Feminism versus Marriage in Virginia Van Upp’s Honeymoon in Bali (1939)Andrew Hamilton
Feminism is a major destructive force. Anti-male, anti-family, and anti-white, it is today a key ideological pillar of the ruling class. It is therefore necessary to look to the past in an attempt to identify healthy folkways associated with male-female relationships, sex, marriage, and family.
A 1939 romantic comedy called Honeymoon in Bali starring Scottish (or part-Scottish) American actor Fred MacMurray and English-born half-Irish (father), half-French (mother) actress Madeleine Carroll (born Marie-Madeleine Bernadette O’Carroll), sheds light on the conflict between feminism and marriage in 1930s America from the perspective of a successful, high-level female executive, Hollywood screenwriter Virginia Van Upp, who lived the feminist dream.
MacMurray is best known as the dishonest insurance salesman in Double Indemnity (1944), the star of several 1960-era Disney comedies, and the affable, pipe smoking dad in the TV series My Three Sons (1960–1972). Madeleine Carroll’s romantic appeal can be seen to best advantage in two movie classics, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1937).
Honeymoon in Bali bore the alternative titles Husbands or Lovers (in the UK) and My Love for Yours (on video). Prior to release the working title—revealingly—was Are Husbands Necessary? Paramount, the studio that produced the film, later used that title for an unrelated 1942 movie starring Ray Milland and Betty Field.
Bali was based on short stories by Grace Sartwell Mason in the Saturday Evening Post and the novel Free Woman (1936) by New York City WASP writer Katharine Brush, whose work was often compared to that of F. Scott Fitzgerald. At her death at age 49 in 1952, the New York Times characterized Brush’s fiction as “entertaining, brittle, superficial and in revolt against sentimentality and other qualities of the Victorian period.”
The real force behind Honeymoon in Bali, however, was Paramount Pictures screenwriter Virginia Van Upp. Though little-known today, she was an influential behind-the-scenes figure in the Jewish movie colony. (The Chicago-born Van Upp was apparently of Dutch descent.)
Van Upp’s mother had been an editor and title writer for silent movie producer Thomas H. Ince, the son of English immigrants. Ince was a seminal figure in the history of motion pictures. A visionary who died at age 42, he pioneered the studio system and shaped the art, craft, and business of motion picture producing as much as D. W. Griffith did that of directing.
Virginia, who was born in 1902 and began as a child actress in silent films, worked her way up from script girl, cutter, reader, and casting director to screenwriter at Paramount in the mid-1930s. As executive producer of Columbia Pictures in the 1940s, she was second-in-command to Jewish studio boss Harry Cohn, which made her one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. The scriptwriter of Cover Girl (1944) and producer of Gilda (1946), she was responsible for making Rita Hayworth a star. According to Cohn’s biographer Bob Thomas, “Miss Van Upp did not want to assume the heavy duties of executive producer because she had a husband and daughter. But she succumbed to Cohn’s overwhelming persuasion.”
Besides her energy, talent, and work ethic, a major reason for Van Upp’s success was her instinctive grasp of the need for teamwork and compromise, meeting schedules and deadlines, turning a profit, and making a product people would pay to see—in other words, the nitty-gritty of getting things done in the real world, consistently turning out film after film that would entertain millions of viewers and eventually provide endless fodder for critics and academics to analyze. Many Hollywood writers and directors never entirely mastered this essential skill, as Van Upp’s uncredited cleaning up of director Orson Welles’ sloppy and over-budget The Lady from Shanghai (1948) demonstrated.
It is only because Bali undoubtedly reflected Van Upp’s sensibility about male-female relationships to a high degree that it is worth examining. Unfortunately, the film itself is unexceptional, even as entertainment. It is a routine Hollywood programmer, nothing more. Using the 1- to 4-star scale employed by Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, I rate it **1/2 (average). (The Movie Guide rates it ***—above average. Under its system, even that half-star is significant.)
That said, a black blogger, a former TV host on cable’s VH1, caught the movie by accident recently (I watched it because I knew Van Upp had written it) and had a response to it as strongly positive as mine was to Van Upp’s romantic comedy The Crystal Ball (1943). So colorblind and lacking in racial rancor was his review that I thought the writer was white until I saw his picture beside the article after finishing it.
Van Upp first came to my attention after watching The Crystal Ball (I closely study movie credits), a much better Paramount romantic comedy she authored starring half-Jewish actress Paulette Goddard, Welshman Ray Milland (who had a colorful background as an expert marksman and rider in an elite unit of the British Army, the Household Cavalry, before becoming an actor), and English beauty Virginia Field, whose mother was a cousin of General Robert E. Lee.
To my mind, The Crystal Ball was exceptionally well-written and acted—very funny, highly enjoyable entertainment. I consider it better than many more famous romantic comedies of the period, including The Lady Eve and The Male Animal.
Honeymoon in Bali contains the usual quota of character conflicts. To cite one example, Carroll has a rival for MacMurray’s attention, a young woman played by Osa Massen, a light-hearted, “horribly rich” European Balinese girl who attempted suicide after MacMurray rejected her lovelorn advances when she was 17. I mistakenly assumed from Massen’s accent and appearance that she was German. In fact she was Danish. She was profiled in the book Strangers in Hollywood: The History of Scandinavian Actors in American Films from 1910 to World War II (1994).
However, the primary theme of the movie is the internal conflict Carroll experiences between her desire to continue her unfettered lifestyle and professional career as the successful manager of a Fifth Avenue department store in New York City, and her desire to marry a romantic stranger, a businessman from Bali (MacMurray).
Madeleine Carroll’s internal conflict between her desire for independence and the feeling that she should subordinate herself to a man (with the latter impulse ultimately winning out), parallels similar themes in the Broadway play and movie The Women (1939) by Clare Boothe Luce, about which I have previously written. Luce, too, came down strongly on the side of marriage and family. (Interestingly, “family” there consisted merely of a husband, wife, and one biological child—a notably truncated conception of family. That story, like Van Upp’s, was really focused on the dyadic husband-wife relationship rather than family in the true sense.) Yet, like Van Upp, Luce maintained an independent professional life immeasurably superior to the vast majority of American men, making her something of a heroine among mainstream feminists.
I noted that the Norma Shearer character in The Women embodied Luce’s family-oriented values. I also said that only one other female in the cast came off sympathetically—Miriam Aarons, played in the movie by Paulette Goddard. Aarons was a somewhat hardboiled but independent-minded and sympathetic character with a Jewish name, but no discernible Jewish characteristics. (Luce was a shameless philo-Semite, which was enormously beneficial to her professionally, as I’m sure she knew perfectly well.)
What initially escaped me was that Aarons also represented Luce. Rather than establishing an internal conflict within a single character as Van Upp did in Bali, Luce split herself in two as it were, presenting her nurturing values in the form of Shearer’s character, and her harder-edged, feminist-oriented sensibility in the person of Aarons.
In Bali, Carroll’s conviction that career success and non-marriage represent the superior option are expressed throughout the film. She insists that she is perfectly happy and doesn’t want to get married. A disdainful running counterpoint to Carroll’s philosophy is provided by her second cousin and best friend, Smitty (actress Helen Broderick), a successful “old maid” novelist (as Carroll/Van Upp calls her).
After MacMurray responds to Carroll’s statement that she doesn’t believe in marriage by asserting that women “need the protection of a man,” she snorts, “The protection of a man! I know of more women taking care of no-good husbands and loafing brothers.”
In a key piece of dialogue she continues, “I earn a salary that makes most men’s look sick. I’m the boss. I have a charming apartment run by a competent maid, and I’m the boss there too. I have plenty of escorts—whenever I want them . . .” MacMurray: “I suppose you’re the boss there, too.” Carroll, ignoring him: “. . . and I haven’t a single encumbrance to worry me, and the most precious thing of all—absolute personal freedom. [Emphasis added.] Now for what reason under the sun do I need a husband?”
