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Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics 1st Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 860-1300133737
ISBN-10: 0195181727
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Editorial Reviews

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Take a Look Inside Hollywood Left and Right:

Hollywood Left and Right
Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Charlton Heston lead the Hollywood contingent in the March on Washington, August 1963. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the march.
(Source: National Archives)
Hollywood Left and Right
Charlton Heston, James Baldwin, and Marlon Brando at the March on Washington, August 1963. They participated in a discussion of civil rights in America with Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Joseph Mankiewicz at the CBS studios later that day. (Source: National Archives)
Hollywood Left and Right
Arnold Schwarzenegger, chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, kicks off the “Great American Workout Month” with President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush, May 1990. (Source: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)


"... resonant ... corrects the misconception that Hollywood is a beehive of liberalism and parses the divide between idealistic, telegenic charisma and the grit of partisan maneuvering." - Andy Webster, The New York Times Book Review

"Meticulously researched and well-plotted" -Ted Johnson, Variety

"Hollywood Left and Right is nonfiction at its best: entertaining and engaging, probing and provocative, detailed and comprehensive in coverage, multifaceted and far-ranging in its treatment, objective and balanced, appropriately paced in covering a complex, big story."
-Stephen Roulac, New York Journal of Books

"Steven J. Ross convincingly shows in Hollywood Left and Right that since its early days, the movie industry has been as quietly conservative as publicly liberal."
-Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times

"Ross...provides concise case studies of movie-industry influence, from the silent film era to the present." --The New York Times Book Review

"In this fascinating study Steven J. Ross shows that Hollywood's impact on American politics has been longer lasting, deeper, and more varied than most people realize. Ross investigates Hollywood's influence by examining five activists on the right side of the political spectrum and five on the left." --American Historical Review

"[F]ascinating...a compelling survey of politics and celebrity." -Rowan Kaiser, A.V. Club

"Ross does a lot of things well. Each of his chapters offer skillfully limned portraits (Murphy and Reagan, whose careers coincided and interests overlapped, are treated as a pair)... Ross is also a deft analyst. He weaves in close readings of particular films, contextualizing them in their immediate sociopolitical environments." -Jim Cullen, History News Network

"As Steven J. Ross reminds us in Hollywood Left and Right, an entertaining history of the nexus between celebrity and politics, Hollywood intervention in politics is as old as the silents... Ross does a creditable job of providing the historical frame for today's political Hollywood. Writing in clear, workmanlike prose, he offers engrossing profiles of each of his subjects. At its best - the heartbreaking chapter on Robinson, the juicier passages on Beatty - the book can be downright revelatory. Indeed, the substance is impressive." --Elbert Ventura, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Well written, entertaining, and enlightening, this is highly recommended, especially for film buffs interested in the intersection of politics and culture." -Library Journal

"Steven Ross's engrossing book about the interplay between movie stars, politics and America's celebrity culture definitely lives up to its title. Focusing his tome, Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics on 10 of the movie industry's larger-than-life figures from the early 1900s to the present, he makes a convincing case that Hollywood has largely written, and continues to write, the script for modern American politics." -Albert Eisele, The Hill

"The stereotype of 'Liberal Hollywood,' always something between a myth and a slur, takes a sustained shellacking in Steven J. Ross' eye-opening history of the relationship between the movie industry and national politics." --John Patterson, Directors Guild of America

"A vastly informative and engagingly written book." - Booklist

"This is a well-written, solidly researched look at how Hollywood influenced the nation's politics well beyond the election of a former B-movie actor to the White House." -Robert Nott, Pasatiempo

"A fluent, even-handed account of an often-overlooked or over-simplified aspect of the US movie industry, and one whose lasting influence on politics can be felt today."
-- Times Higher Education

"Penetratingly researched history..." --Christopher Bray, Financial Times

"This is the smartest and most thorough investigation of Hollywood's role in American politics I have read, as well the first and only to give the Hollywood Right its due." -Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

"Ross has produced a thoroughly researched, extremely readable, and fascinating account of Hollywood stars, on the left as well as the right, who have used their money, influence, and star power, as well as their considerable organizing and leadership talents to create, sustain, and shape American political movements." -- The Center for Working Class Studies blog

"Steven J. Ross's Hollywood Left and Right is a deeply researched and well-written exploration of the sometimes bloody crossroads where our celebrity system and our political system intersect. It's a must-read for anyone interested in how opinion has been formed (and sometimes distorted) by the mass media over the last century of American life." -Richard Schickel, author of Conversations with Scorsese

"Because of such events as the HUAC hearings and the Black List, historians have tended to focus on the leftish side of Hollywood politics. In Hollywood Left and Right, Steven J. Ross brilliantly enlarges and complicates this standard picture to show the actual broad array of individual activists and movements, both liberal and conservative-from Chaplin to Schwarzenegger, Louis B. Mayer to Warren Beatty-that made the movie business such a shaping force in American culture." -Leo Braudy, author of The Hollywood Sign

