communism

The Blacklist Glossary by Karina Longworth

Our new season, The Blacklist, will cover events spanning four decades, featuring dozens of significant characters, institutions and acronyms. Here's a handy guide to some of the names and terms that are important to know while you listen. If you have suggestions for other terms that should be added to this Glossary, please tell us on Twitter.


Below-the-line: Term used to refer to any crew members on a film set other than the director, producers, writers and actors. On a standard film budget sheet, those creative personnel are listed at the top; then a line is drawn, and the rest of the crew members and their salaries are listed below the line. More info at Wikipedia

Herb Sorrell: Hollywood union organizer and leader. In the wake of the IATSE scandal, a new union of studio workers was formed, called the Conference of Studio Unions, lead by Herb Sorrell. The CSU set itself up as the clean alternative to the IATSE; it was also the openly leftist alternative, and charges that it was controlled by communists were given credence in 1945, when four factions of the CSU refused to support a set decorators strike, in keeping with the Communist Party's wartime no-strike pledge.

"HUAC": HUAC is the colloquial term used as shorthand to refer to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which is itself popularly often referred to as the House Un-American Activities Committee (hence, HUAC). HUAC was established in 1938 under Martin Dies as chairman, and famously conducted investigations through the 1940s and ’50s into alleged communist activities. More info at Brittanica.com

IATSE: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or I.A.T.S.E., is a labor union representing technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live theatre, motion picture and television production, and trade shows. During the early 20th century, organized crime gained influence over parts of IATSE leading to corruption and scandal. More info at Wikipedia

Iron Curtain: Term used to describe the political, military, and ideological barrier erected by the Soviet Union after World War II to seal off itself and its dependent eastern and central European allies from open contact with the West and other noncommunist areas. More info at Brittanica.com

Popular Front: Term used to describe any coalition of working-class and middle-class parties united for the defense of democratic forms against a presumed Fascist assault. In the mid-1930s European Communist concern over the gains of Fascism, combined with a Soviet policy shift, led Communist parties to join with Socialist, liberal, and moderate parties in popular fronts against Fascist conquest. More info at Brittanica.com 

Premature antifascism: The term invented after World War II to apply (and accuse) anyone who had been concerned about Hitler before the US got into the war. The concept was based on the slightly revisionist idea that only Jews and Communists cared about Fascism before Pearl Harbor happened and put America on the defensive.

Screen Readers Guild: Guild formed by the studio employees hired to read and analyze the production prospects of submitted screenplays. Bernard Gordon, a registered Communist who developed a career during the Blacklist as a writer and producer, was the Guild's president during the 1940s. 

Stalinism: Refers to the means of governing and related policies implemented by Joseph Stalin. Stalinist policies in the Soviet Union included: state terror, rapid industrialization, the theory of socialism in one country, a centralized state, collectivization of agriculture, cult of personality, and subordination of interests of foreign communist parties to those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union—deemed by Stalinism to be the most forefront vanguard party of communist revolution at the time. More info at Wikipedia

 

 

Star Wars Episode XIII: Walt Disney by Karina Longworth

img.jpg

Find this episode on iTunes

As the creator of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the inventor of the sophisticated feature-length animated film feature, Walt Disney changed Hollywood and brought millions of children and adults boundless joy. And yet, Disney’s legacy is marred by the common perception that he was also a racist, misogynist and anti-semite. In this episode, we will attempt to reconcile the Walt Disney who turned his studio over to the US government and military during World War II for the creation of training films and anti-Nazi propaganda, with the Walt Disney who repeatedly associated himself with anti-Semites and their causes, and whose prolonged battle with unions left him embittered and determined to rid Hollywood of what he perceived of as the scourge of communism.

Show notes:

Special thanks to our special guest, Mark Olsen, who played Walt Disney.

The starting point for this episode was the speech given by Meryl Streep at the National Board of Review awards dinner in January 2014, in which she detoured from a tribute to Saving Mister Banks star Emma Thompson to call out WaltDisney for being a “gender bigot” who “had some racist proclivities.” While some stepped up to defend Disney against these allegations (see particularly this post by Amid Amidi on Cartoon Brew), it felt as though the general reaction online ranged from unquestioning enthusiasm (Vanity Fair put the phrase "best speech ever" in the URL of their article) to unquestioning shrugs, as though Streep was merely saying out loud a truism that a lot of people thought was old news. At the same time, I knew that whatever he felt personally, Disney’s animation studio had been active in using their characters to drum up support for World War II and, particularly, distaste for Hitler and the Nazis. Then, shortly after Streep’s speech, in researching Busby Berkeley’s The Gang’s All Here for an essay I wrote for the film’s recent UK DVD release, I came across some information about Walt’s 1941 visit to South America in indirect support of what would soon be known as the Allied cause. Then, a couple of months ago, I came across a new book called Disney During World War II. Written by John Baxter and commissioned/published by Disney themselves, this book isn’t pure puff piece — it’s particularly critical of Walt’s interest in Victory Through Air Power — but it doesn’t go near the allegations articulated by Streep. I figured these different versions of who WaltDisney was and what he believed would be fertile territory for exploration.

This episode includes audio clips from Der Fuehrer's FaceThe New Spirit and The Three Caballeros.

Other sources:

WaltDisney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

In Defense of Walt: WaltDisney and Anti-Semitism

WaltDisney’s grandniece backs up Meryl Streep’s racism claims: ‘Anti-Semite? Check. Misogynist? OF COURSE!!!

The full text of Ayn Rand's Screen Guide for Americans

Discography:

Life Round Here by James Blake

Air Hockey Saloon by Chris Zabriskie

I Want to Fall in Love on Snapchat by Chris Zabriskie

The Sorcerer's Apprentice, by Paul Dukas, performed by Leopold Stowkowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra

Intelligent Galaxy by The Insider

Private Hurricane by Josh Woodward

Readers! Do You Read? by Chris Zabriskie

Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod

Divider by Chris Zabriskie

Gymnopedie No. 3 by Eric Satie, performed by Kevin MacLeod

Money by Jahzzar

Undercover Vampire Policeman by Chris Zabriskie

Snow Drop by Kevin MacLeod

Passing Fields by Quantum Jazz

All of My Tears by Spiritualized

Something Against You by The Pixies

YMRT #27: Star Wars Episode I: Bette Davis and the Hollywood Canteen by Karina Longworth

Find this episode on iTunes

Today we’re launching a new series for the new year, Star Wars, which will focus on movie stars and their lives and careers during times of war. Our first eight episodes will explore stories of women during World War II, and we’ll start with the woman who dominated all aspects of Hollywood, including its war effort, in the late 1930s-early 1940s: BetteDavis.

This is the story of how BetteDavis evolved from a wannabe starlet who was constantly told she was too ugly for movies, to the most powerful woman in Hollywood, by playing heroines that had never been seen on screen before — to borrow a term from Davis herself, sympathetic “bitches.” After Pearl Harbor, the tenacious Bette became the figurehead of the Hollywood Canteen, a nightclub for servicemen staffed by stars, which was the locus of the industry’s most visible support of the troops on the home front.

The Hollywood Canteen was a catalyst for propaganda in more ways than one, aims Hollywood furthered by telling the story of the Hollywood Canteen in a movie called, um, Hollywood Canteen, starring Davis, John Garfield, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Lorre and other celebrities as “themselves.” The movie and most press accounts of the Canteen portray it as a miraculous force for good in the world, which it probably was, but that narrative leaves out a lot, including illicit affairs, a murder, and an FBI investigation whose findings would have an impact on the blacklist of the following decade. 

Show Notes

This episode was a hell of a thing to research. BetteDavis published two autobiographies and both are very, very far from being impartial, but I consulted The Lonely Life a bit, as well as the authorized biography The Girl Who Walks Home Alone by Charlotte Chandler. I’d also recommend the Mysteries and Scandals episode on Davis, mostly to marvel at all of the ways in which A.J. Benza manages to call her a bitch without actually using the word “bitch.” Mark Harris’ Five Came Back was useful, particularly in its shading of the relationship between Davis and William Wyler.

More difficult was nailing down the story of the Hollywood Canteen. Hollywood Canteen: Where the Greatest Generation Danced With the Most Beautiful Girls in The World is as prosaic as its title; at least Hollywood’s propaganda about the Canteen, including the Delmer Daves movie Hollywood Canteen (excerpted in the episode) makes the spin fun. Much, much better is Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen. by Sherrie Tucker — a fascinating, beautifully written and researched study of the Canteen which goes into deep consideration of the social/racial/class/political conflicts enmeshed into this supposedly squeaky-clean nightclub which has become an icon of the supposed uncomplicated patriotism of the generation who fought WWII.

Discography:

Dance of the Stargazer performed by the US Army Blues Band

Rite of Passage by Kevin MacLeod

Lonely Town performed by Blossom Dearie

Ghost Dance performed by Kevin MacLeod

Au coin de la rue by Marco Raaphorst

I Knew a Guy by Kevin MacLeod

The Insider Theme by The Insider

5:00 AM by Peter Rudenko

Will be war soon? by Kosta T

Off to Osake by Kevin MacLeod

Balcarabic Chicken by Quantum Jazz

Hi Ho Trailus Bootwhip by Louis Prima and His Orchestra

Divider by Chris Zabriskie

My Country by Tune-Yards