Hollywood Conservatives

 

On the radio: President Calvin Coolidge, being welcomed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios by Louis B. Mayer.

He was born Lazar Meir. By the time he was America’s highest-paid man and the most powerful Hollywood boss in history, he’d done more than anglicize his name; he set the standard for a pioneer generation of studio chiefs who believed in America with the fervent, grateful conviction of people who’d seen the worst of what the Old World could do. Mayer kept a plaster elephant on his desk as a playful, or sometimes a not-so-playful reminder that MGM’s boss was no New Dealer. He was a delegate to the Republican national conventions of 1928 and 1932 and the state chairman of the California Republican Party in the early Thirties. He wasn’t alone, of course. There were always some Republicans and conservatives in Golden Age Hollywood, though those terms don’t always line up with our present-day understanding of them; stars like Ginger Rogers, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Robert Taylor, writers like Morrie Ryskind. There’s a scholarly monograph waiting to be written about that forgotten history, but this post isn’t it. With the greatest respect for the people and events of that era, there’s little or no living connection with the people and the issues of today. What has Hollywood Conservatism been in our own times? How is it organized, and by who?

The origins of the modern Hollywood right can be identified with some precision. After George Bush lost the 1992 election, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director Lionel Chetwynd (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz; The Hanoi Hilton; Kissinger and Nixon) felt that conservative Hollywood had done practically nothing to involve itself or even so much as to politically express itself. He and his friend, apostate-leftist-turned-conservative David Horowitz started the Wednesday Morning Club, an activity of David’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture. (The WMC name referred to waking up disappointed on mornings after Tuesday elections. Since it was actually a monthly luncheon society that met on random weekdays, “Wednesday Morning” was a perpetual source of confusion.) It would be to Hollywood conservatism roughly what Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club had been to the birth of personal computers.

WMC was an IRS 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, technically a discussion forum, not a partisan one. I saw George W. Bush and Charlton Heston there, but also Arianna Huffington (when she was still on the right), Camille Paglia and Chris Matthews. The lunches were extremely posh, usually at the main ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and they did attract plenty of non-conservatives, as well as wealthy business people like Anne Volokh (mother of Sacha and Eugene) who liked hanging out with politicians and stars. L.A. journalist Catherine Seipp wrote a sharp piece in Los Angeles magazine, “It’s Wednesday Morning in America”. It was syndicated nationally, greatly boosting both WMC and Cathy’s own career.

That’s the origin point. The Club was a real success for David and Lionel. It essentially paid for itself, being neither a drag nor a boon to Horowitz’s CSPC. It had prestige, but it was not a truly public activity. It wasn’t a true membership club in any sense. It didn’t put on screenings or events other than the luncheons, and had no national presence or cultural influence. None of that is a knock on it; it was built to earn respect and it did.

Only a year into the Wednesday Morning Club, Chetwynd and Horowitz joined with a friend, Cathy Siegel, an entertainment attorney and corporate officer, and founded a separate organization, the American Cinema Foundation. It had a very different charter and mission. It wasn’t set up to be “a top conservative arts group”; it was set up to be a top arts group by any standard, but (for a change) run by conservatives—not quite the same thing. Like Fox News’s Fair and Balanced slogan, the distinction is meant to have a little bit of sly irony, but also to be taken literally. We weren’t seeking the right-wing best, but simply the best, and if as all too often happens, you haven’t heard of it elsewhere, we wanted you to wonder why your other cultural sources were letting you down so badly. ACF would be our Directors Guild, our own mini American Film Institute or micro-motion picture academy. It would hold public activities in Los Angeles and Washington, and later overseas.

It too had limitations, mostly self-imposed for reasons. All of its staff and board would be known publicly; no evasion, no political concealment. The ACF board was small but “heavy”, made up of genuine big shots. It wasn’t snobbish but it was unavoidably elite; it had to be to do the job it needed to do. We were honest about that. ACF wasn’t membership oriented and wasn’t really set up to take advantage of potential sympathy or interest in the heartland. We went after major corporate sponsorship the way AFI and Sundance did, not small dollar donations like more political organizations did.

