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Hollywood Censorship and Denatured History

The William Dieterle-directed film “Tennessee Johnson” released in January 1943, originally written to depict the epic post-Civil War political battle between Andrew Johnson and Thaddeus Stevens, is not available on video though according to the author “pops up now and then on Turner Classic Movies.” This was the same era when South Carolinian Jimmy Byrnes was told that despite his stellar career in the Democratic Party, a Southerner could not be added to FDR’s ticket as vice president in 1940 – but the Soviet-friendly Henry Wallace was.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hollywood Censors and Denatured History

“Tennessee Johnson, an MGM biography of President Andrew Johnson . . . starred Van Heflin as the cussed tailor of Greenville and Lionel Barrymore (one of Hollywood’s great New Deal-haters) as Thaddeus Stevens, Johnson’s radical nemesis. The movie received the sort of respectful notices often given to earnest historical films. It was also one of Hollywood’s most craven moments.

The film was originally titled The Man on America’s Conscience.  The script . . . took the traditional Claude Bowers view of Reconstruction and Johnson’s impeachment: that is, that “Johnson fought the bravest battle for constitutional liberty and for the preservation of our institutions ever waged by an executive” against Pennsylvania congressman Stevens, the brilliant but hateful clubfoot who wished to mistreat the conquered Southerners like a vast peonage.”

Enter Walter White, secretary of the NAACP. When he learned that MGM was producing an anti-Reconstruction film, White complained to Lowell Mellett, director of the Bureau of Motion Pictures of the Office of War Information. The OWI, a propaganda agency created by one of FDR’s executive orders, requested a copy of the screenplay . . . [and] when Mellett and White previewed the unedited film, they hit the roof.

Mellett demanded that key scenes be reshot or removed. Thad Stevens, the screenplay’s villain, was humanized; one new scene had him kissing and petting Andrew Johnson’s grandkids. A scene in which Stevens plied Johnson with drink before his legendary incoherent vice presidential Inaugural Address was left on the cutting room floor. Rewritten dialogue assured us that Stevens was “sincere” if a mite vengeful.

The essential character of Lydia Smith, Steven’s mulatto housekeeper and probable mistress, disappeared. Despite the changes, a gang of Hollywood liberals – Ben Hecht, Zero Mostel, Vincent Price – petitioned the OWI to destroy the picture, in best fascist fashion, in the cause of national unity.

Tennessee Johnson – the OWI demanded a conscience-less title – was released in its denatured form. It’s a fairly standard biopic: Johnson, nicely played by Heflin, is the runaway tailor’s apprentice and self-styled champion of “poor white trash” who is only trying to act on his predecessor’s wise policy of malice toward none and charity toward all. With the exception of Jefferson Davis, secessionists are depicted as huffy churls and hotheads.

One consequence of Walter White’s protest was the omission of Lydia Smith, a meaty role for a black actress. The part was recast as the corpulent “laws a mercy!” black maid of stereotype. The excision of Lydia Smith not only warred upon the truth, it also made Steven’s Negrophilia less comprehensible. Love, after all, is always a higher afflatus than political principle.

Walter White’s autobiography makes no mention of his role in altering Tennessee Johnson. The title is absent from a full shelf of books on censorship and the movies; censorship, it seems, only worked one way in Hollywood.”

(The Hollywood Ten(nessean), Bill Kaufmann; Chronicles, October, 1998, excerpt, pp. 39-40. www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Mar 6, 2017 - Historical Accuracy, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Hollywood's History, Propaganda    Comments Off on Hollywood’s Fake Pony Express History

Hollywood’s Fake Pony Express History

As with most books written after our cultural revolution of the 1960s by authors thoroughly blinded by Marxist ideology and moral relativism, Hollywood’s politically-correct and revisionist products, especially those based on historical themes, can seldom be trusted for accuracy or objectivity. The author below wrote in early 1999 that at one time Hollywood portrayed “white males in heroic roles in actual events – unless somehow they involve a politically correct theme – are nearly non-existent today.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Hollywood’s Fake Pony Express History

“For the last ten years, I have dealt with Hollywood in a variety of capacities – as a consultant and technical advisor for a television series, as a consultant for various film and television projects, and as an interview subject for documentaries. The push for political correctness or, perhaps more accurately, cultural Marxism is pandemic.

In 1991, I was brought on board the television series “The Young Riders” by David Gerber, the chairman and CEO of MGM Television at the time. Gerber hired me to make the series more authentic and historically accurate. He thought the producer and writers had taken far too many liberties with the plots and characters; the series was supposed to be based on the Pony Express and on actual riders.

There were no black Pony Express riders; however, in the interests of “urban demographics” – Hollywood’s code phrase for blacks – it was decided that one of the principal characters would be black. I suggested that he be a wrangler at the station, but that would not do. He would be one of the riders. He was named Noah, and he was just like the white riders except – he was perfect. After some time I realized that Noah was not merely an Old Testament patriarch come to ride for the Pony Express: he was God.

It was also decided that there should be some Mexicans in the show. A Spanish mission suddenly appeared in Wyoming, near the home station for our riders. That the nearest Spanish mission was actually in the upper Rio Grande Valley, 600 miles to the south, did not seem to matter. Now we could have Mexican heroes. At least the priest who ran the Spanish mission was Father Reilly.

One of our riders was Wild Bill Hickok. Although he never was a rider for the Pony Express, he did work as a teamster for Russell, Majors and Waddell, the firm that created the Pony Express. Making him a rider and a dozen other historically inaccurate things that were done with him in the series are probably forgivable – dramatic license. One script, however, had him making anti-gun statements – something to the effect that he hated the darn things but was forced to use them and it would really be best if nobody had them.

Jesse James was also in for some revisionism. Although he never had anything to do with the Pony Express, he appears in the series as a teenage boy working at the station. Jesse has all sorts of modern angst and talks and cries openly about it. This modern angst-ridden crybaby would certainly come as a surprise to those who knew the real Jesse. His family always remarked that, even as a little boy, he was tough as nails . . . [and] portrayed as nervous around guns, and in a critical situation he freezes and is unable to pull the trigger. The real Jesse was an accomplished hunter and tracker and an expert marksman by his early teens.

I probably do not have to tell you that our Indians were always perfect. They never killed women and children or innocent men, nor did they scalp or mutilate their victims. Only whites perpetrated atrocities and abused women. Story lines that had Indians chasing Pony Express riders were rejected out of hand, although there are several true stories of lone Pony Express riders being chased by dozens of Indians, suffering terrible wounds and yet miraculously escaping.”

(Celluloid Nation: Hollywood Does History; Roger D. McGrath, Chronicles, March 1999, excerpts, pp. 19-20)