The chronicle of an indecent success that has been corrupting the morals of society for the last century.
If Captain Kirk, from the bridge of the Enterprise, were endowed with Superman’s x-ray ability to see beneath the surface of objects, he would be confronted with a paradoxical image when looking at Earth: a magnificently beautiful, sapphire-blue and white speckled planet, dreamily travelling along its orbit, but pocked by a festering boil. A boil that one could reasonably mistake for a volcano, because of the nauseating stench and ominous fumes billowing from its purulent funnel. Legions of infernal and savage beasts pour forth, lurking about the planet and ensnaring it in a dull, sticky web caught between heaven and earth.
This boil oozes out of the City of Demons, which ironically calls itself the City of Angels
—Los Angeles. A city turned on a spit by an industry that calls itself a “dream factory,” but more appropriately deserves to be called a “nightmare factory,” or “dream destroyer.” For here is the place where role-players are elevated to deities atop a celluloid Mount Olympus. It is here that “the dark side of the Force” resides, the capital of the “Empire” that infiltrates the minds of humanity and turns them into sycophants of false dreams and plastic reality.
In Hollywood, there are no museums and no monuments. No one leaves anything behind. They come, grab all the money they can, and head for the hills.
The spirit of the Gold Rush held sway over the village of orange groves that was the Hollywood of the first decade of the 20th century, when a few daring men with cameras moved in and opened for business. Movies were the new boom industry, and in order to make movies, you needed to have the best, strongest, most natural light possible—abundant in Southern California, with its 355 sunny days a year. First came the WASPs1 , who made such noble films as The Birth of a Nation. This movie made history as the first real feature film, which lasted three hours. Quite long when compared to the earliest of films from the 1890’s (featuring topics like the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake, or the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots) which lasted at first just a minute, but were eventually stretched into 10 minute featurettes.
Shortly thereafter came the movie Intolerance, which denounced intolerance, prejudice and racism throughout human history. Its famous pivotal scene took place in ancient Babylon, and though the film had failed at the box office, the set of ancient Babylon itself became a tourist attraction, a sort of pre-cursor to the Disneyland of today. This contributed to Hollywood earning the nickname “modern Babylon” back then—a name it would grow to deserve in many respects in the years to come.
The next arrivals set themselves up to become Hollywood’s rulers: East European immigrants of Jewish descent. When Marlon Brando noted on the Larry King Live broadcast of April 5, 1996 that “Hollywood is run by Jews; it is owned by Jews,” he was branded throughout the world as an anti-Semite. On the day after the broadcast, Irv Rubin, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), threatened that they would “make his life a living hell,” and moreover blockade his house in Los Angeles and the filming of his next movie, The Island of Doctor Moreau, with a picket line. On top of this, he insisted that Brando’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame should be removed—among many other nasty things.
There is no way to be truly great in this world.James Dean
Kenneth Anger describes the early days of Hollywood in his book, Hollywood Babylon, like this: “The men at the corporate heights who tried to guess the whims of millions of movie fans were an odd assortment of upstart petty entrepreneurs, recent immigrants, hungry and ambitious Jews on the make, still outsiders in the country’s ethnic melting pot. They included the former furrier Adolph ‘Whispering Jesus’ Zukor, like his future star, La Swanson, a dwarf; Marcus Lowe, wholesale fur trader; ex-ragman, ex-scrap iron dealer Louis B. Mayer; one-time glove salesman Samuel Goldfish—changed to Goldwyn. Only a few, like Vaudeville producer Jesse Lasky, had actually been showmen. Haphazard, intuitive, uninhibited, the founders of the movie business were a new breed of self-made moguls.” Let’s not forget the archetypal tycoon: German-born Carl Laemmle, who in 1915 opened his Universal City in the San Fernando Valley, and William Fox, the pelt monger, who founded 20th Century Fox while Zukor was boss at Paramount.
After the witch hunt on Marlon Brando, Michael Medved showed his passion for the truth when he took sides with Brando in the Swiss German Jewish weekly newspaper, the Israelitisches Wochenblatt: “It makes absolutely no sense to deny the reality of Jewish power and prominence in the ‘entertainment business.’ Every list of the most influential people at the top of the big film studios includes a large number of plainly Jewish names. This prominent Jewish role is clear to everyone who follows news from Hollywood or sees the list of names of contributors to a film or TV show.”
