Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History

By Reynold Humphries | Go to book overview

2
TheWarYears, 1939-1945

When the US declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nazi Germany had overrun Europe and been at war with Britain since September 1939. The controversy that raged in America between partisans and adversaries of the country's participation in the war effort was rendered more complex by the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi-Soviet Pact and attitudes within America to Nazi Germany. If Americans were united from 1941 to 1945, films made in the period 1938—40 showed that anti-Fascism brought together film-makers of very different political opinions. Before discussing certain war films, it will be useful to turn to an event that occurred in September 1941. Its repercussions were revelatory of the political climate in the US and were to return, in an inverted form, once the war was over: the Senate Sub-Committee War Films Hearings.1

The Sub-Committee was created at the request of two Senators, the Democrat Burton Wheeler and the Republican Gerald Nye, to investigate what they saw as blatant propaganda films put out by Hollywood to support Roosevelt's foreign policy and create a situation where the American public would support America entering the war. The Committee was created in August 1941; the Hearings started on 9 September. Both Wheeler and Nye were isolationists: involving America in a European conflict was against American interests. They considered that war-mongering Britain had been responsible for America's participation in World War I and that the same mistake should not be made again. Isolationism tends to be assimilated to xenophobia and chauvinism, but certain progressives were also isolationists because of their opposition to the very kind of aggressive imperialism both Britain and Germany represented at the timeofWorldWarI:

-40-

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Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • The Background 1
  • I - Drawing Up the Battle Lines 7
  • Introduction 9
  • 1: Hollywood and the Union Question 27
  • 2: Thewaryears, 1939-1945 40
  • 3: Hollywood Strikes, the Right Strikes Back 62
  • II - From the Hot War to the Cold War 75
  • 4: The Hearings of 1947 77
  • 5: None Shall Escape 105
  • 6: The Anti-Communist Crusade on the Screen 128
  • 7: Life (And Death) on the Blacklist 144
  • Conclusion 159
  • Archival Sources 164
  • Bibliography 166
  • Index 175
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