Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince
|791.43/092 B 20|
|LC Class||NC1766.U52 D5328 1994|
Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince is a biography by Marc Eliot, presenting a darker picture of entertainer Walt Disney than his popular perception. Eliot alleges lifelong anti-Semitism and he also documents Disney's covert activities on behalf of the House Un-American Activities Committee as a spy against Communists in Hollywood. The book also discusses Disney's alleged right-wing politics, including an incident in which Disney allegedly wore a Barry Goldwater badge while receiving the Medal of Freedom from Goldwater's political opponent, President Lyndon B. Johnson just before the 1964 election. Eliot also discusses an allegation that Disney refused to lower the American flag at Disneyland after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Marc Eliot brings to light the lack of credit for Ub Iwerks for the original Mickey Mouse sketches as well as Disney's first business partner. Various work strikes at Disney Studio's in the 1940s and the very low pay scale of the very talented artists who produced Snow White, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo etc. While the shadow the book casts on some of Walt Disney's actions are unnerving what is fascinating is how many times the company was saved from the brink of financial ruin. As well as how the Disney enterprise grew from making shorts to full-length animated films, to distribution, to theme parks and merchandising.
Marc Eliot also points out various business friendships that waned as Walt Disney's perceptions changed from an early appreciation of Charlie Chaplin to referring to him as the little Commie. A long-standing friendship with Spencer Tracey that ended when he started dating Katharine Hepburn. Business partnerships with Howard Hughes with an interest free million dollar loan to an offer to acquire RKO Studios and obtain a ten million dollar line of credit to merge the two companies. To Walt's stressful relationships with family including Roy who at times were not communicating verbally but through memos.
Eliot's book also discusses the urban legend that, in preparation for his death in December 1966, Disney had himself cryogenically frozen, in the hopes of being returned to life by medical science in the future. Eliot opines that the myth of Disney being frozen is probably false, although Disney did have a strong interest in cryonics.
The book also discusses the absence of a birth certificate for Walter Elias Disney and the possibility that Disney was actually born in 1890, to a peasant woman in Spain, then adopted by the Disneys. Eliot also discusses the possibility that Disney was later passed off as a full decade younger than he actually was. Birth certificates were not universal at that time, so there may be no way to resolve this question.
Controversy and Criticism
Animation historian Michael Barrier, who collected interviews from over 150 of former Disney employees since 1969, claimed Eliot's book was "easily the worst Disney biography I've ever read. It is packed with errors and distortions. To rely upon Hollywood's Dark Prince in any way is exactly the opposite of meticulous." Barrier also noted that an analysis of the photo of Walt receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 showed that the object on his shirt may or may not have been a button showing support for the President's Republican opponent Barry Goldwater and was possibly "of something else." Though acknowledged that Walt supported Goldwater during the 1964 US Presidential election and attended the Republican National Convention after Goldwater was nominated, the claim that he was wearing a Goldwater button has only been backed by accusations of a few people close to him and it was noted that Walt and President Johnson did in fact have a friendly conversation before he was given the Medal.
Disney historian Didier Ghez calls it on his website "the latest and by far most stupid and uninteresting "scandalous biography" of Walt.
- The Disney Version, the 1968 Richard Schickel book that is one of the first to be critical of Disney
- Walt Disney: An American Original, the 1976 bio by Bob Thomas
- Walt: The Man Behind the Myth, the 2001 doc about Walt
- This tourist photo, allegedly taken on November 29, 1963, shows flags by the Matterhorn flying at half mast., davelandweb.com
- LA Times
- "Illegitimate birth?", Snopes.com
- Summary of Walt Disney: The FBI Files by Richard L. Trethewey, retrieved January 2, 2008
- Barrier, Michael (December 2006). "'Walter, Walter Everywhere'". MichaelBarrier.com. Retrieved May 13, 2014.