We couldn’t do everything, so we stuck to things no one else could do—hold an annual Freedom Film Festival, present seven Andrzej Wajda Awards to brave filmmakers of formerly Communist countries, help get an Oscar for Mr. Wajda, and for films like “The Lives of Others”. We sponsored Cuban films at the Kennedy Center and a protest photo exhibit about Cuba’s treatment of gays. We held seminars on TV writing, PBS, and why Hollywood’s storytellers seem to love dirty cops. But we didn’t do retail politics. We weren’t the go-to place to see Dinesh D’Souza. At a time when every conservative group was casually mislabeled as the Christian right, we were in a literal ethnic sense one of the least Christian.

There are other models, other ways to make a difference. One was the Liberty Film Festival, held for a couple of years by Libertas, an ambitious married couple (Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo) who hired and then lost John Nolte, later of Breitbart. LFF was a splashy, explicitly conservative weekend film festival that was more or less billed as America getting in Hollywood’s face. Despite a few “name” guests, some of them on the ACF board, it was neither feared nor respected in the industry and disappeared quickly. Murty and Apuzzo made too many enemies too casually, including on the right, accusing Clint Eastwood of anti-Catholic attitudes over scenes in “Million Dollar Baby”. Libertas was able to attract national attention, at least from conservative publications, and if run more professionally might have survived infancy. But in the words of Billy Joel’s “Big Shot”, “I’ll give you one hint, Honey, you sure did put on a show”.

From time to time other arts groups and would-be influencers announce that they’re coming to town to shake things up, and the hotels, screening rooms and PR agencies welcome them with open arms. At the height of the DVD boom, Walmart could probably have made Fayetteville, Arkansas the next Sundance if it had really wanted to. They had the power to make themselves respected, even feared. No one who lacks that power should bother to make plans to conquer the town.

Another organization that took a diametrically different approach to offering something to Hollywood’s conservatives was the once-secret Friends of Abe, the Fight Club of the American right. It’s okay to say its name out loud; it’s all been in the open since it ended. FOA was altogether different from Govindini’s LFF, from my ACF, and from David Horowitz’s CSPC, although plenty of people belonged to several or all of them. Friends of Abe had something in common with the Wednesday Morning Club; it was a purely social group without public activities or any attempt at public influence. Unlike any of our projects, FOA was completely secret.

Cameras were confiscated at the door. Confidentiality was as assured as velvet ropes and security guards could make it. It was very difficult to join, and almost impossible to find out about. But as fancy as the parties were, once you were in, FOA wasn’t elitist. A libertarian screenwriter, a FiCon financier, and a socially conservative Teamster who drove props to locations could all rub elbows at the bar with Jon Voight and Jim Caviezel. Actors, in particular, were able to relax, knowing that the press was rigorously excluded. Eventually, of course, it leaked. (Good old Pat Boone explained, “I can’t tell you about it. It’s a very secret group of conservatives, real hush hush”. The reporter from Variety nodded as she wrote it down.)

At that point it disbanded from fear of public exposure. FOA was the most actor-led of Hollywood’s conservative groups, and actors are far more vulnerable to shifts in public opinion than writers or directors. This is a harsh sounding but seriously meant metaphor: In other words, to them, being a conservative in Hollywood was something like being gay in Hollywood back in say, 1955. It was something you had to keep secret from the bosses and the general public at all costs because people who used to like you might hate you. It’s not exactly illegal, no, and everyone in Hollywood has heard snickering whispers of someone mixed up in this icky conservative thing, but it’s certainly frowned on socially, something that can only be admitted in private among the closest of friends. Liberals who may hate that metaphor should consider what drives conservatives to see it as accurate.

Does this way of looking at it come anything close to even satirical reality? There’s an element of truth in it. A lot depends on who you are, how old you are, and where you are in the industry. Lionel Chetwynd once put it succinctly, “(Being a conservative in Hollywood) isn’t always a minus. But it’s virtually never a plus”. Fear is understandable, but you have to be careful not to validate what they think of you, as if what you are and what you believe is something to be ashamed of.

The Center for the Study of Popular Culture is now the David Horowitz Freedom Center and conducts activities. Friends of Abe has some vestigial existence, like the veterans of Woodstock. Effectively it’s long over. The Liberty Film Festival is gone a decade ago, but it helped launch the career of Breitbart’s John Nolte. I started to close out the American Cinema Foundation in 2015, as many of my pals and allies on the Board and I had finally grown older together, and frankly I was confident with a curmudgeon’s professional cynicism that there weren’t many, if any halfway knowledgeable, halfway conservative film curators left in the whole country. I trimmed the ACF website back to what amounted to a static catalog of 1994—2014. We packed up nearly a thousand rare overseas books and video tapes, many sent to the motion picture academy library, some to the American Film Institute. We’d done our bit for history.

