The CIA and Hollywood films


This video from the USA is called Secrets of the CIA.

From British daily The Guardian:

An offer they couldn’t refuse

The CIA is often credited with ‘advice’ on Hollywood films, but no one is truly sure about the extent of its shadowy involvement. Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham investigate

Friday November 14 2008

Everyone who watches films knows about Hollywood’s fascination with spies. From Hitchcock’s postwar espionage thrillers, through cold war tales such as Torn Curtain, into the paranoid 1970s when the CIA came to be seen as an agency out of control in films such as Three Days of the Condor, and right to the present, with the Bourne trilogy and Ridley Scott’s forthcoming Body of Lies, film-makers have always wanted to get in bed with spies. What’s less widely known is how much the spies have wanted to get in bed with the film-makers. In fact, the story of the CIA’s involvement in Hollywood is a tale of deception and subversion that would seem improbable if it were put on screen.

The model for this is the defence department’s “open” but barely publicised relationship with Hollywood. The Pentagon, for decades, has offered film-makers advice, manpower and even hardware – including aircraft carriers and state-of-the-art helicopters. All it asks for in exchange is that the US armed forces are made to look good. So in a previous Scott film, Black Hawk Down, a character based on a real-life soldier who had also been a child rapist lost that part of his backstory when he came to the screen.

No matter how seemingly craven Hollywood’s behaviour towards the US armed forces has seemed, it has at least happened within the public domain. That cannot be said for the CIA’s dealings with the movie business. Not until 1996 did the CIA announce, with little fanfare, that it had established an Entertainment Liaison Office, which would collaborate in a strictly advisory capacity with film-makers. Heading up the office was Chase Brandon, who had served for 25 years in the agency’s elite clandestine services division, as an undercover operations officer. A PR man he isn’t, though he does have Hollywood connections: he’s a cousin of Tommy Lee Jones.

But the past 12 years of semi-acknowledged collaboration were preceded by decades in which the CIA maintained a deep-rooted but invisible influence of Hollywood. How could it be otherwise? As the former CIA man Bob Baer – whose books on his time with the agency were the basis for Syriana – told us: “All these people that run studios – they go to Washington, they hang around with senators, they hang around with CIA directors, and everybody’s on board.”

There is documentary evidence for his claims. Luigi Luraschi was the head of foreign and domestic censorship for Paramount in the early 1950s. And, it was recently discovered, he was also working for the CIA, sending in reports about how film censorship was being employed to boost the image of the US in movies that would be seen abroad. Luraschi’s reports also revealed that he had persuaded several film-makers to plant “negroes” who were “well-dressed” in their movies, to counter Soviet propaganda about poor race relations in the States. The Soviet version was rather nearer the truth.

Luraschi’s activities were merely the tip of the iceberg. Graham Greene, for example, disowned the 1958 adapatation of his Vietnam-set novel The Quiet American, describing it as a “propaganda film for America”. In the title role, Audie Murphy played not Greene’s dangerously ambiguous figure – whose belief in the justice of American foreign policy allows him to ignore the appalling consequences of his actions – but a simple hero. The cynical British journalist, played by Michael Redgrave, is instead the man whose moral compass has gone awry. Greene’s American had been based in part on the legendary CIA operative in Vietnam, Colonel Edward Lansdale. How apt, then, that it should have been Lansdale who persuaded director Joseph Mankewiecz to change the script to suit his own ends.

The CIA didn’t just offer guidance to film-makers, however. It even offered money. In 1950, the agency bought the rights to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and then funded the 1954 British animated version of the film. Its involvement had long been rumoured, but only in the past decade have those rumours been substantiated, and the tale of the CIA’s role told in Daniel Leab’s book Orwell Subverted.

How FBI sought to block Deep Throat the movie: here.

Disney trademarks name of Navy unit that killed bin Laden: here.

Forgetting the Past, One Military Movie at a Time. David Sirota, Truthout: “Since 1986’s ‘Top Gun’ rekindled the Pentagon-Hollywood relationship from its post-Vietnam doldrums, the collusion between the military and the entertainment industry has become a blockbuster con, generating huge benefits for both participants – and swindling the American public in the process. The scheme is simple: The Pentagon allows studios to use military hardware and bases at a discounted, taxpayer-subsidized rate. In exchange, filmmakers must submit their scripts to the Pentagon for line edits”: here.

French director Marin Karmitz: here.

The Redgrave acting dynasty: here.

Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies: here.

7 thoughts on “The CIA and Hollywood films

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  5. Thursday 23rd March 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    George Orwell was a bare-faced plagiarist who stole his ideas from the artist and activist Gertrude Elias, says JEFF SAWTELL

    GEORGE ORWELL was ever the misanthrope, his opinions being coloured by his extreme antipathy towards communism, encapsulated in his novella Animal Farm.

    In this, along with 1984, he paints a painful picture of totalitarian state repression, psychological torture and asserts that everybody sells out when faced with their ultimate fear.

    Both books provided the ideological backbone central to our school curriculum — extinguishing the fury against fascism and putting a damper on “socialism,” calling the Labour Party “Bolsheviks.”

