56 / CHRONICLESnSCREENnNetting Reagan, ornAll the President’snLegsnby Gary Houstonn”Ronald Reagan,” the Movie: AndnOther Episodes in Pohtical Demonologynby Michael Paul Rogin, Berkeley,nCA: University of CalifornianPress; $25.00.nCity of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywoodnin the 1940’s by OttonFriedrich, New York: Harper & Row;n$25.00.nWhen Thomas Mann joined the WestnCoast galaxy of refugees from Hitler,nhe was writing Doctor Faustus — anstudy of, among other things, nationalncharacter and demonology. The wordnmeant roughly the same as what MichaelnRogin means by it: the countersubversivendrives that label, persecute,nand sometimes eliminate perniciousnforces in the body politic. In thatnbizarre Hollywood feudality that OttonFriedrich describes in his history,nMann was to discover the NewnWorld’s countersubversive variety,nwith himself cast as a demon. UnlikenBertolt Brecht, Mann was not summonednby the House Un-AmericannActivities Committee, but he did respondnto the hearings in a nationalnradio broadcast. “Spiritual intolerance,”nhe said, “political inquisitions,nand declining legal security, and allnthis in the name of an alleged ‘state ofnemergency’ is how it started in Germany.”nMann warned against this leadingnto war and even defended Marx as anthinker at least deserving to be readnbefore being rejected. Many Americansnfelt Mann had chosen a strangenway to display his gratitude: “Mr.nMann should remember,” Rep.nDonald L. Jackson inserted into thenVITAL SIGNSnCongressional Record, “that guestsnwho complain about the fare at thentable of their hosts are seldom invitednto another meal.” That was 1949;nthree years later, Mann moved to Zurich,nsaying: “I have no desire to rest mynbones in this soulless soil, which I owennothing, and which knows nothingnof me.”nFriedrich’s title is taken fromnBrecht’s The Rise and Fall of the CitynofMahagonny, a play whose stumblebumnfugitives come upon a desolatenregion they decide to found and designn(“It should be like a net,” says one) fornthe capture of worldly riches.nAnti-Communism, which drovenout the Communist Brecht as well asnThomas Mann, blacklisted the Hollywoodn10, became the instrument fornunions to enlist moguls in an alliancenagainst rival guilds. It ended as thentheme of a series of undistinguishednfilms, made in atonement for suchnearlier pro-Second Front war entries asnMission to Moscow and Song of Russia.nAmong the losers was OrsonnWelles, although he was surely keptnout of Hollywood for more reasonsnthan his past pro-New Deal politicsn(profligacy and arrogance, for instance);none has-been comedian attainednthe public ear by declaring thenBoy Wonder “red as a firecracker.” Henand many more were the losers. Onenwinner was Ronald Reagan.nFriedrich and Rogin lay great significancenupon Reagan’s choice of titlenfor his 1965 autobiography, Where’snthe Rest of Me? That was his line nearnthe end of the favorite of his films.nKing’s Row (1941), in which he wakesnup after a terrible accident to learn thatna vengeful surgeon has amputated hisnlegs. Preparation for filming the scenenwas an actor’s ordeal that resulted innhis finest celluloid moment. MichaelnRogin takes this turning point as seriouslynas does Reagan, albeit with differentnaims in mind: “How, if yournfather is a failed shoe salesman, do younavoid stepping on his shoes?” Thenanswer King’s Row provided was this:nnnby cutting oil your legs. The Christiannloses himself as body to find himself asnspirit. Reagan was born again in Hollywoodnby relinquishing “part of myself”n(Reagan later wrote) in King’snRow. And after years of disappointmentnas a Warner Bros, contract player,nReagan “emerged from … hisnfilmed humiliations to enter the ColdnWar. Reagan, as he tells it, recoverednhis legs in the struggle to prevent an”Communist takeover of Hollywood,”nthat is, as president of the ScreennActors Cuild.nOf course, this Reagan’s-legs thesisnis not meant to be taken lightly; hisnpoint is that the Chief Executive’snframe of reference clings to the imagerynof legs, supports, props, verticalndependence. To substantiate his thesis,nRogin offers a pastiche of quotationsnthat could be taken as a superb parodynof literary criticisms. The Democrats’nalternative to his 1981 budget, saidnReagan, was like “cutting your legs offnat the knees instead of hips”; “I’ll put ancast on that lame leg,” said the lameducknPresident upon reelection, “andnthat will make a heck of a kicking leg”;nand quite a few others, not excludingnoffhand quips. Surprisingly omittednfrom the list is Reagan’s “gift” to JamesnWatt after his Beach Boys’ gaffe.nRogin’s cliched thesis that Reagan’snworld view, countersubversion, isnbased upon the plots of the movies henacted in; so those films, too, are hisn”legs.” The 1940 Murder in the Air isnthe most striking, SDI-presaging instance,nfor in it enemy agents wantnsecret blueprints for a U.S. weaponnwhich, says an admiral, will “makenAmerica invincible in war and thereforenbe the greatest force for peace everninvented.” The question is reallynwhether it is the President or the professornwho has confused illusion withnreality.nRogin’s cute mythologizing of thenPresident can be read as a commentarynon City of Nets. We are reminded ofnthe feudal system of Louis B. Mayer atnMGM, Darryl F. Zanuck at 20thn