If I told you that a secret committee of Jews were routinely sent scripts for Hollywood films that were scheduled to move into production, so that they could scan them for anything that might reflect unfavourably on Jews, and demand changes if they found them, you'd probably say that was a kooky conspiracy theory. But no. It isn't.
Neil Gabler's book An Empire of Their Own has achieved some notoriety as a book that supposedly lays bare the extent to which Hollywood is a Jewish fiefdom. Gary Oldman recently blurted out a little too much truth after reading it and was consequently forced to perform ritual self-abasement in order to avoid anathema being applied. Gabler's book provides only limited information about how and by what means Hollywood films have been altered to create a more favourable impression of Jews. Patricia Erens' book The Jew in American Cinema goes into much more detail.
Despite good intentions, Bing Crosby's production of ABIE'S IRISH ROSE was a throwback to earlier stereotypes of the burlesque Jew. The reactions of Jewish viewers and agencies was immediate. In response to this film, as well as a growing interest in the film industry on the part of Jewish defense groups, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council established the Motion Picture Project in 1947. The purpose of the Project was to form "a co-ordinated nation-wide relationship with the motion picture industry, aimed at developing the potentialities of motion pictures as a medium for fostering good human relations."
In particular, the Project was to "deal with problems arising from defamatory and stereotypical characters of minority groups, primarily Jewish," to encourage positive images whenever possible, and to serve as an information agency to aid studios in accurate presentations. At heart was the belief that film was a powerful and persuasive tool.
The composition of the committee consisted of representatives from all the major Jewish agencies. In actuality, several of these organizations had already taken an active interest in film production; the B'nai B'rith protest against the Cruxifiction scene in D. W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE and Cecil B. De Mille THE KING OF KINGS. In the main, objections arose over the depiction of Jews as Christ-killers. In addition to this age-old plague, the Project was also sensitive to demeaning stereotypes. This was a legitimate complaint, although at times it reflected the extreme self-consciousness of the immigrant generation who had suffered from anti-Semitism in America and abroad. It is not surprising, therefore, that at a meeting in 1947, Mendel Silberberg, a prime mover in this project, would state, "It would be unfortunate if Hollywood were to place too much emphasis on Jewish issues."
Such a defensive posture characterized the early work of the Project. In the fifties, this approach changed as efforts were made to encourage the portrayal of Jews and Jewish themes. To head the Project, John Stone, a Jew and a former high school teacher and producer, was hired to serve as a liaison between the committee and the studios. Following his tenure ( 1947-1961), William Gordon took office ( 1961-1962), and finally screenwriter Allen Rivkin ( 1963-1967). The name was changed to the Jewish Film Advisory Committee in 1962.
As project head, Stone read scripts, suggested name changes, deletions of dialogue and action, and even. commented on casting. Of course, his suggestions were not always implemented, but his reports evidence an amicable relationship with all production heads and a string of successful changes. Although in some instances he was able to persuade studios to make changes after filming or editing, it soon became obvious that producers were more amenable to alterations at the script stage. Thus a system was instituted whereby scripts relating to Jewish themes were sent directly to Stone during preproduction.
Although defense agencies like the NAACP and the Anti- Defamation League have always been responsive to negative images, the Motion Picture Project was the first standing committee to devote such energies to the surveillance of the industry. As Isaiah Minkoff, director of the NJCRAC, stated, "This activity was exemplary and led to consciousness on the part of producers and writers to the possible harm of their works."
And the efforts paid off. The work of John Stone and his successors was extremely effective. Bimonthly reports give a good indication of his approach, the level of studio contact, the reception he received, the changes requested, and the changes actually made. Several quotations from these reports bear this out.
With reference to the filming of BEN-HUR, "As I reported before, all of my suggestions were accepted--except the last twenty pages which at last report were being revised."
ESTHER AND THE KING, "Its real significance is beclouded in a welter of pageantry and side issue love scenes. The fact that Purim is based on this Biblical episode is hardly more than a sort of afterthought. I am sorry I had no chance to analyze the script."
THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, "There are still a few important revisions to be made, including several derogatory references to Jews. It is significant though, that the Jew is the only character who still nuttures ideals and doesn't seem to have been seared by his war experience."
PILATE'S WIFE, "Jerry Wald said that he is too good a Jew to do any kind of story that would hurt his people."
The success of the Project (which led in part to its dissolution in 1967) can be attributed to several factors. First was the engaging personality of Stone himself. Second, there has traditionally been a concern on the part of Hollywood producers to offend as few people as possible. As box-office receipts have always been a primary policy determinate, it was never in Hollywood's best interest to intentionally alienate any group. In fact, producers and directors have often sought out religious advisors, sometimes for authenticity, at other times as a goodwill gesture. Thus it is not surprising that studios cooperated with Stone and frequently sought his advice.
Lastly, there is little doubt that because most production heads were Jewish and thus concerned about the popular response toward Jews, Stone's task was easier and his access to the producers more probable. On an unconscious level they were no doubt aware of what pioneer producer Sol Lesser discovered in 1922 while filming OLIVER TWIST, when he got into a debate with director Frank Lloyd. Lloyd voiced his objection to changing the character of Fagin and thereby altering Dickens. When Lesser insisted, Lloyd responded, "Well, it's the book. That doesn't mean every Jew." But Lesser insightfully knew that "People perceive it differently.... It's a reflection on the Jews." Such an attitude also served as the guiding spirit of the Motion Picture Project. At bottom was always the question, "Is it good for the Jews?"Source: The Jew in American Cinema by Patricia Erens
I've no idea whether such a committee still exists. It wouldn't surprise me. But, in a sense, it doesn't really matter, because, as the book makes clear, similar alterations had been made informally even before the committees came into being. It is chock full of examples of this kind of thing happening: Jewish gangsters being transformed into Italian gangsters and the like. In subtle ways, and for decades, Hollywood has subconsciously moulded the perceptions of billions of people around the world in ways designed to advance the ethnic interests of Jews. It's not a conspiracy theory. It's a conspiracy fact.