Entertainment & Culture During Wartime
In times of global strife, the entertainment world has a greater responsibility towards mass audience appeal. Wartime productions and the involvement of talent in the war effort helps to raise the spirits of citizens and soldiers while being a means of collective expression, the way the arts and cinema usually are. A truly fascinating relationship exists between astrology, history and the entertainment industry.
World War II was the first instance of Hollywood’s involvement in an actual wartime battle. With Pluto in the early degrees of Leo during the war years, the film industry creatively flourished but the movies were not the means of escape they once were. Theaters were filled with films on the subject of war and were accompanied by newsreels of the war, the latter being media information to the populace. The newsreels depicted everyday people in the war effort in Europe and the South Pacific. No one could remain out of touch with the world events; they permeated our culture. To this day, many Americans have a fascination with that time in American history. America was strong. We won the war. We were the heroes.
In the 1940’s, since travel was mostly for the elite and upper classes, it was uncommon for the average American to travel by air. Few Americans became worldly and well educated, as there were a good many families who couldn’t afford higher education. Furthermore, some needed to work in lieu of finishing high school. This was chiefly the Pluto in Cancer generation who were adults and becoming adults in the early 1940’s. To this group, the family was a priority and stayed connected by living close to one another. They stuck with their own class and many spent their entire lives in their hometown in the USA.
A Second World War happening on the soils of exotic lands entangled the U.S. with unfamiliar and somewhat exciting cultures and societies. In terms of entertainment, WWII was the most romanticized war of American history, and Hollywood was the voice of this time period.
The Pearl Harbor attack began the U.S. involvement in the war. Since Hawaii was still only a territory, from the outset we see an exotic backdrop. The now famous point of the Sun at 15 Sagittarius is opposite Jupiter in Gemini, indicating, among other things, the clash of cultures and ideologies and an involvement with foreign territories. Neptune is at 29 Virgo on its first passage to that point. During the war years Neptune’s movement between the signs of Virgo and Libra is clearly the indicator of the end of an era and the beginning of an entirely new path as Neptune reached the Cardinal axis. Through most of WWII Neptune was trined by Saturn and Uranus in Taurus, signifying the rebellion and overthrow of authority and society’s values. This entire planetary picture indicated an immense alteration in the consciousness of civilization.
Saturn and Pluto had been operating in a fixed square during Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Naturally, the war had the indelible stamp of this planetary combination: dictatorship, oppression, persecution, and the destruction of security. It was a fight between civilization and primitive man. The boundaries were very clear: Hitler and Nazism were the bad guys and America was the rescuer on the white horse.
The film industry was out to enforce the idea of America’s valor and nobility. So, the U.S. government hired film director Frank Capra to create propaganda films. These films featured extreme views of the Axis and the Allied powers and imposed the message that the entire planet was in danger if the free world did not make a stand. Before the pictures were released to the theaters, they were shown as training films to perpetuate an image of the enemy to the youths going into battle. Capra’s chart shows his Saturn/Uranus conjunction in Scorpio that is not only a recurrence for him during the time of WWII, but also opposes within orb the same aspect in the Pearl Harbor chart. Saturn/Uranus also opposes his Sun at 27 Taurus, which conjuncts the Saturn/Uranus in the Pearl Harbor chart. His Mars is on the Moon of Pearl Harbor detailing his obvious emotional entrenchment in this cause. Since Saturn with outer planets usually brings a humanitarian awareness to a person’s life, this was Mr. Capra’s contribution to the war effort.
The foreign cultural setting of WWII coupled with the romantic effects of Neptune in Libra provided filmmakers with the backdrop for exciting romantic films, the most famous of which is Casablanca. Set in French Morocco before the U.S. entered the war, Casablanca was all things you wanted a movie to be. It was mysterious, intriguing; it dealt with the reality of the day and of course – it was romantic. On the day of the film’s release the Sun and two planets were in Sagittarius opposite the conjunction of Saturn and Uranus in Gemini, a recurring wartime theme. This describes the essence of the struggle between the personal vs. the big picture. American Rick Blaine abandons his neutrality to perform the noble act of helping those risking their lives for the recovery of the world. The studios rushed the release of Casablanca, so it was timed to coincide with the Allied invasion of North Africa. The invasion advanced box office sales, and in fact, the term “Rick’s Place” became military code for the city of Casablanca. Most importantly the film reinforced the war effort by underscoring the value of freedom and the importance of personal sacrifice. Rick’s change of heart, leaving neutrality behind is best exemplified in the famous airstrip scene.
