Thursday, August 1, 2013

An empire of their own: how the jews invented Hollywood by Neal Gabler

If one had to use one word to describe the relationship between the Jewish community and the United States of America, it would be ‘assimilation’.  The Jewish immigrant in this country profited well in certain unchartered industries of this great country but at the expense of his Jewish identity.  The Jewish garment industry gave rise to the secular labor unions; publishing Hebrew literature grew into publishing generic adult education, and the Jewish owned retail dry goods- department  stores developed into the general trend in fashion, are just a few industries where Jewish people distinguished themselves.  The entertainment industry as it manifests itself in motion pictures is an outstanding example of Jewish success in a field that the Jewish immigrant entered on the ground floor and created an industry and quintessential image of America.  It is a clear example of the trend toward assimilation – that great pressure to “become American” and shed that perceived as obscure baggage of unique Jewish Identity.

The great production companies, MGM, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, and RKO were all Jewish companies responsible for creating the typical American movie experience.  They created a “recession proof” industry because they understood that a picture was an idyllic escape from the drudgery and harsh realities from which the movie goer lived.

This fascinating study describes the big personalities of Louis B. Mayer, Carl Laemmle, Adolph Zucker, Jack and Harry Warner, Samuel Goldwyn (Goldfish) and how they created feel good pictures.  It is the story of the short life (37years) of Irving Thalberg, the genius in producing over 400 films of quality.  One gets a glimpse of their rabbis, Edgar Magnin, and Max Nussbaum, two Reform rabbis who did not demand any Jewish observance.  The only difference between the two rabbis, was perhaps one was more Zionistic (Nussbaum fled Germany to escape the Nazi clutches.)

Because the nature of the control of production of a picture was absolute, one understands the natural reaction against management and the rise of labor and the leftist influences in Hollywood according to Mr. Gabler.  One sees the confusion and lack of clarity in speaking out against Hitler by the movie moguls because of his position against Stalin and the Communists!  Very few films were made with a message against Hitler’s fascism and those that were made did not mention the Jewish plight explicitly.  Somehow the moguls did not want the world to think WWII had a Jewish problem.

The ease of turning in those who dabbled with the Communist Party USA and creating a black list uncovers the naked insecurity of the Jewish immigrant movie moguls and uncovers the lack of confidence in Constitutional Rights and guarantees of free speech and political opinions.

The most poignant comment, however, came from producer, Jack Warner on his deathbed, after a life of complete “Americanism” confusing his daughter, telling her surprisingly “Marry a Jew!”  When asked why,  Warner explained, ‘Because they – goyim (gentiles) hate us! – they'll end up shouting ‘you're a dirty Kike!’

Neal Gabler’s worthwhile study documents as Mr. Warner asserted that assimilation does not work!

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