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When Irving Thalberg Created the First Attack Ads on the Screen | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

When Irving Thalberg Created the First Attack Ads on the Screen

(Note: I have not been able to post my daily election 2012 column since Monday, thanks to our new friend Sandy knocking out power, Internet and so on. So here’s a golden, but very relevant, oldie. Perhaps will have something fresh tomorrow. )

In 1934, Upton Sinclair, the longtime socialist, swept the Democratic primary for governor in California, leading one of the greatest mass movements in US history—End Poverty in California (EPIC). To defeat him, his opponents (for the first time in America) turned to outside advertising, publicity and media experts. Hollywood also took its first all-out plunge into politics, and my segment with Laura Flanders below includes excerpts from the first use of the screen to destroy a candidate—faked newsreels ordered by MGM’s saintly producer Irving Thalberg, which I uncovered twenty years ago. This is all grew out of my book on the race, The Campaign of the Century.

Here’s my segment below, or read more about the book and watch more of the newsreels here.

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