Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hollywood Fights Fascism - Coming Next Month!


My latest book is a collection of essays from this blog on how the film industry tackled the subject of fascism. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s remark in 1936 memorialized, even when they were still just teenagers, the generation that would later be called The Greatest Generation: “There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”

There were many hurdles and many adventures in the lifespan of these individuals, including the Great Depression, wars, Cold War, and often bewildering changes in society that always seemed to come too quickly and followed by more. The chief horror of the twentieth century, that century to which they were born and only a small number outlived, was fascism.

The Greatest Generation received instruction, inspiration, and, of course, entertainment from a source that affected them perhaps more than even the generations to follow, who grew up with greater technology: the movies.

This book is a collection of essays adapted from this blog which strives to examine classic films in the context of the eras in which they were made. The movies of the day tell us a lot about that generation, what was expected of them, what they hoped to achieve, and how they saw themselves. It is not a perfect measuring stick, but the movies of the day show a passion for fighting fascism by everyday people that may shame their twenty-first century descendants.  Or at least, it should. 

I invite you to join my  beta readers squad and get a free eBook before publication.  (Please consider leaving a review on Amazon - but this is not required, and any review must be your honest opinion.)  

There will also be an opportunity to pre-order on Amazon. A print version of the book will also be available.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Wear a mask.

In this era of repulsive politicizing of a simple, commonsense act of wearing a mask, we might do well to recall an era where citizens on the home front during World War II were called upon to do much more. Urged, reminded, hounded, and haunted by their patriotic duty, the level of homework on the home front would probably not be tolerated by the whining, selfish, stupid brats today who refuse to do so much as wear a mask in a store to save the lives of their fellow Americans.

Have a look at these posters. They speak to another generation, but before you laugh at the images, remember the ultimate sacrifice occurring on foreign shores made the folks on the home front willing to shoulder any responsibility for the greater good. They had a shared purpose: to survive.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Orson Welles and the Blessed Eloquence of Moral Outrage

Los Angeles Sentinel, August 15, 1946, p. 1.

Orson Welles, famous for his War of the Worlds broadcast on radio in 1938, actually delivered a far more daring, even inflammatory, radio program eight years later.  Listen to this remarkable episode below of Orson Welles Commentaries, an ABC radio program broadcast July 29, 1946.  It is remarkable for Mr. Welles’ articulate and noble prose forcefully and intelligently delivered (such eloquence, courage, not to say moral clarity, is sadly lacking by some in our media today).  It is remarkable for the rage of a white man in protest for the brutal beating and blinding of a Black veteran by cops.

In February of that year, Sergeant Isaac Woodward, Jr., a decorated soldier who had served in the South Pacific, had been discharged from the Army only hours before he suffered a brutal attack by the police.  He traveled on a Greyhound bus to his home in South Carolina when, at a planned rest stop, Sgt. Woodward asked if there would be time for him to use the restroom. The driver argued with him, but held the bus for him so he could use the restroom.  At another stop in the town of Batesburg near Aiken, the driver contacted the local police and had Sgt. Woodward forcibly removed from the bus.

Police Chief Lynwood Shull and a few of his men beat up Sgt. Woodward for having the temerity of being Black and insisting he be allowed to use a planned rest stop. They beat him with nightsticks and took him to jail. While in jail, Chief Shull continued to beat Sgt. Woodward for responding with “Yes” instead of “Yes, sir.”  He repeatedly jabbed his nightstick into both of Sgt. Woodward’s eyes. 

He was blinded for life.

Two days later, they allowed a doctor to come to the jail to look at him.  He was taken to a hospital, and his family, awaiting his return from the war and expecting him to arrive, had to endure three more weeks before they found out what happened to him. He was finally taken to an Army hospital in Spartanburg, but his sight was gone forever.

President Harry S. Truman, furious at the treatment of Sgt. Woodward and the lack of punishment of the police involved, directed Justice Department to investigate.  South Carolina was reluctant to put the police on trial.

A jury trial was finally held that November.  Police Chief Shull admitted blinding Sgt. Woodward.  Still, he was acquitted by an all-white jury.  In the days of Jim Crow, Blacks were not allowed to serve on juries.  When he went free, the courtroom burst into applause.  He was never punished.

Orson Welles knew it back then: Black Lives Matter.


Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Memories in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century. Her newspaper column on classic films, Silver Screen, Golden Memories is syndicated nationally.

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