In 2016 I rethought the issue, thanks to the writers I discovered on this site and the internet’s ability to make talent visible. With nothing to offer a prospective successor but a name, a track record, a website, and a very modest amount of intellectual property, I asked @titustechera if he’d give it a shot. It’s a rare coincidence: the young online scholar who knew film history the best was also, by providence, the one who cared most about American culture. In two years Titus has reoriented ACF towards online media, interviews, and podcasts. If you care about reading conservative viewpoints about the movies, wish him well. He’ll need all the help he can get.

Remember the guy with the 1928 microphone at the head of this post? Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM when Leo the Lion was the unquestioned ruler of the film industry. He was born in Czarist Europe, grew up hungry in Canada in a big, desperately poor Jewish family, and through ceaseless hard work managed to impress boss after boss until he was made the boss of Hollywood’s top film studio of the Golden Age. When you read anecdotes about “LB”, the same story keeps repeating, because it so clearly said something about the man and his times, and how distant we are from them.

Mayer was in the studio’s tiny, exclusive executive screening room, watching a rough cut, an unfinished edit of an Andy Hardy movie. This was a much liked MGM series starring Mickey Rooney as a go-getter American teenager, sort of a Marty McFly of the Thirties. As always at Metro, all the craft elements were first rate. In this scene, Andy’s mother is sick, possibly dying, while Andy stands weeping at the side of her bed. It’s a tough moment, a three handkerchief special. Suddenly Louis B. Mayer exploded angrily, “That good American boy should be on! his! knees! He should be praying!” On his orders, the scene was refilmed the next day exactly as he wanted it.

People told this story for decades for a couple of reasons: If you liked Mayer, and/or the golden age of MGM movies, it showed how even the tough studio boss had a sentimental streak. If you didn’t like Mayer or the Hollywood studio system in general, it shows how the big producers reduced everything to a schmaltzy, cornball level. But both ways of telling the story ignore the real point: Mayer’s take on the scene was truer dramatically than the original version. It was also culturally more sensitive, psychologically more accurate. Smarter. He was purely and simply right, and the scene was better as a result.

That’s the kind of instinctive understanding of America’s virtues that is so hard to find among today’s tastemakers. That’s the kind of conservative vitamin missing from the Hollywood diet. When I say, “conservatives in Hollywood”, that populist spirit is closer to what I’m talking about than anything old Louis B did to advance the Smoot-Hawley tariff or fund Thomas Dewey’s 1944 campaign. The point is to change the culture, not make films about worthily dull donor class subjects (“Boring From Within: The AEI Story”).

Just like our series on Hollywood Communists, there are always stories within stories to tell about Hollywood Conservatives. We barely touched on movie content in this post, but that’s part of the overall ebb and flow of talent. As always, I’m eager to speculate with you how our years in Hollywood could have been done better, or how the future could be different.

To coin a phrase, I love it when a plan comes together.

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  1. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    The changeover from Mayer to Dore Schary in 1950 at MGM kind of showed the way the studios were headed future years, towards more ‘message’ oriented movies. Which in and unto itself isn’t a bad thing … unless pushing the message becomes more important than telling a good story and entertaining the audience. Almost 70 years later we can sort of see where the wretched excess of that has taken a lot of Hollywood productions, including a few properties the people in charge really had to work at to screw up.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    The changeover from Mayer to Dore Schary in 1950 at MGM kind of showed the way the studios were headed future years, towards more ‘message’ oriented movies. Which in and unto itself isn’t a bad thing … unless pushing the message becomes more important than telling a good story and entertaining the audience. Almost 70 years later we can sort of see where the wretched excess of that has taken a lot of Hollywood productions, including a few properties the people in charge really had to work at to screw up.

    Periodically, critics are disappointed that filmmakers and audiences don’t respond to daily headlines and pushed trends with finger-snapping speed and synchronicity. Studio bosses, of course, have the opposite problem–how do you nudge, coerce, hint or bend writers, directors and actors into doing what audiences want to see them do, not necessarily what they want to do.

