Monday, 27 April 2015

I'll end the weekend with my favourite scene from "Ninotchka" - the best anti-Communist movie of all time

"That depends on the tip." Perfect.

The director, Ernst Lubitsch, was a left-winger, and the Soviets invited him to visit Russia in 1936, hoping he'd become one of Hollywood's battalion of useful idiots spreading the word about the wonders of Communism. Not a wise move, as it turned out. The truly sparkling script ("There are going to be fewer but better Russians") was by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch. 

You'd have thought one viewing of the film in 1939 and the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact the same year might have persuaded film industry types to be wary of Communism - but they kept on joining the Party in droves. Many of them (especially the writers) actively campaigned against America rearming or sending aid to Britain while the Pact lasted, and made out that Nazi Germany was really no worse than "imperialist" Britain and France. As soon as Hitler invaded Russia, thereby threatening the writers' true spiritual homeland, they received a fresh set of orders from Moscow and began demanding that America step up arms production and send as much aid to Britain as possible. Unspeakable swine.

If I sound a trifle overwrought, it's because I've just finished Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters – Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H. Ryskind. Published earlier this year, it's the most comprehensive account to date of the Soviets' extraordinarily successful efforts to infiltrate the film industry. This was only brought to a halt by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which I wrote about here. Even though the USSR no longer exists, the film and TV industries are still packed with useful idiots, practically all of whom believe the Hollywood Ten - in reality a bunch of filthy traitors - to be heroes. It's a funny old world.

Allan H. Ryskind is the son of Morrie Ryskind, whose screenwriting credits included Animal Crackers, A Night at the Opera, My Man Godfrey and His Girl Friday. Rysking père started as a socialist, but became a conservative activist and a vigorous campaigner against communist infiltration in Hollywood. His appearance as a friendly witness at the HUAC hearings in 1947 marked the end of his screenwriting career. His friends included  Max Eastman, Ayn Rand, John Dos Passos, Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, to whom he leant money to start up The National Review. He was a long-time columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Nice to see his son carrying on his good work. Hollywood Traitors is available for Kindle here

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