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Dwight Macdonald

Sparks in the News

(9 May 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 31, 9 May 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


As I noted here several weeks ago, the film Stagecoach, didn’t please the editors of the N.Y. Times who objected to its treatment of American history because it presents the banker as a rascal and the town woman as a heroine. But last night I happened to see the film, and I must report that, whatever its deficiencies as patriotic propaganda, it is the most entertaining and exciting movie I’ve seen in a long time. Stagecoach is a straight old-style “Western,” with the usual characters – comic stage-driver, lean and saturnine gambler, picturesque-drunk-who-has-seen-better-days, hearty-voiced sheriff, handsome and inarticulate “good” bad man, dance-hall-girl-with-golden-heart, etc. – and the usual climax in a terrific fight with Apaches which ends with the last-minute arrival of the Federal cavalry, bugles blowing and flags streaming. But these ingredients, properly treated, can make excellent cinema: the “Western” has naturally speed, action, and pictorial splendor, which is why it is the one kind of movie that has been made steadily and in quantity ever since the days of Edison’s nickleodeon. Stagecoach is about the best Western I remember seeing. It owes its quality largely to the direction of John Ford, who several years ago made an excellent film from Liam O’Flaherty’s book, The Informer. In this film, as in that, Ford shows himself a master at building up suspense. The Apaches here, the Irish Republican Army there, make their sinister, waiting presence felt all through the film – and the final explosion of action is as well done here as the Black and Tans’ house raid was in The Informer.


While I am on the subject of movies, I might note that those who are interested in the cinema, as I am, as something more than a way to kill an evening, will shortly have a chance to see the cream of the best collection of old films in this country, that of the Museum of Modern Art. The Museum has arranged a series of thirty revival programs, which it will begin to show on May 11, and which will be repeated throughout the summer, up to October 1. Four of D. W. Griffith’s greatest films will be shown: The Birth of a Nation (May 13), Intolerance (May 14), Broken Blossoms (May 15), and Way Down East (May 16). Other specially notable revivals are: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (May 17), Murnau’s The Last Laugh (May 23), Von Stroheim’s Greed (May 24), Pabst’s The Love of Jeanne Ney (May 29), Von Sternberg’s Underworld (June 2), Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (June 4), and LeRoy’s Little Caesar (June 6). The showings will be at the Museum (11 West 53rd St., New York City), will be continuous afternoons and evenings, and will be free to all who pay the 25 cents admission charge to get into the Museum itself.

Ten Months of Evianism

Last July all the “democratic” powers sent delegates to the Evian Conference to devise ways and means of helping refugees from Nazi Germany. The Conference set up the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees, which has now been functioning ten months with practically no results. The chief villain here is England. The British delegation to Evian did its best to kill the whole business then and there. Failing, the British at least got their man, Lord Winterton, who happens to be a known anti-Semite, made titular head of the Refugee Committee, and the headquarters located in London, where early in February, the American, George Rublee, resigned as active director of the committee and another Englishmen took his post. It was clear that the long drawn-out pretense of “doing something about the refugees” was about to be given up.

The Evian Committee’s obituary was written in a Berlin dispatch from Otto D. Tolischus in the N.Y. Times for April 25. Commenting on the complete breakdown of arrangements for receiving Jewish refugees into other countries, Mr. Tolischus writes:

“The hopes for easier emigration that the German Jews had pinned on the Evian Committee and on George Rublee’s negotiations with the German government have failed to materialize thus far. Little if anything has been done to create the machinery agreed upon between Mr. Rublee and the German government, and the general impression in German-Jewish quarters is that the main responsibility for this rests neither on the German authorities nor on the general war scare but on a certain lack of interest in those British quarters put in charge of the Evian committee’s work.”

The refugee question, all hypocritical moralizing to the contrary, is a matter of economics pure and simple. Germany wants to rid herself of the burden of the Jews, and to strip them of their property in the process. (The only class of Jews the Nazis discourage from emigrating are surgeons, who will be useful in patching up the by-products of the next war.) And the Jews find no refuge on the whole globe because of what Mr. Tolischus bluntly calls “the steadily increasing disinclination of other countries to accept virtually penniless refugees.”

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