The Screen Is Red: Hollywood, Communism, and the Cold War
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The Screen Is Red portrays Hollywood’s ambivalence toward the former Soviet Union before, during, and after the Cold War. In the 1930s, communism combated its alter ego, fascism, yet both threatened to undermine the capitalist system, the movie industry’s foundational core value. Hollywood portrayed fascism as the greater threat and communism as an aberration embraced by young idealists unaware of its dark side. In Ninotchka, all a female commissar needs is a trip to Paris to convert her to capitalism and the luxuries it can offer.
The scenario changed when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, making Russia a short-lived ally. The Soviets were quickly glorified in such films as Song of Russia, The North Star, Mission to Moscow, Days of Glory, and Counter-Attack. But once the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, the scenario changed again. America was now swarming with Soviet agents attempting to steal some crucial piece of microfilm. On screen, the atomic detonations in the Southwest produced mutations in ants, locusts, and spiders, and revived long-dead monsters from their watery tombs. The movies did not blame the atom bomb specifically but showed what horrors might result in addition to the iconic mushroom cloud.
Through the lens of Hollywood, a nuclear war might leave a handful of survivors (Five), none (On the Beach, Dr. Strangelove), or cities in ruins (Fail-Safe). Today the threat is no longer the Soviet Union, but international terrorism. Author Bernard F. Dick argues, however, that the Soviet Union has not lost its appeal, as evident from the popular and critically acclaimed television series The Americans. More than eighty years later, the screen is still red.
Edward R. Tompkins, had been part of Manhattan Project, she dashed oﬀ a letter on 25 October 1945, thanking him for helping to bring the war to an end. The letter prompted a reply from Tompkins, which included a suggestion for a movie about “the personalized drama of the men and women who bent to their will the forces of the atom bomb”— in short, a movie about the Manhattan Project that would answer critics like William D. Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staﬀ, who likened the bombing of
character in the ﬁlm, or is even mentioned by name, all their cases clearly inﬂuenced the way McCarey shaped the character of John Jeﬀerson. Consider Alger Hiss, a graduate of Johns Hopkins and Harvard Law School and president of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, who passed classiﬁed information on to the Soviets. His was the familiar story of a brilliant mind derailed by communism’s utopian promises. John Jeﬀerson was also an intellectual seduced by the communist dream of leveling
the faith of his youth. Escaping to freedom with Siu-Lan, the child she bore him, and the two priests, Ho-San shoots his pursuers. Since Ho-San has reconverted, he has no qualms about killing Reds. When the group realizes a helicopter is hovering over them, Bovard jumps into a car and takes oﬀ with the helicopter in pursuit, ﬁring away and sending the car over a cliﬀ. Unlike Dr. Cartwright’s suicide in Seven Women, Father Bovard’s death illustrates the principle of double eﬀect. Even though death
(CIA). Real names were not used in the ﬁlm. Martha Dodd and Alfred Stern became Helen and Adrian Benson. Unlike Martha, whom even the Soviets knew was promiscuous, Helen has only one lover. In 1960, moviegoers still thought of Ernest Borgnine (it is diﬃcult to think of the actor as Boris Mitrov) as Marty Piletti, the title character of his signature ﬁlm, Marty (1955). But Borgnine’s character is no longer phoning a girl for a date or wondering how to spend a Saturday night; he is learning to ﬁre
was accompany a runaway heiress from Miami to New York. Here, in addition to romancing Golubka (Lamarr), a communist “motor man” working under the name of Theodore because only males can operate streetcars, Thompson must also bring her and her father, Vanya (Felix Bressart), to America. Thompson commandeers a tank that the versatile Golubka can drive—and which, for plot-resolving reasons, can he, too. The tank sequence is the ﬁlm’s highlight. Thompson’s tank had been chosen to spearhead a