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  • #342462

    Anonymous

    [size=14pt]Hollywood’s War with Poland, 1939–1945[/size]

    By M. B. B. Biskupski. Lexington, KY: Kentucky
    University Press (http://www.kentuckypress.com), 2010. xii
    + 362 pages. ISBN 978-0-8131-2559-6. Hardcover.

    Raymond T. Gawronski, SJ

    The day I gave the valedictory at my New England college, my father, an honorably discharged veteran of the “greatest American generation,” took me aside and said: “I know what this country is like: I will understand if you change your name.” We have all understood why, and many of us have disappeared into an “Anglo” identity. But why should one deny the heritage that gave us a John Paul II?

    There are plenty of good reasons, at least in America, and M. B. B. Biskupski digs deeply into one very important, indeed crucial, time and period of American life to investigate how the American film industry consistently ignored, belittled, and demonized Poland and the Poles, whether in Europe or America. More: he demonstrates how an image was created that had no relation to reality. Professor Biskupski’s book is exhaustive in its study of the films and serials that Hollywood produced during the war years. The documentation could hardly be more painstaking: almost one-third of the book is given to notes.

    The study is rich and nuanced, leaving a reviewer sorely tempted to simply rehearse much of the book. A few main points will have to suffice here. For example, though Poland had the strongest underground in Europe, lasting throughout the war, it was totally ignored in the movies in favor of much less significant players like Norway, Czechoslovakia, or France. Professor Biskupski is a subtle writer and very knowledgeable, so he intimates that Czechs were favored by Hollywood, though their contribution to the war effort and their suffering at Nazi hands were incomparably less than that of the Poles. He implies that this is because they would be docile with the Soviets (as they were, at least relatively speaking, with the Germans). This is part of the pattern that elevates other nations at Poland’s expense in the estimation of Hollywood: the more pliable toward Soviet domination, the better the portrayal. There are no Poles at Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

    Biskupski’s research is meticulous as he explores the development from book to scripts to film, and demonstrates how often portrayals of Poles were transformed from favorable to “nasty”—a word he has to use, alas, all too frequently. He demonstrates that the government agencies charged with overseeing wartime films were themselves following a pro-Soviet policy and willing to overlook bad portrayals of Poles. Biskupski’s thesis—more than amply demonstrated and carefully argued—is that Hollywood was dominated by a leftist mentality that supported a strong communist core of writers. Once the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union was formed, the U.S. government was intent on seeing that nothing was done to damage the image of the Russian ally: this fed into the leftist sentiments of the Hollywood community perfectly. More, that community was very heavily Jewish—he cites one authority who states that in 1936 “of eighty-six major producers in Hollywood, fifty-three were Jewish”(p. 323, fn. 70). The Jewish community, fairly recently immigrated and coming from what had once been Polish lands, had a very negative image of the country they or their recent ancestors had left. Of this community Warner Brothers was most notably hostile, the “Brothers” themselves seriously misunderstanding or even misrepresenting their own family’s roots and experiences in Europe. As so often, Poles were held accountable for historical Russian crimes: “Polish police” were blamed for wrongs in a place where no such police could possibly exist. Moreover, the more recently arrived Polish Catholic community in the United States was very largely working class and relatively powerless to defend itself. Although there had been a Polish presence in the world of film early on, this presence actually became smaller and of no significance.

    These factors combined to produce a “perfect storm” in which it was in no one’s interest or to no one’s taste to portray Poles and Poland well, and it was in virtually everyone’s interest to lionize the Russians at Poland’s expense. Interestingly, Biskupski also notes that there was a tremendously favorable image of notably large numbers of Irish ethnics in American films of the time, as was similar with Jewish characters. The Poles, scripted with ludicrously unpronounceable names, were vilified in every way imaginable as degenerate cretins, cowardly and mentally unstable, heirs to a Fascist culture, stupid peasants of worthless culture, ruled by totally selfish aristocrats, or in need of correction by other ethnic groups. Hollywood was willingly doing Moscow’s work of destroying the Poles as a significant member of the European war effort and subsequent “settlement,” while adding twists of its own and creating what would become the standard American image of the “dumb Polack.” All of this had no bearing in reality. The names Poles were often given could not possibly be Polish, or even of any other nation. The actors depicting the rare Poles in film were virtually never Poles and were indeed invariably typecast as short (generally less than 5’6”) and very swarthy: they were the “bad guys,” dark and foreign. In one remarkable film a tall, fair Pole is cast as a non-Pole.

