Sunday, January 13, 2013

All for Nothing: Nihilism in Cinema

It is common knowledge that, as Washington is now the citadel of the Left, Hollywood has been a fiefdom of the Left for a very long time. The Left picks the projects, the scripts, the actors, and the directors, and then foists its films on a hapless American movie-going public, saying it's only entertainment and not to be taken seriously, adding, "We don't mean nothin' by it." The Left calls nearly all the shots in Hollywood. Anyone who doesn’t toe the Left's Party line is left unemployed, unnoticed, shunned, and ostracized, regardless of talent or experience. In short, blacklisted. They may be invited to fill seats on Oscar night, but that is the limit of their visibility.

But how did the Left take over Hollywood? What made it possible? Without rehashing a history of Hollywood's political struggles, its flirtation with self-censorship (the Hays and Breen Offices), and subsequent abandonment of self-censorship in favor of "ratings" (the MPAA), the Communist infiltration of the studios and various unions, the McCarthy Era, the HUAC hearings, and the Hollywood Ten, the subject here will be what I perceive to be one of the means by which the Left effected its conquest. That method is psycho-epistemological in nature, and it is insidious.

What is epistemology? Novelist/Philosopher Ayn Rand defined it as "a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge." Psycho-epistemology, she went on to explain, is "is the study of man’s cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious."

Briefly, epistemology can tell us existence exists and why we know it. Psycho-epistemology tells us the method of our awareness of existence. Epistemology can validate that you are reading these words and that they are real. Psycho-epistemology, for example, will prove that reality is not some kind of super piñata to be approached blind-folded with a stick in hopes of thwacking some meaning from it.

In her brilliant essay on the effects of modern education on children, "The Comprachicos," Rand noted that:

"This skill [the process of forming, integrating, and using concepts] does not pertain to the particular content of a man's knowledge at any given age, but to the method by which he acquires and organizes knowledge – the method by which his mind deals with its content. The method programs his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function. The programming of a man's subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires: these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology."*

But who or what left the door open to the Left? It was nihilism. The Left needed help in establishing squatters' rights. Its penchant for censorship and propagandizing was too well known. Let us pick an arbitrary time for when the nihilism began to creep into film, say, the late 1950's and early 1960's, before the Left and the beatniks-cum-hippies completed their takeover of Hollywood. Very likely it began long before, but some prominent movies ought to demonstrate the method and the rot.

And what is the method? The films I mention here lead the viewer to believe that the story they are about to see is going somewhere, that there is a purpose to the sequence of events, no matter how muddled or tightly drawn the sequence. Viewers are in the mental habit of expecting a conclusion and a climax that make sense, no matter how banal or dramatic or contrived.

And these are not amateur films produced by film school wannabe directors shooting from a sophomoric script and starring no-talent casts and shot on make-shift sets. They are professionally made films made by big name directors on million dollar budgets with all-star, often international casts.

The films simply end. There are no concluding, satisfying denouements, no logical resolutions, no happy or even tragic endings. They simply end and everything that precedes the ending evaporates into irrelevancy. Life is meaningless, as well as all the struggles, thoughts, efforts, conflicts and purposes – all meaningless. All for nothing. Dissolved into nothingness. Phttt! Roll the credits.

Don't believe me? Try these synopses.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959, Otto Preminger, director): Jimmy Stewart plays a small town lawyer who agrees to represent a soldier accused of murdering his wife's rapist. By the end of the story, after Stewart has got the soldier off the hook on an insanity plea, the soldier and his wife skip town without paying him. This act of dishonesty casts doubt on the evidence and testimony of the solider and his wife. Was she actually raped, and did her husband, a drunken lout, kill her alleged attacker during a bout of "insanity"? Stewart shrugs it off and goes fishing. Mentally, the viewer is expected to do the same.

