Was Hollywood working with Hitler? Based on decades of research from many historians, the consensus is no. However, Harvard University’s junior fellow Ben Urwand claims otherwise in the already infamous book titled The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. Urwand’s publication follows Thomas Doherty’s Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 that contextualizes prewar Hollywood as a business-centered industry where only profits mattered. Hollywood and Hitler provides useful cultural context to Hollywood in the 1930s, without which, it would be easy to misinterpret. After reading both Doherty and Urwand’s books, it is clear that Doherty has the superior study.
Urwand’s book, The Collaboration, claims to break the news to film historians that Hollywood was part of Hitler’s evil empire. The book’s subtitle, “Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler,” says it all. Urwand argues both Jack Warner (of Warner Bros.) and Louis B. Mayer (of MGM) both altered or stopped films on request of the Nazis. Urwand uses these claims to illustrate an alliance between Hollywood and Hitler. Urwand uses the word ‘collaboration’ because that is the word the studio bosses used. However, they meant collaboration in a business sense. Urwand is interpreting the word ideologically. With Urwand’s study available only a few months, scholars and critics have come out in hordes to trash it in major publications ranging from The Hollywood Reporter, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many others. Things have gotten so heated that questions have been raised of Harvard’s credibility, as well as Urwand’s dissertation committee members at Berkeley.