Hollywood's War with Poland, 1939-1945

Hollywood's War with Poland, 1939-1945

Hollywood's War with Poland, 1939-1945

Hollywood's War with Poland, 1939-1945


During World War II, Hollywood studios supported the war effort by making patriotic movies designed to raise the nation's morale. They often portrayed the combatants in very simple terms: Americans and their allies were heroes, and everyone else was a villain. Norway, France, Czechoslovakia, and England were all good because they had been invaded or victimized by Nazi Germany. Poland, however, was represented in a negative light in numerous movies. In Hollywood's War with Poland,1939-1945, M.B.B. Biskupski draws on a close study of prewar and wartime films such asTo Be or Not to Be(1942),In Our Time(1944), andNone Shall Escape(1944). He researched memoirs, letters, diaries, and memoranda written by screenwriters, directors, studio heads, and actors to explore the negative portrayal of Poland during World War II. Biskupski also examines the political climate that influenced Hollywood films.


Hollywood presented a fundamentally distorted and negative portrayal of Poland and the Poles during the Second World War. An American citizen whose knowledge of the war was derived exclusively from the movies would be unsympathetic if not hostile to Poland and understanding if not supportive of Soviet policies directed against Poland’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. the number of Americans who fell into this category is impossible to determine, but it was doubtless large. Moreover, even for those for whom the movies were but one source of information, films had at least some effect, and for the Poles that effect was negative.

This conclusion is based on a careful consideration of scores of films and on the reconstruction of the evolution of stories from literary property through various “treatments” into ever changing scripts. This reconstruction has been supplemented by evaluations of the films and their political content provided by governmental agencies. in addition to studying the films closely, I have consulted many memoirs, letters, diaries, and memoranda by screenwriters, directors, studio heads, actors, and other film employees.

Discussions of Slavs in American cinema are few, and of the Poles, very few. All of them are characterized by sweeping allegations based on a small sample of films. For the average American, “going to the movies” usually meant watching cheap and artless efforts, not just attending a few major productions. It is thus only by considering a great many films, not just a handful of lasting impression, that we can sense the cumulative effects of the films on the public. Hence my examples are many and far ranging.

That Poland was treated very negatively is beyond question. Why . . .

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