Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Profiles of America's Beloved TV Celebrities (24) - Gary Cooper and Victor McLaglen Led Pro-Nazi Organizations in Hollywood

Edited by Alex Constantine

Gary Cooper, Hollywood "Hussar"

... Cooper was part of the Hollywood Hussars, a reactionary group with fascist sympathies founded by William Randolph Hearst, which claimed Ward Bond and Victor McLagen as members, from March-June 1935, until his agent convinced him to get out. The group did little more than parade around in fancy uniforms, practice military drills and parade at social events.

Unlike his former fellow members of the Hollywood Hussars, Cooper saw Nazism firsthand when he visited Berlin in 1939 with his father-in-law. The war-mongering that he observed convinced him to shed his isolationist stance, and he declared that the US should become more international. However, this did not motivate him to actually do anything. Cooper was one of a tiny minority of stars who resisted the urge to enlist after Pearl Harbor even though he was only 40 at the time. Instead, he believed that actors could help the war effort best by making war pictures, since the more taxes an actor paid, the more he helped to win the war. Like Spencer Tracy, Cooper did one five week long tour of Army bases in the Pacific to get it off his conscience, and the tour made him familiar with military speech, which he used in later films. Oddly enough, he felt that Hollywood should keep politics out of movies, and he regretted making The General Died at Dawn. A confirmed skirt-chaser, Wendell Wilkie and Cooper became great friends, and Cooper later supported Wilkie because he felt that Roosevelt was too powerful.

Cooper first entered the list of top ten money-making stars in 1936, and despite four commercial failures in a row in 1937-8, Cooper made half a million in 1939, and was the highest paid employee in the US.
Cooper's Hollywood Hussars & "the Advancement of American ideals"

" ... an organization launched in the mid-1930's by actor Gary Cooper. ... Commander of the Hussars was a fellow screen writer and pulps author, Arthur Guy Empey (whose Over the Top was an enormously popular account of Empey's service in the trenches with the British---a book Ernest Hemingway characterized as 'a mug's-eye-view of the war'). Purpose of the organization, which had as its headquarters the Hollywood Athletic Club, was to be a 'military-social unit' to take part in local civic affairs and to be "devoted to the advancement of American ideals. ... "
"The Alliance"

" ... In 1943 Cooper was one of the founding members of the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, called merely "the Alliance" in the film community. Its other early leaders included Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Sam Wood, Norman Taurog, Clarence Brown, and Walt Disney. Clark Gable, thought of as one whose apolitical inclination was even more pronounced than Cooper's, was also a member. The Alliance's cheerleader was Lela E. Rogers, mother of Ginger Rogers. ... "


Veteran author Anthony Slide has another book out, Incorrect Entertainment or Trash from the Past: A history of political incorrectness and bad taste in 20th century American popular culture (BearManor, 2007, paperback, US$19.95).

Lengthy title for a highly controversial subject matter. Chapters range from "This Race Business" and "Sex" to "Bodily Functions and Dysfunctions" and "Hollywood’s Fascist Follies." There’s surely something in the book to offend every reader.

Mr. Slide ... has cordially agreed to answer several questions about his latest tome. Considering his book and its subject matter, Slide’s responses are as controversial as to be expected. ...

[Q.] Fascist Hollywood? Sonja Henie a Nazi-sympathizer? Theda Bara calling Mussolini "marvelous"? Gary Cooper and Victor McLaglen spearheading Fascist or quasi-Fascist organizations? Were Cooper’s and McLaglen’s groups truly Fascist or just nativist? And was that a Hollywood "thing," or was there a large segment of the American population that sympathized with the far-right governments of Europe?

[A.] I cannot help but wonder if the opening comments of your question suggest that you believe my claims are perhaps spurious? [They weren't.]

For the record, I want to make it clear that everything I wrote in the chapter
"Hollywood’s Fascist Follies" is based on contemporary reports in U.S. trade publications. I do believe that Gary Cooper (right) was perhaps naive. He visited Nazi Germany long after it was politically correct to do so, and I am told (although I have no proof of this) that he was a frequent dinner guest at the home of the German consul in Los Angeles well into the late 1930s.

And no, it was not just a Hollywood "thing." As of 1938, there were a reported 800 pro-Fascist and pro-Nazi organizations in the United States, with names such as the Association of American Gentiles, the Christian American Patriots, and, of course, the German-American Bund. It is claimed that an estimated ten million Americans read, listened on the radio to, or were in some way reached by pro-Fascist propaganda.
A Figher by his Trade ...

Victor Andrew McLaglen

BORN December 11 1883; Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England (Some sources report December 10 or December 11 1886)
DIED November 7 1959; Newport Beach, California
WEIGHT 195 lbs

McLaglen was a strong puncher who made more money after his fighting career when he became a movie actor than he did as a fighter

He lived in Cape Town, South Africa as a youngster and for years claimed it as his hometown; His father was the Bishop of Claremont ...

