March 29, 2009
The Man Who Fought the Hollywood RedsBy Ben-Peter Terpstra
Once upon a time, there was a conservative anticommunist Hollywood, proudly standing up for America.
In the 1940s, the director, Samuel Grosvenor Wood, was growing tired of Stalin's friend President Franklin Roosevelt, and rightly so. Hollywood's pro-appeasement culture, too, was just as irresponsible and arrogantly insensitive. Russia's gulags were real. Leftwing actresses were not.
So, how did Sam challenge Hollywood? Some historians contend that Mission to Moscow, a love letter film to Red Russia, from liberal Hollywood, pushed the director over the edge.
Straight Sam's response? He helped form the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, in order to challenge Hollywood's Alliance for the Preservation of Red Moscow's Ideals. And, fortunately, Hollywood's womanly women and manly men stood with Sam.
Yes, there were politically indecent writers, politically indecent directors, politically indecent producers, and -- horror! -- politically indecent actors, in Tinseltown. There were even some fabulous conservative costume designers (but that's another story).
Cecile B. De Mille. Victor Fleming. Leo King Vidor. Walt Disney. Gary Cooper. Clark Gable. Pulitzer Prize-winner for Drama, Morrie Ryskind (his son became the editor of the conservative Human Events). Leo McCarey (a devout Roman Catholic). They were all class acts, and great supporters of the conservative alliance, quicknamed "the MPA."
Robert Taylor, Ronald Reagan, Adolphe Menjou, and college football buddies, John Wayne and Ward Bond were also on board.
Of course, that's not how Hollywood's Left remembers history. George Clooney's fan club likes to fantasize about the HUAC's Catholic Joe hunting down poor put-upon reds. But McCarthy, the anti-Nazi/anti-Stalinist Senator was not part of the "bad" HUAC. In reality, Hollywood's greatest critics were her concerned actors, her concerned writers, her concerned producers, Red Dalton Trumbo's longsuffering toilet scrubbers, and even some concerned unionists. (Roy Brewer, the famous anti-communist union leader for example, was a member of the MIA.)
And, many of Hollywood's concerns predated the so-called Red Scare. There were even some fabulously concerned makeup artists. Revealingly, in the early days, anti-commie meetings were secret affairs, meaning that conservatives already were the thought police's hostages.
What's more, Hollywood's anti-communists were not toothless hicks with tics from the back of Bourke. In this real reality, fiery intellectuals like Ayn Rand, for example, fueled their intellectual arguments.
In all truth, the MIA was a great coming together of minds, from libertarian writers to Christian conservative actors (and, okay, fabulous costumes designers).
Need more evidence? The libertarian-minded playwright/novelist, Ayn Rand, wrote the following in an official MPA pamphlet entitled Screen Guide for Americans:
The purpose of the Communists in Hollywood is not the production of political movies openly advocating Communism. Their purpose is to corrupt our moral premises by corrupting non-political movies -- by introducing small, casual bits of propaganda into innocent stories -- thus making people absorb the basic principles of Collectivism by indirection and implication.
The principle of free speech requires that we do not use police force to forbid the Communists the expression of their ideas -- which means that we do not pass laws forbidding them to speak. But the principle of free speech does not require that we furnish the Communists with the means to preach their ideas, and does not imply that we owe them jobs and support to advocate our own destruction at our own expense.
And, the United States of America's open ears were hearing and listening.
Rand's writings sent Coulter-like shockwaves through the establishment. The above arguments were printed in newspapers across the United States, and even made it on the front-page of the entertainment section of The New York Times.
You have to give credit to clever Sam. He was in the thick of it. Today, we complain about liberal actors, but back then, the communists were only years away from taking over Hollywood, and therefore America's cultural engine forever. Conservative Sam changed all that. He put appeasers on notice. He wasn't preaching to the conservative choir, he was fuelling conservatives, libertarians, and independents. Remember Reagan?
While today's Hollywood is still powerful, well-read people are awake to her tricks. And thanks to Sam, the Alliance's first president, and his patriotic comrades, we don't have to worry about choosing between Song of Russia and Song of Russia III in a rundown video store.
Conservative Hollywood lives in John Wayne's Westerns. Conservative Hollywood lives in Walt Disney's pirated Chinese versions of Song of the South. Conservative Hollywood lives in Gable's frank movies. And, it will outlast all of those crappy moralistic anti-moralistic movies from the 1990s.
In the 1950s, there were no gulags in America. But there were "pinko-mouthing" Stalin enthusiasts with their pretend persecution stories, and their hatred for industrious women like Rand. But she knew the real Sam, and the real Russia. Rand knew that population-control breadlines were real. They were nothing to sing about. Because of Sam we can run to (and not from) Conservative Hollywood without blushing.