I warmly recommend Dr. Robert Mayhew’s hot-off-the-presses book Ayn Rand and Song of Russia: Communism and Anti-Communism in 1940s Hollywood. The book’s subject is Ayn Rand’s 1947 testimony, before the House Un-American Activities Committee, on MGM’s 1944 movie Song of Russia.
Ayn Rand called this movie pro-Soviet propaganda, a deliberate whitewash of the terrible reality of life under communism. Mayhew discusses every point of her testimony in relation to the historical record of the Soviet Union, proving Ayn Rand right in every respect. His book is also an important work of original historical research. Dr. Mayhew interviewed the surviving co-writer of Song of Russia, ex-Communist Richard Collins, and dug deep in the historical archives. The result is a revealing picture of Communist influence in Hollywood–and Washington. One of many fascinating revelations is that the Roosevelt administration’s Office of War Information–which claimed the right to “comment” on film scripts– had the Song-of-Russia script vetted by the Soviet Embassy!
Being a philosopher, Dr. Mayhew goes beyond the presentation of historical facts. He discusses the political and ethical implications of the HUAC investigations for such issues as free speech, blacklists, “naming names,” honesty in relation to wartime propaganda, etc. In so doing, he gives us both Ayn Rand’s views, drawing in part on previously unpublished material, and his own illuminating analysis.
In the tour-de-force chapter “Russian Smiles,” Dr. Mayhew reveals the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the Communists in Hollywood and of their leftist successors, refuting their smears of Ayn Rand’s testimony, which continue to this day. Thus–in addition to being a fresh, first-hand investigation of a still controversial period of American history, and of Ayn Rand’s part in it–Robert Mayhew’s book is a sorely needed act of justice.
Thoroughly researched, richly textured with telling detail, clearly written and strongly argued, this new book should be on anyone’s must-read list.