Meanwhile, on Broadway in March of 1943, Rodgers and Hammerstein struck gold with their musical Oklahoma! It was a play about the land whose seamlessly integrated story and lyrics supported Americans in their beliefs and values, reminding us of why we fight. While Saturn was at 8 Gemini on the opening night of Oklahoma! in 1943, it is interesting to note that Saturn was at 9 Gemini on the opening of the current revival of the musical. Jupiter was in Cancer on both occasions as well, further supporting the grandness of the homeland and love of one’s country.
The aftermath of WWII and the period of adjustment that followed were greatly evidenced by the Saturn/Pluto conjunction in Leo. While those who served in the war came home with a beaming sense of pride, those feelings quickly subsided as they were challenged by their return to life as civilians. No film better exemplified this than The Best Years of Our Lives, which won the Best Picture Academy Award for 1946 in addition to six other Oscars. It was the devastating story of three WWII veterans returning home to small town America and the difficulties they encountered because their wartime experiences had changed their lives forever. The astrology for this motion picture is a stellium of planets in Scorpio squared by the Saturn Pluto in Leo, indicating the themes of reconstruction, loveless home and physical disabilities.
During World War II these forms of entertainment helped to keep the nation believing in America. Everyone cheered on those serving in the war and loved them for being brave and patriotic. For many years America was built on that victory.
And then the 1960’s arrived.
By the time the U.S. got involved in Vietnam’s civil war, the attitude towards war had completely changed. Unlike their parents who were proud to fight in the 1940’s, the Pluto in Leo generation was not showing the same patriotism. After a wave of Communism had spread across the Far East, there was great political fear in the U.S. that the entire world would succumb and therefore, a war was necessary. This was not the view of the populace; many felt we had no business fighting this war, causing great division in our country.
Once again, while a war was brewing, the typical wartime astrology was happening. Uranus and Pluto were conjunct in Virgo, and would eventually receive an opposition from Saturn once it entered into Pisces. Saturn’s retrograde and direct motion from Aquarius to Pisces in the 1964-65 period indicated great social unrest as it stepped in and out of the web of Uranus/Pluto, and the U.S. stepped in and out of the circumstances in Vietnam. This was the point in time when President Johnson ran for re-election and won. During his campaign, he stated that he wasn’t going to send thousands of Americans to fight a war that the Vietnamese should have been handling on their own. By the time of his inauguration in January 1965, Saturn was in Pisces to stay and on February 8, 1965 President Johnson began attacks on Vietnam in the event known as “Flaming Dart.” Mars had gotten entangled with the Uranus/Pluto conjunction in Virgo and the war had escalated as much as necessary to get us involved.
Anyone born during WWII was coming of age in the mid-1960’s. Having experienced the early life trauma of war, many used their voices to speak out against Vietnam. Artists such as Bob Dylan took that collective energy and were the voice of a new generation that saw war as unwise. Mr. Dylan’s chart carries similar astrology to the early stages of WWII, including the Saturn/Uranus aspects to each other and to Neptune. The planetary stress in the mutable signs during the 1960’s aspected his Gemini planets and he became the poet laureate of the youth movement. The art form of popular music made the clearest and most profound statements that the U.S. culture did not want this war. In fact, the pop genre became part of the Broadway musical Hair. Hair was a celebration of life and peace over the tragedies of war, a recurring 60’s theme. It was the story of a young man enlisting in the service and happening upon a group of hippies in Greenwich Village, who try their best to dissuade him. They show him the virtues of peace, love and happiness, but he is confronted and haunted by symbols of the establishment including prominent figures of the 2nd World War.
Unlike WWII, there were no Vietnam War movies being produced in the 60’s and early 70’s while the war was on. Clearly, this was such a controversy that Hollywood established that audiences were not interested in films about Vietnam. But the symptoms crept through the collective anyway. The setting, battlefield and enemy of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 were WWII, but the ideas and dialogue were Vietnam. Although Joseph Heller’s book was written in the early 60’s based upon his experiences in WWII, the film wasn’t made until 1970 in the heat of the Vietnam War. Catch-22 was not a box-office success, but it spoke the feelings of the masses. Unlike the Pluto in Cancer generation fighting WWII, the Pluto in Leo group were not fighting for country, home and security, they were struggling to preserve their individuality. Such was the message in Catch-22.
