Wilson According to Hollywood

It was 1944 and President Wilson’s idea for a League of Nations with American participation was being considered in a more sympathetic light than had been seen in 1919. Many felt that America’s isolationist turn after the First World War had been one of the reasons that the Second World War was not averted. It was in the light of these new sympathies for Wilson’s idea that a movie was born.

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“Wilson”- the movie – was produced by Darryl Zanuck and released by Twentieth Century Fox. The movie was directed by Henry King and starred Alexander Knox in the role as President Woodrow Wilson. The WWPL Pamphlet Collection holds a 1944 promotional booklet for the movie. (The promotional material was published by The Woodrow Wilson Foundation.) The booklet describes reactions to the movie from all sorts of media, including newspapers, magazines and radio commentators.

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The New York Post movie reviewer wrote;

“… A lot of us are too young to remember the fight between Wilson and the isolationist Senators. But those who are too young to remember Wilson are young enough to be fighting in Guam and Britanny. [sic] The history of Wilson’s failure has been the history of their lives. They are giving their lives to find the answers to questions that haunted Wilson. They are fighting to rewrite the end of Wilson’s story into lasting peace.”

The New York Times had these words about the movie;

“…one may confidently inquire whether this is not truly a picture with an importance far beyond the theater… And that takes us on to the question whether here, for perhaps the first time, the screen may not do a concrete service befitting its large public scope. For the fact is too plain for disputation that there is heady special pleading in this film – special pleading for an international ideal envisioning permanent peace. From watching the patrons at the Roxy… it is evident that this film is firing a warm enthusiasm for a league of nations ideal. “

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Visitors to the Wilson Library archive can access this document in the WWPL Pamphlet Collection and see dozens more movie reviews contained within the promotional booklet. Reviewers included Life, Look and Redbook magazines and the words of NBC radio commentator Lowell Thomas.

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Post written by WWPL volunteer Tim French

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