The title of USC professor Steven Ross‘ upcoming book is hard to ignore – Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics.
The concept is equally intriguing. He chooses to examine the topic by focusing on ten individuals: Charlie Chaplin, Edward G. Robinson, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ahead of the book’s publication in September via Oxford University Press, the Australian caught up with Ross in Sydney, where he was recently a visiting professor:
Ross found two things that defied conventional wisdom. First, conservatives had a longer history in Hollywood than liberals, beginning with MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, who developed a relationship with the Republican party in the late 1920s, effectively turning MGM studios into a publicity wing.
The second big surprise? That the Hollywood right has had much more of an impact on American political life than the vaunted radical-left purview of Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, et al. Ross also tells the Aussie reporter that Schwarzenegger is much savvier than people give him credit for.