    This book has been my Lenten reading, and I confess it has been a penance reading it because it stirs painful memories that any Polish American of the mid and late twentieth century would have been raised with, starting with the World War II movies. It has been a penance occasionally made lighter by the author’s bits of humor and his penetrating intelligence. At times the material becomes so absurd that the author has to laugh and the reader with him, and it is a joy to see him strong and knowledgeable enough to allow laughter to soften anger at such relentless injustice. But even so, one chuckles in a very dark place because what Professor Biskupski is documenting—carefully, responsibly, without polemics or dramatics—is that which in its full-blown form could be called little less than “cultural genocide.” What else can we call it, when the children of one identifiable minority are taught by the media of the dominant culture that they were born into a nation of mentally inferior people?

    Professor Biskupski’s work is a very important, indeed an essential contribution to the work of undoing and healing that cultural genocide. He is a keen observer of films, and I strongly urge him to continue his work through Stanley Kowalski and Archie Bunker to “the Big Lebowski.”

    Source: The Sarmatian Review, September 2011 issue

    #369055

    Anonymous

    West always feared the once unbroken of Slavism and combine that with communism of that period you get to understand why did they work so hard to de-Slavenize the biggest Slavic group in the "New World". They did it as they did with any non-Anglo and non-Jewish ethnicity by making their heritage look foreign, backward and "out-of-fashion" to the new generations.

    #369056

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    West always feared the once unbroken of Slavism and combine that with communism of that period you get to understand why did they work so hard to de-Slavenize the biggest Slavic group in the "New World". They did it as they did with any non-Anglo and non-Jewish ethnicity by making their heritage look foreign, backward and "out-of-fashion" to the new generations.

    Right on brother. That's why we have to be smart and work towards unity, they know that once we are unified there is nothing they can do. We will be the most powerful force on this planet. Just keep that in mind, educate other Slavs and we will triumph. It's only a matter of time. Unlike them we are very closely related. We are basically one people. Our enemies cannot tell us who we are and they can not stop us. Slavic Power!  ;D

    #369057

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    Unlike them we are very closely related. We are basically one people. Our enemies cannot tell us who we are and they can not stop us.

    This is very true. Despite their many ethnic and cultural groups, Slavs are much more closely related than the Western Europeans and today with insane multi-culti, even more so. If Slavic Europe were to become as productive as the West, then the West's influence would wane quickly. Their last resort would be forcing us to begin accepting masses of immigrants or to take some of theirs… "if I go down, then you're coming with me!"

    Quote:
    Slavic Power!  ;D

    YES!

    #369058

    Anonymous
    Quote:

    Quote:
    Unlike them we are very closely related. We are basically one people. Our enemies cannot tell us who we are and they can not stop us.

    This is very true. Despite their many ethnic and cultural groups, Slavs are much more closely related than the Western Europeans and today with insane multi-culti, even more so. If Slavic Europe were to become as productive as the West, then the West's influence would wane quickly. Their last resort would be forcing us to begin accepting masses of immigrants or to take some of theirs… "if I go down, then you're coming with me!"

    Quote:
    Slavic Power!  ;D

    YES!

    Early Slavs were a homogenous people who arrived in Europe around 400-500 A.D. 

    #369059

    Anonymous

    I reckon that everyone agrees.

    Slavic Power!  ;D

    Right on, brother.  8)

    #369060

    Anonymous

    Early Slavs were a homogenous people who arrived in Europe around 400-500 A.D.

    I thought Early Slavs came from Eastern Europe, somewhere like Northern Ukraine, Eastern Poland and Southern Belarus. So technically, they are in  Europe.

    #369061

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    Early Slavs were a homogenous people who arrived in Europe around 400-500 A.D.

    But we have since spread out, diversified to a degree, yet kept our Slavic heritage. And, best of all, we made the better part of a continent OUR OWN.

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