    There are recurrent waves, though. One of the things that made the so-called Movie Brats iconic and evocative was the intelligent way they referenced the last days of the former American common culture. Compare 1956’s “Forbidden Planet” to 1977’s “Star Wars”. See the crossing of the Red Sea in 1956’s “The Ten Commandments”, and compare its structure and emotional effect to the climax of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). Lucas and Spielberg were destined by birth date to usher in (so to speak) the multiplex era, but after the first dreary identiboxes opened, they were part of a push to use decor and remodeling to make the movie experience special. There was only so much they could do, but at least they remembered the picture palaces.

    • #2
  3. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Gary McVey: On the radio: Secretary of Commerce and presidential candidate Herbert Hoover…

    I’ve only read this far but…is that really Herbert Hoover?

    • #3
  4. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    philo (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: On the radio: Secretary of Commerce and presidential candidate Herbert Hoover…

    I’ve only read this far but…is that really Herbert Hoover?

    That’s what the caption said, but the more I look at it, the more it looks like Coolidge. I’ll change the text accordingly since I can’t authenticate the source. Thanks!

    • #4
  5. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Fascinating history, Gary. I never knew.

    But who is the “I” in the second sentence of the third paragraph?

    • #5
  6. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Thanks, Gary. I followed mentions of and videos from the TWC through Frontpage for a couple of years. This makes me want to go through the archives over there. I certainly would recommend them to anyone who hasn’t seen them already.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey: That’s the kind of instinctive understanding of America’s virtues that is so hard to find among today’s tastemakers.

    “American” virtues run counter to what the current impresarios are shooting for. They want big box-office overseas, and they think that in order to achieve that, they need to make Captain America less American.

    May their tribe get the mange.

    • #7
  8. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    As best I can recall, Superman no longer fights for “Truth, Justice, and The American Way.”

    • #8
  9. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    The changeover from Mayer to Dore Schary in 1950 at MGM kind of showed the way the studios were headed future years, towards more ‘message’ oriented movies. Which in and unto itself isn’t a bad thing … unless pushing the message becomes more important than telling a good story and entertaining the audience. Almost 70 years later we can sort of see where the wretched excess of that has taken a lot of Hollywood productions, including a few properties the people in charge really had to work at to screw up.

    Periodically, critics are disappointed that filmmakers and audiences don’t respond to daily headlines and pushed trends with finger-snapping speed and synchronicity. Studio bosses, of course, have the opposite problem–how do you nudge, coerce, hint or bend writers, directors and actors into doing what audiences want to see them do, not necessarily what they want to do.

    There are recurrent waves, though. One of the things that made the so-called Movie Brats iconic and evocative was the intelligent way they referenced the last days of the former American common culture. Compare 1956’s “Forbidden Planet” to 1977’s “Star Wars”. See the crossing of the Red Sea in 1956’s “The Ten Commandments”, and compare its structure and emotional effect to the climax of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). Lucas and Spielberg were destined by birth date to usher in (so to speak) the multiplex era, but after the first dreary identiboxes opened, they were part of a push to use decor and remodeling to make the movie experience special. There was only so much they could do, but at least they remembered the picture palaces.

    “Star Wars” at the moment is probably the best example of what should be a perpetual cash cow series being smothered by messaging. If Lucas really had a Vietnam allegory in the original, he kept it well hidden, while the current purveyors care far more about the overt ideological messaging than entertaining the audience with a coherent story.

    • #9
  10. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    philo (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: On the radio: Secretary of Commerce and presidential candidate Herbert Hoover…

    I’ve only read this far but…is that really Herbert Hoover?

    That’s what the caption said, but the more I look at it, the more it looks like Coolidge. I’ll change the text accordingly since I can’t authenticate the source. Thanks!

    I believe it is Hoover. Here is a picture of Hoover in his 30s as a mining engineer:

    And here is one of him in the 1920s

     

    Herbert Hoover, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing slightly right, listening to radio.

    It also looks like Hoover in the photos of Taking Flight, a book I reviewed recently (actually, this week – it appears Sunday).

    If it is a photo of him as Secretary of Commerce, he would be younger than the avuncular or dyspeptic Hoover of the 1930s and 1940s.