They Came to Cordura (1959, Robert Rossen, director): During the Mexican Incursion campaign of 1916, Gary Cooper plays an officer charged with taking several candidates for the Congressional Medal of Honor to a Texas town, Cordura, so they can live to receive the medal and serve as role models for Americans when the U.S. enters World War I. During a grueling trek on foot across desert (having had to surrender their horses to Mexican bandits), the soldiers nearly murder Cooper, attempt to rape Rita Hayworth, and initiate a string of harrowing conflicts and betrayals, in which the candidates reveal they are not heroic after all. Finally, Cordura is spotted and, forgetting everything that went on before, everyone rushes to reach it. Well, what a relief! But, what was all the dramatics about that led up to it? Will Cooper still recommend the brutes for the Congressional Medal of Honor? We are left guessing.

Advise and Consent (1962, Otto Preminger, director): A Senate committee is convened to investigate the possible left-wing allegiances of the president's nominee for Secretary of State, appropriately named "Leffingwell" (played, appropriately, by Henry Fonda). By the end of the film, the president dies and Leffingwell's name is automatically withdrawn because the new president will have his own nominee for the post. All the entanglements, intrigues, back-stabbings, and even a suicide, were for naught. Never mind. They'll just start all over again.

Lonely Are the Brave (1962, David Miller, director; screenplay, Dalton Trumbo): Kirk Douglas plays an independent man and cowboy who gets himself arrested and put into a local prison so he can stop his best friend there from being sent to a penitentiary by making an escape. His friend refuses to escape and wants to serve his time. So, Douglas escapes, and, with his horse, leads the authorities on a wild chase over a nearly impassable mountain. His pursuer is a local sheriff played by Walter Matthau.

After training his horse to cross highways safely, when they have reached sanctuary during a rain storm, he and his horse make it to the other side of the mountain, only to be struck by a truck, driven by Carroll O'Connor, hauling a load of commodes. Matthau is at the scene and he may or may not identify Douglas as the man he had conducted the search for. We are not sure of his motive, or even that he recognizes Douglas. Douglas is last seen gazing up with bewilderment at all the faces staring down at him.

Play Dirty (1969, André De Toth, director): Michael Caine plays a British officer drafted into a scheme to blow up Nazi fuel dumps in North Africa. He is put in charge of a group of grungy ex-cons who are also experts in sabotage. In the course of the story, Caine displays leadership, solves an insurmountable problem, but is forced to watch the Germans ambush and wipe out a British patrol because his group is anti-British. The fuel dump they are sent to destroy turns out to be a booby-trapped decoy. The group picks another fuel dump, but is ordered not to destroy it. They are betrayed to the Germans by the men who sent them on the mission. They manage to set the fuel dump ablaze. By the end of this picture, Caine and his second lieutenant, disguised in Italian Army uniforms, are the only survivors of the mission. They are accidently shot dead by a British soldier who didn't see Caine's white flag. Oh, well….

Ronin (1998, John Frankenheimer, director): Former American spy Robert De Niro is contacted by a woman to secure a briefcase that contains something that other spies and mercenaries want. After nonstop action and gun play and car chases, the briefcase may or may not have been secured because it has been switched with a duplicate. We never learn what was in it. By mayhem's end, the main characters settle back in a café to have their drinks and reminisce and speculate.

And as the credits roll and the audience leaves the theater, what is the audience to think? Well, they're not supposed to think about it at all. Just accept the nihilism as the norm. Causo-connections, however solid or shaky, that would allow full or partial comprehension, are forbidden.

It's interesting to note that Otto Preminger was not an avowed communist, and was famous for Laura (1944), Forever Amber (1947), and many other films that do have conclusions. If he was anything, he was apolitical. Robert Rossen was a communist, but a penitent one who "ratted" on his fellow communists to HUAC. The politics of André De Toth, a Hungarian immigrant, are not known.

However, Dalton Trumbo, who received credit for the screenplay of Lonely, and who was one of the unrepentant Hollywood Ten, was a communist, although he tried to distance himself from the others by "ratting" on his fellow travelers, too. John Frankenheimer's most famous films, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), The Train (1965), all of which have finely honed conclusions, conflict violently with the senseless carnage of Ronin.

