"What has come of thinking is battlefields and more battlefields" . . . Ben Hecht, 1954
Above, color tip-in for Hecht's veteran story, Vox Populi, as it appeared in the original Ben Hecht Story & News.
The day after Pearl Harbor his verse "Uncle Sam Stands Up" appeared in "PM" and was immediately reprinted in "Scholastic" magazine to launch high school students into their generation's sevice in the war.
In 1941 he wrote the patriotic pageant "Fun to Be Free," a collaboration with Charles MacArthur, produced at Madison Square Garden. Hecht and many of his creative colleagues in New York and Hollywood were ahead of the American consensus in their passion to thwart the threat of Hitler; thus, films and live stage shows rallied readiness to fight to protect American freedom, in this case, two months before Pearl Harbor and war with Germany.
During World WAr II, Hecht, a member of the War Writers Board, wrote radio scripts for war bond drives, pageants to honor allies and radio scripts for the Navy and the Red Cross. Two government films on which he collaborated were the widely seen OWI film "The Negro Soldier," with Carlton Moss, and "Watchtower of Tomorrow," with Alfred Hitchcock. The former sensitized military and civilians to the contributions of black troops in American wars; the latter sounded a movie fanfare for the new United Nations. Hecht's advocacy pageants and films for minorities were informed by his belief that minority concerns should be cloaked in American patriotism, especially during war.
Ben Hecht's We Will Never Die
His 1943 tour de force with Kurt Weill and Billy Rose, "We Will Never Die," dramatized the Holocaust and the fight of European Jews as it was happening, offering a star studded cast including Edward G Robinson, Paul Muni and John Garfield. Nonetheless, it was largely ill-received by American Jewry, who took their cues from the ensconced opinion leader, Rabbi Steven Wise, founder of the American Jewish Congress. A partner in silence at the behest of FDR, Wise frustrated Hecht by repudiating him as sensational and counter-productive, leaving the star studded extravaganza to flounder on the open market instead of endorsing it for sponsorhip through local religious organizations (left, a scene from a performance).