     

    • #10
  11. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    So I just got off the phone with some conservative kids who wanted to interview me for their podcast–so I told them about the ACF & what’s involved in what we do & what we hope to achieve if can get an audience. I can report that they’re not particularly pessimistic, not least about the fate or at least prospects of conservatives in America. I’m glad of that. I told them some things about what we can understand about America from pop culture–ideology is the least important thing. It’s useful for the fights we all need to get through the day, but not beyond that.

    Pop culture has created giants whose like has not been seen in a long time. Bob Iger at Disney & his lieutenant at Marvel, Kevin Feige. Men of the stature of the founders of studios. If you want to understand what it means to define mediocrity–where we’re all comfortable–that’s what these two men have done, for an entire generation, which most of us will have to live with!

    Conservatives could learn much from them, including regarding how to deal with this new situation. We make it our business at the ACF to understand what’s going on & we have good hope of improving events wisely. Happily, the situation that depresses old conservatives–liberal domination of the culture–has ended with the arrival of digital technology. It’s possible to do things otherwise now, for people interested in doing so. We can let go of the old quarrels, so there’s less aggravation, too.

    Everything that was assumed before about how being conservative is just not respectable or interesting can now be overcome. It’s important, however, for conservatives to be seriously committed to preserving the best of themselves & of America–& to want to share it with America. Both are necessary & they almost never go together. There are preservationists with a bit of a bunker mentality & people who are popular essentially because they monetize hatred. We have little ability as yet to hold on to what we love & to share it.

    So, folks, if Gary’s too kind words move you–please think well of what we do at the ACF. It’s needful work, to revive the most impressive parts of American Cinema & educate people about what’s now possible with digital technology.

    • #11
  12. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    Gary McVey: There’s a scholarly monograph waiting to be written about that forgotten history, but this post isn’t it.

    No, not a scholarly (yawn) monograph but a great post. Now: extend this out for another hundred pages or so and you will have written a great and much-needed book. From what we can gather from your post you have extensive knowledge of Hollywood and of the intricacies involved in getting a movie made. Yes, yes – the Blacklist was an abomination and all that but there’s another side to the history of movies in America and another voice chiming in to set the record straight would be very much welcome.

    • #12
  13. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    That is definitely Coolidge. From Getty Images:

    US President Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933, left) with Russian born film producer Louis B. Mayer (1884 – 1957) on the MGM lot in Los Angeles, 19th February 1930. Actress Mary Pickford (1892 – 1979, right) and Grace Coolidge (1879 – 1957) stand in the background. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

    Edit: And I’m going to go out on a limb and say Pickford and Mrs. Coolidge are talking to Irving Thalberg, MGMs production chief who died tragically at a very young age.

    • #13
  14. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Fascinating history, Gary. I never knew.

    But who is the “I” in the second sentence of the third paragraph?

    The “I” is me. Kinda hammy, but hey, this is Hollywood we’re talking about.

    • #14
  15. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen
    @DuaneOyen

    “There’s a scholarly monograph waiting to be written about that forgotten history, but this post isn’t it.”

    OK, but you, Gary, are the guy to lead it and make sure it is done.  Titus can participate, get a student as research assistant, but do it.  Don’t wait till there is no one left to interview for oral history.

    • #15
  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    philo (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: On the radio: Secretary of Commerce and presidential candidate Herbert Hoover…

    I’ve only read this far but…is that really Herbert Hoover?

    That’s what the caption said, but the more I look at it, the more it looks like Coolidge. I’ll change the text accordingly since I can’t authenticate the source. Thanks!

    I believe it is Hoover. Here is a picture of Hoover in his 30s as a mining engineer:

    And here is one of him in the 1920s

    Herbert Hoover, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing slightly right, listening to radio.

    It also looks like Hoover in the photos of Taking Flight, a book I reviewed recently (actually, this week – it appears Sunday).

    If it is a photo of him as Secretary of Commerce, he would be younger than the avuncular or dyspeptic Hoover of the 1930s and 1940s.

    EJ nailed it, but it’s a closer call than you’d think. Interesting that an entire web site of Republican history buffs (including me) has to pull out the magnifying glasses. And Ricochet is owned by Silent Cal Productions! But in fairness, it’s not exactly like distinguishing Ike from JFK.

    Trivia fact: As Secretary of Commerce, Hoover had a great deal of influence over the early radio industry, and appeared in a Washington-to-New York demonstration of television held by AT&T in 1927.

