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Hollywood and Politics Stephen Schochet

by soumit

Article by Reg Rock

Hollywood Luminaries Have Often Had An Uneasy Relationship With Both The Political Class And The Issues.

When actors first came to Hollywood, there were signs put up in front of hotels and apartments that said no dogs or actors allowed, with the performers ruefully complaining about not getting top billing. The insecurity of the profession has come through in political campaigns. When Ronald Reagan successfully ran for Governor of California in 1966, one of the fruitless tactics used by his opposition was a television commercial featuring Gene Kelley stating, “In films I played a gambler, a baseball player and I could play a Governor but you wouldn’t really want an actor to really be a Governor would you?”

Ronald Reagan at one time was such a Liberal Democrat he drove friends to distraction with his views. One day in the thirties he was driving a friend home from work, yammering on about President Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. Reagan, who was near sighted and an erratic driver at best seemed oblivious to road conditions. “Ronnie, watch out for that truck!” the friend yelled. Missing an accident by a hair, Reagan continued,” Truck drivers, that’s who the New Deal will help!”

Like former President Reagan, Walt Disney claimed to be a Roosevelt New Dealer until a nasty worker’s strike at his studio made him take a right turn. Although he campaigned heavily for Republican candidates, the cartoon maker kept friendly relations with the other side. Walt loved giving personal tours of Disneyland to American Presidents, and enjoyed having Harry Truman as his guest, even when his fellow Missourian turned down a ride on Dumbo: Too much Republican symbolism.

Another mogul, Louis B. Mayer, the founder of MGM was a staunch Republican his entire life. Mayer never quite got over Franklin Roosevelt beating his good friend Herbert Hoover. Realizing that it was good business to keep up friendly relations with American Presidents, he accepted an invitation to meet the Democrat leader at the White House in 1933. Immediately upon arriving in the Oval Office, Mayer surprised Roosevelt by pulling a clock from underneath his coat and placing it on the President’s desk. “What’s that for, Mr. Mayer?” “Pardon me Mr. President. I heard you have the ability to have a man in your hip pocket after 18 minutes.” Brandishing his long cigarette holder, Roosevelt threw his head back and laughed, then began chatting with the film executive. He was startled when after seventeen minutes the mogul got up, grabbed the clock and left the room.

Ten-year-old Shirley Temple felt compelled to dispense justice when sheattended a barbecue at Eleanor Roosevelt’s Hyde Park estate in 1938. The childstar had recently made the first lady an official member of the Shirley TemplePolice Force? Eleanor had asked for two extra badges for her granddaughters.Shirley graciously complied after explaining that this was a serious organizationwith strict rules. Participants had to wear their emblems in public at all times,otherwise Shirley was authorized to collect fines, which were then given out tocharities. And now at the party, the Roosevelt granddaughters were breachingprotocol and refused to fork over the required cash. Clearly, Eleanor had failedto deputize them properly. While Mrs. Roosevelt was busy bending over thegrill, the little actress subtly pulled out a slingshot from her purse and nailed herhostess in the rear with a pebble. The target straightened right up while heryoung punisher quickly hid the weapon before the secret service men noticed.Eleanor never mentioned the incident. Shirley remained proud of her action,even after she was walloped later that night by her mother, who witnessed thewhole thing.

Many Hollywood figures prefer to have others speak for them. When Marlon Brando won the Oscar for Best Actor for the 1972 movie The Godfather, he shocked America with his proxy, who came on stage to refuse the award. The stand-in claimed to be a Native American called Sacheen Littlefeather who, while at the podium, complained about the film industry’s treatment of her people, as several in the audience booed. Her name was later revealed to be Maria Cruz? besides being an impostor, she was a professional actress. Rock Hudson, who was the next presenter, stated that sometimes the best eloquence is silence. Brando took his advice. He ignored several calls toexplain his views publicly. The forty-eight-year-old star stayed holed up in hismansion high in the Hollywood Hills. A rumor spread through the film industrythat Marlon was camped out in his projection room running John Waynemovies backward so the Indians would win.

When asked by the media what he thought of the SacheenLittlefeather incident, sixty-four-year-old John Wayne (1907-1979) was stronglycritical of Marlon Brando. If the man had something to say, why did he have tohide behind a girl dressed up in an Indian outfit? Everybody complained thatNative Americans didn’t get enough work in movies, and then Brando hired afake one to do the real thing. Why the hell should anyone use the AcademyAwards as a soapbox? Later, Wayne, who had a wonderful sense of humor,privately confessed to friends he found Marlon’s action hysterically funny.

Author Stephen Schochet is a professional tour guide in Hollywood, who years ago began collecting little known, humorous anecdotes to tell to his customers. His new book Hollywood Stories: Short, Entertaining Anecdotes About the Stars and Legends of the Movies! contains a timeless treasure trove of colorful vignettes featuring an amazing all-star cast of icons including John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn, and many others both past and contemporary. Tim Sika, host of the radio show Celluloid Dreams on KSJS in San Jose has called Stephen, “The best storyteller about Hollywood we have ever heard.” Available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For more information go to

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