It came as a surprise to many that, as reported in the Times two weeks ago, the CIA had secretly produced (with Mr. and Mrs. Joseph America’s tax dollars) the homogenized 1955 animated version of Orwell’s Animal Farm, weeding out any criticism of humans/capitalists. But here at the Voice it’s long been common knowledge (see Paul Hartwell’s exposé “It’s a Fed, Fed, Fed, Fed World,” September 14, 1972)—in fact, it’s the proverbial iceberg tip. The Voice recently obtained classified documents (copied before they were shredded by a disgruntled ex-federal employee) which make clear that government agencies have been acting as covert Darryl Zanucks ever since the Roosevelt years, when federal funding and tax breaks for propaganda production were common. (Warner Bros. made the notoriously pro-Stalinist Mission to Moscow in 1943 and then went on to kiss FDR-tush with Sunrise at Campobello—coincidence or logrolling?) Indeed, the CIA continued to have a full production slate into the postwar years. The 1956 British version of Orwell’s 1984 was given a hopeful, romantic edge in a few London story meetings with E. Howard Hunt himself, while spook concern that 1957’s The Sun Also Rises might cause emasculated ex-servicemen undue stress inspired them to give it an upbeat hard-on. In an effort to quell mounting racial tensions, the agency paid Stanley Kramer to shoot The Defiant Ones in a D.C. swamp just a few miles from the Capitol (a Marshall’s stands there today), as well as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? in a house owned by Johnson’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk. In fact, Rusk has a cameo as the cabdriver.
Other agencies soon got into the game. You’d think the Pentagon would have produced The Green Berets, but it was actually the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (the film is a dismaying vision of the three working in unison). The Defense Department did produce The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, for obvious reasons, as well as managing the entire career of Yakov Smirnov. The Department of Agriculture thought a film version of The Day of the Triffids might give impressionable audiences more respect for crop life, and they’ve been wrong about a number of things since. The National Security Council made a single foray into movie production, 1958’s I Married a Monster From Outer Space; why is still a mystery. The Department of the Interior has been very busy; that’s where the scripts for North by Northwest, Thelma & Louise, and nearly every other film prominently displaying a massive American tourist attraction were developed. If you wondered why the Jessica Savitch character in Up Close & Personal didn’t die, ask the FCC flacks who secretly coerced the screenwriters into a whitewash. Of course, all the Tom Clancy movies are merely State Department publicity maneuvers. There’s even a lengthening paper trail suggesting that the FDA, in its infinite wisdom, has produced Oliver Stone’s last six movies, as a campaign against recreational drug abuse. Time to write your congressman.