Medved even added, “In reading about the restructuring of the Walt-Disney corporation being published all over the place, you eventually see that a few of the most powerful and highest-paid media moguls are involved. The corresponding headlines highlight the ironic fact that the famous Disney organisation, founded by a Christian from the Mid-West, and which had assumed at that time an admittedly rather anti-Semitic posture, today has hired Jewish men and women in virtually all positions of importance and power.
“Of course there are influential non-Jews in leading positions in the entertainment sector,” Medved continued in the Israelitisches Wochenblatt No. 51, December 20, 1996. “Names like Frank Mancuso, Chairman at MGM, or Rupert Murdoch, whose newspaper conglomerate owns 20th Century Fox, but that’s a minority. It is just like professional basketball, where African-Americans make up most of the players and are the best, not white-skinned Caucasians!
“Even the Japanese have let go of their ambitious take-over plans for Hollywood,” says Medved, “and have surrendered their entertainment sector to Seagrams—a company that is under the ownership of one of the most active Jewish families in the world, and its patriarch, Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress. The young Edgar Bronfman, Jr. has set up his own shop in California in order to supervise the business personally, and has hired Ron Meyer (former associate of Mike Ovitz of Creative Artists Agency) as his right hand man. These moves make it more and more difficult to maintain a pose that suggests Japanese, or Australian, or Italian interests are of greater importance in running Hollywood than those of American Jews.”
In junior high school, my teachers voted me the ‘student most likely to end up in the electric chair’.Sylvester Stallone
Upon closer inspection of Hollywood, the interrogation light shines on two different mechanisms by which it corrodes the moral fiber of the world: One is through the messages made by an increasing number of its films. The other—and this was especially true during the early decades—is through the unimaginably depraved lifestyles of its stars, whose stories are peddled all too gladly by a sensationalist press to otherwise modest homes on both sides of the Atlantic. The sordid reach of Hollywood during those first years is hinted at by a statement once made by the notorious British black magician, Aleister Crowley—certainly not the most sensitive of souls—who described the locals as “the cinema crowd of cocaine-crazed sexual lunatics.” Kenneth Anger wrote, “Hollywood, California, became synonymous with sin… Professional do-gooders labeled Hollywood the New Babylon, whose destructive influence of legendary excesses rivaled that of the old Babylon; headliners and moralizing columnists threw sex, drugs and movie stars all into one pot.”
The lurid weekend orgies in the palatial villas of the stars followed movies that propagated licentiousness. One of the most deviant “orgy movie” directors was Erich von Stroheim, also known as “The Dirty Hun.” Stroheim showed a particular fondness for bordellos, for the erotic prowess of prostitutes from all over the world, and for sado-masochistic “games,” and marketed all of these as run-of-the-mill “decadence from old Vienna.” But the other films, too, appealed rather to the baser instincts of the viewing public, which in large part consisted of the working class, than they would have if they had featured a nobler view of the world. If the subject matter were not erotic decadence or inane slapstick comedies featuring the evil stepmother or tyrannical boss, then the blood of the viewers could be curdled by some kind of horror flick. The popularity of vampire films soared for the first time—in the exact same way they entered into a quasi-renaissance that accompanied the wave of pornographic films during the late 70’s. Decadence and pornography unleashed a beast with a decidedly voracious appetite…
“The scandals exploded like time bombs during the insane decade of the Roaring Twenties, and one film career after another was destroyed,” Kenneth Anger sums up. “Each star had to ask himself if he was going to be the next chump. For Hollywood, the fabled Golden Era was more of a wanton picnic on the edge of an abyss; the paths of fame were riddled with pitfalls. But for the greater public in front of its gates, H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D was a three-syllable magic formula for the wonderland of illusions …”
By the time the Fatty-Arbuckle scandal broke out in 1921, churches rallied for a crusade against this “sex-crazed maniac from Hollywood.” Arbuckle, who rose from being a plumber to becoming a star of comedy, allegedly raped a young actress so brutally (rumours were spread that, enraged at his drunken impotence, he actually mauled her with a broken glass bottle), that his victim died shortly thereafter from wounds which mutilated her genitalia and ripped her bladder. Angry protests erupted throughout the country—wherever an Arbuckle film was being shown, women’s groups tore the movie screens into shreds, or cowboys riddled them with bullet holes. America was not (yet) ready to relinquish its moral values without a fight.