Reflecting the shadows of Neptune in Scorpio, the entire film industry changed. Filmmakers of the 1960’s began showing more sex and violence in their movies. There were less happy endings and often the characters were despondent as the U.S was in such a defeatist situation. Many films such as In The Heat of The Night confronted the racial upheaval. And for the first time in history, an X rated film won the Best Picture Oscar. In 1969, winner Midnight Cowboy told the story of a male prostitute and a sickly con artist who tried to survive the grit of New York City in the late 1960’s.
New York City’s tragedy of 2001 was the worst attack the U.S. had ever experienced. As a result, we have been experiencing a return to the patriotism that was lost with Vietnam. More importantly, we needed to let the world know that New York was alive and not to be defeated. If there were a source of entertainment already in place that served to uplift the spirits of our country at the time, it would naturally emanate from New York City’s own Broadway.
The Producers began as a purely comedic experience that became a love letter to the city of New York. It pays homage to Broadway and every show that’s ever happened on Broadway, whether it lasted for decades on closed on page four. Based upon Mel Brook’s Oscar winning original screenplay of 1968, The Producers fed audiences the old fashioned humor they were starving for, the kind that makes one’s gut hurt from hilarity. Theatergoers were joyously free to laugh at jokes considered to be in bad taste.
How does an artist get away with the offensive topic at hand in these times of political correctness? Mel Brooks’ philosophy is a simple one: “Make your enemy look ridiculous and you’ve won. All despots have the gift of persuasive speech – if you stand up on the soapbox in debate with them, you’re finished. But wit is sharper than the sharpest dagger.” Mr. Brooks feels his job in life has always been to make fun of Hitler and the 3rd Reich because they were his worst enemy. He believes political correctness is the death of all comedy.
Sixty years later Hitler is completely skewered on the Broadway stage and we are laughing at the enemy.
The Nazis had invaded Poland when Saturn was at 0 degrees of Taurus. The moment The Producers opened, Saturn was at 29 Taurus 53 and entered Gemini the next day as it began moving towards its opposition to Pluto. The Sun was positioned at 29 Aries 55 and made its ingress into Taurus sometime around intermission. One could say that a moment of “karmic irony” was experienced here. The show’s star, Nathan Lane, also carries the Gemini/Sagittarius nodal axis in his horoscope. He received the “blessing” of the Saturn/Pluto opposition, bringing him into this collective mission whether he liked it or not.
This show about the unholy pleasures of showbiz went on to win a historical 12 Tony awards, break box office records, appear on the covers of national magazines (a Broadway musical?) and cause hysteria among those trying to get tickets. It became a great part of the restoration of a city, giving joy to its population that needed to recover and overcome.
And it worked. Broadway was able to return 1 million dollars of the 2 million borrowed from government agencies to sustain itself. But more than anything, The Producers is about the American dream, and the New Yorkers who saw it during this devastating time in New York’s history were reminded to have faith their own resilience.
Data: Unless otherwise noted, solar charts are used for noon.
Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941 7:53 AM, AHST Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii
Frank Capra: May 18, 1897 Biacsquino, Italy
Casablanca: Release date: November 26, 1942, New York, NY
Oklahoma!: Opening nights: March 31, 1943 8:00 PM EWT; March 21, 2002, 8:00 PM EST Both are New York, NY
The Best Years of Our Lives: Release date: Nov. 21, 1946, New York
Flaming Dart attack: February 8, 1965, Dong Hoi, Vietnam
Bob Dylan: May 24, 1941, 9:05 PM, Duluth, Minnesota
The Producers: Opening night: April 19, 2001, 6:30 PM EDT, New York
Nathan Lane: February 3, 1956, Jersey City, NJ
The Internet Movie Data Base, www.imdb.com
E! The Entertainment Channel, www.eonline.com
The History Place, www.historyplace.com
Allen, Thomas B. “Untold Stories of D-Day.” National Geographic, June 2002, pages 2-41.
Brantley, Ben, editor The New York Times Book of Broadway, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2001.
Brooks, Mel and Meehan, Thomas, The Producers: How We Did It, Hyperion Books, New York, 2001.
Osborne, Robert 70 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards, Abbeville, New York, 1999.
Recording The Producers: A Musical Romp with Mel Brooks, SONY Classical, 2001.
Charlie Rose, Show # 2930, April 26, 2001: Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick discuss The Producers.