Browsing "Hollywood’s History"

Stereotypes and White Trash in Little Rock

The Little Rock episode of government force used in the integration of Arkansas schools caused little damage to Governor Orval Faubus as he easily secured reelection in 1958, and served three more terms.

Hollywood used Little Rock to advance their stereotypes of the Southern citizenry, with “A Face in the Crowd” described below, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.”

The latter two paint a damning picture of poor Southern white people with the Ewell family depicted as untrustworthy “poor white trash”; Gregory Peck provided “a pale imitation of the primal Cajun doing his dance to drumbeats.” “Redneck” and “white trash” were often used interchangeably; “hillbilly” was waiting in the wings if the other two did not suffice.

Stereotypes and White Trash in Little Rock

“Little Rock was the most important domestic news story of 1957. It transformed the Central High neighborhood into a newsroom, attracting reporters from the major newspapers, magazines and television networks. By the end of September, the number of press people had grown from a handful to 225 highly visible journalists and cameramen. The standoff between the courts and the governor – the “crisis” environment swirling around the school grounds – grabbed the world’s attention.

The media easily slipped into Southern stereotypes, depicting “many in overalls,” “tobacco-chewing white men,” or as one New York Times article highlighted, a “scrawny redneck man” yelling insults at the soldiers. Local Arkansas journalists similarly dismissed the demonstrators as “a lot of rednecks.” Unruly women who stood by became “slattern housewives” and “harpies.” One Southern reporter said it outright: “Hell, look at them. They’re just poor white trash, mostly.”

In Nashville, mob violence erupted that same month after the integration of an elementary school. There, a Time [magazine] reporter had a field day trashing the women in the crowd: “vacant-faced women in curlers and loose-hanging blouses,” not to mention a rock-throwing waitress with a tattooed arm.

These were all predictable motifs, serving to distance rabble-rousers from the “normal” good people of Arkansas and Tennessee. By 1959, the Times Literary Supplement acknowledged that it was the “ugly faces” of “rednecks, crackers, tar-heels and other poor white trash” that would be forever remembered from Central High.

In the same year that Little Rock consumed the news media, Hollywood produced a feature-length film that capitalized on the redneck image. Starring Andy Griffith and directed by Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd was . . . “a dark drama that followed “Lonesome Rhodes,” a down-and-out man discovered playing guitar in an Arkansas jail, and traced his rapid rise into the national limelight as a powerful and ruthless TV star.

For reviewers, Griffith’s performance was a cross between Huey Long and Elvis Presley – a hollering, singing “redneck gone berserk with power.”

(White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg, Viking Press, 2016, excerpts pp. 251-252)

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

The author below views “Northern History” as a highly fertile and under-explored frontier for historians. The early concerns of Republican politicians regarding Northern support for their war is underscored by Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois, advised by a constituent in June 1862: “The minds of our friends are filled with forebodings and gloomy apprehensions . . . all confidence is lost in the Administration, and a disaster to our Armies now at Vicksburg, in Tennessee, or on the Potomac, will disintegrate this whole Country . . . if we cannot speedily secure victories by our [Northern] arms, peace must be made to secure us anything!”

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

“[Steven] Spielberg’s cinema offering [Lincoln] is balanced by the good news that Ron Maxwell, creator of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, will soon release a film called Copperhead with a screenplay by sometime Chronicles contributor Bill Kauffman.

It is based on Harold Frederic’s 1893 novel The Copperhead, about a New York State family persecuted for its opposition to Lincoln’s war. Such opposition was far more reasoned and prevalent than has ever been admitted. And rampaging Republican mobs punishing dissent in parts of the North were common. Indeed, Northern opposition to the war and its suppression is the biggest untold story in U.S. history.

Ron Maxwell’s films are stupendous achievements unmatched by anything in American cinema in the last half century. But even if he falls for a little of the Treasury of Virtue. In Gods and Generals a Virginia family has a slave pretend to be the owner of their house on the idea that Union soldiers will not ransack and burn the property of black people.

