I'd like to write a tribute (though qualified) for
Hollywood. I know, I know, it's full of liberals so left wing they
aren't even in the ball park. Burt Lancaster was a fine actor. But
so egotistical he fired his agent because co-star Montgomery Clift's
name was above his on the starring list of "From Here to Eternity.'
Deborah Kerr didn't seem to mind. Lancaster was so liberal he didn't
like co-starring with conservatives. He was very angry when Jane
Fonda chose Gregory Peck for the role of Ambrose Bierce in "Old
Gringo" which he said had been promised him.
Paul Newman was so liberal he nearly hit William F. Buckley for
making a homophobic remark to Gore Vidal on national television
after Vidal called him a crypto-fascist. Newman was a fine actor and
humanitarian. He donated the profits from his health food chain to
Robert Mitchum was a master of the bete noir film. after starring in
two holocaust movies (Winds of War and War of Remembrance) he told a
writer for Esquire Magazine he didn't believe in the holocaust. So,
yes, Hollywood is eccentric, usually a liberal echo-chamber. But I
try to separate politics and art. A perfect example of impartiality
would be a book of poetry by Ezra Pound (a fascist) illustrated by
Rockwell Kent (a communist). Pete Seeger, the folk singer, was a
dedicated communist but he wrote one of the most hauntingly
beautiful songs, "Where Have all the Flowers Gone?"
Hollywood has given (or sold) us much entertainment since it was
founded around the turn of the 20th century. The first film was D.
W. Griffiths' "In Old California," in 1911. Motion pictures were
invented by Thomas Edison and his employee W. L. K. Dickson, later
refined by others. It has come far with its magically realistic
visual and sound effects. Movies have made us weep, laugh, and
shiver. Remember the creepy Peter Lorre in the 1931 film "Night Must
Fall?" His voice was enough to make your skin crawl. Horror movies
in black and white are the best because they are more atmospheric.
"The Mummy's Tomb", 1942 version in b & w, starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
and Dick Foran, is scarier (I think) than the modern mummy movies
with their spectacular special effects. Or perhaps it's an old man's
them-were -the-good-old-days nostalgia. As far as Hollywood goes, I
plead guilty. I haven't seen the new version of "True Grit." Jeff
Bridges is a terrific actor, but for me, John Wayne will always be