Meryl Streep to Female Academy Members: “Emma Thompson‘s performance in Saving Mr. Banks rang my bell and has my respect, but the real-life Walt Disney was an anti-Semitic, woman-dismissing shit. So do what you want but I’ve though twice about supporting Banks for Best Picture, given the essentially dishonest and fanciful depiction of Disney that it presents.”
Meryl Streep at last night’s National Board Of review awards ceremony in Manhattan. (Photo stolen from Variety.)
This seems like a fair interpretation of what Streep said last night at the National Board of Review award ceremony in Manhattan. Variety‘s Ramin Setoodeh is reporting that while Streep’s “nine-minute tour-de-force” speech was a love sonnet to Thompson, the legendary actress “also made a point of blasting Disney for his sexist and anti-Semitic stances.”
Quoting Disney animator Ward Kimball, Streep said that “some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women” and that he was basically a “gender bigot…he didn’t trust women or cats.” Streep quoted from a letter that his company wrote in 1938 to an aspiring female animator: “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men.”
To be fair to Walt, almost every male on the planet in 1938 probably qualified as a sexist by 2013 standards.
Streep also noted that Disney “supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group.” The belief that Disney was anti-Semitic is historically supported to some extent, and has been repeated often enough to accumulate a certain currency.
Over the last four or five weeks Banks has been slammed and double-slammed for deriding the memory of the real P.L. Travers, the Australian-born creator of Mary Poppins whom Thompson portrays in the film, and for pushing the view that Disney knew best and that Travers was a scold and a neurotic pain in the ass. Margaret Lyons‘ 12.27 Vulture piece essentially said this; ditto L.A. Weekly‘s Amy Nicholson as well as science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison.
Remember that somewhat delusional Brooks Barnes article in the 10.16 N.Y. Times that claimed Saving Mr. Banks “depicts a Walt Disney with faults”? What a crock! The article, titled “Forget the Spoonful of Sugar: It’s Uncle Walt, Uncensored,” said that Tom Hanks’ Disney “acts in a very un-Disney way. He slugs back Scotch. He uses a mild curse word. He wheezes because he smokes too much.”
All but shuddering with pleasure, Banks producer Allison Owen said the following to Barnes: “Wow, this was so not the battle I anticipated…Disney behaved impeccably.” Well, given the snow job that Banks basically is, what’s not to be happy or behave impeccably about?
For whatever reason, N.Y. Times “Carpetbagger” columnist Melena Ryzik chose not to quote Streep’s comments about Disney, saying only that Streep mentioned Disney’s “mottled history.”