Hollywood and the cold war (I)



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H221: HOLLYWOOD AND THE COLD WAR (I)

Theme : How movies affected American attitudes towards the Soviet Union, Communism, the American Communist Party and American Communists during the Cold War.



  1. Hollywood as Cold War battlefield:--historical background:

Cold War fears become politicized—both Republicans and Democrats exploit fears; Reps. More successful—long out of power because of FDR’s popularity, they win Congressional elections of 1946—dominate House and Senate, expect to win presidency in ’48.

  1. House Un-American Activities Committee leads crusade, investigates Hollywood in 1947 and 1951. Why? Hollywood vulnerable because American Communist Party active in Hollywood in 30s (Depression) and, during WW2, when Russia was our ally, some studios made a number of pro-Russian films. Nothing subversive or surprising about this—media and most Americans sympathetic to Russian ally. Example: North Star (1943), Action in the North Atlantic (1943)

  2. To protect itself from HUAC, Hollywood joins anti-Communist crusade by creating a blacklist purging American Communists, liberals from the industry(next week’s topic) and makes rabid anti-Communist propaganda films.

    1. Anti-Communist Films: 4 Types

  1. Russian Invasion: Invasion, U.S.A.(1952)

  2. Spy Melodramas : Atomic City (1952); Walk East On Beacon (“Our Country Is In Danger!).

  3. Docudramas—“ factual dramatizations” based on real events. Ex. Big Jim McLain (1952)

  4. Domestic Communism—life in the Party: Ex. Red Menace(1949)

  5. Communists According to the Movies: men—rail thin or plump, effeminate, elegant dressers; women—seductresses hooked on liquor or nicotine or hard, humorless ideologues. All—insane, murderous.

(4) The Manchurian Candidate (1962)—both breaks with and continues rabid Anti-Communist tradition. First film to explicitly denounce McCarthyism. Yet despite big budget, great director, brilliant script, famous starts, film has all the characteristics of the above films—reflecting a cultural and political consensus about Communists and Russia (and China) still strong in 1960s.

Conclusion: Film exaggerated internal threat posed by American Communists, distorted truth about those who joined the Party in 30s and 40s, contributed to national hysteria that destroyed careers and lives.


The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Source: www. imdb.com

Directed by John Frankenheimer


Writing credits:

Richard Condon (novel)

George Axelrod (screenplay)
Credited Cast:

Frank Sinatra Capt./Maj. Bennett Marco

Laurence Harvey SSgt. Raymond Shaw

Janet Leigh Eugenie Rose Chaney

Angela Lansbury Mrs. Iselin

Henry Silva Chunjin

James Gregory Sen. John Yerkes Iselin

Leslie Parrish Jocelyn Jordan

John McGiver Sen. Thomas Jordan

Khigh Dhiegh Dr. Yen Lo

James Edwards Cpl. Alvin Melvin

Douglas Henderson Col. Milt

Albert Paulsen Zilkov

Barry Kelley Secretary of Defense



Lloyd Corrigan Holborn Gaines

Madame Spivy Female Berezovo
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