Usually my columns stand by themselves. This one is an exception. It is a follow-on to last week’s, which concerned Meryl Streep’s charge that Walt Disney was anti-Semitic, as well as discriminating against women in hiring and promotion.
Among other things, I said that, “Disney had numerous Jewish friends, business associates and employees, supported a number of Jewish charities and in 1955 was named the Beverly Hills B’nai B’rith’s Man of the Year.”
I added, “It happens that some of those friends, business associates and employees were the parents of friends of mine.” I repeated stories they told me about their parents’ admiration for Disney and that none had detected in him the slightest sign of anti-Semitism.
The column generated a number of comments from friends who saw it. Two had their own observations through parents and friends who knew Disney.
Here is the first.
“My parents went to school with [Walt Disney] at McKinley High on the south side of Chicago after the turn of the century. I saw some of his student illustrations in their yearbook. He was well liked by everyone, and this high school had lots of Jewish kids [including the writer’s parents]…. He did an ink drawing of a ‘dreadnaught’—a huge ship caught in a storm at sea. This came from a young kid, but it was amazingly accurate and detailed. It wasn’t hard to predict from this the kind of talent that emerged later in the movies. He moved away from Chicago a year later, I believe around 14.”
The kinds of attitudes of which Streep accused Disney are typically inculcated early in life and come out in young associations. The point here is that they did not show themselves in young Walt.
Still more directly addressing Steep’s charge, which concerned Disney as an adult, was this comment from a friend who grew up in Beverly Hills. He wrote:
“I have a friend [of his parent’s generation] who financially bailed out Walt when bankruptcy was eminent. As appreciation Disney offered both [of the man’s] boys work for life. One took the offer; the other went on to work for all the studios. They both retired as producers in the biggest movies of their times. They were both Jewish [as is the writer]. I asked them both on separate occasions about Disney and anti-Semitism, and they both said they never witnessed any from Walt or the Disney studios. ”
As I said last week, Steep’s smear tracks back to the communists who were trying to takeover Hollywood after the Second World War. When recycled today, they say a lot about the speaker rather than about Disney.
I plan to write on the president’s State of the Union address later this week. But I thought these notes should be put on the record.