean, sure?" They weren't active in any propaganda but they were active in cutting their movies, sometimes to incomprehensible shreds, so they'd pass. I feel really sorry for the editors who sweated to keep their job through the Hayes Commission AND the Nazis.

There were surprisingly few protest movies and almost no Jewish characters portrayed on screen by the 1930s. But a majority of the studio executives were Jewish. Which actually had surprisingly little effect on business. 

I wish the answer was a little more complicated than, "They wanted to keep the revenue from their foreign market" and that this book was a bit more than explaining that, then listing all the changes they had to make to certain movies. I wish the photos were a little more interesting too; they are literally just headshots of people talked about. Like one movie still from King Kong. 

But it was still an interesting take on where art, commerce, and politics collide (spoiler alert: commerce usually wins). Bookshelf. 

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