What if Sandra Bullock did condone her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s Nazi proclivities? What then? OK. Maybe you weren’t aware of the Internet chatter (see here, here and here) that wonders if America’s sweetheart knew of Jesse James’ Hitler antics and (gasp!) tolerated them for the sake of her marriage.
Never mind the rumors of Bullock sex tapes (rumors that Bullock quashed forcefully). The Nazi question is potentially more damaging since – if verified – it would undermine everything the actress represents: Wholesome Hollywood goodness. Bullock is the apotheosis of middlebrow beauty – a tolerable actress who will never be confused for, say, Meryl Streep or Ingrid Bergman. The odd thing is that Bullock has two big commonalities with Bergman: German pedigree, and a queasy experience with a Nazi sympathizer. The Swedish-born, German-speaking Bergman – besides having a German mother – made a 1938 film in Germany (“Die vier Gesellen”) for a director, Karl Froelich, who was favored by Hitler. Years later, Bergman expressed guilt at not seeing the signs of what transpired during World War II, and spoke about Froelich trying to push her toward Nazism.
“Froelich took me to a huge Nazi rally (in 1938) where Hitler was the main attraction,” Bergman is quoted as saying in the book Ingrid: Ingrid Bergman, a Personal Biography. “Everything was organized with great theatricality. On cue, little children would rush up to the podium with flowers, and everyone would ‘Heil’ at whatever monstrous nonsense he screamed. It sounded so silly. I couldn’t imagine people taking someone like Hitler seriously. But in the whole audience, I was, I think, the only one who wasn’t raising my arm and saying ‘Heil.’ Froelich turned to me and said, ‘You must say ‘Heil.’ They are watching.’ I said, ‘Nonsense. Nobody is watching us. Everyone is watching Hitler. Besides, I’m not German. I am a Swedish citizen. I live in Stockholm, and there is nothing they can do to me.’ He said, ‘Yes, but you are half-German, and you know what can happen. People can have accidents. People disappear. They are everywhere, watching, listening. It could be bad for you.’ I think what he really meant was that it could be bad for him. But I never once said, ‘Heil Hitler’ during all the time I was in Germany.”
Bullock was in Germany for much of her childhood, thanks to her German mother, an opera singer named Helga Meyer. Bullock speaks German, and was candid with writer Holly Millea in 2000 when she described her childhood under Meyer – of being rushed to concert halls across Europe, of accommodating other professional demands of her mother – as “just an odd upbringing. And not all sweetness and light.” Bullock, then, is used to a degree of dysfunction. Tolerating it in her marriage would be no problem – as long as the problems weren’t out of control. What could she do, though, if her husband – even jokingly – did a ‘Seig Heil’ salute? What should she have done if she saw the Nazi surfboard that James reportedly has in his office? Call the Anti-Defamation League?
Bullock’s silence on the matter is fueling her detractors. At Jezebel (the women-focused web site), writer Kate Harding penned a column, “What Did Sandra Know About This Nazi Stuff?,” that questions Bullock’s behavior – that says Bullock may not be an innocent bystander to her husband’s Nazi eccentricities. One Jezebel reader has pointed a suspicious finger at Bullock’s politically conservative views (which, the argument goes, would suggest the actress could possibly, just possibly, be a Nazi sympathizer). One reader says, “I don’t see how SB could (be) with him all this time and not know that he thinks Nazis are groovy.” At popeater.com, a reader wrote, “I think she knew about his ‘affairs’ but only cared about her image. Her marriage was a sham. I’m also worried about Jesse’s ‘Nazi’ fetish, Sandra is half German. Is she a ‘Nazi’ fan in the closet?”
What a difference a month makes. In early March, Bullock was on stage at the Kodak Theater, holding her newly won Oscar, and bringing the audience members – and the millions watching on TV – to tears and laughter. One of them was her husband. “Did I really earn this,” Bullock said at the outset of her acceptance speech, “or did I just wear you all down?”
By now, Bullock has to be worn down by all the rumors and innuendo about her personal life. But every actor/actress who makes it big has to accept the public’s insatiable scrutinizing. In this era of 24/7 news/entertainment cycles, there are few juicy things about celebrities (especially anything to do with infidelity) that ever remain secret. Just ask Tiger Woods, David Letterman, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Woody Allen, et al. It doesn’t really matter that Bullock is silent on what she knew about James’ pseudo-Nazi-ness. Sooner of later, the answers will emerge, whether Bullock wants them to or not. None of us will be better off for knowing the truth. Like one of Bullock’s forgettable movies (“Speed” anyone?), it will come out, be reviewed – and then be superseded by the next big release/revelation. No doubt, that will be the day when Bullock officially divorces the one-time man of her dreams.