If any bona fide members of the Hollywood Left read the magazine section of tomorrow’s Los Angeles Times, they are going to ruin their breakfasts. It might even be enough to ruin their evening viewing of the Super Bowl. For what they will find is an amazing article by the journalist John Meroney about what he has found out while doing research for his book about Ronald Reagan’s Hollywood years. Titled “Left in the Past,” the article tells the story of how the seeds of Reagan’s anti-Communist ideology that led eventually to the break-up of the evil empire began in the years when Reagan was a Hollywood liberal.
Central to Meroney’s story is an account of what he found in the 75 legal size file boxes of an unknown or perhaps forgotten Hollywood labor leader, the late Roy Brewer. His files, Meroney writes, “form a remarkable portrait of Reagan’s life as a movie star, liberal Democrat and union man.” Yes, as many young people probably do not realize, Ronald Reagan was not born a conservative. Indeed, Meroney is correct when he observes that many conservatives prefer to forget that he was a union man who campaigned for Harry S. Truman in 1948, just as liberals and leftists prefer to forget that he was not an “archconservative Red baiter.”
What Meroney brings to the story — the general outlines of which my wife and I wrote about in Red Star Over Hollywood – is how Roy Brewer served as Reagan’s mentor and was a man who gave him both advice and training in how to wage the battle against the film colony’s Stalinist machine. It was Brewer and Reagan who together began the fight against Soviet influence in Hollywood in the 40s and 50s.
Conservatives tend to forget (or many do not realize) that the fight against Communism was waged at first by anti-Communist liberals and social-democrats, not by the far-Right or conservatives. As Meroney writes about Brewer:
A gritty, often misunderstood character, Brewer was a tough union man, yet he would almost weep when quoting Scarlett O’Hara’s “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again” line from Gone with the Wind. The line spoke to his personal determination, New Deal loyalties and socialist leanings. A portrait of FDR hung on his wall. He regarded Joseph McCarthy as a demagogue. (In the archive, I found far-right McCarthyite propaganda smearing Brewer as soft on Communism and castigating Reagan as a “flagrant Red.”) Politically, Brewer supported Reagan in all his campaigns, but in the Florida recounts, he backed Al Gore. He didn’t like George W. Bush.