Moguls' view of America starts, ends in Hollywood

Today's TV

March 21, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach

Hollywood reflects not so much the American dream, but the dreams of the group of Eastern European Jews -- Louis B. Mayer, Adolph Zukor, Carl Laemmle, Harry Warner, William Fox and Harry Cohn -- who helmed the major movie studios through the middle of the 20th century.

So says "Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream" (9 p.m.-11 p.m. tomorrow, repeats 1 a.m.-3 a.m., A&E), an interesting look at whether America is reflected in Hollywood or the other way around.

Based on Neil Gabler's book, "An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood," the show traces the influence of the moguls. Through their pictures, they presented a romanticized view of their homelands and the struggles they undertook to survive. But they also tried to hide their Jewishness, to prove they were true Americans, eager to fight in the wars and hobnob with their gentile neighbors.

The filmmakers sometimes overstate their case, as when they suggest the Oscars were somehow another attempt by the moguls to mask their Jewishness. And the role of the directors, who may have had more to do with their films' content than the studio heads, is overlooked almost entirely.

Still, it's an intriguing premise and a compelling story, complete with rare footage of the legendary studio heads, interviews with their descendants and lots of background from educators, journalists and writers.

Pub Date: 3/21/98

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