Red Salute (1935, 78 mins., Dir: Sidney Lanfield)

Occupy Hollywood! Or not… This curious yet timely comedy, an independent production by Edward Small's Reliance Pictures (and released by United Artists), starred Barbara Stanwyck as a rich and spoiled college student, whose Army General father is concerned about her leftist, rabble-rouser boyfriend. He separates the couple by sending the girl on a Mexican vacation, where she meets red-blooded, right wing border patrolman Robert Young. Young is a man who uses his gun to get his way, orders Stanwyck to cook for him, prefers drink to women and says things like "War is great!", all qualities that assure her dad that he would be a superior influence. The unlikely pair have a merry adventure, It Happened One Night-style, before returning to America in time for Young and his friends to bust up a rally of the communist sympathizers.

The plot details of Red Salute dovetailed with Hearst newspaper editorials of the year before that campaigned against communist influences on college campuses -- such as radical student groups that had protested, among other things, William Randolph Hearst's meeting with Hitler. Hearst's New York Daily Mirror applauded Red Salute, its review opining that Stanwyck and Young's escapade "cures her of her juvenile infatuation (and) arouses her real Americanism." New York Times film critic Andre Sennwald felt differently, calling the film "one of the weirdest exhibits to come out of Hollywood" and "some of the most embarrassing chauvinism of the decade." In his Times column the following week, Sennwald directly countered the Hearst point of view: "Americanism…means little enough that is admirable now that it has become the private property of the sage of San Simeon...It has come to represent the glorification of war as an outlet for the nervous energy of our young men, the suppression of political thought in our universities, the abolition of the Bill of Rights with the connivance of the United States Army, and several other doctrines which are less than completely democratic."

In the days between publication of Sennwald's two Red Salute articles, New York's Rivoli Theater, where the film premiered, saw the film's controversy come to life: Thousands of high school and college students, many members of the Communist Party-led National Student League and the Student League for Industrial Democracy, staged multiple picket lines, in demonstration against Red Salute's message. Police jailed over 140 of the young protesters for unlawful assembly.  (Jay Schwartz)