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December 15, 1989 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-15

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Lights! Camera!

Continued from preceding page

Enlightenment and Pro-
paganda, asked Fritz Lang,
a Jew, to direct the Nazi film
industry. He refused.
The most infamous Nazi
film, Jud Suss, made in
1940, shows an unclean, un-
civilized Jew who rapes a
young girl.
"Quite clearly, the Nazis'
films turned lots of people
against the Jews," Gomez
American movies also pro-
ved influential and inspired
some to enlist. The Marines
reported an increase in ap-

positively mortified, though
for different reasons, by Tar-
zan Triumphs, a 1942 film
about Nazi agents who hope
to find oil and tin in the
Near the end of the movie,
Tarzan manages to kill the
last of the Nazis just as he
sends out a call for help.
Meanwhile, in Berlin, "the
radio operator recognizes the
distress signal and rushes
out to summon the general
in charge of the African
operation," Koppes writes in
Hollywood Goes to War.

At a meeting with Hollywood power
brokers, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy
said any Jewish outcries would 'make
the world feel that a Jewish war was
going on: He said Hitler liked movies
and wanted Americans to continue
producing them, but 'you're going to
have to get those Jewish names off the

plicants after a movie about
the Marines.
While impossible to prove
whether The Great Dictator
encouraged any Americans
to fight Hitler, the film made
an important impact: it
opened the door for
Hollywood to produce anti-
Nazi films, Gomez says.
The most Jewish of these
was The Mortal Storm,
released in 1940 by Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer, which told
the story of a Jewish pro-
fessor put in a concentration
camp when he refuses to
teach Nazi ideology. Follow-
ing its release, the Germans
banned all MGM films and
soon thereafter, all
American films.
The Mortal Storm, along
with Confessions of a Nazi
Spy and The Great Dictator,
were among the films Nye
found most objectionable.
The results of his subcom-
mittee investigation,
however, would never be
known. Days before Nye was
to begin the hearings, the
Japanese bombed Pearl
Once America entered the
war, the Nazis became
Hollywood's favorite subject.
Everyone from Humphrey
Bogart in Casablanca to the
persecuted peoples in small
European nations to Tarzan
was fighting the Third
Reich. Still, the Jews of Nazi
Germany were almost never

Tarzan Meets
The Nazis


f government figures
were shocked by The
Great Dictator,they were



"While Tarzan, Boy and the
Jungle Priestess laughingly
look on, Cheetah the chimp
chatters into the
transmitter. Ignorant of the
fatal struggle in the jungle
depths, the general hears
the chimp on the radio,
jumps to his feet, salutes,
and yells to his subordinates
that they are listening not to
Africa but to Der Fuehrer."
This time the objections
came not from Nye, but the
Office of War Information
(OWI), which wanted serious
war films, not Tarzan and
Cheetah fighting the Nazis.
Established in June 1942,
the OWI was the latest in a
number of federal govern-
ment propaganda offices
created to deal with the
Media. OWI representatives
worked with studio heads,
producers and writers and
issued a set of guidelines for
Hollywood movie makers. It
made countless, yet unsuc-
cessful attempts to censor
The OWI preferred movies
that would help win the war
and that showed the
ideological conflict between
democratic America and
Nazi Germany's fascism,
Koppes says.
Hollywood, eager to help
in the war effort but resent-
ful of any outside influence.
and with its eye ever on the
profits, still produced films
like The Devil With Hitler, in
which hell's board of direc-
tors names Hitler as the
But it also jumped on the
patriotism bandwagon, with
films like the 1942 Keeper of
the Flame.

Charlie Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel, leader of Tomania, in "The Great Dictator," one of the few World War II films
to address Nazi persecution of the Jews.

Keeper of the Flame begins
as Robert Forrest, a fascist
who masquerades as an
American patriot, dies when
his car goes over a washed-
out bridge. Reporter Steve
O'Malley (Spencer Tracy),
there to cover the funeral,
learns the truth when he
meets Forrest's wife.
Mrs. Forrest (Katharine
Hepburn) admits her hus-
band was a fascist. That's

why he had to die. That's
why she did not tell him of
the danger at the bridge,
which she had noticed the
day before his death.
In the end, a fascist kills
Mrs. Forrest. Her picture
appears on a newspaper
under the headline "She
Died For Her Country."
"Splendid," read an Office
of War Information review.
Following the Hollywood

formula of balancing good
with evil, along with an Of-
fice of War Information
directive to make fascism —
not the average German
citizen — the enemy, films in
the mid-1940s make a clear
distinction between the
German people and the
Nazis, Koppes says.
In The Moon Is Down, an
adaptation of a novel by
John Steinbeck, a German

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