" ... Victor McLaglen remains one of the most loved character actors of all time. Huge in every respect, he is known to us as the consummate sergeant from John Ford's cavalry trilogy, busting out of his uniform, barking orders, grinning like a devil at new recruits, as quick with a laugh as a tear, brawling, hard drinking, loving all that is Irish. ... "
" ... The more serious purpose of the Hussars was to invade the Soviet Republic of Georgia to secure drilling rights for an American oil millionaire who was bankrolling their enterprise. ... "

McLaglen & the Hollywood Hussars

" ... In 1932, while still a British citizen, McLaglen captained a band called the Hollywood Light Horse, described as 'a military organization formed to promote Americanism and combat Communism and radicalism subversive to Constitutional government.'

"For the most part, McLaglen and his troopers marched around in their specially tailored military uniforms to their favorite restaurants and bars. When that bid for social attention began to wane, Hollywood Light Horse members began drifting over to a parallel organization known as the Hollywood Hussars. The more serious purpose of the Hussars was to invade the Soviet Republic of Georgia to secure drilling rights for an American oil millionaire who was bankrolling their enterprise.

"At one point, McLaglen was a member along with George Brent, the sheriff of Los Angeles County and the city police chief. Gary Cooper was described as one of the sponsors, but that assertion was withdrawn following protests by Cooper's representatives. In any event the Hussars never got to invade Georgia - their most conspicuous public outing was a march one afternoon down to the Los Angeles newspaper offices of William Randolph Hearst, where they serenaded the publisher from the sidewalk in a group song, in gratitude for his anti-Communist editorials. ... "
Franklin Delano Roosevelt vs. the Banks:
Morgan's Fascist Plot, and How It Was Defeated

Part III

by L. Wolfe
Printed in The American Almanac, July 11, 1994

Victor McLaglen

"During the spring of 1934, money was being pumped into the creation of various fascist paramilitary organizations, each of which claimed to be the protection of America from the 'red menace' and from the influences of the 'New Deal.' Some were openly fascist, such as the Silver Shirts, the stormtroopers led by the Rev. Gerald L. K. Smith. Others, such as the Crusaders, spurned the fascist epithet, but nonetheless avowed fascist policy goals to crush organized labor and the 'Reds.' Still others were directly funded by bankers and financiers, such as the Sentinels of the Republic, funded by the Morgan-allied Pew and Pitcarin families. ...

" ... In Hollywood, the actor Victor McLaglen, who was reputed to be an operative of the British Foreign Office, established the California Light Brigade, which was ready to march at a moment's notice against any threat to "Americanism.'' He was rewarded for his efforts with an Academy Award for best actor by pro-fascist Louis Mayer's Academy of Motion Picture Arts in 1935. ... "
"The Alliance"

"In February 1944 several hundred members of the film industry met to organize the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals ...

" ... The MPA's purpose was "to correct the growing impression that this industry is made up of and dominated by communists, radicals and crackpots", and it was supported from the LA County's American Legion and by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Alliance members, particularly its future president Roy Brewer, encouraged the HUAC to investigate Hollywood Communism, maintaining that European and Asiatic aliens were placing anti-American propaganda into US films.

On May 8, 1947, J. Parnell Thomas and HUAC members John McDowell, John S. Wood, Robert E. Stripling, and Louis J. Russell, arrived in Hollywood, officially claiming that they would investigate all types of un-Americanism ... "

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

... The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA) was an American organization of politically conservative movie workers who wanted to defend the film industry against Communist infiltration.

The group was formed in 1944 and served as a body of supporters within the film industry that were willing to testify publicly against possible Communists in front of HUAC. Famous members of the MPA include John Wayne, who served as president of the organization, co-founders Walt Disney, Leo McCarey, Sam Wood, and prominent actors Ward Bond, Gary Cooper and Ronald Reagan.

Sam Wood was the MPA's first president.

Ayn Rand participation

Ayn Rand, who emigrated from Russia, wrote a pamphlet for the Alliance, entitled Screen Guide for Americans, where she wrote:

"The purpose of the Communists in Hollywood is not the production of political movies openly advocating Communism. Their purpose is to corrupt our moral premises by corrupting non-political movies--by introducing small, casual bits of propaganda into innocent stories- thus making people absorb the basic principles of Collectivism by indirection and implication.
The principle of free speech requires that we do not use police force to forbid the Communists the expression of their ideas--which means that we do not pass laws forbidding them to speak. But the principle of free speech does not require that we furnish the Communists with the means to preach their ideas, and does not imply that we owe them jobs and support to advocate our own destruction at our own expense."

