The Los Angeles of the late Thirties was plagued by a small coterie of Nazis; they were not terribly visible, but they were around, nonetheless. From time-to-time real Fascists from Europe would blow into town and they would be met by such groups as the Jewish Labor Committee, the United Anti-Nazi Conference and the Los Angeles Jewish Community Relations Committee. This article concerns another organization that worked shoulder to shoulder with these groups, but with a little more style: the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. The League was 5,000 strong (likely an exaggeration) and within its ranks were Hollywood notables such as Herbert Biberman, Robert Rossen, Francis Edward Faragoh, Ring Lardner, Jr. and Dalton Trumbo.
We were very surprised to read in the attached editorial that the whole idea of draft deferments for actors and other assorted Hollywood flunkies was not a scheme cooked-up by their respective agents and yes-men, but a plan that sprung forth from the fertile mind of the executive officer in charge of the Selective Service System: Brigadier General Lewis Blaine Hershey (1893 - 1977) in Washington.
Always one to ask the difficult questions, Ernest V. Heyn (1905 - 1995) executive editor of Photoplay posed the query "Should Stars Fight?" and in this column he began to weigh the pros-and-cons of the need for propaganda and an uninterrupted flow of movies for the home front, and the appearance of creating a new entitled class of pretty boys.
Twenty years earlier a Hollywood actor would get in some hot water for also suggesting that talented men be excused from the W.W. I draft...
This article first appeared at the end of America's first full year of war and it is composed of the names and pictures of Hollywood's leading men who were absolved from fulfilling their military obligations during the war.
"The personalities of the fabulous films are on the spot in the matter of serving their country. It is useless to deny that the motion picture stars have been getting the best of it. Some have been given special draft deferments and choice assignments and often have been allowed extra months to finish their pictures before having to report for duty."
Click here to read about the American draft-dodgers of the Second World War.
The attached article is but a small segment addressing the history of Hollywood during the war W.W. II years; clipped from a longer Photoplay Magazine piece that recounted the illustrious past of Hollywood some thirty-five years earlier.
"After Pearl Harbor, the men really began leaving town. David Niven was gone now. So too, was Flight Officer Laurence Olivier. And more and more from the Hollywood ranks kept leaving. Gable, Fonda, Reagan, the well-knowns and the lesser-knowns. Power, Taylor, Payne, Skelton and many others...More Hollywood regulars went away, so other, newer newcomers had to be found to replace them because the box office was booming."
Song and Dance man Robert Watson (1888 - 1965) was Hollywood's-go-to-guy when they needed a fella to tread the boards as the Bohemian Corporal (Adolf Hitler). Throughout the course of his career he played him nine times.
Here is the PM movie review of At The Front North Africa directed by John Ford and produced by Darryl Zanuck for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The reviewer seemed irked that the film only showed the Germans having a difficult time.
Click here to read about the American Army in North Africa...