That the German government meddled in the film industry during Hollywood’s so-called golden age has long been known to film historians, and such activity was chronicled in the American press at the time. (“Long Arm of Hitler Extends to Hollywood Studio,” read a 1937 headline in Newsweek.)
But Mr. Urwand, 35, offers the most stinging take by far, drawing on material from German and American archives to argue that the relationship between Hollywood and the Third Reich ran much deeper — and went on much longer — than any scholar has so far suggested.
On page after page, he shows studio bosses, many of them Jewish immigrants, cutting films scene by scene to suit Nazi officials; producing material that could be seamlessly repurposed in Nazi propaganda films; and, according to one document, helping to finance the manufacture of German armaments.
Even Jack Warner, praised by Groucho Marx for running “the only studio with any guts” after greenlighting the 1939 film “Confessions of a Nazi Spy,” comes in for some revisionist whacks.
It was Warner who personally ordered that the word “Jew” be removed from all dialogue in the 1937 film “The Life of Emile Zola,” Mr. Urwand writes, and his studio was the first to invite Nazi officials to its Los Angeles headquarters to screen films and suggest cuts.
“There’s a whole myth that Warner Brothers were crusaders against fascism,” Mr. Urwand said. “But they were the first to try to appease the Nazis in 1933.”