The Hollywood Reporter has a fascinating book excerpt of “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler” (Harvard University Press, Sept. 9) by Ben Urwand which chillingly shows how far major Hollywood studios went to collaborate with the Nazis during the ten years leading up to World War II. Apparently, they “let Nazis censor scripts, remove credits from Jews, get movies stopped and even force one MGM executive to divorce his Jewish wife.” They also enthusiastically assisted in the Nazis’ world-wide effort to spread propaganda.
The excerpt has some pretty amazing detail, including one example from April 1937. After author Erich Maria Remarque’s trilogy “Three Comrades” was completed, MGM hired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write a screen play which attacked the rise of Nazism in Germany. The film was set in the late 1920s, when the Nazis were gaining their brute political force. However, the German consul didn’t approve of the movie and suggested some changes. “This screen adaptation suggests to us enormous difficulty from the standpoint of your company’s distribution business in Germany. … [and] may result in considerable difficulty in Europe for other American producing organizations.”
MGM executives capitulated to several German demands. Eventually, the film’s setting was moved up, had no attack on the Nazis, and absolutely no mention of Jews. (Rest assured, these cuts didn’t affect the movie’s romantic plot.) Three Comrades would have been Hollywood’s first explicitly anti-Nazi film.
According to the New York Times, “Mr. Urwand said that he found nearly 20 films intended for American audiences that German officials significantly altered or squelched. Perhaps more important, he added, Jewish characters were all but eliminated from Hollywood movies.”
“At this critical historical moment, when a major Hollywood production could have alerted the world to what was going on in Germany,” Urward laments, “the director did not have the final cut; the Nazis did.”
Read the excerpt here.