Between 1933 and 1939, representations of the Nazis and the full meaning of Nazism came slowly to Hollywood, growing more ominous and distinct only as the decade wore on. Recapturing what ordinary Americans saw on the screen during the emerging Nazi threat, Thomas Doherty reclaims forgotten films, such as Hitler's Reign of Terror (1934), a pioneering anti-Nazi docudrama by Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.; I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany (1936), a sensational true tale of "a Hollywood girl in Naziland!"; and Professor Mamlock (1938), an anti-Nazi film made by German refugees living in the Soviet Union.
Doherty also recounts how the disproportionately Jewish backgrounds of the executives of the studios and the workers on the payroll shaded reactions to what was never simply a business decision. As Europe hurtled toward war, a proxy battle waged in Hollywood over how to conduct business with the Nazis, how to cover Hitler and his victims in the newsreels, and whether to address or ignore Nazism in Hollywood feature films. Should Hollywood lie low, or stand tall and sound the alarm?
Doherty's history features a cast of charismatic personalities: Carl Laemmle, the German Jewish founder of Universal Pictures, whose production of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) enraged the nascent Nazi movement; Georg Gyssling, the Nazi consul in Los Angeles, who read the Hollywood trade press as avidly as any studio mogul; Vittorio Mussolini, son of the fascist dictator and aspiring motion picture impresario; Leni Riefenstahl, the Valkyrie goddess of the Third Reich who came to America to peddle distribution rights for Olympia (1938); screenwriters Donald Ogden Stewart and Dorothy Parker, founders of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League; and Harry and Jack Warner of Warner Bros., who yoked anti-Nazism to patriotic Americanism and finally broke the embargo against anti-Nazi cinema with Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939).
With a rich blend of art and politics, Doherty brings to light the story of how Hollywood handled Nazism during Hitler's reign. Recommended.
Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 tracks the advance of fascism, and the movie industry's reaction on screen and in private.... [A] fascinating work.
A lively study of Hollywood's relationship to Nazism.
Wide-ranging and brightly written.
A lively, detailed account and a worthy successor to his books Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934 and Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration.
A remarkable and stimulating account of an important part of movie history and American history.
[Doherty's] books on American cinema from the 1930s to the 1950s are essential reading: Pre-Code Hollywood and Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen & the Production Code Administration.... No one has told this story in as comprehensive or convincing a fashion. As always, Doherty's work is well researched.
A witty writer familiar with Hollywood history and manners, Doherty places the studios' craven behavior within a general account of the political culture of the movies in the thirties and forties.
[A] riveting read.
Mr. Doherty fully understands the studio system and how it juggled interference from its own internal agency, the Production Code Administration. He doesn't deny the greed and fear that motivated studios, but he puts the behavior in context.
Meticulously researched and captivating.
Doherty masterfully describes how the movie industry, mostly headed by Jews, ultimately came together at a time when the nation needed unity.... The book is crisply written, well documented.
Doherty's well researched Hollywood and Hitler 1933-1939 throws fascinating new light on America and the rise of Nazism.
[A] wide-ranging, scrupulously researched and highly entertaining study.
[A] judicious and comprehensive history of the period.
Doherty provides a more nuanced and accurate account of Hollywood's relationship with Hitler, and his book should be considered the authority on the subject.
M. Todd Bennett
Hollywood and Hitler is an excellent addition to Doherty's impressive oeuvre, well worth reading for its important insights, strong narrative, and mastery of the period.
Doherty's book is well documented and brings together a corpus made of lesser-known, yet signifying feature films.
Thorough and elegantly written.
Doherty brings fresh eyes and a witty pen to re-examine the business of US cinema production and distribution in the turbulent pre-war years.... A valuable contribution to scholarship on the subject.
An important contribution to the history of Hollywood's response to the Nazi efforts to censor US films targeted for export to Germany.... Highly recommended.
Vividly written, academically unpretentious, and indispensable for historians and students of film.
Bernard F. Dick
[ Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939] is painstakingly researched and offers film historians, as well as historians of World War II, a rich, insightful, and engaging portrait of an industry and a world in turmoil.
Meticulously researched.... [ Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939] provides an informed backdrop to scholars looking to contextualize and analyze individual films from the era.
A tour de force of film history, deftly weaving together many strands of Hollywood and world history to explain Hollywood's vexed and often vexing relationship to the rise of Nazism.
Doherty offers a compelling prequel to his own Projections of War: Hollywood,American Culture,and World War II and an indispensible contribution to the emerging body of work on the relationships between Hollywood and Berlin in the 1930s.
"The Hitler Anti-Jew Thing"
The Aryanization of American Imports
The Aryanization of Hollywood's Payroll
2. Hitler, "A Blah Show Subject"
The Disappearance of Jews qua Jews
The Unmaking of The Mad Dog of Europe
"What about the Jews
The Story of a Hollywood Girl in Naziland: I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany (1936)
3. The Nazis in the Newsreels
"The Swastika Man"
4. The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League
The Politics of Celebrity
5. Mussolini Jr. Goes Hollywood
6. The Spanish Civil War in Hollywood
"Censored Pap!" Walter Wanger's Blockade (1938)
Loyalist Red Screen Propaganda
7. Foreign Imports
"German Tongue Talkers"
Anti-Nazism in the Arty Theaters
8. "The Blight of Radical Propaganda"
Trouble from Rome Over Idiot's Delight (1939)
Trouble from Berlin Over The Road Back (1937)
Trouble from Washington with the Dies Committee
9. Inside Nazi Germany with the March of Time
10. "Grim Reaper Material"
"The Present Persecutions in Germany"
11. There Is No Room for Leni Riefenstahl in Hollywood
12. "The Only Studio with Any Guts"
The Warner Bros. Patriotic Shorts
The Activist Moguls
"The Picture That Calls a Swastika a Swastika!": Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)
13. Hollywood Goes to War
Epilogue: The Motion Picture Memory of Nazism
Thanks and Acknowledgments
Read the chapter "Hollywood-Berlin-Hollywood," from Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)
Named one of the Best Film Books of 2013 by the Huffington Post