    • #16
  17. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    The changeover from Mayer to Dore Schary in 1950 at MGM kind of showed the way the studios were headed future years, towards more ‘message’ oriented movies. Which in and unto itself isn’t a bad thing … unless pushing the message becomes more important than telling a good story and entertaining the audience. Almost 70 years later we can sort of see where the wretched excess of that has taken a lot of Hollywood productions, including a few properties the people in charge really had to work at to screw up.

    Periodically, critics are disappointed that filmmakers and audiences don’t respond to daily headlines and pushed trends with finger-snapping speed and synchronicity. Studio bosses, of course, have the opposite problem–how do you nudge, coerce, hint or bend writers, directors and actors into doing what audiences want to see them do, not necessarily what they want to do.

    There are recurrent waves, though. One of the things that made the so-called Movie Brats iconic and evocative was the intelligent way they referenced the last days of the former American common culture. Compare 1956’s “Forbidden Planet” to 1977’s “Star Wars”. See the crossing of the Red Sea in 1956’s “The Ten Commandments”, and compare its structure and emotional effect to the climax of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). Lucas and Spielberg were destined by birth date to usher in (so to speak) the multiplex era, but after the first dreary identiboxes opened, they were part of a push to use decor and remodeling to make the movie experience special. There was only so much they could do, but at least they remembered the picture palaces.

    “Star Wars” at the moment is probably the best example of what should be a perpetual cash cow series being smothered by messaging. If Lucas really had a Vietnam allegory in the original, he kept it well hidden, while the current purveyors care far more about the overt ideological messaging than entertaining the audience with a coherent story.

    I’ve always thought that old George was gilding the memory a bit with that one. By Seventies standards he was a small town conservative, none too fond of the industry in Mos Eisely. I have his NPR radio adaptation on tape and back in ’79 Obi Wan was prone to Ayn Rand-esque speeches about how Solo and his band of brigands live their own code, make their own rules and live by them; you’d think it was Atlas Shrugged.

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    EJHill (View Comment):
    That is definitely Coolidge. From Getty Images:

    US President Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933, left) with Russian born film producer Louis B. Mayer (1884 – 1957) on the MGM lot in Los Angeles, 19th February 1930. Actress Mary Pickford (1892 – 1979, right) and Grace Coolidge (1879 – 1957) stand in the background. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

    Edit: And I’m going to go out on a limb and say Pickford and Mrs. Coolidge are talking to Irving Thalberg, MGMs production chief who died tragically at a very young age.

    I knew his granddaughters. Deborah Thalberg made her film debut at age nineteen in “Class” (1983). IIRC, she had a sex scene in a glass elevator. I guess The Thalberg Standard of motion picture quality wasn’t what it used to be.

    • #18
  19. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Gary McVey: I knew his granddaughters. Deborah Thalberg made her film debut…

    Irving was one of the great producers in the history of film. When the three studios that made up MGM merged he was named head of production at the tender age of 26. Twelve years later he was dead from a severe bout of pneumonia.

    He wasn’t perfect though. While he agreed it would be a great vehicle for Clark Gable, Thalberg passed on Gone With the Wind because “Civil War pictures never make a plug nickel!” Instead it was picked up by Mayer’s son-in-law, David Selznick. Knowing he needed Gable, Selznick made a distribution deal with Mayer.

    GWTW was so successful, Selznick was forced to shut down the studio over capital gains. He sold his interest in the movie for only $500,000 to his business partner, Jock Whitney. (Whitney served as US Ambassador to the UK in the Eisenhower Administration.) Whitney in turn sold it outright to MGM for $2.2M.

    • #19
  20. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: I knew his granddaughters. Deborah Thalberg made her film debut…

    Irving was one of the great producers in the history of film. When the three studios that made up MGM merged he was named head of production at the tender age of 26. Twelve years later he was dead from a severe bout of pneumonia.

    He wasn’t perfect though. While he agreed it would be a great vehicle for Clark Gable, Thalberg passed on Gone With the Wind because “Civil War pictures never make a plug nickel!” Instead it was picked up by Mayer’s son-in-law, David Selznick. Knowing he needed Gable, Selznick made a distribution deal with Mayer.

