NEW YORK -- An upcoming book on Walt Disney says the famed father of Mickey Mouse was a secret FBI spy for more than 25 years and kept tabs on the Hollywood scene from actors to union activists suspected of political subversion.
Disney was also obsessed with the idea that he was adopted and in exchange for his informing, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover agreed to help track down his 'real' parents, according to the unauthorized biography 'Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince,' by Marc Eliot.
The New York Times reported Thursday it had checked material in the book against government documents.
'Experience with similar FBI dossiers leaves no doubt that the material submitted by Eliot is authentic,' the Times said.
It added, however, that Disney's file had been censored heavily. 'As it happens, because many of the 570 pages ... are blacked out or withheld for national security reasons, it cannot be determined what names of Hollywood figures Disney passed on to the bureau as Communists or subversives.'
The book is scheduled to be published in July by Birch Lane Press.
According to documents Eliot obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Disney from 1940 until his death in 1966 fed information to the Los Angeles office of the FBI.
'On Nov. 10, 1940, Walt entered the following deal: In exchange for the bureau's continuing assistance in his personal search to find out the truth of his parentage, Walt agreed to assist Hoover's crusade against the spread of communism in Hollywood by becoming an official enformer for the FBI.'
When Disney was growing up in Missouri, regular beatings by his father, Elias, triggered the idea that he was adopted. And during World War I when he found he had no birth certificate and there was no record of his birth on Dec. 5, 1901, the thought turned into a obsession, Eliot writes.
Later in 1940, Hoover told Disney that after an extensive search, his agents had located a woman in a rural area of Spain 'who might well have been Walt's actual mother,' Eliot said. But the convoluted circumstances of the woman's years in the United States have never been fully explained.
Because of the information Disney provided Hoover, he was made a 'full Special Agent in Charge Contact' in 1954, Eliot writes. He explained that an 'SAC Contact' was usually a trusted informant who could provide transportation and equipment as well as public relations services to the bureau.
The FBI also had other informants in Hollywood, according to its files. When Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947 he was given the code name 'Source T-10.'
The earliest communication between Disney and Hoover appears in a July 1936 memorandum in which Hoover writes, 'I am indeed pleased that we can be of service to you in affording you a means of absolute identity throughout your lifetime.' There is no explanation of the term 'absolute identity.'
In 1944, during the height of World War II, the anti-communist atmosphere in Hollywood thickened with the creation of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, an anti- Communist group that consisted mainly of studio executives. Disney served as first vice president.
A memorandum sent in 1947 from FBI headquarters in Washington to its Los Angeles office said the bureau wanted to know about 'Compic' (Communist pictures).
Later that year the House Un-American Activities Committee began its hearings on communist infiltration of the movies. Among the pricipal witnesses were Disney followed by Reagan and actor George Murphy. In his testimony, Disney attributed the strike of studio animators to communist union leaders and said he was smeared by such 'communist-front' organizations as the League of Women Voters. The next day, he sent a telegram to the committee saying he had made a mistake; he meant the League of Women Shoppers.