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Labor Action, 10 February 1947


Hollywood Rewrites Spanish Inquisition


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 6, 10 February 1947, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Day in and day out, American capitalist society is re-writing the entire history of the human race. In some instances, this process is being carried on with a disregard of the truth that can match any of Stalin’s perversions of history. In the case of Hollywood films, the corrupt revision of history is carried on without the slightest apology. This form of corruption has, in fact, become so commonplace that it is accepted without comment.

The degree to which open lying has been carried is well illustrated in a Hollywood dispatch to The New York Times, sent by Thomas F. Brady, and printed in the Drama Section of that paper on December 15th, 1946. This dispatch deserves to be quoted in full:

“The screen adaptation of Captain from Castile, Samuel Shellabarger’s novel of the conquest of Mexico, which Twentieth Century-Fox bought in 1944 for $100,000, has presented something of a problem because the major villain in the novel, Father De Lora, is a cruel and corrupt priest of the Spanish Inquisition.

“According to the Rev. John J. Devlin, pastor of St. Victor’s Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles, Hollywood representative of the Legion of Decency, and adviser to the Producers’ Association on matters religious, the studio was warned at the time the novel was purchased that it was not acceptable to the church. A major objection was that Shellabarger depicted the inquisition as ‘witch-baiting’ and overlooked the fact that the inquisition, from the orthodox point of view, aimed itself at the crypto-Jews, who became Catholic converts for the purpose of subverting Catholic thought,” Father Devlin explained.

“Lamar Trotti, adaptor of the novel and producer of the picture, declined last week to discuss the problem with this department. Father Devlin said, however, that he had discussed the matter with the studio in an interview and subsequently found the third script on the picture acceptable from his point of view.

“‘The treatment of the inquisition has been toned down very much, indeed,’ he explained. ‘Father De Lora appears very briefly and is no longer shown to be cruel. A bribe which the inquisitor took in the hovel is explained as an outright gift to the church in the scenario. Altogether, the inquisition is touched on only briefly and fleetingly.’”

During the war, Mr. Darryl F. Zanuck of Twentieth Century-Fox, made speeches in which he said that, at long last, Hollywood had discovered the facts of life, and that it was now going to produce films which educated as well as entertained. Here is a sample of post-war education and entertainment. It is a commonly known historic fact that the Spanish Inquisition was both merciless and corrupt, and that it not only tortured and put infidels to death, but that, also, it threatened to persecute as a means of extortion.

The corruption and graft which the clergy managed to collect because of the Inquisition is fabulous. This story is told in the three volume History of the Inquisition of Spain by the great American scholar, Henry Charles Lea. His work is documented from original sources. These sources are Catholic: they are not products of the pens of “crypto-Jews.”

But what is the truth when we are concerned with matters such as these? And what is anti-Semitism when the interests of the Roman Catholic Church are involved?

For decades, bourgeois scholars have attacked the Marxists on the ground that they have a polemical point of view which leads them to approach history from the standpoint of the special pleader. Yet the most influential mass art of our time openly admits that it indulges in the most bold-faced distortions of history, and that it will try to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars from productions which contain these lies.

The clergyman who has demanded distortion will comment on his victory in the press. The producer and writer and the studio, which have bowed to this pressure have no comment to make. The film will not be written and produced according to all of the specifications of the Production Code. The Production Code is an instrumentality for preserving decency in the film.

All of this is decency in the year 1946.

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