Anyone who has studied the actual behavior of Union soldiers in that war knows that a black person’s property would be more likely, not less likely, to be stolen or destroyed, because in that case the victims were less able to complain or retaliate and less likely to evoke the sympathy of Northern soldiers.

In fact, some Northern soldiers pretended or had been told that black people, even free, could not own property, and thus their possessions were really those of white Southerners and therefore fair game. Instances of such oppression are countless.

Advance reports on Copperhead bill it as a story about opposition in wartime. I hope the film does not miss that the story is about opposition to the war in particular, and why.”

(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 46-47; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Hollywood’s Fake History

The battle of Jenkins Ferry near Little Rock, Arkansas in late April, 1864, is pronounced a victory for Northern forces by Wikipedia despite Gen. Kirby Smith holding the field of battle afterward and preventing the juncture of two enemy armies. The infamous Red River campaign of Northern commander Nathaniel Banks, of which Jenkins Ferry was part, was as noted below, a cotton-stealing campaign, as officers had their men confiscate cotton bales and send them to New Orleans for their personal enrichment.

Hollywood’s Fake History

“The [Steven Spielberg] film [Lincoln] begins with a false portrayal of the battle of Jenkins Ferry, a victory by outnumbered (as usual) Confederates that put an end to a major Union cotton-stealing campaign. There was no massacre of black troops at Poison Springs, nor any massacre of Confederate prisoners by blacks in retaliation at Jenkins Ferry, as is claimed.

Most Northern soldiers would have slaughtered their black “comrades” before allowing them to slaughter Confederate prisoners. I suppose this invention makes a gratifying vicarious revenge fantasy for the leftist homosexual screenwriter.

The 1st and 2nd Kansas Regiments (Colored) are described inaccurately as cavalry. There were no black cavalry units in active service in the war. Northern soldiers would have balked at blacks riding while they walked.

During the war blacks soldiers were mostly labor and garrison troops, and occasionally, as at Ft. Wagner and the Crater, sacrificed in forlorn hopes of sparing the lives of white Northerners. Ambrose Bierce, a frontline Union soldier for the entire war, said he never saw any black people except the servants and concubines of Union officers.

The film shows Lincoln in friendly conversation with black soldiers who were veterans of Jenkins Ferry, though how they got to Washington from Arkansas is not explained. Such a scene is unlikely. Lincoln throughout his life had relatively little contact with black people. Some were run out of Springfield in Lincoln’s time, and at least one lynching occurred there after the war.

Lincoln did receive a delegation or two at the White House, to whom he hinted that the best thing their people could do was to emigrate to some friendlier clime . . . [and] used the N-word routinely. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was emphatically “the white man’s president.”

Obviously, these filmmakers wanted the film to be all about slavery, requiring a basic perversion of accuracy. But like so much of the treatment of the war, charity for black people actually takes second place to the whitewashing of Northern behavior, to safeguarding what Robert Penn Warren called “the treasury of virtue.”

Southerners and Confederates fared much better in Hollywood during the first half of the 20th century than they do now, although the picture is mixed, and an occasional sympathetic treatment sneaks through. A recent film, The Conspirator, about the execution of Mary Surratt for the Lincoln assassination, was fairly even-handed and accurate. Even so, it could not escape a certain amount of whitewash, almost as much as Tom Sawyer’s fence.

Inevitably, the degree to which Lincoln was beloved by his own side is exaggerated. Lincoln worship was a posthumous thing. And the film implies that Mrs. Surratt would not have been executed if her son had not escaped, thus shifting the blame of her murder from her killers to John Surratt. Think about it: It is suggested that these people were right to execute a mother since they could not lay hands on the son.

Indeed, the film entirely fails to convey the atmosphere of haste and secrecy that surrounded the whole of the proceedings after Lincoln’s assassination. Here again is something that has been broached by an occasional maverick historian but which Americans have never faced.

You would think in a matter so important there would be an exhaustive investigation. Instead, the supposed guilty parties were bound, hooded, gagged, and swiftly executed, and Booth when cornered and badly injured was killed rather than captured.

Why the haste? Cui bono? In fact, [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton’s secret and summary dealings guaranteed that the full truth would never be known.”

(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 45-46 www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

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)