    GWTW was so successful, Selznick was forced to shut down the studio over capital gains. He sold his interest in the movie for only $500,000 to his business partner, Jock Whitney. (Whitney served as US Ambassador to the UK in the Eisenhower Administration.) Whitney in turn sold it outright to MGM for $2.2M.

    Selznick is supposedly the subject of the old Hollywood bon mot, “The son in law also rises”. The business has always been nepotistic. MGM was said to stand for “Mayer’s Ganesh Mishpacha” (Mayer’s Entire Family).

    • #20
  21. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: I knew his granddaughters. Deborah Thalberg made her film debut…

    Irving was one of the great producers in the history of film. When the three studios that made up MGM merged he was named head of production at the tender age of 26. Twelve years later he was dead from a severe bout of pneumonia.

    He wasn’t perfect though. While he agreed it would be a great vehicle for Clark Gable, Thalberg passed on Gone With the Wind because “Civil War pictures never make a plug nickel!” Instead it was picked up by Mayer’s son-in-law, David Selznick. Knowing he needed Gable, Selznick made a distribution deal with Mayer.

    GWTW was so successful, Selznick was forced to shut down the studio over capital gains. He sold his interest in the movie for only $500,000 to his business partner, Jock Whitney. (Whitney served as US Ambassador to the UK in the Eisenhower Administration.) Whitney in turn sold it outright to MGM for $2.2M.

    Jock Whitney would go on to own (and end up shutting down) the New York Herald-Tribune, which was the city’s establishment Republican paper. His sister Joan would best be known as the original owner of the New York Mets.

    • #21
  22. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    For many decades The New York Herald-Tribune was “our” New York Times, equal to it in influence and in many years, circulation. It was an un-subtle era when Wall Street people and rich people generally were Republicans. Think of the little bald dude in Monopoly; no doubt he read The Wall Street Journal, but also the Herald-Tribune.

    It vanished about the same time as the old Madison Square Garden, the old Metropolitan Opera House, and private, profit-making railroads like the Pennsylvania and the New York Central. Another world.

    • #22
  23. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    For many decades The New York Herald-Tribune was “our” New York Times, equal to it in influence and in many years, circulation. It was an un-subtle era when Wall Street people and rich people generally were Republicans. Think of the little bald dude in Monopoly; no doubt he read The Wall Street Journal, but also the Herald-Tribune.

    It vanished about the same time as the old Madison Square Garden, the old Metropolitan Opera House, and private, profit-making railroads like the Pennsylvania and the New York Central. Another world.

    Dad worked for it for  two decades until it’s closing in ’66 (Dick Schaap was his final editor, but he had the most fondness for L.L. Engleking, editor in the 1940s and 50s — I remember a couple of trips up to his farm north of Cooperstown after he retired). Compared to the New York Times, the Trib was considered a ‘writers paper’ that didn’t have editors getting in the way of allowing each report a little bit of their own style — as opposed to sticking their own opinions in the stories, as is the norm today at the Times, though at the Trib that came out in the longer form feature pieces by people like Tom Wolfe and the definitely-not-Republican Jimmy Breslin (they also has Hunter S. Thompson on the payroll in the late 1950s, but that was pre-Gonzo days….).

    • #23
  24. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Samuel Goldwyn was a conservative Democrat who, like many in Hollywood, backed JFK in 1960, but had come around to Richard Nixon by 1968 and ’72. Like Ronald Reagan, Sam was a prototypical pre-Sixties Democrat whose party had left him. Nixon showed his respect with several well-publicized presidential visits to the Goldwyn mansion. In one of them, after he made a short speech at the foot of the grand staircase, old Goldwyn whispered something in his ear. Later, reporters asked the president what he’d said. “He said, onwards to victory!” claimed Nixon.

    Years later, Goldwyn repeated what he’d actually said. “You’ll have to do better than that to beat Humphrey”.

    My wife worked for Samuel Goldwyn Jr, who inherited the house as well as the film company. In the mid-Eighties we went to the Christmas party and I looked at the spot where Nixon stood, now occupied by the largest Christmas tree I’d seen outside of Rockefeller Center. It was festooned with beautiful ornaments, handmade of wood, glass and ceramics. Sam Jr was pleased that I’d noticed them. “They’re family heirlooms for generations”, he said proudly.  His dad was born Shmuel Gelbfisz. Is this a great country, or what?

    • #24
  25. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    If you’re a little flexible on the definition of conservative I think folks like Ron Howard would qualify. I know he probably supports ObamaCare, but his films seem to be more pro-values than the mainstream fare. If the Republican Party wants to have any chance in California they need to start talking to people like Howard to consider running for office.

    • #25
  26. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):
    If you’re a little flexible on the definition of conservative I think folks like Ron Howard would qualify. I know he probably supports ObamaCare, but his films seem to be more pro-values than the mainstream fare. If the Republican Party wants to have any chance in California they need to start talking to people like Howard to consider running for office.

    I don’t really know if I’d call The Da Vinci Code ‘pro-values’ and that was 13 years ago. Howard, like the film’s star Tom Hanks, put a kinder, gentler face on Hollywood’s progressive agenda. But they still support it (Ron probably could have helped his own career a bit if he had come out and refuted the Lando-the-pansexual claims prior to “Solo” bombing last summer)

    • #26
  27. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):
    If you’re a little flexible on the definition of conservative I think folks like Ron Howard would qualify. I know he probably supports ObamaCare, but his films seem to be more pro-values than the mainstream fare. If the Republican Party wants to have any chance in California they need to start talking to people like Howard to consider running for office.

    I don’t really know if I’d call The Da Vinci Code ‘pro-values’ and that was 13 years ago. Howard, like the film’s star Tom Hanks, put a kinder, gentler face on Hollywood’s progressive agenda. But they still support it (Ron probably could have helped his own career a bit if he had come out and refuted the Lando-the-pansexual claims prior to “Solo” bombing last summer). But maybe Ron’s conservative brother Clint can talk some sense into him.

     

    • #27
  28. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):
    If you’re a little flexible on the definition of conservative I think folks like Ron Howard would qualify. I know he probably supports ObamaCare, but his films seem to be more pro-values than the mainstream fare. If the Republican Party wants to have any chance in California they need to start talking to people like Howard to consider running for office.

    I don’t really know if I’d call The Da Vinci Code ‘pro-values’ and that was 13 years ago. Howard, like the film’s star Tom Hanks, put a kinder, gentler face on Hollywood’s progressive agenda. But they still support it (Ron probably could have helped his own career a bit if he had come out and refuted the Lando-the-pansexual claims prior to “Solo” bombing last summer)

    Films like Cinderella Man or A Brilliant Mind or his pro-white privilege film about pioneers in Oklahoma are pretty out of the mainstream. I think he’s a conservative in the Sonny Bono/Arnold Schwarzenegger mold.

    • #28
  29. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):
    If you’re a little flexible on the definition of conservative I think folks like Ron Howard would qualify. I know he probably supports ObamaCare, but his films seem to be more pro-values than the mainstream fare. If the Republican Party wants to have any chance in California they need to start talking to people like Howard to consider running for office.

    I don’t really know if I’d call The Da Vinci Code ‘pro-values’ and that was 13 years ago. Howard, like the film’s star Tom Hanks, put a kinder, gentler face on Hollywood’s progressive agenda. But they still support it (Ron probably could have helped his own career a bit if he had come out and refuted the Lando-the-pansexual claims prior to “Solo” bombing last summer)

    Films like Cinderella Man or A Brilliant Mind or his pro-white privilege film about pioneers in Oklahoma are pretty out of the mainstream. I think he’s a conservative in the Sonny Bono/Arnold Schwarzenegger mold.

    Howard became more overtly liberal in the 2006-10 time period. He’s laid a little bit lower since then, but his career hasn’t been as hot (and to be fair, the pansexual bit with Lando in “Solo” was part of Lucasfilm’s hierarchy’s overall decision that they could get woke with their characters and stories, because any film with the words “Star Wars” in it was an excuse to print money, and Howard was brought in as director after the original ones had been fired by Kathleen Kennedy. But it still would have helped if he had pushed back a little on the SJW side plot, in the same way Mark Hamil — no conservative — has pushed back against Lucasfilm’s woke plotlines in the current troubled “Star Wars” trilogy).

    • #29
  30. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    WF Buckley said you should vote for the most rightward viable candidate. I don’t think Mark Meadows, or even Gary Sinise, is going to fly in California. Maybe there’s someone younger that’s not as “woke” as the average Hollywood type – maybe Johnny Galecki now that Big Bang Theory is off the air.

    • #30

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