The Political History of Classical Hollywood: Moguls, Liberals, and Radicals in the 1930s

Friday, January 3, 2014: 11:10 AM
Thurgood Marshall Ballroom North (Marriott Wardman Park)
Mark Wheeler, London Metroplitan University
Hollywood’s relationship with the political elite in the 1920s and 1930s reflected the trends related to the Great Depression, the New Deal and anti-Fascism which defined the USA’s affairs in the interwar years. For the moguls mixing with the politically powerful indicated their acceptance by America’s elites. Thus, they felt to achieve social recognition they should demonstrate a commitment to conservative principles and supported the Republican Party. This form of ‘mogul politics’ was characterised by the instincts of its authors: hardness, shrewdness, autocracy and coercion. In response, other activists within the Hollywood community pursued a significant degree of liberal and populist political activism, along with left wing radicalism and support of the Popular Front. This paper will outline the development of the moguls’ politics and consider how the Hollywood workforce became politically conscious throughout the decade. Finally, it will discuss how the political divisions which had emerged in Hollywood in the 1930s were defined by the moguls’ opposition to Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California (EPIC) for Governorship in 1934. These divisions between left and right were to provide the context for the anti-Communist blacklist of the 1940s and 1950s.
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