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The use of religious propaganda in wartime predates the Cold War by at least 2,500 years.88 The Catholic Church had signalled its own awareness of the arts of public persuasion in the seventeenth century, when Pope Gregory V established the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide in 1622.89 Religion as a theme in wartime cinematic propaganda has not been confined to the struggle between communism and capitalism either. During the Second World War, American films constantly linked God with democracy in the fight against fascism.90 Since the mid-1980s, Hollywood has profited considerably from its portrayals of the perceived threat posed to the West by Islamic fundamentalism.91

As we have seen, religion was an integral component of Cold War cinematic discourse in the 1950s in both the East and the West. American filmmakers in particular were remarkably versatile propagandists in fusing religion and Cold War issues, and in providing support for their government's strategy of positive, morally muscular propaganda. It would be wrong to attribute this versatility simply to official influence of one sort or another. Studio executives, directors and producers who turned out films that highlighted the communist threat to religious freedom or that accentuated American spirituality were motivated by a variety of factors. Many merely sought to cash in on topical, controversial concerns. Some, like Cecil B. DeMille, were Cold Warriors in their own right, whose connections with the government might have given them greater impetus to express their ideological views on screen.

It is difficult to judge how the films analysed above affected their audiences. What can be said is that many of them bore the hallmarks of shabby B-pictures - blaring music, arbitrary passages of violence, bad continuity and dismal acting. Because these films were so sloppily made, and because their messages were often so clumsily explicit, they might inadvertently have provided a forum for some people to laugh at or even ridicule popular Cold War hysteria, instead of encouraging them to think seriously about religion and politics. For example, by implying that extraterrestrials and human beings might share the same God, Red Planet Mars arguably did more to bring Christian piety into disrepute than to persuade cinema-goers of the contemporary resonance of the Gospel. Many of the movies were also open to a variety of possibly conflicting interpretations. For instance, whereas most commentators described Columbia's The Prisoner as pro-Catholic, others, because it suggested Mindszenty was the illegitimate child of a prostitute, labelled it pro-communist.92 Similarly, many religious conservatives watching The Next Voice You Hear and The Ten Commandments were troubled by the juxtaposing of images of Christianity and consumerism, and Christianity and sexuality, respectively. Of course, there is also the distinct possibility that audiences simply failed to see certain movies through a Cold War lens.

That said, it can still be argued that many of these pictures amounted to solid, effective propaganda by offering easily digestible, emotive messages in highly charged, usually action-driven formats. Cheap science-fiction shockers like Conquest of Space and spy thrillers like Night People might, each in its own way, have helped to endow the Cold War with the black-and-white moral clarity most people and official propagandists sought. The more cerebral docudramas like The Prisoner perhaps left a similar impression on a different sort of audience. It and others that blended religion with political dissidence in Eastern Europe depicted the East-West conflict as a modern holy war most directly. Biblical epics like The Ten Commandments need not have been explicitly read as Cold War movies, or as having relevance to the conflict. Their persuasive abilities lay deeper than that. Many of these films articulated in a simple yet spectacular way the differences between God-fearing and God-despising societies. Like most effective propaganda, their power lay not in converting but in reinforcing, and in embedding positive messages in an indirect fashion. They were also one of the best ways Hollywood could demonstrate America's seemingly endless store of resources; no Iron Curtain films could rival the extravagant production values of the biblical epics. Together, these filmic representations of religion might have helped at least some cinema-goers to forge key mental and conceptual Cold War linkages, above all between Christianity and democratic capitalism, in which the latter took on the appearance of a new 'civil religion'.


1 Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1952, pp. 140-1.

2 Films and Filming, September 1955, p. 13.

3 Despite this, religion has so far been the Cinderella of Cold War historiography. See Dianne Kirby (ed.), Religion and the Cold War (Basingstoke, 2003) on why this has been the case, and how historians are now starting to rectify this omission. On John Paul Il's Cold War role see 'Karol Wojtyla and the End of the Cold War', in Silvio Pons and Frederico Romero (eds), Reinterpreting the End of the Cold War: Issues, Interpretations, Periodi%ations (London, 2005), pp. 82-9.

4 Taylor, Film Propaganda, pp. 69-70.

5 Geoffrey Hosking, A History of the Soviet Union, 1917—1991 (London, 1992), pp. 227-41.

6 Davies, 'Soviet Cinema', pp. 56-60; Caute, Dancer, pp. 147-53.

7 Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty: From the Crimea to the Falklands: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker (London, 1989), p. 149; Steve Nicholson, British Theatre and the Red Peril: The Portrayal of Communism, 1917-1945 (Exeter, 1999), pp. 31-3.

9 John Foster Dulles, War or Peace (New York, 1950), pp. 251-9; Mark Silk, Spiritual Politics: Religion and America since World War Two (New York, 1988), pp. 86-107; Allen Dulles speech, 5 June 1953, quoted in Washburn to William H. Jackson, 11 June 1953, White House Central Files, Official File, Box 674,133-M-1 President's Committee on International Activities Abroad (3): Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas (hereafter DDEL); 'President Sees Editors', New York Times, 10 April 1953.

10 Public Papers of the Presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953 (Washington, DC, 1960), pp. 179-88; Hixson, Curtain, pp. 42, 64, 83, 93-4, 122; Puddington, Broadcasting Freedom.

11 Eric R. Crouse, 'Popular Cold Warriors: Conservative Protestants, Communism, and Culture in Early Cold War America', Journal of Religion and Popular Culture,

Vol. 2, Fall 2002, unpaged, (10 February 2006); Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew: An Essay in American Sociology (Garden City, KS, 1960), pp. 47, 52.

12 Emmet John Hughes, Ordeal of Power: A Political Memoir of the Eisenhower Years (New York, 1963), p. 103.

14 Basic Guidance and Planning Paper No. 10, Themes on American Life and Culture, 14 July 1959, USIA Historical Collection, and Memoranda of Meetings of the Ideological Subcommittee on the Religious Factor, 19 May 1955, 8 June 1955 and 10 June 1955, both in OCB Central Files, Box 2, OCB 000.3 [Religion] (File #1) (2): DDEL; Harlow to O'Hara, 6 June 1955, White House Central Files, Official File, box 910, OF 247 1955 (2): DDEL.

16 Jackson Committee Report, FRUS, Vol. 2, 1952-4 (Washington, DC, 1984), pp. 1849, 1847, 1872; Progress Report on Jackson Committee Report, 30 September 1953, White House Central Files, NSC Staff Papers, Psychological Strategy Board Central Files, Box 22, PSB 334, President's Committee on Information Activities Abroad: DDEL.

17 Saunders, Who Paid the Piper?, pp. 289-91.

18 Richard Gribble, 'Anti-Communism, Patrick Peyton, CSC and the CIA', Journal of Church and State, Vol. 45, No. 3, 2003, pp. 535-58.

20 The US Information Program Since July 1953, Records of the President's Committee on Information Activities Abroad (Sprague Committee), Box 19, USIA (2): DDEL.

21 On this tradition see R. H. Campbell, The Bible on Film: A Checklist, 1897-1980 (Lanham, MD, 1981), and John R. May and Michael Bird (eds), Religion in Film (Knoxville, TN, 1982).

24 Variety, 25 May 1949, p. 3; Motion Picture Herald, 28 May 1949.

25 Whitfield, Culture, pp. 107-13.

26 Variety, 21 February 1962; Variety, 20 March 1957, p. 6.

27 Films and Filming, September 1955; author's correspondence with Borden Mace, President of RD-DR Corporation (the producer of Martin Luther) in the 1950s, 28 March 1998.

29 Variety, 19 December 1956, p. 7.

30 Ferenc A. Vali, Rift and Revolt in Hungary (Cambridge, MA, 1961), pp. 65-6. On the exploitation of the Mindszenty case by the British Foreign Office's Information Research Department, see Foreign Office Files (FO) 1110/167-8, TNAL. On American television's emphasis on religion as a Cold War theme in the 1950s, including 'Cardinal Mindszenty', a Studio One episode of 3 May 1954, see Fred J. MacDonald, 'The Cold War as Entertainment in Fifties Television',

Journal of Popular Film and Television, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1998, pp. 3—31. The villain in the aforementioned Soviet film Conspiracy of the Doomed, Cardinal Birnch, was probably modelled on Mindszenty.

31 Monthly Film Bulletin, December 1950, pp. 185—6.

32 Columbia marketing material, The Prisoner micro-jacket, BFIL; Alec Guinness, Blessings in Disguise (London, 1985), pp. 38—49.

33 Charles S. Young, 'Missing Action: POW Films, Brainwashing, and the Korean War, 1954—1968', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998, pp. 49—74; Susan L. Carruthers, 'The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and the Cold War Brainwashing Scare', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998, pp. 75—94; David Seed, Brainwashing: The Fictions of Mind Control — A Study of Novels and Films since World War II (Kent, OH, 2004), esp. chs 2, 4 and 5.

34 The Miracle told the story of a peasant woman who believes her baby has been immaculately conceived. US Customs gave the movie a licence in 1949, only to revoke it under pressure from the New York Roman Catholic Archdiocese on the grounds that it was 'sacrilegious'. During the row over The Miracle, Catholic moral reformer Martin Quigley, publisher of the Motion Picture Herald, said that communists and fellow-travellers applauded every time someone bought a ticket to see the picture because they knew that religion was an essential bulwark against the Red threat. His assertion that Rossellini and the film's star, Anna Magnani, were active leftists and that the logical birthplace of the film was the Soviet Union helped transform the Legion of Decency's condemnation of the movie into a crusade. Walsh, Sin, pp. 251—2.

35 Jack Vizzard, See No Evil: Life Inside a Hollywood Censor (New York, 1970).

36 On American evangelism and Billy Graham see Donald W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston (eds), The Varieties of American Evangelism (Knoxville, TN, 1991).

37 Variety, 13 April 1955; New York Times, 30 August 1958; Biskind, Seeing, p. 116.

38 Doherty, Projections, pp. 100—3; Thomas J. Knock, 'History with Lightning: The Forgotten Film Wilson (1944)', in Peter C. Rollins (ed.), Hollywood as Historian: American Film in a Cultural Context (Lexington, KY, 1983), pp. 88—108.

39 Eldridge, 'Hollywood and History'.

40 Buhle and Wagner, Hide, pp. 113—15. The writers were Michael Wilson and Nedrick Young respectively. Wilson had penned a script for Shane prior to his appearance before HUAC in September 1951; Young worked under a pseudonym.

41 Richard Maltby, 'A Better Sense of History: John Ford and the Indians', in Ian Cameron and Douglas Pye (eds), The Movie Book of the Western (London, 1996), p. 44; Biskind, Seeing,pp. 230—40; John Tuska, The American West in Film (London, 1985), p. 244. The number of big-budget Westerns made in Hollywood rose from 14 titles in 1947 to 46 in 1956, not to mention the hundreds of titles each year in B and lesser categories. Buhle and Wagner, Hide, p. 112.

42 Peter Filene, ' "Cold War Culture" Doesn't Say It All', in Kuznick and Gilbert, Rethinking,pp. 164—6.

43 The directors of these films were, respectively, Cecil B. DeMille, Richard Thorpe, Cecil B. DeMille, Mervyn LeRoy, William Dieterle, Henry Köster and William Wyler. Biblical epics consistently topped the film money-making lists in the 1950s — for example, Samson and Delilah was No. 1 in 1950, Quo Vadis was No. 2 in 1952, The Robe was No. 1 in 1953, and Ben-Hur was No. 1 in 1960. Quo Vadis ($8.25), The Ten Commandments ($13.5) and Ben-Hur ($15 m) each set a new record for the most expensive film ever made. The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and The Robe were, respectively, the second, fourth and seventh highest-grossing films at the North American box office in the 1950s, with grosses of $85.4 m, $73.2 m and $45.2. Peter Cowie (ed.), The Variety Almanac 1999 (Basingstoke, 1999), p. 13.

44 Bruce Babington and Peter Evans, Biblical Epics: Sacred Narratives in the Hollywood Cinema (Manchester, 1993).

45 Maria Wyke, Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema, and History (New York, 1997), pp. 143-4.

46 For general accounts of DeMille's career and political conservatism see Sumiko Higashi, Cecil B. DeMille: A Guide to References and Resources (Boston, MA, 1985), and Charles Higham, CecilB. DeMille (New York, 1973).

47 DeMille's statement 'Envoy To All Peoples', 1955, Cecil B. DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 213, f. 14, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (hereafter TPCBY); DeMille draft speech for Federal Communications Commission hearing, 10 March 1952, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 437, f. 1, TPCBY.

48 Lou Greenspan, Executive Secretary of Motion Picture Industry Council, to Andrew Smith, Jr., Chief, USIA Motion Picture Division, 28 May 1954, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 456, f. 6, TPCBY; Los Angeles Times, 29 December 1953.

49 DeMille correspondence with J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Hood, c. 1941-5, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 115, f. 39, TPCBY; DeMille speeches 4 November 1947 and 15 May 1948, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 1138, f. 8, TPCBY; DeMille Foundation for Political Freedom Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 1, February 1956, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 1136, f. 9, TPCBY; Navasky, Naming, p. 179.

50 Ceplair and Englund, Inquisition, pp. 368-9; Hollywood Citizen-News, 23 February 1953. In 1954, Life is Worth Living was reaching 25 million Americans each week. See Doherty, Cold War, pp. 153-60.

51 DeMille-Jackson correspondence, March-April 1951, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 439, fs. 9 and 15, TPCBY; Lucas, Freedom's War, pp. 67,100-4.

53 DeMille to A. J. Gock, Chairman, Southern California Crusade for Freedom, 30 December 1952, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 439, fs. 9 and 15, TPCBY.

54 Lou Greenspan, Executive Secretary of Motion Picture Industry Council, to Andrew Smith, Jr., Chief, USIA Motion Picture Division, 28 May 1954, and Greenspan circular, 30 April 1954, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 456, f. 6, TPCBY; Variety, 23 April 1953.

55 Jackson to the publishing magnate Henry Luce, cited in Saunders, Who Paid the Piper?, p. 288.

56 DeMille's speech notes for meeting of MPA Executive Committee, 3 June 1953, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 1146, fs. 4-5, TPCBY.

57 Circular by Art Arthur, Executive Secretary of Motion Picture Industry Council, 12 March 1954, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 456, f. 6, TPCBY. When DeMille died in 1959 at the age of 78, he received this tribute from the USIA's Director, George V. Allen: 'The contribution of Mr. DeMille, not only to the art of motion picture production but to the preservation of those ideals of freedom and justice for which our government stands, will always be remembered. His close cooperation with the USIA and his wisdom, advice and counsel have been invaluable to us all'. 'Condolences for Mr. DeMille', undated, DeMille Clippings file, AMPAS.

58 Cecil B. DeMille, The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille, ed. Donald Hayne (London, 1960), pp. 376-9.

59 DeMille, Autobiography, p. 385; DeMille address, November 1956, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 708, f. 16, TPCBY; Hollywood Reporter, 20 May 1953.

60 DeMille, Autobiography, p. 169; 'The Ten Commandments Press Release', 1956, DeMille Clippings file, AMPAS.

61 DeMille address, November 1956, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 708, f. 16, TPCBY; Henry S. Noerdlinger, Moses and Egypt: The Documentation to the Motion Picture The Ten Commandments (Los Angeles, CA, 1956).

62 Time, 12 November 1956, p. 63; 'The Ten Commandments Press Release', 1956, Cecil B. DeMille Clippings file, AMPAS.

63 Higham, Cecil B. DeMille, pp. 307-8; DeMille, Autobiography, pp. 386-7; Motion Picture Herald, 24 October 1953; Jon B. Alterman, Egypt and American Foreign Assistance 1952—1956: Hopes Dashed (Basingstoke, 2002).

64 Time, 12 November 1956, p. 63. An actual atom bomb rumble recorded during a recent test was used as a sound effect in the Red Sea sequence, according to Paramount's report to the American Motion Picture Academy and Sciences. See American Film Institute Catalogue entry for The Ten Commandments (1956): 8222967_ (26 January 2006).

65 Soon after The Ten Commandments was released, in late 1956, Brynner could also be seen playing a Russian general grooming a destitute girl to pose as heir to the Romanov throne, in Twentieth Century-Fox's Anastasia.

66 New York Times, 25 March 1984; Charlton Heston, In the Arena: An Autobiography (New York, 1995), pp. 133-4. Heston later claimed he was given the part because DeMille thought he resembled Michelangelo's renowned statue of Moses in the Church of St Peter in Rome. Such was Heston's association with Moses in the public's mind after The Ten Commandments that in 1959 he recorded the Five Books of Moses, all in the King James version, for Vanguard Records. Michael Munn, Charlton Heston: A Biography (London, 1986), pp. 61-2; Steven Cohan, Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies (Bloomington, IN, 1997), p. 156.

67 DeMille notes, 16 March 1949, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 431, f. 8, TPCBY.

68 'Report on the Production of The Ten Commandments, The Ten Commandments Clippings file, AMPAS.

69 Motion Picture Herald, 6 October 1956, pp. 18-20.

70 Alan Nadel, Containment Culture: American Narratives, Postmodernism, and the Atomic Age (London, 1995), pp. 90-116; Caute, Dancer, pp. 177-81.

71 On the ideological significance of Heston's and Brynner's different forms of masculinity in the movie see Cohan, Masked Men, pp. 150-9.

72 Sight and Sound, Vol. 27, No. 3, Winter 1957-8, pp. 57-8; Sumiko Higashi, Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture (Berkeley, CA, 1994), p. 202.

73 Michael Wood, America in the Movies (New York, 1975), p. 187.

74 Hollywood Citizen-News, 22 and 26 October 1956; DeMille, Autobiography, p. 384; Malcolm Boyd, Christ and Celebrity Gods: The Church in Mass Culture (Greenwich, CT, 1958), pp. 60, 67.

75 In collusion with Israel, the British and French governments had incurred the wrath of the US administration by invading Egypt in October-November 1956, in order to regain control of the Suez Canal and in the process hopefully topple Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser. The subsequent Eisenhower Doctrine of January 1957 registered American supremacy in the Middle East. See William Roger Louis and Roger Owen (eds), Suez 1956: The Crisis and its Consequences (Oxford, 1991). American opposition to Israel in November 1956 allowed DeMille to counter allegations that his film was pro-Israeli, anti-Arab propaganda. See DeMille, Autobiography, p. 385.

76 Variety, 10 October 1956; Time, 12 November 1956.

78 Common Sense, Vol. 9, No. 262,15 October 1956.

80 Motion Picture Herald, 4 October 1956; Film Bulletin, 15 October 1956; Los Angeles Times, 1 December 1957. The Ten Commandments won one Oscar, for special effects. Winner of the Oscar for best film of 1956 was Around the World in Eighty Days, a United Artists production directed by Michael Anderson.

81 Boyd, Christ, pp. 52, 66, 70, 72; Motion Picture Herald, 6 October 1956, pp. 18-20; Los Angeles Times, 1 December 1957; Beverly Hills Citizen, 13 August 1957; Hollywood Reporter, 3 September 1958, p. 1; Hollywood Reporter, 9 September 1958, pp. 1, 6; Hollywood Reporter, 10 September 1958, pp. 1, 9.

82 Kornitzer to DeMille, 15 April 1958, DeMille Collection, MSS 1400, Box 496, f. 21, TPCBY.

83 Cobbett Steinberg, Reel Facts (Harmondsworth, 1981), p. 437; Los Angeles Times, 1 December 1957.

84 Hollywood Reporter, 5 April 1957, p. 1; Los Angeles Times, 1 December 1957; Variety, 16 October 1957; DeMille, Autobiography, pp. 399-400.

85 Hollywood Citizen-News, 29 March 1958; Hollywood Reporter, 29 October 1958, pp. 1,6

86 New York Times, 20 December 1959; DeMille, Autobiography, p. 385; Variety , 13 November 1957; Hollywood Reporter, 29 October 1958, pp. 1, 6; Hollywood Reporter, 19 August 1958; Variety, 5 October 1966.

87 Hollywood Reporter, 18 April 1960; Cowie, Variety Almanac 1999, p. 67; Variety, 10 November 1965; Variety, 24 May 1990. The Lady and the Tramp earned $88 million. Using US gross takings adjusted for inflation, in 2005 The Ten Commandments (at $819 million) was rated the fifth biggest movie of all time. Gone With the Wind (1939) came top, at $1.2 billion. Guardian, 6 September 2005, p. 10.

88 For the role religious symbols and beliefs played in ancient Greek warfare see Philip M. Taylor, Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day (Manchester, 1995), pp. 27-34.

89 Robert Jackall (ed.), Propaganda (Basingstoke, 1995), p. 1.

90 See, for instance, William Wyler's Mrs Miniver (1942) in Koppes and Black, Hollywood Goes to War, pp. 222-31.

91 See, for instance, True Lies (James Cameron, 1994), Executive Decision (Stuart Baird, 1996), The Siege (Edward Zwick, 1998) and Rules of Engagement (William Friedkin, 2000).

92 Columbia marketing material, The Prisoner, BFIL.

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