These films do not overtly reflect their makers' political leanings. Every one of them introduces an element of nihilism – or the destruction of values for destruction's sake –that helped to pave the way for the Hollywood Left to attack all American values, and values as such.

Why? I do not think the introduction of nihilism was deliberate or conscious. I think the directors were simply absorbing the psycho-epistemology of the time, by way of osmosis, one made possible by an overall retreat of reason in the culture. Making a film without the capstone of a conclusion was a novelty that contrasts sharply with each director's overall oeuvre. Their casts can be held blameless; actors are rarely good judges of the philosophical import of the scripts they choose to accept, although that is not the rule today. Ask Sean Penn, or Brad Pitt, or Danny Glover.

Some critics, in passing, or in amusement, called these and similar films "cynical." But nihilism is worse than mere cynicism. They are not the same thing. Cynicism alleges that there are certain ideals or standards that men can imagine but cannot live up to for one reason or another, usually because of their "base," deterministic nature. Nihilism says there are no ideals or standards – or even minds – that can't be suborned, corrupted, gutted, and destroyed.

Nihilism is by no means the sole method with which the Left inveigled its way into becoming the dominant political force in Hollywood. But, these and other films helped to make nihilism respectable, and the norm. Once that was done, the Left was free to fill the void. They prepared the viewer for an onslaught of films that are little more than gussied up propaganda. They inured viewers to watching the construction of a tower, and before it can be topped off, seeing it dynamited and collapsed into a cloud of rubble and dust.

Nihilism – even little bits of it snuck into scenes in the course of other films – habituates viewers to the notion that everything is nothing and nothing is everything, and that all is meaningless, so there's no good reason to claim that one's values are superior or special or sacrosanct, and can't be replaced with "higher" values. It attempts, case by case, instance by instance, from film to film, to scrub the viewer's epistemology clean of important causo-connections between reality, his values, and his own cognitive powers.

Nature does not tolerate a vacuum, neither in reality, nor in men's minds. As the "comprachicos" in modern education – from Progressive nursery schools up through the universities – have been busy "remolding" men's minds to create compliant servants of the Left and the all-encompassing state, nihilist films have sought to complete that education in the theater.

The solution in education is to get the government out of education. Once that is accomplished, that will, in time, solve the problem of evicting the Left from Hollywood.

*p. 158. The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. New York: Signet/New American Library, 1971.


John Shepard said...

Powerful analysis, Ed. Thank you.

Leaves me feeling nauseous though.

May I ask, if there are any, what are some really worthwhile films that you would recommend?

Edward Cline said...

John: I have a list of my favorites. Will put it together soon. Getting over the bloody flu.

John Shepard said...

Thank you Ed. I truly became revolted and it's persisting, because I understand what you were revealing.

Speedy recovery from the flu.

Roxanne said...

Well done, Ed. Your synopses of the film are interesting in themselves.

These artists all show themselves as philosophic "agnostics"; i.e., who are they to have standards that say a movie out to destroy values is against their values. This refusal to judge, refusal to have rational standards by which to judge the value of a work of art, to prove how au courant and "liberal minded" they are is killing us.

Edward Cline said...

Roxanne: It's unfortunate that none of these directors is around any more to say that to. Ed

Edward Cline said...

A very short list of my favorite movies. Some are marred with inexcusable naturalism, which is fleeting.
The Four Feathers (1939)
His Girl Friday
Hobson's Choice
The Lady Killers
Unconquered (Cooper, French & Indian War)
Executive Suite (Williams Holden)
The Man in the White Suit
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (even with the revised ending, Laughton)
Hamburger Hill
Swing Kids
The Lavender Hill Mob
Breaking the Sound Barrier
The Browning Version (with Michael Redgrave)
That's all for now.

John Shepard said...

Thank you so much, Ed! Get well soon!

To make it convenient, I took a little time to reformat your list, hopefully corrrectly:

The Four Feathers (1939): IMDB: John Clements, June Duprez & Ralph Richardson

His Girl Friday (1940): IMDB: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy & Gene Lockhart

Hobson's Choice (1954): IMDB: Charles Laughton, Brenda De Banzie & John Mills

The Lady Killers (1955): IMDB: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner & Katie Johnson

Charade (1963): IMDB: Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn

Unconquered (1947): IMDB: Gary Cooper & Paulette Goddard

Executive Suite (1954): IMDB: William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, Walter Pidgeon & June Allyson

The Man in the White Suit (1951): IMDB: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood & Cecil Parker

Notorious (1946): IMDB: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman & Claude Rains

Khartoum (1966): IMDB: Laurence Olivier, Charlton Heston, Richard Johnson & Ralph Richardson

Zulu (1964): IMDB: Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth & Nigel Green

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943): IMDB: Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Akim Tamiroff, Joseph Calleia, Katina Paxinou & Arturo de Córdova

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) (even with the revised ending, Laughton): IMDB: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell & Edmond O'Brien

Hamburger Hill (1987): IMDB: Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, Courtney B. Vance, Don Cheadle & Michael Boatman

Swing Kids (1993): IMDB: Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey & Kenneth Branagh

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): IMDB: Alec Guinness & Audrey Hepburn

Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952): IMDB: Ralph Richardson, Ann Todd, Nigel Patrick, John Justin & Denholm Elliott

The Browning Version (1951): IMDB: Michael Redgrave, Jean Kent & Nigel Patrick

Edward Cline said...

John: Thanks for the organization.

John Shepard said...
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John Shepard said...

I perhaps should have put them in order of the date they are showing, but I put them in the order you originally listed them. Anyone interested should take care to note the Movie Name, Date and Time for those listed.

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Grant Jones said...

I just read your Hollywood nihilism article. It is excellent. Two points, Hollywood really had no choice but to self-censor. The Supreme Court ruled in 1915 in Mutual v. Ohio that films weren't protected by the First Amendment. Hollywood preferred one understandable standard to hundreds from the states and municipalities and the Catholic Church and every random bluenose in the country. A big turning point was the demise of the studio system. For all the attacks they have suffered, the movie moguls did maintain some standards and quality. But, your point that many independent film makers were clueless about what they were doing is well taken. Sometimes, they weren't thinking about story quality. For example, Preminger often seemed more interested in rubbing the Hays Office's nose in the fact that they could not stop him from using previously forbidden topics than telling a good story. In 1956 Elia Kazan directed the truly horrible Baby Doll. Once some directors had complete control over their material, it became obvious that their judgment left much to be desired. The same holds true for Hitchcock; the moguls served well in reining in auteurs and preventing them from making fools of themselves. I think the key turning point for Hollywood was the mid to late 1960s. In that benighted era, Hollywood found that nihilism pays. I haven't gone to a movie theater in years. They now produce mostly rubbish; and, I don't want to give them my money for anything, good, bad or indifferent.

Doug Mayfield said...

As a fan of murder mysteries, I remember watching 'Anatomy of a Murder' and wondering why I found the ending so bitterly disappointing. Thank you for clarifying that.

Edward Cline said...

Doug: If you're a fan of murder mysteries, you might try one of my Cyrus Skeen detective novels, available now as print books as well as on Kindle.

Edward Cline said...

John Shephard: I thought I'd add a few more of my favorite titles:

Tunes of Glory
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Big Clock
The Maltese Falcon (Bogart)
The Miracle Worker
To Be or Not To Be (1942)
Twentieth Century (1934)
My Man Godfrey

John Shepard said...
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John Shepard said...
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Edward Cline said...

John: All the ones you've marked ??? or *** are unique and are not remakes. The only remake I know of was of "To Be or Not To Be" and the 1942 one is with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. The later remake with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft wasn't as good as the original.

John Shepard said...

Okay, thank you, Ed.

There were two different versions of My Man Godfrey, one in 1936 with William Powell and Carole Lombard, and one in 1957 with David Niven and June Allyson.

Which of those two were you recommending?

Edward Cline said...

John: I didn't know Godfrey had been remade. I meant the Lombard/Powell one.

John Shepard said...

Ed's List of Movie Recommendations:

Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Casablanca (1942): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Charade (1963): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Executive Suite (1954) (Williams Holden): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Hamburger Hill (1987): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
His Girl Friday (1940): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Hobson's Choice (1954): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Khartoum (1966): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Laura (1944): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
My Man Godfrey (1936): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Notorious (1946): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Swing Kids (1993): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Big Clock (1948): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM

John Shepard said...

The Browning Version (1951) (with Michael Redgrave): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Four Feathers (1939): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) (even with the revised ending): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Ladykillers (1955): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Maltese Falcon (1941): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Man in the White Suit (1951): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Miracle Worker (1962): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM

John Shepard said...

To Be or Not To Be (1942): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Tunes of Glory (1960): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Twentieth Century (1934): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Unconquered (1947) (Cooper, French & Indian War): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Zulu (1964): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM

John Shepard said...

Upcoming Movies from Ed's List - TCM

Friday, January 18 @ 04:00 PM (ET): Notorious - TCM
Sunday, January 27 @ 02:00 PM (ET): His Girl Friday - TCM
*Tuesday, January 29 @ 03:15 PM (ET): Anatomy of a Murder - TCM
Tuesday, January 29 @ 10:00 PM (ET): The Lavender Hill Mob - TCM
Saturday, February 2 @ 08:00 PM (ET): Casablanca - TCM
Saturday, February 2 @ 10:00 PM (ET) The Maltese Falcon - TCM
Tuesday, February 12 @ 06:15 AM (ET): The Hunchback of Notre Dame - TCM
Wednesday, February 27 @ 08:00 PM (ET): The Four Feathers on TCM
Thursday, February 28 @ 09:15 AM (ET): The Man in the White Suit - TCM
Thursday, February 28 @ 10:45 AM (ET): The Ladykillers - TCM
Friday, March 1 @ 09:00 AM (ET): To Be or Not To Be - TCM

* Anatomy of a Murder is one of the movies that Ed criticized in his original post.

At TCM, there's an option, in the Title bar, to get a reminder message sent to one's email address. I've not tried it, but it might be handy.

John Shepard said...

Lastly, the movies Ed criticizes in his original post:

Advise and Consent (1962): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Anatomy of a Murder (1959): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Lonely Are the Brave (1962): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Play Dirty (1969): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Ronin (1998): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
They Came to Cordura (1959): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM

Be sure to double check the times for upcoming movies on TCM.

All link, I believe, are now correct. (I hope.)

John Shepard said...

Thank you again, Ed, for your movie recommendations.

I apologize for butchering the comments thread, but I hope that you and your readers find the lists-with-links helpful - with copy-paste all of from my last five posts can be used to create a text file (I'm on a Mac and use TexEdit), all links active for future reference and easy access to information and listings on TCM.

Ed said...

"If he was anything, he was apolitical."

Another word is "pragmatic." The driving force behind every big-budget picture is not politics or ethics or epistemology, but the overarching obligation to make money, by whichever means works.

If Abe Lincoln had been a Hollywood producer, he might have written: "My paramount object in this struggle is to make money, and is not either to save or to destroy Hollywood. If I could make money without destroying the cinema I would do it, and if I could make money by burning Hollywood to the ground I would do it; and if I could make money by green-lighting 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' or 'Dude, Where's My Car?' I would also do that."

I think we tend at times to give "Hollywood" as an abstraction (and the entertainment business in general) too much credit for consciously being evil or immoral or nihilistic. I recall this line in Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead": "[T]here had always been a God and a Devil--only men had been so mistaken about the shapes of their Devil--he was not single and big, he was many and smutty and small."

jayeldee said...

“[W]e tend at times to give ‘Hollywood’ as an abstraction (and the entertainment business in general) too much credit for consciously being evil or immoral or nihilistic.”

Excellent point. Hollywood, from bit players and technicians to directors and producers, is chock full of mental midgets--very tiny Devils indeed. And their earning power derives exclusively from the fact that their market is composed, in very large part--of the lobotomized: of those wholly bereft of discrimination, of taste, of rational esthetic standards. And their, the Hollywood-ists’, junk is funneled to that market by slightly bigger Devils--who are the mainstream media “critics.” And of course all of the sorry lot--the producers, the consumers, and the critics--has been spawned by Devils of slightly larger (but still lowly) stature, which inhabit “the educational system.” …. In fact, the recognition that human evil is “many and smutty and small” is one root of Ayn Rand’s “benevolent universe” premise.

That said, I am not so sure that money is the “only” motive of Hollywood’s junk manufacturers and peddlers. It is a major one, no doubt. But I think there is also a psychological motive often at work--consisting in the desire, central to any artist, to see a certain type of world made “real,” if only for the space of an hour or two.

Edward Cline said...

John Shephard: Three more for your list. As the flu abates, memory becomes sharper.

Ruggles of Red Gap
Arsenic and Old Lace
Ball of Fire (Stanwyck and Cooper)

jayeldee said...

An absorbing analysis, Ed (Cline). And your film lineup is quite interesting—including, as it does, many titles I’ve never seen (nor even heard of). (“For Whom the Bell Tolls” has been in my queue—for too long.) …. Judging from your list, I think it safe to assume that you are partial to Carole Lombard and Alec Guinness. I’m familiar with the latter only from his role in “Doctor Zhivago”—which I rather like, and in which Guinness is (to me) an utterly enthralling presence. I now look forward to seeing his other films, starting with your recommendations…. As for Lombard, she has, for me, been a virtual unknown! I saw “To Be or Not To Be” more moons ago than I care to recall, and was struck with her beauty. I’ve lately seen various clips of her other work—and think I am on the verge, now, of adding her to my Pantheon of Goddesses. (I hate to end with a negative—but, good grief, what a horror her tragic and untimely death was.)

John Shepard said...

Glad to hear that you're getting better, Ed. Thank you for the additional recommendations.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Ball of Fire (1941): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935): Wikipedia - IMDB - TCM

Ball of Fire is another of the movies you recommend which will soon be airing on TCM:

Wednesday, February @ 08:15 AM (ET): Ball of Fire - TCM

jayeldee said...

Just saw "Swing Kids"--which goes into the category, Best Movie I Never Heard Of. Great find, that! (I had a different ending in mind, but am sure it would not be nearly as convincing as what was used.) Thank you for the pointer!

Ed said...

I would add that, without ticket-buyers, producers of nihilistic garbage would wither and die. I blame us. The question is: How did we get this way?

Edward Cline said...

Ed (the other Ed): Yes, without ticket sales, the Hollywood Left would wither and die. And, please, don't blame "us," because that's a collectivist idea that can start rotting your principles or emasculating your intellectual influence. How did "we" get that way? It is because ideas are powerful, they can influence a nation's entire culture, but if those ideas are insidious and there is no fundamental opposition to them, then those ideas will take over fields of human action, such as movie-making. If you have read Ayn Rand's "Screen Guide for Americans" (1947), addressed to Hollywood producers and directors, you would note that Rand was the only one who took the communists' ideas and methods seriously. Her successors in the Motion Picture Alliance proved to be intellectually and morally inept and could not keep up the fight against the Left, because they were unable or unwilling to absorb the ramifications of the ideas expressed in the Screen Guide. The MPA disbanded in 1960 in a gesture of irrelevancy.

Ed said...

Edward, by "us" I mean our culture as a whole, not any particular individual--not you and certainly not I. One cannot speak of cultural problems without referring to the culture as a collective of volitional individuals who make individual choices about art and every other aspect of life, including their choice of philosophies.

"How did we get this way" was of course a rhetorical question. We got this way because, as a culture, we have made the wrong philosophical choices, as you make very clear in your essays.

One exhaustive, comprehensive and meticulous answer to the question may be found in Leonard Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels (1982), a book I'm currently rereading after 30 years. It offers compelling if not chilling evidence of how we "got here" and where we, as a culture and a nation, may be headed.

John Shepard said...
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