Hollywood & Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History Up to World War II, by Steven Carr

Article excerpt

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 342 pp. $24.95.

The subject matter of this book is one that -- as a film critic, an armchair film historian, and an American of the Jewish faith -- immediately attracted me. I looked forward to delving into Carr's work. Unfortunately, I found myself slogging my way through it. Carr has taken what could have been an interesting and informative topic and let it get away from him. Hollywood and Anti-Semitism reads like a doctoral dissertation or a long-winded classroom lecture. It is dull, dry reading, a scholarly opus that will lose its audience very quickly because of its stilted writing style.

Carr has been very thorough in his research, citing numerous examples of anti-semitism and coupling those with the Christian majority's unwarranted fears of a Jewish conspiracy to reshape the nation via its perceived control of the financial and entertainment worlds. If an author can be cited for being too thorough, then Carr must be found guilty of excess. He offers numerous examples of the same people -- industrialist Henry Ford and his Dearborn Independent newspaper, for instance -- making antisemitic remarks and attempting to stir up anti-Jewish sentiment. After a while it becomes numbing and boring. What Carr needed was a tough editor to help trim his long-winded passages.

The poor individual who attempts to work his way through this volume will be inundated with footnotes -- more than 800 -- as well as a feeling of frustration. You keep mining the page waiting for some new revelation or tidbit about the movie industry or the paradox concerning the Jewish studio moguls who, on the one hand, worked hard to homogenize their product, while privately trying to assimilate into the American mainstream.

Carr is most studious in describing how Christian Americans viewed their Jewish brethren, citing numerous examples from nineteenth- and twentieth-century books, pamphlets, editorials, and newspaper and magazine articles. …

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