Arnold Schwarzenegger’s surprise announcement that he was seeking the California Governorship brought to mind the many times Hollywood figures have been involved in politics. Here are some related anecdotes:
When actors first came to Hollywood there were signs put up in front of hotels and apartments that said no dogs or actors allowed, with the performers ruefully complaining about not getting top billing. The insecurity of the profession has come through in political campaigns. When Ronald Reagan successfully ran for Governor of California in 1966 one of the fruitless tactics used by his opposition was a television commercial featuring Gene Kelley stating,” In films I played a gambler, a baseball player and I could play a Governor but you wouldn’t really want an actor to really be a Governor would you?”
Ronald Reagan at one time was such a Liberal Democrat he drove friends to distraction with his views. One day in the thirties he was driving a friend home from work, yammering on about President Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. Reagan who was near sighted and an erratic driver at best, seemed oblivious to road conditions. “Ronnie, watch out for that truck!” the friend yelled. Missing an accident by a hair, Reagan continued,” Truck drivers, that’s who the New Deal will help!”
Like former President Reagan, Walt Disney claimed to be a Roosevelt New Dealer until a nasty worker’s strike at his studio made him take a right turn. Although he campaigned heavily for Republican candidates the cartoon maker kept friendly relations with the other side. Walt loved giving personal tours of Disneyland, and enjoyed having former president Harry Truman as his guest, even when his fellow Missourian turned down a ride on Dumbo: Too much Republican symbolism.
Another mogul, Louis B. Mayer the founder of MGM was a staunch Republican his entire life. Mayer never quite got over Franklin Roosevelt beating his good friend Herbert Hoover but accepted an invitation to meet the Democratic President at the White House in 1933. Immediately upon arriving in the Oval Office Mayer surprised Roosevelt by pulling a clock from underneath his coat and placing it on the President’s desk. “What’s that for, Mr. Mayer?” “Pardon me Mr. President. I heard you have the ability to have a man in your hip pocket after 18 minutes.” Brandishing his long cigarette holder Roosevelt threw his head back and laughed, then began chatting with the film executive . He was startled when after seventeen minutes the mogul got up, grabbed the clock and left the room.
Another difficult encounter for the Roosevelt administration was with Shirley Temple. Hoping to get people’s mind off the Great Depression the President was nonstop in praise of the moppet’s movies saying that Americans should forget about their problems by paying fifteen cents to see “the smile of a little girl”. Both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were so enamored they invited little Shirley and her parents to visit them at their private estate in Hyde Park, New York. In the limo Shirley received mixed messages from her Conservative parents. On the one hand they were thrilled to meet the President and his wife, but they also hated their Big Government policies. Upon their arrival Mrs. Roosevelt graciously asked Shirley if she would like something fixed on the barbecue. “Oh that would be wonderful,” replied the child star. As Eleanor walked out back, the mischievous Shirley took out a slingshot, checked to make sure nobody was looking at what she was doing, and nailed the First Lady in the rear. The Secret Service came running at the sound of her shout, looked around the property for possible intruders but never thought about searching the angelic little movie star, who had skillfully hidden her weapon. Dinner passed pleasantly and the Temples returned to their hotel. Only then did Gertrude Temple tell her daughter that she had seen her naughtiness, and Shirley got walloped.
Many Hollywood figures prefer to have others speak for them. When Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for The Godfather (1972) he shocked the nation by sending a Native American named Sacheen Littlefeather in his place, She used the international platform of winning the Oscar to blast the USA’s treatment of her people( it turned out she was actually an imposter, she was actually a professional actress named Maria Cruz). There were many calls from the media for Brando to come out and state his views himself, but the reclusive star refused. One rumor had Brando sitting alone in his hilltop house watching John Wayne movies backwards so the Indians would win.