The only “positive” she raises—in order to reject it—is “love,” averring, “I don’t intend to fall in love, either. Love muddles you up . . . it throws you.”
She’s referring to fleeting, evanescent romantic love, which is as rooted in egoism as are the other values she enumerates. Over time, it vanishes under the pressure of everyday life. There must be a stronger foundation than “love”—whatever it may be—to sustain a successful, long-term marriage and family.
Carroll informs her friend Smitty that MacMurray is “lazy, not very good-looking, makes $50 a week, and ruins my disposition. I’m as cross as a bear when I’m around him.” Of course, she’s already in love at that point. But outside of a romance novel or movie such as this, a marriage between two such different people who hardly know one another represents a crapshoot. Such a union requires romantic “love” to carry far more weight than it can possibly bear. MacMurray’s paltry “$50 a week” and “laziness” alone would eventually kill the deal.
Only a tiny portion of the story at the end actually takes place in Bali, an island province of Indonesia. The main setting is New York City. “Bali” functions as a delusive, exotic, Rousseauian-, Shangri-La-, Margaret Mead-style utopian backdrop signifying fantasy happiness someplace else.
Of course, factors other than Van Upp’s personal views impinged upon the story. For example, producers must have had an influence. The director, too, though in this case Van Upp was undoubtedly the primary auteur, not Edward H. Griffith, a competent but undistinguished director. An eagle eye on box office appeal would also have played a role. Finally, important elements of the tale must have been derived from the underlying stories by Mason and Brush. Nevertheless, everything was filtered through Van Upp’s sensibility. To the extent that the original stories were a factor, they nevertheless represented white women’s views also. At least partially representative of the population, they, like the movie, fed back into the populace, altering and shaping, consciously and unconsciously, the values and beliefs of readers and moviegoers.
In real life MacMurray was 31 and Madeleine Carroll 33 when the movie was made, so they were not spring chickens in terms of marriage or reproductive fitness. If Carroll’s character is assumed to be the same age as the actress—which is implied by her status and career accomplishments—the couple would have had to work fast in order to have two or three children before her fertility window closed. A large family would have been out of the question. (In demographic terms, two children per couple represents replacement of themselves; it does not signify replacement of the population as a whole, much less population expansion, due to people who die young or otherwise fail to marry, reproduce, or have more than one child.)
While the film is laser-focused on landing a husband (thus, a male companion in the context of marriage), the idea of a traditional large family with many children, or any children at all, for that matter, is downplayed. The only child in the picture is a small orphan girl the couple eventually adopt—and she’s primarily consigned to the care of the help, both in New York and Bali.
Thus, the idea of “family” remains implicit at best. Indeed, it is probably subordinate to the idea of companionate marriage. Even as they age, the two principals remain “young” and attractive and do not embrace, or advance into, the maturity, responsibility, and unglamorousness of motherhood and fatherhood. It is interesting that ’30s moviegoers readily accepted this extension of youth into relatively mature adulthood.
When Carroll first meets MacMurray and learns he is from Bali, she is deeply intrigued by the unusual sexual relationships this suggests. Much of their exchange on this subject is conveyed indirectly by subtle and sophisticated innuendo, including facial expressions.
Are Balinese girls really that pretty? she asks. Yes. There aren’t many white women out there, are there? No. Do you marry the Balinese girls? A flat “No,” accompanied by a decisive shake of the head. I suppose some of the (white) men . . . (have sex with the Balinese girls). Yes (indirectly). “Do you have a girl out there?”
MacMurray replies that he has five: one to do the cooking, one the housecleaning, one to care for his clothing . . . and one to dance for him. “But that’s only four,” she protests. He responds with a significant look. (The fifth is for sex.) This does not put Carroll off, but makes him more intriguing in her eyes. Later, after she abandons New York to follow MacMurray to Bali, narrowly averting his impending marriage to Osa Massen, she learns that he’s a decent chap after all—he only has one woman, an elderly Balinese servant who keeps house for him. But, of course, she didn’t know that when she abandoned career and country to pursue him.
This raises the interesting presence of a conspicuous alpha male/beta male distinction in Van Upp’s film.
MacMurray, of course, is the alpha male, a fact conveyed by a variety of different methods. From the outset he pursues Carroll aggressively, unabashed by her status, position, or superior wealth, yet somehow remaining aloof and seemingly indifferent to her at the same time. In a key scene, after pursuing her to the Bahamas when she flees his marriage proposal, he forces himself upon her, kissing her against her will as she struggles, saying, “You’re lying that you don’t love me. You’re afraid you’ll have to give up Morrissey’s and go back to being Miss Nobody. I’m only doing this because you don’t want me to. It’s the only way I know to hurt you, and it’s killing you, and I’m laughing,” before thrusting her contemptuously to the sand and departing. Keep in mind that this was written by a woman—indeed, a highly successful career woman. (A white conservative lady who saw the movie opined on her blog that MacMurray’s character was “too aggressive.”)
The beta rival for Carroll’s affection is Eric Sinclair, played by Welsh American singer-actor Allan Jones, a professional opera singer who has known Carroll for many years. His attitudes toward marriage are much different from MacMurray’s. He believes a woman can have marriage and a career both, as Carroll tells MacMurray while the three are returning to her apartment in Eric’s chauffeur-driven car. “He even believes,” she adds, “that if a [married] woman wanted to have her own apartment, and he [the husband] his own apartment . . .” her voice trailing off lamely because the words sound so foolish when spoken aloud. Eric thinks MacMurray’s view of marriage “sounds a bit barbaric.” (At another point in the film, though, he wonders, “What’s this guy got? What’s his technique?”) When MacMurray escorts Carroll to her door, she scolds him, saying, “That was rude of you, trying to hold my hand in another man’s car.”
When Carroll eventually proposes marriage to Eric under the mistaken impression that MacMurray has married rival Osa Massen, and Eric accepts (note the irony of the woman proposing to the man), she receives contrary advice from a plebeian window washer at Morrissey’s (Armenian actor Akim Tamiroff) whose counsel she sometimes heeds. Tamiroff is decisive in his preference for MacMurray over the highly cultured Eric:
“The first gentleman may be a fine gentleman, but he’s no gentleman for you. Your kind of a woman needs a guy, not a fine gentleman. The second one, he’s a guy. The first gentleman will let you be the boss, and a woman ain’t supposed to be the boss. Your kind of a woman needs a boss man.”
To top it off, Eric ultimately steps gallantly aside after he has won the lady’s hand (“He’s the nicest man I know,” Carroll praises him at one point) in order to facilitate MacMurray’s and Carroll’s hooking up.
Two religious passages play a key role in the plot.
First, MacMurray calls off his marriage to Massen at the last minute because of a chance remark by a priest the day before the wedding:
The Balinese never marry except for love, and once they are married only death parts them. Marriage is such a wonder to me. The thing that happens between a man and a woman to make them want no one on this earth but each other. It is a frightening thing, really, because it is their responsibility to keep that fragile bond intact and living. In every union there is a mystery, a certain invisible bond which must not be disturbed.
Marrying Massen, whom MacMurray does not love, would be a mistake because of the absence of this invisible bond. Apart from being right about the “fragile bond,” this is an overly romantic view of marriage.
Madeleine Carroll’s epiphany comes after she falls ill and is hospitalized in New York. The doctors couldn’t discover what was wrong with her. But finally “a wise man” informed her that long ago it was said that “It is not good for man to live alone”—and that this meant women, too. (Though not mentioned, this is a paraphrase of Genesis 2:18—I always pay attention to whether someone is quoting the Old or the New Testament, and how much from either.)
She confesses to MacMurray, “He said that however carefully a woman may have organized her life, that a husband and children were necessary to make her complete. It’s like going about with one arm . . . you’re missing something. But you don’t always know how important those things are until you’ve let them go by. Then you have to pay, any woman does, with an awful loneliness.” The unidentified wise man further explained that this loneliness had been lying in wait for Carroll for a long time, and closed in on her after MacMurray left, making her sick.
End of a Career
Van Upp’s departure from Columbia and moviemaking in 1947 was the result of an unspecified falling out with studio boss Harry Cohn, a legendary jerk. (Of Cohn’s impressively-attended funeral in 1958, comedian Red Skelton joked, “It proves what Harry always said: give the public what they want and they’ll come out for it.”)
Under Cohn Columbia was run like “a private police state,” which, Nineteen Eighty-Four-style, included listening devices concealed on every sound stage through which Cohn could, and did, secretly monitor conversations on any set at will. This kind of mentality and behavior obviously lifts one race far above others. It doesn’t require exceptional imagination to comprehend the immeasurable advantage and tremendous power conferred, particularly when combined with unscrupulousness and criminality. Yet whites will not grasp this and many other simple realities, no matter how much evidence they have about Communism, Zionism, or Jewish behavior generally. The victims in such cases are bound to lose unless they take adequate compensatory measures to protect themselves and then strike back.
According to Bob Thomas’ King Cohn: The Life and Times of Harry Cohn (1967), the producer was an admirer of Mussolini prior to the latter’s link-up with Hitler. Cohn met the dictator in Italy, where he received an award after releasing the successful and flattering documentary Mussolini Speaks (1933). (This has never been released on DVD. You can watch a 10-minute clip from the film here. The narrator is radio newsman Lowell Thomas.) Bob Thomas includes a short chapter in his book entitled “A Visit to Il Duce, and How It Affected the Cohn Style.”
Cohn also maintained connections with organized crime, including Chicago’s John Roselli and Jewish gangster Abner “Longie” Zwillman. Like many Jews he used violence or the threat of violence to obtain and keep money and power. (It was mob money from Zwillman that enabled Cohn to buy out a partner during his early years, giving him full control of the studio.)
Married twice to white women, Cohn regularly demanded and received sexual favors from white actresses in exchange for employment. Like so many Hollywood executives of the time, he was a forerunner of today’s ubiquitous “adult film industry” pimp-pornographers.
With respect to Van Upp, Bob Thomas observed that Cohn “needed to find one area of vulnerability [in order to dominate and control her]. It wasn’t drinking. It wasn’t any secret in her personal life [note the Jew’s systematic probing for vulnerabilities and deliberate, callous exploitation of human frailties—another unflattering reason why the race is dominant]; she was happily married to a radio director, Ralph Nelson. [Nelson was her second husband; they had a daughter together, but divorced in 1949.] It wasn’t even money, the temptation with which Cohn had snared many a victim.”
Instead, he used his authority as studio head to attempt to extort sex from her. Van Upp spurned his unwelcome advances, convinced, according to Thomas, that Cohn was “a verbal rapist” who had no intention of going through with the affair. Even so, she demanded that her contract as executive producer include a clause prohibiting her boss from engaging in “verbal rape.” Appalled at how this would look, after a two-hour argument Cohn finally agreed to a handshake deal instead. (He had not lied to her in the past.) The issue never came up again.
By 1947 Van Upp had wearied of overseeing Columbia’s entire motion picture output and “felt the need to resume her marriage.” She therefore took an extended leave of absence, but by the time she returned, “Cohn’s need for her was over” (Thomas, King Cohn).
It is easy to see how the feminist/anti-feminist themes that dominate Honeymoon in Bali overlap with actual tensions in Van Upp’s life between her role as a highly successful businesswoman and her desire to be a wife and mother. Of course, such a desire was more widespread in Van Upp’s day than ours. Today such values have largely been eliminated from the white population, as many bizarre pronouncements by women, men, and authority figures make agonizingly clear. The economic prerequisites necessary for successful family formation so often emphasized by Benjamin Franklin also militate against the family, as do hostile laws and police behavior courtesy of the state.