Texts taken from The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden, p. 199.
John Wayne

" ... In the 1950s, Wayne joined Walt Disney, Clark Gable, and other entertainers to assist U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in exposing Communists working in the film industry. ... "

Scott Wise, The Film 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential People in the History of the Movies, Citadel Press Book/Carol Publishing Group: Secaucus, New Jersey (1998), page 42:

" ... Eventually the line between his [John Wayne's] personal views and his screen image blurred beyond recognition. His active membership in organizations like the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals allowed him to use his celebrity to further causes he deemed worthy. In the 1950s, Wayne joined Walt Disney, Clark Gable, and other entertainers to assist U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in exposing Communists working in the film industry. He began hand-picking roles and financing the production of certain films, like the heavy-handed Big Jim McLain (1952), which made overt anti-Communist statements. These "message films" would often cost him, both personally and professionally; Wayne lost a small fortune on the Vietnam War film The Green Berets (1968), allowing an errant sense of patriotism to oversimplify the story of soldiers conducting covert military actions in Southeast Asia. As television images exposed the horrors of battle to Americans, the films romantic portrait of "gung-ho" optimism was often cited as an example of how completely out of touch Wayne and many of his conservative contemporaries were with the complexities of the conflict. ... "
Wayne Becomes Alliance President

" ... In late 1948, John Wayne became president of The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Including the actors Ward Bond and Adolphe Menjou, producers like Metro's James McGuiness, and director Sam Wood, the organization saw its principle goal as hunting down subversive elements within the American film industry. ... "

Ward Bond, Wayne's Best Friend

Gruff, burly American character actor. Born in 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska (confirmed by Social Security records; sources stating 1905 or Denver, Colorado are in error.) Bond grew up in Denver, the son of a lumberyard worker. He attended the University of Southern California, where he got work as an extra through a football teammate who would become both his best friend and one of cinema's biggest stars: John Wayne. ... An ardent but anti-intellectual patriot, he was perhaps the most vehement proponent, among the Hollywood community, of blacklisting in the witch hunts of the 1950s, and he served as a most unforgiving president of the ultra-right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. In the mid-'50s he gained his greatest fame as the star of TV's "Wagon Train" (1957). ...

"On a hunting trip, [Bond] was accidentally shot by John Wayne. ...

"Although John Ford mocked many actors mercilessly (including John Wayne), Bond probably was on the receiving end of the worst verbal punishment from the director (who counted Bond among his favorite actors). At Bond's funeral, Ford walked up to Andy Devine and said, 'Now YOU'RE the biggest asshole I know. ...

"Bond's involvement with Johnny Guitar (1954) was ironic considering the director, Nicholas Ray, was a major left-winger who had been shielded from the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) by millionaire producer Howard Hughes. In addition, Johnny Guitar (1954) was a thinly-veiled attack on the HUAC's drive to uncover communist sympathizers. It was strange that Bond, an activist member of the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, should have chosen to work with Ray and stranger still that his character John McIvers eventually appeared to show remorse for the hate-mongering he had helped foster. ... "

Bond "campagained for Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election."

Lynch Mob

" ... Ward Bond (1903–1960), a vocal pillar of the pro-blacklist Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, as a bullying lynch mob leader whose scripted "string 'em up" dialogue sounds much like Bond's offscreen anti-Communist remarks. ... "

1 comment:

Bill said...

Gary Cooper enlisted in the U.S. Army within weeks of Pearl Harbor. He was rejected on medical grounds. Cooper felt guilty about so many of his friends (Jimmy Stewart, William Holden, Glenn Ford) off to war that he made a decision to turn down all war movies offered during the war (the only war movie he accepted had to do with Dr. Wassell's extraordinary evacutaion of wounded troops from Java.

Cooper visited Germany in late 1938. He went with his wife and his father-in-law, Paul Shields. Shields, a liberal and an economic advisor to FDR, was being sent there by Roosevelt to investigate the German war machine and its financing. Cooper's presence opened doors for Shields which would otherise have remained shut.

In fact, Cooper was outspoken about the isolationists in the U.S., and publicly warned in interviews of the danger of not preparing for war with Germany.

He turned down Sergeant York until the script was rewritten to include war sequences (there were none in the original script), so as to have the film serve as a wake-up call for Americans. So potent was York's message that it ran afoul of the Nye Committee and was yanked from circulation for two months.

Cooper and Frank Capra grew so fed up with the attacks from isolationists - both in and out of government -- over Meet John Doe that they intentionally fanned the flames by issuing a statement that they were already working on a sequel -- The Further Adventures Of John Doe.

Cooper dropped out of the Hussars in 1935, after finding out what the group was about.

He left the Motion Picture Alliance For The Preservation Of American Ideals in 1948.

The laziness of the reporting on Gary Cooper has always amazed me. Like with his testimony before HUAC in 1947, when he offered no names, no scripts, nothing. And then, in 1951, he put his career on the line defending Carl Foreman, threatened to walk off the film if Foreman's name was removed as screenwriter, defended Foremen by telling the press Foreman was the finest kind of American and his politics were his business and his alone. Cooper formed a company with Foreman after High Noon was finished, but the pressure became so great that Foreman released Cooper from the deal. Foreman later sent Cooper his scripts for first refusal, including River Kwai, the Key and Guns Of Navarone.

Maybe Cooper is forever cited because he's still a big name? Dunno, but it's astonishing how much misinformation there is about him.