Award-winning author and scholar Thomas Doherty gave a public lecture, “Jews, Nazis, and Hollywood Cinema, 1933-1939” as the special guest of the Max and Marian Farash Community Lecture at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Doherty, a film historian and professor of American studies at Brandeis University, is the author of “Hollywood and Hitler” (2013). Based on Doherty’s book, the lecture was held in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. The event was free and open to the public.
“The rise of the Third Reich confronted Hollywood with an unwelcome set of economic, cinematic, and moral problems-over how to conduct business with the Nazis; over whether to address or ignore Nazism in Hollywood movies; and over the coverage of Hitler and his victims in the newsreels,” writes Doherty. “Between 1933 and 1941, the image of the Nazis and the full meaning of Nazism came slowly to Hollywood, like a picture looking for a focus, fuzzy and dimly lit at first, clearer and more ominous as the decade wore on.”
“Hollywood and Hitler,” says Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski, “navigates the thorny issues of Hollywood’s relationship with Nazism in the most balanced way.”
In addition to the lecture, a screening of “Confessions of a Nazi Spy” took place on Monday, Feb. 17 in the Geneva Room, followed by a panel discussion with Doherty and Professors of Media and Society Lester Friedman and Linda Robertson. Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer moderated.
“Doherty is the foremost scholar in World War II era cinema,” says Friedman. “This is a wonderful opportunity for faculty and students to interact with a world-renowned expert on this period of American culture.”
Doherty’s appearance at HWS, which included two days of events with students and faculty, was made possible by the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation; a nonprofit based in Rochester, N.Y., which values education and entrepreneurship, and has deep consideration for civic and religious communities. Through its efforts, grants are made available to nonprofits in Monroe and Ontario counties, half of which are for projects and programs with ties to Jewish life.
Doherty’s visit was a collaborative effort among the Media and Society Department, Abbe Center for Jewish Life, the Religious Life Office and the Religious Studies Department. The Abbe Center for Jewish Life provides an environment for people of Jewish faith or with Jewish interests to gather and socialize, and to celebrate Shabbat and other Jewish holidays.
Throughout his career, Doherty has received numerous honors, including the 2010 Edwin Smith Family Distinguished Speaker Award from the Westfield Athenaeum and the Boston Society of Film Critics Special Commendation for Hollywood’s Censor in 2008. He is the author of “Hollywood’s Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration” (2007), “Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture” (2003), “Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934” (1999) and “Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II” (1993).
Doherty holds a B.A. from Gonzaga University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.