"So Hollywood is a coven of fanatical lefties? Steve Ross tells that story with new detail and nuance, but he also meticulously and convincingly conveys the even deeper affinity between conservatism and Hollywood-an affinity that, as he amply shows, has had a far more powerful impact on American politics." -Neal Gabler, author of Walt Disney

"A benchmark study of the role that Hollywood stars and moguls have played in American politics...Ross' book allows us look behind the curtain and to glimpse the inner workings of the entertainment industry." -- The Jewish Journal

"A major, illuminating, unparalleled treatment of 20th century politics in Hollywood that no reader should miss." --Choice

"The result is a highly readable text that will undoubtedly appeal to the general public as well as to academics. ... Hollywood Left and Right makes several important contributions to the field of media industry studies. ... The book will provide an excellent starting point for students who want to delve more deeply into issues and individuals." --Political Science Quarterly


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195181727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195181722
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #584,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ms Winston VINE VOICE on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
(Kindle edition) I purchased the Steven Ross book after hearing the author speak on C-Span 3 (Book TV) in December 2011. The premise of his book fascinated me -- the author took ten figures from Hollywood (five on the right, five on the left) and explored how each one influenced American politics from the earliest days (Charlie Chaplin) to the present (Arnold Schwarzenegger). The House Committee on Un-American Activities also plays a supporting role in this book, as in the late 1940's it began its infamous investigation of possible Communists in Hollywood, and how left-leaning celebrites might influence public opinion to support what they saw as radical causes.

The author starts with Chaplin, whom he characterizes as the first political movie star. The British-born actor's childhood was one of almost unbelievable poverty, something out of Charles Dickens, and it heavily influenced Chaplin's thinking and his movies (from his Little Tramp figure to his lampooning of Hitler). As early as the 1920's, J. Edgar Hoover saw Chaplin's movies as propaganda to influence Americans toward "the cause of labor movements and the revolution." As the author points out, Chaplin's films are less about Communism but more toward mocking authority figures in society, especially employers, the police, judges, and the rich. Ross explores how Chaplin's personal life (his preference for underage girls as romantic partners) help sink his movie career and caused him to leave America for good in the 1950's. At one time, Chaplin was so popular that there were those who thought he could have become president of the United States had he wanted a career in politics.

Ross then goes on to look at the influence on the right of such movie masters as Louis B.
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Format: Hardcover
Generally speaking, my politics lean to the left more than the right. Having said that, I must say my gripe with the book is that the politics of the author are way too clearly to the left. He does present figures from both ends of the political spectrum, and describes both successes and failures each endured. But if the failure has been on the left side, the person involved was always well-intentioned and had the moral/ethical high road, whereas any success of someone on the right was conspiratorial and/or led to richening-of-the-already-rich or a further beat-down of the poor. The research is good and the depth of detail is welcome, but the author should have taken a more hands-off approach on the platforms & beliefs of both sides and just stuck to history.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting, and written in a clear and ( mostly) engaging manner. I wish the author had addressed the effects, if any, of a political point of view in the stars and in their movies. Has it made any difference on the political landscape of the country? I would also like a discussion on how Hollywood has presented a picture, or pictures, of Americn life and values to the world beyond its' borders.
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Format: Hardcover
This biased, distorted view of "Hollywood" creates a fantasy picture of big, bad right wingers vs. leftists that only want to help the world. The author is so bigoted in his choice of words that even chapter titles reflect his love of the left and attempt to demean the right. He says Ronald Reagan was part of the Hollywood "conservative revolution" (you didn't know there was one, did you?). Charlton Heston brought in the "red tide." Meanwhile Harry Belefonte fought racism and Jane Fonda was a "grassroots builder" (and you thought she was just that spoiled rich left-wing daughter of a liberal star?). And he classifies Arnold Schwarzenegger as conservative, ignoring the fact that the former California governor was mostly Republican in name only.

There's no real balance, though the author will claim he attempted to show both sides by having one chapter about a conservative and another chapter about a liberal. The problem is that Hollywood isn't 50/50, it's almost all liberal and this writer refuses to acknowledge that. But his concluding words reveal his bias: "The Hollywood left's storyline has been one of hope and guilt: hope of what the United States could be and guilt that we are not doing enough to achieve that vision." Meanwhile, he calls Hollywood's few Republicans "simple" and "talking about a nostalgic Golden Age of America that never was."

How wrong he is. Just because conservatives don't share his vision of life doesn't mean it wasn't real. And Hollywood's stars, producers, writers and directors vote over 90% Democrat, so no matter how many pages of end notes he has (over 60!) it doesn't detract from the fact that this writer missed the basic truth: Hollywood is mostly left. And that's what has helped shape America. For him to claim otherwise is a fantasy and misrepresentation.
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