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Hollywood's War with Poland, 1939-1945

M.B.B. Biskupski

Publication Year: 2010

During World War II, Hollywood studios supported the war effort by making patriotic movies designed to raise the nation’s morale. They often portrayed the combatants in very simple terms: Americans and their allies were heroes, and everyone else was a villain. Norway, France, Czechoslovakia, and England were all good because they had been invaded or victimized by Nazi Germany. Poland, however, was represented in a negative light in numerous movies. In Hollywood’s War with Poland, 1939-1945, M. B. B. Biskupski draws on a close study of prewar and wartime films such as To Be or Not to Be (1942), In Our Time (1944), and None Shall Escape (1944). He researched memoirs, letters, diaries, and memoranda written by screenwriters, directors, studio heads, and actors to explore the negative portrayal of Poland during World War II. Biskupski also examines the political climate that influenced Hollywood films.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

Hollywood presented a fundamentally distorted and negative portrayal of Poland and the Poles during the Second World War. An American citizen whose knowledge of the war was derived exclusively from the movies would be unsympathetic if not hostile to Poland and understanding if not supportive of Soviet policies directed against Poland’s ...

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pp. 1-9

Films in the era before television were a significant source of information as well as entertainment, and their influence on popular attitudes, though impossible to quantify, was considerable.1 Let us remember that in the 1939–1945 era Hollywood released five hundred films yearly and that the decade beginning in 1935 saw a phenomenal increase in...

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1. The Polish Presence in American Cinema before 1939

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pp. 11-44

Poland, returned to the map at the end of the First World War, mattered little to the United States after 1918. This was true in both political and cultural matters. American films reflected this lack of interest. Indeed, the Polish population in the United States was also largely an unknown community to the American public, who regarded this newly ...

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2. Poland in the Second World War

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pp. 45-56

Before we consider what Hollywood said about the Poles during World War II, it would be useful to present a brief outline of the events to which the film industry was reacting. Two themes are particularly noteworthy. The first is that many of the significant aspects of Poland’s...

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3. Radical Hollywood and Poland

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pp. 57-65

The FBI traced the comintern’s determination to establish a presence in American films to articles by Willi Münzenberg in the Daily Worker in 1925 that extolled the significance of motion pictures as a means of political propaganda and hence the need for the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) to control their production.1 The ...

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4. The Roosevelt Administration and Film during the War

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pp. 67-81

Poland’s travails had no consequences for American policy, and public opinion continued to oppose active American involvement in the war after the September campaign. By the time the United States entered the war, the major opponent of Nazi Germany was the Soviet Union, and Poland was a weak member of the anti-German coalition. Propitiating ...

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5. Hollywood's Version of the War: The Polish Films

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pp. 83-118

Hollywood had much material to use but created only three films set in Poland. Two of them deal with the last days of peace and the immediate aftermath of the invasion. Only None Shall Escape, made in 1944, focuses on the occupation. Certainly the inattention to Poland reflected the fact that, by the time of American belligerency, the September...

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6. Poland: Fleeting, Ambiguous, or Omitted

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pp. 119-167

Beyond the three Films discussed in the previous chapter, cinematic depictions of Poland were a rarity for Hollywood. Poland and the Poles had minor roles on the margins of a few films, reflecting the margins of the American consciousness to which they were relegated. A comprehensive review of the Polish themes in American cinema of the war ...

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7. Hollywood and the American Poles during the War

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pp. 169-216

By World War II, Hollywood had a long history of ignoring the Polish population of the United States or presenting them negatively. This, in part, reflected the unenviable position the Poles occupied in American society and consciousness in the decades before the Second World Southern Europe who largely displaced the previous flow of arrivals ...

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8. Why Hollywood Was at War with the Poles

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pp. 217-227

How may we explain the inattention and hostility with which Hollywood treated wartime Poland? Hollywood’s version of the war was a combination of the left-wing, pro-Soviet political sympathies of many of its leading figures and the preference of the U.S. government to present a depiction of the war that supported its policy predilections....

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pp. 229-230

Hollywood in World War II displayed a perfect combination for the woeful depiction of Poland. An administration bent on selling Russia found ready allies in a politically left-wing community that tended to regard Poland as a reactionary obstacle to Soviet-American cooperation and the celebration of their ideological convictions. Ceplair and ...


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pp. 231-329


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pp. 331-344


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pp. 345-362

E-ISBN-13: 9780813173528
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125596

Page Count: 290
Publication Year: 2010