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Hal Roach, Vittorio Mussolini, and the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League

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Abstract:

In 1937, the veteran Hollywood producer Hal Roach entered into a partnership with Vittorio Mussolini, the twenty-one-year-old son of the Italian dictator. When Mussolini fils came to Hollywood to close the deal and schmooze with the locals, his visit became the starting gun for the wave of anti-Nazi activism that swept Hollywood in the late 1930s.
Coordinating the campaign against the Fascist scion was an outfit called the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League for the Defense of American Democracy. Formed in July 1936 to organize rallies, print pamphlets, and--covertly at first, more boldly as war clouds darkened—-inject anti-Nazi propaganda into Hollywood cinema, HANL was a classic Depression-molded Popular Front group, an alliance of New Deal liberals, leftists, and communists, with the grunt work performed by the communists and directional guidance wired in from Moscow.
Upon arrival in Hollywood, Vittorio made polite comments to the local press, visited the lots at Hal Roach Productions and Twentieth Century-Fox, and posed for pictures with the “Our Gang” moppets and Shirley Temple. In honor of his guest, Roach hosted a soiree at his Beverly Hills home that shimmered with all the glitter and glamour of an A-list Hollywood gathering. Yet not everyone thought the party was the hottest ticket in town. “Those who welcome [Mussolini] are opening their arms to a friend of Hitler and an enemy of democracy,” scolded HANL in full page ads in the trade press. An item in the Hollywood Reporter measured the chill in the air. “Feeling runs so high in some quarters regarding the present visit of young Mussolini, Hal Roach had best keep him off some of the major studio stages as he may be embarrassed by the actions of some of the top stars should be visit their sets.”
Battered by the drumbeat of criticism, Roach cancelled the deal and hustled his erstwhile partner out of town. Not bothering to conceal its own delight, Variety knew whom to credit for the abrupt departure of “Mussolini Junior.” “A concerted drive of the [Hollywood] Anti-Nazi League against his presence in town made Vittorio Mussolini’s Hollywood visit too much for the 21-year-old boy to support in a style to which diplomacy is accustomed.” In the person of the son of the bald dictator, the Hollywood Anti Nazi League had taken its first scalp.
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MLA Citation:

Doherty, Thomas. "Hal Roach, Vittorio Mussolini, and the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico, <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p237404_index.html>

APA Citation:

Doherty, T. "Hal Roach, Vittorio Mussolini, and the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p237404_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: In 1937, the veteran Hollywood producer Hal Roach entered into a partnership with Vittorio Mussolini, the twenty-one-year-old son of the Italian dictator. When Mussolini fils came to Hollywood to close the deal and schmooze with the locals, his visit became the starting gun for the wave of anti-Nazi activism that swept Hollywood in the late 1930s.
Coordinating the campaign against the Fascist scion was an outfit called the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League for the Defense of American Democracy. Formed in July 1936 to organize rallies, print pamphlets, and--covertly at first, more boldly as war clouds darkened—-inject anti-Nazi propaganda into Hollywood cinema, HANL was a classic Depression-molded Popular Front group, an alliance of New Deal liberals, leftists, and communists, with the grunt work performed by the communists and directional guidance wired in from Moscow.
Upon arrival in Hollywood, Vittorio made polite comments to the local press, visited the lots at Hal Roach Productions and Twentieth Century-Fox, and posed for pictures with the “Our Gang” moppets and Shirley Temple. In honor of his guest, Roach hosted a soiree at his Beverly Hills home that shimmered with all the glitter and glamour of an A-list Hollywood gathering. Yet not everyone thought the party was the hottest ticket in town. “Those who welcome [Mussolini] are opening their arms to a friend of Hitler and an enemy of democracy,” scolded HANL in full page ads in the trade press. An item in the Hollywood Reporter measured the chill in the air. “Feeling runs so high in some quarters regarding the present visit of young Mussolini, Hal Roach had best keep him off some of the major studio stages as he may be embarrassed by the actions of some of the top stars should be visit their sets.”
Battered by the drumbeat of criticism, Roach cancelled the deal and hustled his erstwhile partner out of town. Not bothering to conceal its own delight, Variety knew whom to credit for the abrupt departure of “Mussolini Junior.” “A concerted drive of the [Hollywood] Anti-Nazi League against his presence in town made Vittorio Mussolini’s Hollywood visit too much for the 21-year-old boy to support in a style to which diplomacy is accustomed.” In the person of the son of the bald dictator, the Hollywood Anti Nazi League had taken its first scalp.


Similar Titles:
The Rise and Fall of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League

Forget Hollywood: The Russian Internet’s Anti-Opposition as a Social Movement

Congress and Nazi Anti-Semitsm: Issue Advocacy and Policy Formation


 
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