How Cowardice and Anti-Semitism Stopped One of the Earliest Anti-Nazi Films from Getting Made

In 1933, Herman Mankiewicz—a writer and producer with a successful career at MGM—authored a screenplay for a movie called The Mad Dog of Europe, set in Transylvania (an obvious stand-in for Germany) and focusing on two families, one Jewish and the other Christian. Deeply scarred by his service in World War I, a member of the latter family then falls under the influence of a deranged former housepainter named Adolf Mitler, and melodrama ensues. Mankiewicz teamed up with the producer Sam Jaffe to make the movie, but their efforts, which continued right up until 1939, were thwarted at every turn, as Sydney Ladensohn Stern recounts:

Although the studios’ top executives were almost all Jewish, they were well aware of anti-Semitism’s prevalence in American culture and the dangers it posed to them. While leaders in other industries were praised for fulfilling the American Dream, successful motion-picture business executives were routinely portrayed as ignorant, jumped-up former garment merchants—“pants pressers, delicatessen dealers, furriers, and penny showmen,” as Karl K. Kitchen wrote in Columbia, the official Knights of Columbus magazine. . . .

They were maligned as greedy capitalists whose sensational products corrupted wholesome Christian Americans, especially during a time when the Depression fueled so many resentments. They knew that if they depicted Nazi abuses, they risked being branded as warmongers, trying to pull the United States into a European problem to help their co-religionists.

Even as Mankiewicz and Jaffe had little luck finding backers, they soon encountered more active opponents, including Will Hays, the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA):

Hays summoned [Jaffe] and Mankiewicz to his office and accused them of greed: they were exploiting “a scarehead situation for the picture which, if made, might return them a tremendous profit while creating heavy losses for the industry.” Then he asked, even if they were to find a studio willing to rent them production facilities, how could they exhibit the film if all the major theaters refused them? . . .

As Jaffe set up an office and hired the playwright Lynn Root to work on the script, a number of Jewish organizations mobilized. They, too, wanted Americans informed about Hitler and the Nazis, but they wanted the word spread by non-Jewish messengers. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which had been organized in 1913 specifically to combat anti-Semitism, joined studio heads and the MPPDA in actively opposing the realization of Mad Dog. They feared it would provoke accusations of Jewish warmongering, and they worried that if it failed commercially, it would demonstrate American apathy to Hitler or even pave the way for pro-Nazi films.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: ADL, American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Hollywood, Nazi Germany

 

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam