Eminentoes

Hollywood Heroes and Villains

It was a bad week for Eastwood and Bardot but a great one for Roman Polanski.

By 6.12.08

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Soviet propagandists used technology to take the politically inexpedient out of photos. Hollywood propagandists now demand that the politically favored be put into them.

Clint Eastwood, not adopting the proper mindset of political correctness, failed to picture blacks in his recent World War II movies playing a prominent role at Iwo Jima, for which he has been rebuked by fellow director Spike Lee.

"Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen," Lee said to the press last month at a Cannes film festival press conference. "In his version of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist."

Eastwood then compounded his sin by assuming that historical accuracy is an acceptable defense. "Has he ever studied history? [African-American soldiers] didn't raise the flag," Eastwood said. "If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, they'd say, 'This guy's lost his mind.'"

Lee countered Eastwood's alleged racism with a dollop of ageism. "He sounds like an angry old man out there," said the angry middle-aged director.

MEANWHILE, ANOTHER insufficiently enlightened aging and angry Hollywood star found herself in a French court for racial hate speech. On Tuesday, Brigitte Bardot was convicted of a charge of provoking discrimination, fined $23,325 and told to pay $1,555 in damages to an anti-racism group.

She had written that the influx of Muslims was damaging French culture and not even the left-wing origin of her criticism -- as an animal-rights activist, she dislikes the Muslim feast of Aid el-Kebir which involves "slaughtering sheep," reports Associated Press -- could spare her from punishment for incorrect thinking and speaking.

Voltaire claimed he'd fight to the death for free speech. His intellectual children fine people for it.

But there is one aging star in which Hollywood and French society can take pride: Roman Polanski. With HBO's documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired this week, his rehabilitation continues apace.

Hollywood finds it odd that people still hold his illegal sexual congress with a13-year-old against him. It is not like he engaged in hate speech.

The upshot of the documentary is that this honored figure in France -- he fled to Paris in 1977 -- was hounded out of America by an irresponsible press corps and judiciary. True, the judge in the case, Laurence Rittenband, was baldly unprofessional, making Judge Ito look almost circumspect.

But what's most striking about the affair, even in this documentary's pro-Polanski telling, was the 1970s-style indulgence of his conduct. For acts that today would land someone in jail for over 40 years, he got a little more than 40 days, during which time he was in protective custody and scribbling out notes for an upcoming movie.

In fact, Rittenband was prepared to give him a probation sentence until Polanski showed him up in the press by partying during a gap in the trial at an Oktoberfest event in Germany.

THE DOCUMENTARY HAS almost a whimsical quality to it, with dashes of moral equivalence sprinkled throughout.

Los Angeles, for all its famous transience, seems changeless in it: correspondents still on the air appear in the footage with longer sideburns, playing the same silly roles in a celebrity circus that would reassemble in the O.J. trial and innumerable others. Even the detective made famous by the O.J. trial, Phil Vannater, appears in the documentary, having served on the Polanski case.

It falls to Vannater to note stolidly to the sympathetic documentarians that Polanski did after all have sex with a 13-year-old (and was charged with five other serious offenses which were dropped). Perhaps it helped Polanski that he looked like he was 13 too.

The only real lesson gleaned from the documentary is that in Hollywood talent and charisma are the most powerful forms of protection and absolution, and that the only sins it treats as unforgivable (the footage of stars jumping to their feet at the Oscars to applaud Polanski in absentia when he won best director for The Pianist contrasts nicely with their sullen sitting during Elia Kazan's award) are ideological ones.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.