When Democratic Senators Sided With American Nazis to Stop Hollywood From Taking on Hitler
Photo Illustration by Kristen Hazzard/The Daily Beast/Photos GettyOn March 31, 1941, MPPDA president Will Hays released his annual report, titled Motion Pictures and National Defense. Although most of the 38-page document would be ignored by the Senate investigation of Hollywood, Hays outlined Hollywood’s response to the turmoil in Europe. Hays describes 1940 “as a period of supreme crisis in the history of the world.” Profits were the only true ideology in Hollywood, and the war was clearly affecting foreign sales. Hays listed fourteen countries that no longer bought Hollywood films and thirteen that were nearing the same position. The isolationist senators used this economic change as an explanation for why Hollywood made anti-Nazi films, but Hays also explained that the industry had simply shifted its export focus elsewhere.The MPPDA president also gave an overview of the kinds of films released over the past year. Hays categorized them in terms of drama, comedy, and music and singled out films that portrayed the “somber and satirical aspects of the tragedy of Europe.” Several films that would be discussed during the Senate investigation were listed, such as The Mortal Storm, The Great Dictator, Night Train to Munich, Foreign Correspondent, The Man I Married, and Pastor Hall. For Hays, the war in Europe was a natural topic for movies, but the small number of such films “spoke most emphatically against any charge that the screen was a breeder of hate.” Only 5 percent of films released in 1940 dealt with the European conflict in any capacity.While critics of Hollywood would soon refer to film primarily as a means of amusement, Hays defined film as “a medium of information, education, and entertainment.” Hays also stated that movies were an important force for national morale, which was proven by the Naval leaders who testified before the House Appropriations Committee two weeks prior to Hays’s report. After describing the industry’s growth in terms of exhibition policy and technology, Hays noted how Hollywood was leading the nation with its community service. The film industry raised millions of dollars for the Red Cross and donated thousands of films to health facilities, which was a testament to its civic responsibility.Read more at The Daily Beast.