“Dead Poets Society,” the beloved 1989 film about an unorthodox teacher who struggles to free the hearts of his prep-school pupils, is really just “128 minutes of pure Nazi propaganda,” according to its creators.
“I was really into Nazi ideology back in the late 1980s,” said Tom Schulman, whose screenplay for the film won an Academy Award. “I wanted to make a movie to inspire and instruct the youth, so they might give rise to the Fourth Reich. I witnessed too many youngsters being lured by degenerate art like rap and Keith Haring paintings, and I wanted to stop all that.”
Schulman enlisted the help of veteran director Peter Weir, and soon the two created a story about a proud Aryan named John Keating who transforms a classroom of girly schoolboys into a group of disciplined, paramilitary Nazis.
In the first draft, Keating — a role eventually given to Robin Williams — orders the boys to burn their poetry books, blasting the introduction for being “academic Jewish mumbo jumbo.“ Afterwards, Keating tells the boys to stand on their desks and perform a Nazi salute, swearing their allegiance to the Aryan race, the nation and himself.
“That scene was just overkill, like shouting to the audience, ‘pay attention, because here’s our real message,’” said Weir, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his directorial work. “So we toned it down.”
Another major difference is that the original script had the students call Keating “O Führer, mein Führer.” But the studio was afraid audiences might be confused by German, or mistake the Hitler reference as a nod to Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator,” so they changed it to “O captain, my captain.”
Both Schulman and Weir say they were surprised by the film’s failure to spark a Nazi takeover of the United States and Europe.
“People really loved everything about the movie — the innocence of the characters, the triumphant music by Maurice [Jarre], and the artful camerawork from John [Seale],” Weir said. “But they overwhelmingly missed the point: that we must adopt a policy of racial purity, industriousness and fealty to one’s leader.”
“There are no Jews, communists or gypsies in the Welton Academy for boys,” Weir said. “Didn’t anyone notice?”
“It’s also very significant that we wrote Neil as a mendacious character who wants nothing more than to immerse himself in the homosexual, decadent world of theater, and then he kills himself,” Schulman says. “Men should be strong, and they should pursue pastimes like ox-wrestling, chemistry and woodworking.”
In the first edited cut, the film still ends with Keating getting fired, but afterwards he returns to the school in a German Panzer tank, which he uses to blow up Headmaster Nolan’s residence.
“But we decided that ending lacked subtlety, and might even brand ‘Dead Poets Society’ as an action movie,” Weir said. “So we ended where the boys defy the Jewish sycophant headmaster, standing on their desks and saluting the Aryan hero Keating, the symbol of the true Führer.”