Stacks of unfriendly press commentaries were piling up; name-calling was ringing out from church pulpits. “It was not so much the wrath of God that the film magnates were afraid of, as the vengeance of the box office,” wrote Kenneth Anger in Hollywood Babylon. “If the professional puritans clamoured for sanctity, something had to be done to take care of the film industry’s image—and fast.”
Just beforehand, a corruption scandal hit World Series baseball. In an attempt to polish up their tarnished image, baseball owners paid $50,000 (at that time a considerable sum) and bought a ‘supreme moral guardian’ for themselves who was thereafter supposed to safeguard the propriety of the games. Such a ‘guardian’, the bosses in Hollywood decided, was exactly what they needed.
So they pooled together $100,000 and voted Will Hays, a Presbyterian Church leader from Indiana, who was President Harding’s Postmaster General, to be the top “Movie Dictator.” Officially, he was appointed the President of the newly founded Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. At a press conference, the founders—Hays, Adolf Zucker, Marcus Loew, Carl Laemmle, William Fox, Samuel Goldwyn, Lewis and Myron Selznick—introduced the new Hollywood style: Immorality would be edited out of films from then on (i.e. no lustful, lingering kisses, or carnal desire would be shown). Morals clauses would be built into contracts. All of this, however, did not encourage the stars to behave themselves any better; instead, they would be followed by detectives and stoolpigeons, and their houses bugged with listening devices. But the level of scum turned out to rise much higher than expected, and 117 actors were eventually labelled as “security risks” based on their conduct.
Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?Mae West
Mae West, blonde and curvaceous, was probably the first real “sex bomb” in film history. In any case, she made a huge splash in Hollywood in 1932, and saved Paramount, on the brink of bankruptcy, with the then biggest box-office hit of all time. Her vulgarity (her New York performance in the play Sex landed her an 8-day jail sentence) and the effrontery with which she expressed herself both on and off camera, renewed the call for public guardians of moral standards. The Catholic Church put Mae West’s films on a black list. At the time, this meant no self-respecting Catholic would have ever seen her on film. The Church even went one step farther: it established the National Legion of Decency in October, 1933. Will Hays, a lax moral guardian, was handed a new list of one hundred standards to be upheld by filmmakers from that point forward. The whole thing was called A Code to Govern the Making of Motion and Talking Pictures, or Production Code for short.
Of course, Hollywood directors viewed it as “castration” of their artistic freedom. Nevertheless, the viewpoint pervasive in both the church and the government was that films influence public behavior, and therefore should provide role model characters. For a good thirty years, from 1934 until 1965, the Production Code was in force. Hollywood was kept on an ethical leash, and its films reflected this. For instance, it was not permitted to feature a couple on a double bed, and if one partner was lying in bed, then the other had to have at least one leg on the floor. Costumes that revealed too much bare skin were taboo, as were nude scenes, even of bathers whose outlines could hardly be distinguished underwater. The Code essentially aimed at three goals:
This moral corset still gave breathing room for the quality Hollywood films of that era. Indeed, some of the most unforgettable moments in movie history were made during that period: the harmless naïveté that came from the travesty of a comedy Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis; all the Hitchcock thrillers, where good always triumphs over evil, and the (typical blonde) heroine is saved in the end; the great epics such as Gone with the Wind, For Whom the Bell Tolls; or even cult classics such as Casablanca, where love, dedication to higher ideals, and sacrifice were upheld as virtues; and the Westerns, where upstanding men protected the ideals of freedom and justice—and ultimately represented America as a magnificent country. Certainly the 20th century’s greatest Western’s actor, John Wayne, embodied this moral integrity not only in the saddle, but also in real life—which earned him a “right wing” label. “No matter what picture I’m involved in, there will never be a naked buttocks—and most definitely not mine,” he announced, and that was fitting for his role as founding member (1944) and later president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.
As much as the Production Code improved morality on screen, Hollywood was still the epicenter of vice and big money. The latter drew crooks into the picture. Organised crime made two attempts that were relegated to the annals of film history. The first began in 1934. (It should first be noted that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, today called “The Academy” for short, which hands out the Oscar Awards every year, was founded in 1927 by Louis B. Mayer for the purpose of being used as a tool against the organised labour activities of unpaid film workers. The Academy, into which the studio bosses breathed life, was supposed to function as an “arbitrator” during union strikes. Guess how “neutral” it really was!).