Vanessa Redgrave’s hatred for “Zionist hoodlums”

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Vanessa Redgrave

Though Vanessa Redgrave is one of the world’s great actresses of stage and screen, and a member of the most renowned acting dynasty ever, she’s at least as well known for her politics as for her performances. The most famous moment of her career is still the speech she gave in 1978 upon winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her title role in Julia. Redgrave was already famous for her outspoken Marxism, her support for the PLO, and her hostility toward Israel, and she had just produced and narrated an anti-Israel documentary, The Palestinian, which had caused outrage among many American Jews. As a newspaper profile would point out many years later, by the time of that award ceremony her “reputation for hectoring radicalism had made her widely disliked.”

After being handed her Oscar by John Travolta, Redgrave expressed thanks for the honor and praised her co-star, Jane Fonda, and her director, Fred Zinneman. She then thanked the audience – or, at least, the Academy members present who had cast their ballots for her – for having “stood firm” and “refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums.”

At the sound of the words “Zionist hoodlums” there were audible gasps from the audience – followed by a good deal of booing. Unruffled, Redgrave went on to maintain that by giving her the Best Supporting Actress nod, Academy voters had “dealt a final blow against that period when Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch-hunt against those who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believe in.” In other words, by choosing to present that golden statuette to Redgrave rather than to one of her fellow nominees (Leslie Browne, Quinn Cummings, Melinda Dillon, and Tuesday Weld), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had finally brought the age of McCarthyism to an end.

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Redgrave and her brother Corin at an London antiwar rally in 1968

It was, all in all, a high point in the history of show-business vanity, self-importance, ideological hectoring, and moral posturing. And it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Just a few years earlier, Redgrave and her brother Corin had joined a radical British faction called the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), and had immediately become its most famous and influential members. Corin had even bought a house in Derbyshire for the party to use as a training camp. Over the next few years, the WRP developed close ties to Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya, took money from him, and engaged in espionage on his behalf. The party also accepted payments from Saddam Hussein, on whose behalf its members photographed participants in demonstrations against Saddam’s regime. All this happened with the knowledge and approval of Vanessa Redgrave, who was twice an WRP candidate for for Parliament.

More tomorrow.

Rex Reed, Trumbo fan

trumboAs we saw yesterday, several prominent reviewers have filed notices about Trumbo – the recent biopic about blacklisted Stalinist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo – that are so utterly uninformed by even the slightest historical awareness that we can’t help wondering: where were these idiots educated? How did such ignorant people get top-flight movie-reviewing gigs? How old are they? Could it be that they’re just too young to understand just what an evil phenomenon, and what a real threat, Soviet Communism was?  

That last question, to be sure, doesn’t arise in the case of Rex Reed, the septuagenarian gossip columnist, movie reviewer, and (back in the day) frequent talk-show guest.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: Rex Reed attends the "Preston Bailey Flowers" book release party at the 21 Club on October 27, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Getty Images)
Rex Reed

Reed, one of Trumbo‘s most enthusiastic champions, gushes over its portrayal of what he calls – and please read this carefully – “a postwar decade when America was nervous about finding a Communist under every bed, deceived and misinformed by alarmists like then-Senator Richard Nixon, who mistakenly preached the ignorant message that Communism was the enemy of democracy.”

Now, let’s take this nonsense in sequence. First, about “alarmists”: surely one of the lessons (however unintentional) that any alert viewer takes away from Trumbo is that it wasn’t “alarmist” at all for anyone to worry about Communist influence in Hollywood. No, there may not have been a Communist under every bed (and nobody seriously thought that there was), but there were, as it turned out, a hell of a lot of convinced Stalinists writing movies that would be seen by millions of people around the world. Radical leftists insisted passionately, repeatedly, that the Hollywood Ten were innocent; in the end, it turned out that every last one of them was, indeed, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. (And that’s not just an expression: each of them had a card testifying to his membership in the CPUSA.) 

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Reed in the 1970 movie Myra Breckenridge

As for Reed’s statement that it was “ignorant” for Nixon, or anyone, to suggest that “Communism was the enemy of democracy”: how to reply to such a breathtaking claim? How could Reed –who, born in 1938, was alive during most of the history of the Soviet Union – actually put such a sentence to paper? Granted, Reed has never been known for his brilliance; on the contrary, he’s always been something of a preposterous nitwit, preoccupying himself with the accumulation and dissemination of inane celebrity scuttlebutt.

But for heaven’s sake, the guy is pushing 80. Has he really learning nothing all these decades? Has he been so busy attending screenings and going to glitzy showbiz parties and interviewing vapid actresses that he’s managed to miss out entirely on even the most significant world events of the day? Is his whitewashing of Communism an example of staggering foolishness? Of staggering dishonesty? Of some unfortunate mental debility?

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The real Trumbo with his wife, Cleo

Or could it be that Reed – who, like Yoko Ono and the late Lauren Bacall, lives at the sumptuous Dakota on Central Park West – is himself, like Trumbo, a limousine Commie? (Though we’ve never paid much attention to Reed, we’ve always thought of him as a bubble-headed lightweight whose mind never actually entertained a political idea of any stripe; but we’ll have to take a closer look at his oeuvre one of these days to see if we’ve been missing something.)

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Cranston, with Diane Lane as Cleo

By the way, here’s what Reed says at the end of his review: “Hopefully, Trumbo will broaden the knowledge of young audiences today that remain ignorant about Hollywood’s darkest past.” The tragedy of Trumbo, alas, is that will fill the heads of untold numbers of improperly educated young people, both today and in the future, with dangerous falsehoods about Stalinism and its adherents.

Then there’s Steven Rea. We’ll get around to him tomorrow.