    However, Orwell, who never let facts get in the way of his fictions, was a barefaced plagiarist, having stolen the concept of Animal Farm from communist graphic artist Gertrude “Gertie” Elias.

    Having arrived in London from Vienna to work, just before Hitler declared the Anschluss in 1938, Gertie sent a series of anti-fascist cartoons to the Ministry of Information (MOI) in 1941, only to have them rejected.

    So you can imagine her shock, when Orwell — then working at the MOI and the BBC — published Animal Farm in the last week of the war in 1945 — coincidentally, with the US dropping two atom bombs on Japan.

    Thanks to Artery publishing Brian Davies’s devastating critique of 1984, Gertie invited me to view her latest work in her Hampstead house in 1976.

    In her mid-50s with a heavy Austrian accent, she had piercing eyes, and would prove tenacious as she tasked all those in the business to provide a platform for her art, not least, the “Orwell story.”

    She was, in every sense, in the vanguard, being spotted by the communist Dr Hugh Faulkner in 1972. He included her work in Medical World.

    She showed Orwell’s biographer Bernard Crick the drawings in 1976, after he made an appeal to people to help solve “the missing link” and couldn’t believe him missing out on the image of nazi pigs.

    She wrote to me in 1982 regarding a possible review of Another Picture in Nottingham in the Morning Star emphasising that “nobody read the story, because exhibitions are visited for the pictures.”

    Still, I remember the frisson, peeling back tissue paper to reveal eight water colours featuring a fascist farm, with beer-swilling swine listening to their leader, wolves as stormtroopers and operating the black market.

    She pictured Penguins playing the Stock Exchange, an Elephant being expelled as a “teacher of an alien race” and the militarisation of “industrial call-up.”

    The finale pictures bovines behind a barricade firing arrows like Agincourt at the advancing boars, a sight we would welcome in reality after the victory of Stalingrad before liberating Berlin.

    They were modest in comparison with her other work, basically simple story-boards, sketching an idea, they still shared a similarity to the animated film of the book in 1952.

    It wasn’t so much the drawings hitting home, more a feeling of schadenfreude having maintained for decades that Orwell was never down and out in London or Paris, had fucked up in Barcelona and bowed out informing on his communist chums.

    These drawings are picture-proof he’d ripped off our Gertie with impunity.

    Orwell’s publisher and friend Frederic Warburg feigned surprise describing the “enigma of Orwell’s transformation from a writer of rough prose into a poet of lighthearted fantasy.”

    She said they were rejected and returned via the BBC with that “hated refusal slip” and threw it away and forgot all about them after the Soviet Union was attacked in June and concentrated on war work.

    It was particularly galling, because Orwell worked for the MoI and the BBC from 1940, ostensibly aiding the anti-fascist psychological war, only to spend his time writing anti-communist propaganda from 1942 while the Soviet Union was being pulverised until Stalingrad turned the tide and liberated Berlin in 1945.

    Gertie was outraged, along with most who believed the Red Army deserved some respect, having played the principal role in what Churchill described as “ripping the guts out of the nazi war machine.”

    As she stressed in her autobiography, it was a time when the cold war strategy was put into motion, and those like Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Warburg belonged to a right-wing cognoscenti called the War Aims Group from 1940.

    The “enigma” was — why after having been turned down by Victor Gollancz, Jonathan Cape and Faber and Faber — who were “shocked, at the suggestion that they publish an anti-soviet slur” — did Warburg bother to ask around, when he could have published them anytime?

    Clearly, Gertie couldn’t prove Orwell had perused the picture, although he was required to look at such incoming traffic to illustrate stories.

    Unlike Orwell, Gertie’s background had prepared her for the best and the worst.

    Born in Vienna on November 5 1913, Gertie would experience the horrors of war and the decade following a democratic socialist “red Vienna” before Hitler’s Anschluss in 1938 forced a move to London.

    Graduating from art school, where she met her husband, she was acutely aware that art wasn’t going to pay the bills, so trained in the clothing industry, where she would witness exploitation in London’s East End.

    This was her baptism of fire, she had to become adaptable, working on many fronts, conscious that a communist artist had to be a guerilla of the imagination while designing propaganda aids.

    In 1953, she got involved with the Coloured Workers’ Welfare Association and set up the African Forum and various solidarity organisations before graduating to the Movement for Colonial Freedom in 1955, now called Liberation.

    She was involved with the heroes of our class, most importantly, Claudia Jones of the West Indian world who would inspire the Notting Hill Carnival, along with that traitor to his own class Tony Benn.

    She was to meet and befriend Mahdi Ben Barka and Malcolm X before they were murdered and did sterling work with Edith Summerskill during the Suez fiasco.

    In 1960 she began reporting from Algeria, exhibiting her photographs in Camden and popularising the Iraqi cause at the UN before being drawn into a passion for Palestine and fighting against “oil imperialism.”

    From the Yom Kippur War of ’73, this commitment widened to include Women’s Contribution to Liberation of Humanity and tackling issues of abuse in Child and the World.

    Fittingly Gertie would harness all these abilities contributing to the Morning Star as committed to the culture of resistance and revolution — true to her Bolshevik convictions.

    The Marx Memorial Library has published a pamphlet dedicated to the artist, activist and writer Gertrude Elias and is available here.

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