THIS APPROACH is found in loads of films from the 1930s and 1940s. One of the most remarkable is “The Human Comedy,” based on a story by the marvelous Armenian-American writer, William Saroyan. Rooney is a telegraph company messenger boy in a small town (based on Fresno, California) who feels he is missing out on all the excitement of World War Two, where his brother has gone off to fight.
There’s an amazing scene when the telegraph office’s manager is driving his girlfriend past a succession of ethnic holiday picnics and makes a speech extolling ethnic diversity in America. In the film’s most moving scene, the Rooney character delivers a telegram to a poor Mexican-American woman about her son’s being killed in the war.
In “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo,” (1944) about the first U.S. air attack on Tokyo after Pearl Harbor, one of the airman gives a speech about how the Japanese he knew in California were nice people. Such statements are made in other wartime films.
And the Chinese people, who helped save the lives of the crashed fliers, are shown as heroic. There were many other films with a pro-Chinese theme. Sometimes it is mentioned nowadays that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor partly in response to a U.S. oil embargo on Japan, a fact presented as if it indicates that Tokyo was thus acting defensively against U.S. bullying and imperialism.
What is never mentioned is that the embargo was a humanitarian gesture to protest and weaken Japanese aggression in China, operations involving mass murder of Chinese on a scale surpassed only by the Nazi genocide in Europe.
Now it might be pointed out that “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” was largely written by the pro-Communist Dalton Trumbo, who later turned against the far left. But the film’s director Mervyn LeRoy was well-known as very conservative just like the director of “Stagecoach,” John Ford. And both of these directors were personal friends of John Wayne to boot.
The director of “The Human Comedy” was Clarence Brown, a great director of Hollywood’s golden age who has been unfairly forgotten. He was apparently pretty apolitical but he did quit the film business to become a very successful businessman.
It is possible to accumulate scores of such points about all aspects of American life and culture that have been buried in the creation of a left-wing narrative that it was almost exclusively about imperialism, racism, and capitalism.
And inasmuch as correction was needed on various points or aspects of the story, this didn’t happen yesterday. It is startling to recall that films like “Little Big Man” and “Tell Them Willie Boy is Here,” two of the most powerful pro-Native American Westerns, were made more than forty years ago.
Incidentally, how often have you heard about a high-ranking U.S. Cavalry officer who courageously protested mistreatment of Native Americans and how they were being robbed by corrupt government officials? He even risked his career to prepare anonymous articles published in newspapers showing that the secretary of war was taking kickbacks from the scoundrels.
His name? George Armstrong Custer.
Originally published at Rubin Reports.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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