by Burt Prelutsky | Los Angeles
A lot of people seemed shocked to discover that the folks at the National Endowment of the Arts were so ready, even anxious, to devote their talents to propagandizing on behalf of Obama and his administration. That merely proves that a lot of people haven’t been paying attention.
It’s my guess that a majority of those involved with the NEA — even those few who are talented — are always eager to roll over for left-wing politicians. Partly it’s because they are so hungry for attention and partly because they lack anything resembling a moral compass.
Allow me to give you a few notable examples of the way that people who earn their living in the areas of art and entertainment can voluntarily blind themselves to those matters that have moral implications. Just recently, we got to watch a swarm of Hollywood retards climbing all over themselves in a rush to defend Roman Polanski, a piece of Euro-trash who confessed to having drugged and raped a 13-year-old child. All sorts of big name, small brain, celebrities lined up to sign petitions on his behalf. By attesting to his character, they merely confirmed that they lacked any themselves.
Hollywood is the place where the members of the Motion Picture Academy were once so angry at producer Jack Warner for casting Audrey Hepburn, instead of Julie Andrews, in “My Fair Lady, that they refused to even nominate Ms. Hepburn for her terrific performance as Eliza Doolittle. However, proving, as usual, that they shouldn’t be allowed to vote even when politics aren’t involved, these lunkheads then gave the 1964 Oscar for Best Picture to “My Fair Lady,” which enabled the very same Jack Warner to stride onstage to thunderous applause.
Then there was the matter of Cliff Robertson and David Begelman. When Robertson, an Oscar-winning actor, discovered that Begelman, the head of Columbia Pictures, had forged his signature on a $10,000 check, he blew the whistle. After a police investigation, it turned out that Begelman had been financing his gambling habit with a lot of other people’s money, including Judy Garland, whom he had blackmailed. The upshot was that Robertson had his acting career short-circuited, whereas Begelman, who was only sentenced to community service, was then hired to run MGM.
Shortly after the scandal occurred, I happened to be having lunch with my agent in a restaurant loaded with Hollywood types. When Begelman entered, there was such a flurry of people competing for his attention, you could have mistaken them for a covey of cardinals vying to smooch the pope’s ring.
It’s not just actors, directors and producers, who act like dopes. Consider writer Norman Mailer. Perhaps because he was the fellow who once tried to settle a domestic dispute by stabbing the second of his six wives, Jack Abbott, who was serving time for bank robbery and murder, decided he’d be the ideal pen pal. Mailer became so enamored of Abbott’s writing, he not only used his considerable influence to get Abbott’s book, “In the Belly of the Beast,” published, but got this career criminal paroled. In New York, quite naturally, Abbott became the toast of the literati crowd, but only for a little while because six weeks after his release, Abbott stabbed 22-year-old Richard Adan to death.
Saving the best for last brings us to Leni Riefenstahl. In Berlin, in the 30s, as in Hollywood at any time, it wasn’t what you knew but who you knew, and Leni was a chum of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. Think of him as the head of Germany’s NEA. It was Herr Goebbels who helped get her the opportunity to make “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympia,” a couple of over-wrought “documentaries” dedicated to hyping the Third Reich.
After the end of World War II and for the remaining half of her 101 years, American and European cineastes — the same twerps who do cartwheels over Michael Moore’s propaganda flicks — showered her with honors and acclaim. This in spite of the fact that although she claimed she wasn’t a Nazi and would barely have recognized Hitler if she’d tripped over him, had said, “To me, Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived. He truly is without fault, so simple and at the same time possessed of masculine strength.” Sort of sounds like Chris Matthews going on about Obama or Oliver Stone mooning over Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro, doesn’t it?
In 1993, Riefenstahl had the gall to deny that she deliberately attempted to create pro-Nazi propaganda. For good measure, she claimed she was disgusted that “Triumph of the Will” was used in such a way. It was reminiscent of Captain Renault’s shock upon discovering that gambling was taking place in the backroom at Rick’s, all the while pocketing his winnings.
Having seen her most famous films, I can assure you that unless you cut the movies up into a million little slivers of celluloid and used them for toothpicks, there was no other conceivable use for them except as Nazi propaganda.
Moreover, in 1934, Riefenstahl said that “Mein Kampf” had made a tremendous impression on her. “I became a confirmed National Socialist after reading the very first page. I felt a man who could write such a book should undoubtedly lead Germany. I felt very happy that such a man had come.”
She was so impressed with the book that she wrote the author a fan letter. The letter led to a meeting. The meeting led to her directing “Victory of Faith,” a movie about the fifth Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg. So much for her claim that she really only knew Hitler from his photos.
In fact, for someone who spent so many years churning out propaganda films, she was rather inept when it came to lying. For instance, on one occasion she claimed that she was totally unaware that concentration camps even existed, while another time she swore that she only worked for the Nazis because Goebbels had threatened to send her to a concentration camp if she didn’t cooperate.
Frankly, what confounds me is why she wasted even a single second lying about her past. I mean, even if she had been good at it, why bother? After all, sensible and moral people never believed her self-serving malarkey; and, as for the celebrity crowd, they simply didn’t care. They never do. CRO
copyright 2009 Burt Prelutsky
Television scriptwriter, former humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine.