Between 1947 and 1960, the major Hollywood studios released an approximate total of 300 feature films per year.80 A relatively small number of these movies were explicitly anti-communist or anti-Soviet. A far greater number lent implicit ideological support to the US government's Cold War stance through their inherent endorsement of individualism, consumerism and patriotism.

Even many movies that professed to show the dark underside of affluent American family life — epitomised by James Dean's delinquent Jim in Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause (1955) - effectively underpinned the Cold War consensus by suggesting that acutely personal relations outweighed wider social, political and economic concerns.81 Looked at in the context of these hundreds of movies, the two dozen or so non-conformist films analysed above obviously amount to a weak retort.

Making movies that encouraged audiences to question cherished national values during wartime is not something that Hollywood had (or has) ever found easy. During the early stages of the Cold War, the innate conservatism of the American film industry was reinforced by a unique number of externally and internally imposed pressures of a political and economic nature. Never before had industry personnel and output been politically scrutinised so exhaustively as they were in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The institutional trauma this caused was made worse by the sharp drop in cinema attendance figures during the era, a depressing phenomenon which tended to act as a further disincentive to producers to take political and artistic chances on screen. The result was an overarching culture of censorship and self-censorship in relation to the Cold War on the film trade's part. Any filmmaker who courted Cold War controversy risked being labelled a communist at worse, or naïve at best. One angry trade-press reviewer of Storm Centre, for instance, a movie released two years after Joseph McCarthy's highly publicised fall from grace, wondered whether its director realised how simple it would be for others to turn his film into Soviet propaganda: 'Our Central Intelligence Agency would do well to keep its eye open for the appearance behind the Iron Curtain of prints of this film that are altered, by dubbed dialogue, inaccurate sub-titles or otherwise, so as to make it appear that Americans are now setting their public libraries afire.'82 Such statements of ideological anxiety, tinged with paranoia, substantiate the general picture historians have painted of a nervously fundamentalist American film industry during the early Cold War.

And yet, as we have seen, a small number of filmmakers did not entirely conform to this conventional picture. Driven by a combination of liberal beliefs and a determination to make intellectually aware movies, semi-autonomous producers like Stanley Kramer and Julian Blaustein were able to challenge — albeit in a small way — some of the dominant national views about US nuclear policy and internal political subversion. Crucially, they could do this only as long as they were willing to accede to studio executives' demands for political changes to their scripts, as was the case with The Day the Earth Stood Still. Alternatively, they might claim an individual mandate to promote liberal anti-consensual views by trading on their reputation for politically informed pictures and a successful track record of drawing audiences to films with controversial themes through conventional Hollywood formulae. Had either Blaustein or Kramer not boasted these qualities, and had independent filmmakers not been able to exploit their greater leverage in an industry undergoing institutional change, it is unlikely either Storm Centre or On the Beach would have got the necessary financial backing from any major studio. Most of the time it was safer to voice dissent allegorically, but on a few occasions open defiance could be risked, so long as the filmmaker could claim to be running as much with public opinion as against it. If he could not, yet went ahead with his project anyway, the chances were that work would be entirely marginalised, as the fate of Salt of the Earth shows.

Movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still,, Storm Centre and On the Beach therefore demonstrate the non-monolithic nature of the US state—film network, and prove that even during American Cold War cinema's most conservative phase, the US film industry was never officially straitjacketed in the way that Soviet cinema was. This is not to say, of course, that American filmmakers were as free to comment on the Cold War as most movie-goers presumably believed. Viewers might have known of HUAC's Tinsel-town investigations, but few would have necessarily connected these with what they saw (or did not see) on the big screen at the Saturday night drive-in. To them, Hollywood remained a Dream Factory that produced cheap, escapist entertainment utterly divorced from foreign policy decisions taken two thousand miles away in the nation's capital.


1 Open letter by DeBra, Director of MPAA Community Relations Department, in Columbia Studios publicity material, Storm Centre micro-jacket, BFIL.

3 Peter Roffman and Jim Purdy, The Hollywood Social Problem Film: Madness, Despair, and Politics from the Depression to the Fifties (Bloomington, IN, 1981), pp. 293—4; John H. Lenihan, 'Hollywood Laughs at the Cold War, 1947—1961', in Toplin (ed.), Hollywood as Mirror, pp. 140—3.

4 During this period, the White House briefly raised the possibility of asking Capra to remodel his Oscar-winning Second World War documentary series, Why We Fight, for the Cold War. Nothing came of this, for reasons unknown. White House minute, 20 March 1952, DDRS1990, 555. On Why We Fight see Joseph McBride, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success (New York, 1992), pp. 467—91.

5 Sbardellati and Shaw, 'Booting a Tramp'; Roffman and Purdy, Social Problem Film, p. 293; Edward Dmytryk, It's a Hell of a Life But Not a Bad Living (New York, 1978).

6 Biskind, Seeing, pp. 102—44; Brian Murphy, 'Monster Movies: They Came from Beneath the Fifties', Journal of Popular Film, Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1972, pp. 31—44.

8 Oakes, Imaginary War; Paul Boyer, By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (New York, 1985); David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956 (New Haven, CT, 1994), pp. 237,266; Margaret Gowing, Independence and Deterrence: Britain and Atomic Energy, 1945-1952. Vol. Two: Policy Execution (Basingstoke, 1974), pp. 116-26. The Soviet Union and Britain exploded their first nuclear devices in August 1949 and October 1952 respectively. The United States and the Soviet Union exploded thermonuclear devices in 1952 and 1953 respectively. The first British thermonuclear tests were carried out in 1957, which enabled London to deploy hydrogen bombs in 1961.

9 Erik Barnouw, 'The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Footage: A Report', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 2, No. 1,1982, pp. 91-100.

10 Lawrence S. Wittner, The Struggle Against the Bomb. Vol. One: One World or None: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement through 1953 (Stanford, CA, 1993), pp. 263-74; Lawrence S. Wittner, The Struggle Against the Bomb. Vol. Two: Resisting the Bomb: A History of the WorldNuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954-1970 (Stanford, CA, 1997), pp. 125-59.

11 Saki Dockrill, Eisenhower's New Look National Security Policy, 1953-1961 (Basingstoke, 1996), p. 133; Osgood, 'Total War', pp. 88-121; Spencer R. Weart, Nuclear Fear: A History of Images (Cambridge, MA, 1988).

12 Elizabeth Walker Mechling and Jay Mechling, 'The Atom According to Disney', Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 81, No. 4,1995, pp. 436-53.

13 Guy Oakes, 'The Family Under Nuclear Attack: American Civil Defence Propaganda in the 1950s', in Rawnsley (ed.), Cold War Propaganda, pp. 67-83; JoAnne Brown, '"A is for Atom, B is for Bomb": Civil Defence in American Public Education, 1948-1963', Journal of American History, Vol. 75, No. 1, 1988, pp. 68-90; Suid (ed.), Film and Propaganda, pp. 85-115.

14 Robert J. Lifton and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (New York, 1995), pp. 337-441.

15 Examples include Not of This Earth (Roger Corman, 1956), The Beginning of the End (Bert I. Gordon, 1957), Kronos (Kurt Neumann, 1957) and The Queen from Outer Space (Edward Bernds, 1958). On these and others see Joyce A. Evans, Celluloid Mushroom Clouds: Hollywood and the Atomic Bomb (Boulder, CO, 1998).

16 Buhle and Wagner, Hide, pp. 74-8; Biskind, Seeing, p. 159; David Pirie, Anatomy of the Movies (New York, 1981), pp. 277, 280. In 1953, at the end of the HUAC hearings, Alland had nearly escaped testifying, only to make a career move by giving the committee the names of his former friends and comrades.

17 The Mouse that Roared scrapbooks, items 90-1, Carl Foreman Collection, BFIL.

18 Mick Broderick, Nuclear Movies (Jefferson, NC, 1991), pp. 19-20, 76, 89.

19 Evans, Mushroom Clouds, pp. 21-44.

20 Filmfax,Novemher 1989,pp. 70-9. The Day the Earth StoodStill altered Bates'story somewhat. Whereas Bates' point seemed to be that it was difficult for humans to understand something different from themselves, The Day the Earth Stood Still stressed the need for international and even interplanetary understanding.

21 Obituary of North, Los Angeles Times, 30 August 1990; Laurence H. Suid, Guts and Glory: The Making of the American Military Image in Film (Lexington, KY, 2002), pp. 267—8. Though North intended Patton to carry an anti-war message, this was not necessarily how others interpreted it, including President Richard Nixon. Suid, Guts and Glory, pp. 276-7.

22 Hollywood Citizen-News, 1 May 1951; Blaustein, cited in British National Film Theatre programme, The Day the Earth Stood Still micro-jacket, BFIL.

23 Buhle and Wagner, Hide, p. 77. At the height of the Second Cold War in 1982, Wise tried but failed to make an American-Communist Chinese love story, tentatively titled Our Destiny, in Shanghai in association with the Chinese Film Corporation. Variety, 26 August 1982.

24 'Farewell to the Master', Memorandum on Outline 8/8/50 from Darryl Zanuck to Julian Blaustein, 10 August 1950: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Box 542, Twentieth Century-Fox Script Collection, UCLA Arts Library Special Collections, Los Angeles (hereafter UCLA AL). On the Atomic Scientists' Movement see Wittner, One World or None, pp. 59-66.

25 'Farewell to the Master', Memorandum on Outline 8/8/50 from Darryl Zanuck to Julian Blaustein, 10 August 1950, and 'Farewell to the Master', Conference on First Draft Continuity of 11/28/1950 with Zanuck, Blaustein and North, 6 December 1950: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Box 542, Twentieth Century-Fox Script Collections, UCLA AL.

26 Joseph Breen to Colonel Jason S. Joy, Twentieth Century-Fox Director of Public Relations, 25 January 1951, The Day the Earth Stood Still - PCA Files, AMPAS.

28 By giving Klaatu the name 'Mr Carpenter,' Edmund North was drawing parallels with Christ. This was his 'private little joke', intended to evoke a 'subliminal' response. North, quoted in Biskind, Seeing, p. 152.

29 Variety, 17 October 1978.

30 Some historians have interpreted Klaatu's ultimatum and other aspects of The Day the Earth Stood Still as deeply authoritarian, by strongly implying that experts had the right to keep 'ordinary people' in line. See, for example, Mark Jancovich, Rational Fears: American Horror in the 1950s (Manchester, 1996), pp. 41-3. In my opinion, these readings fail to take the filmmakers' intentions fully into account. However, such interpretations do provide evidence of science-fiction cinema's potential for multiple meanings.

31 Hollywood Reporter, 4 September 1951, p. 3; Variety, 5 September 1951, p. 6; BoxOffice, 8 September 1951; Newsweek, 1 October 1951; tt0043456/business (28 September 2006).

32 Richard A. Schwarz, Cold War Culture: Media and the Arts, 1945-1990 (New York, 1998), p. 138; John Wayne interview, Playboy, May 1971, p. 9; Harry Schein, 'The Olympian Cowboy', American Scholar, Vol. 24, No. 3,1955, pp. 309-20.

34 Lenihan, 'Hollywood Laughs', pp. 144-8; Sbardellati and Shaw, 'Booting a Tramp', pp. 524-30.

35 Thomas Doherty, review of James L. Lorence, The Suppression of Salt of the Earth: How Hollywood, Big Labor, and Politicians Blacklisted a Movie in Cold War America (Albuquerque, NM, 1999), in Labor History, Vol. 4, No. 3, August 2000, pp. 380-2; Walsh, 'Films We Never Saw', pp. 578-80. On Norma Rae see Variety, 28 February 1979, p. 20, and Hollywood Reporter, 14 March 1980, p. 28.

36 Time, 11 February 1957; Variety, 16 January 1957, p. 6.

37 Though several films released in the 1960s — notably John Frankenheimer's Manchurian Candidate (1962) — contained critiques of 1950s American right-wing extremism, it was not until the release of Sydney Pollack's The Way We Were in 1973 and Woody Allen's The Front in 1976 that filmmakers focused specifically on the McCarthy witch-hunts. The latter excoriated the entertainment blacklist. On these movies, and Irwin Winkler's 1991 film Guilty by Suspicion, see Booker, American Left, pp. 258—60 and Jeanne Hall, 'The Benefits of Hindsight: Re-visions of HUAC and the Film and Television Industries in The Front and Guilty by Suspicion, Film Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 2, 2001, pp. 15—26.

38 Daniel Taradash Papers, Boxes 3, 24, 33 and 81, AHCW. For more on the Brown case see Louise S. Robbins, The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library (Norman, OK, 2000).

39 Variety, 19 September 1952; Taradash Papers, Box 81, AHCW; Variety, 21 November 1952; New York Times, 14 October 1956.

40 New York Times, 14 October 1956; Pat McGilligan (ed.), Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s (Oxford, 1981), pp. 322—4. From Here to Eternity was directed by Fred Zinnemann.

41 Charles Higham, Bette: A Biography of Bette Davis (London, 1981), p. 194; Taradash Papers, Boxes 24 and 33, AHCW; Columbia publicity material, Storm Centre micro-jacket, BFIL.

42 Variety, 11 July 1956; America, 4 August 1956; Taradash Papers, Box 33, AHCW; Nation, 27 October 1956.

43 Variety, 6 July 1955; Film Culture, Vol. 2, No. 3,1956, p. 25.

44 For critical reviews of Storm Centre see, for example, New York Times, 22 October 1956, p. 25; Catholic World, October 1956, pp. 64—5; Commonweal, 10 August 1956, pp. 466—7. For a closer analysis of the relationship that Storm Centre bore to the Ruth Brown case see Robbins, Ruth Brown, pp. 150—3.

45 Physicist Robert Oppenheimer, Supervising Scientist on the Manhattan Project, quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita, upon seeing the first atomic test in July 1945. On Oppenheimer's isolation from government weapons research following the Second World War, and his being charged in 1953 with communist sympathies by the US Atomic Energy Commission, see Alice Kimball Smith and Charles Weiner (eds), Robert J. Oppenheimer: Letters and Recollections (Stanford, CA, 1995).

46 On the Soviet—American cultural exchange agreement of 1958, which incorporated film, see Hixson, Curtain, pp. 153—4, and Variety, 10 September, 22 October, 29 October and 19 November 1958. On the offence Khrushchev took to being pictured surrounded by the scantily clad dancers of the cast of Twentieth Century-Fox's Can Can (1960), see Hixson, Curtain, p. 216.

47 John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (Oxford, 1997), p. 230.

48 Ibid., pp. 225—6; Kenneth D. Rose, One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture (New York, 2001), p. 31; Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, pp. 52, 58.

49 A small number of post-apocalyptic films had already been made, starting with what historian Spencer Weart calls 'the first serious film on the aftermath of nuclear war', Arch Obeler's Five, in 1951. However, Five, Roger Corman's The Day the World Ended (1955) and Ranald MacDougall's The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) had focused utterly unrealistically on the trials of small groups of survivors (each, according to Weart, looking like 'a new Adam and Eve with backpacks'), and had made no attempt to confront the true horror of World War Three and its aftermath. The scenario presented in such films, writes Joyce A. Evans, was one in which 'nuclear war is like a cloth that wipes away the accumulated ravages of history and allows a clean, fresh world to be reborn'. Weart, Nuclear Fear, p. 221, 238; Evans, Mushroom Clouds, p. 137.

50 New Yorker, 7 February 1953: Variety, 30 March 1955; New York Times, 23 November 1957, p. 11.

51 Nation, 2 January 1960, p. 20; Commentary, June 1960, pp. 522—3; Joseph Keyerleber, On the Beach', in Jack Shaheen (ed.), Nuclear War Films (Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL, 1978), p. 31; Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, p. 260.

52 Hollywood Reporter, 4 August 1958. Kramer's earlier and subsequent films tackled subjects such as ethnic bias in the military (Home of the Brave, 1949), paraplegic soldiers (The Men, 1950), racism (The Defiant Ones, 1958), evolution (Inherit the Wind, 1960) and Nazi genocide (Judgement at Nuremberg, 1961). For Kramer's career see Daniel Spoto, Stanley Kramer (New York, 1987).

53 Michael Conant, 'The Impact of the Paramount Decrees', in Tino Balio (ed.), The American Film Industry (Madison, WI, 1976), pp. 346—70. The blacklist was publicly broken in 1960, when director Otto Preminger announced that one of the Hollywood Ten, Dalton Trumbo, had scripted one of his movies, Exodus (1960), as well as Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960). Preminger's announcement made the New York Times front page, and President-elect John Kennedy and his brother Robert crossed an American Legion picket line to view Spartacus. Buhle and Wagner, Hide, pp. 172-6.

54 New York Times Magazine, 12 November 1959; Los Angeles Times, 9 September 1959.

55 Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, pp. 58-9.

56 New Republic, 13 May 1967. In 2000, the Showtime cable network and an Australian company, Coote Hayes Productions, co-produced a three-part television minis-eries of On the Beach, directed by Russell Mulcahy. Unlike the feature film, the television series emphasised the graphic nature of the panic, destruction and death caused by atomic radiation. (26 January 2006).

57 Jack Vizzard to Geoffrey Shurlock, 28 October 1959, On the Beach - PCA Files, AMPAS; Msgr. Thomas F. Little to File, 23 September 1959, Kramer to George Schaefer, 1 October 1959, Little to Cardinal McIntyre, 4 November 1959: On the

Beach File, National Legion of Decency Files, The Chancery of Washington, DC (hereafter LODCW).

58 Time, 29 December 1959, p. 44. One early screenplay written by John Paxton (dated 28 May 1958) concluded in an unambiguously bleak fashion, with no Salvation Army banner. A later script (dated 8 December 1958), written by Paxton and James Lee Barrett, did end with the banner. Paxton later claimed the banner was Kramer's idea. See Box 1, John Paxton Collection, and Box 48, f. 404, Gregory Peck Collection, AMPAS, and Paxton's article in the Dallas Times Herald, 17 January 1960, pp. 3,14. Looking back in the mid-1980s, Kramer wondered if in fact the closing statement had 'offered enough hope'. Stanley Kramer, 'On the Beach: A Renewed Interest', in Danny Peary (ed.), Moni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies (New York, 1984), p. 118.

60 Kramer, quoted in Spoto, Stanley Kramer, p. 211; Suid, Guts and Glory, p. 227. Chapter 7 below explores the Hollywood-Pentagon relationship during the Cold War in detail.

62 G. Tom Poe, 'Historical Spectatorship Around and About Stanley Kramer's On the Beach', in Melvyn Stokes and Richard Maltby (eds), Hollywood Spectatorship: Changing Perceptions of Cinema Audiences (London, 2001), pp. 95-6.

64 Letter from FBI to Msgr. Thomas Little, 1 November 1959, LODCW; Cardinal McIntyre to Bishop McNulty, 19 January 1960, Chancery Archives of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, San Fernando Mission, Mission Hills, California; Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, p. 361.

65 'Cabinet Meeting', 11 December 1959, Ann Whitman File, Cabinet Series, Box 15, DDEL.

66 Cabinet Paper CI-56-64, 7 December 1959, Cabinet Meeting (handwritten notes), 11 December 1959, and 'INFOGUIDE 60-24', 4 December 1959, White House Office, Office of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs - Records, 1952-61, Box 5, NuclearEnergyMatters (8), September 1959-March 1960: DDEL; Los Angeles Mirror News, 24 December 1959; Poe, 'Spectatorship', pp. 97-8,100.

67 Hollywood Reporter, 2 December 1959, p. 3; On the Beach advertising file, John Paxton Collection, AMPAS.

68 Variety, 10 October and 21 December 1959.

69 New York Times, 22 December 1959.

70 Bosley Crowther, 'Hollywood's Producer of Controversy', New York Times Magazine, 10 December 1961, p. 76; New York Herald Tribune, 20 December 1959; Poe, 'Spectatorship', pp. 98-9.

71 Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company that Changed the Film Industry (Madison, WI, 1987), p. 144; Poe, 'Spectatorship', pp. 91, 99.

73 Lynne Littman's Testament (1983) was jointly produced by Entertainment Events, American Playhouse and Paramount, and co-written by Carol Amen and John

Sacret Young. The 90-minute drama depicted the effects of a nuclear attack on the United States, as told through the eyes of a family in suburban California. Its social and political impact was adversely affected by the media blitz surrounding the 1983 ABC television special The Day After, which set a record for the number of viewers watching a single TV show. The Day After was directed by Nicholas Meyer and depicted the effects of a nuclear holocaust in Kansas City. Film News, April 1984; Cinefantastique, May 1984; Broderick, Nuclear Movies, pp. 155,159,195; Richard Kilborn, Multi-Media Melting Pot: Marketing 'When The Wind Blows' (London, 1986), pp. 95-7.

74 Poe,'Spectatorship', pp. 100-2.

75 Charles Maland, 'Dr. Strangelove (1964): Nightmare Comedy and the Ideology of Liberal Consensus', in Lori Lyn Bogle (ed.), The Cold War. Vol. 5: Cold War Culture and Society (New York, 2001), pp. 215-16; Life, 15 September 1961, pp. 95-108.

76 Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, p. 207; John Minnion and Philip Bolsover, The CND Story (London, 1983), p. 28; Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Archives, 5/17, 'Hiroshima Day', 1960, Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, UK.

77 Dr Strangelove can lay claim to being the most influential nuclear film of all during the Cold War. Shooting the film at Shepperton Studios outside London in 1962-3 allowed Kubrick to avoid much of the interference he might have faced in the United States from Columbia, the movie's financiers, and from the US Air Force, which regularly exerted pressures on filmmakers interested in depicting its activities during this period. 'Strangelovian' soon became a widely used short-hand term for the dangers inherent in nuclear deterrence, and for the threat posed to American democracy by the military. On the making of Dr Strangelove and its legacy see John Baxter, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (London, 1997), pp. 165-98; Lawrence Suid, 'The Pentagon and Hollywood: Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb', in O'Connor and Jackson (eds), American History/American Film, pp. 219-35; Maland, 'Dr. Strangelove'; Gaddis, We Now Know, pp. 231, 258.

78 Unlike Dr Strangelove, The War Gamis action did not stop when the bomb exploded. The hour-long film blended fact and fiction in a startlingly graphic fashion, in order to depict the effects of a nuclear attack on England. Made for but banned by the BBC from television screens worldwide for twenty years, ostensibly on the grounds that it was too 'horrifying', Watkins' film soon attracted a cult following via screenings in art-house cinemas, church halls and universities across the Western world. Today, many commentators see it as the most frighteningly realistic depiction of nuclear war ever made for the big or small screen. See Tony Shaw, 'The BBC, the State and Cold War Culture: The Case of Television's The War Game (1965)', English Historical Review, Vol. 121, No. 494, December 2006, pp. 1351-84.

79 Kramer, 'On the Beach: A Renewed Interest', pp. 118-19.

80 Freeman Lincoln, 'The Comeback of the Movies', in Balio, Industry, p. 377.

81 Roffman and Purdy, Social Problem Film, p. 297; Biskind, Seeing, pp. 168-96.

82 Films in Review, October 1956, p. 417.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment