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WHEN HOLLYWOOD TURNED LEFT: The Election Campaign That Changed Politics in Films Forever [Kindle Edition]

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Book Description

While their influence may be overstated at times, there’s little doubt that liberal producers, actors and writers have held sway in the movie industry for decades. But how did that happen? Hollywood, after all, was founded and dominated for many years by conservative studio bosses, with union organizing and other political agitation virtually forbidden.

Greg Mitchell, author of more than a dozen previous books and hundreds of articles for major magazines, tells the full story in “When Hollywood Turned Left.” The moguls took such outrageous steps to defeat a left-wing Democrat—the muckraking author Upton Sinclair--in the race for governor of California in 1934, that the often liberal, but largely powerless, movie stars and writers vowed to seek revenge. And in the years ahead, they would find it. So-called “Hollywood liberals” have dominated the movie industry ever since. Even Ronald Reagan, for over a decade, was one.

Among the moves by the studio chiefs in 1934 that eventually backfired: Everyone from top stars down was forced to donate one day’s pay to the Republican candidate. Moguls also threatened, on nearly a daily basis, to move their studios to Florida if Sinclair was elected. Perhaps most influential: The saintly MGM producer Irving Thalberg ordered the creation of anti-Sinclair “newsreels,” featuring actors (passed off as average voters) reciting scripted propaganda. This was the first full use of the screen to attack a candidate—and the precursor of political commercials and “attack ads” on TV.

The cast of characters swept up in the campaign reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood in the 1930s: Louis B. Mayer, Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney, Will Rogers, Billy Wilder, Harry Cohn, Katharine Hepburn, Dorothy Parker, Jean Harlow, even Shirley Temple, and many more.

Within months, the fledgling Screen Actors Guild and Screen Writers Guild were flooded with new activist members. More and more movies with a clear progressive message appeared. And liberals played a key role in electing one of Sinclair’s allies governor in 1938. Except during the “Red Scare” of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the liberals have held sway ever since.

“When Hollywood Turned Left” is mainly comprised of the extensive Hollywood material in Mitchell’s previous Random House book “The Campaign of the Century,” which drew wide acclaim, won the Goldsmith Book Prize in 1993 and was turned into a PBS documentary. Leonard Maltin even presented a full segment on the book on “Entertainment Tonight.” That earlier book, as Mitchell explains in a new Introduction for this volume, runs to well over 600 pages and many readers, he explains, have long suggested that he produce a slimmer (but still very substantial) book focusing just on the Hollywood angle. “When Hollywood Turned Left” contains that very entertaining material, plus the new Intro, revisions and other fresh material—and clickable links to view the “Thalberg Newsreels” and other key videos. You might call it something borrowed, something new.

“The Sinclair campaign marked a turning point in Hollywood’s participation in almost all respects,” Ron Brownstein would judge in his book “The Power and the Glitter.” The “desire for unfiltered political expression—and the hunger to declared independence from the studio fathers—inspired a grassroots leftist surge that transformed politics in Hollywood.”

So, read “When Hollywood Turned Left” and discover why one conservative movie producer would sadly admit, referring to the liberal backlash that would change the movie industry forever, “I guess we started something in 1934.”
Greg Mitchell also probed Hollywood politics in his Random House book "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady," on the 1950 race for the U.S. Senate between Richard Nixon and Helen Gahagan Douglas. It was a New York Times Notable Book. Among his other books are two with Robert Jay Lifton. Mitchell served as co-producer of the acclaimed new film "Followin

Product Details

  • File Size: 726 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Townsend Books (March 23, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00J6PDDF4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #776,431 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5.0 out of 5 stars History alive June 1, 2014
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Mitchell is exhaustive -- day by day, almost minute by minute -- and never boring. A great cast of characters, a wildly American story.
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