Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mission to Moscow: A Very Short History of PropArt

Barack Obama's intimate relations and conference calls with aspiring artists at National Endowment for the Arts may come as a shock to purists, it is anything but a novelty!

New York Post: "To Russia with love", by Lou Lumenick

The lost film that shows how Hollywood — and Washington — embraced the Soviets

On Christmas Eve, 1942, screenwriter Howard Koch was packing for a trip to New York when he received an urgent summons to meet with his bosses, Warner Bros. founders Harry and Jack Warner.

After thanking Koch for his contributions to “Casablanca,” which had opened a month earlier, the moguls ordered a reluctant Koch, as his patriotic duty, to whip out a script for an unusual pro-Soviet propaganda epic to be directed by “Casablanca” helmer Michael Curtiz.

Mission to Moscow,” which arrives on DVD Tuesday (at warnerarchive.com) after decades in obscurity, turned out to be Warner Bros.’ most notorious production, an eye-catching jaw-dropper labeled by a critic as a “$2 million love letter” to dictator Joseph Stalin, now best remembered as the No. 2 mass murderer of the 20th century.

Most remarkably, the film Jack Warner would call the only one he ever regretted making — after a grilling before the House Un-American Activities Committee that sent Koch into blacklisted exile — was personally commissioned by the President of the United States, who asked Warner Bros. to make it as part of Hollywood’s efforts to whip Americans into a patriotic frenzy during World War II.

President Roosevelt himself asked Harry and Jack Warner to assist in educating, entertaining and enlightening the American people,” says Harry’s granddaughter, film historian Cass Warner. “Little was known about the Soviet Union, who were our allies at the time, [but] this never came to the forefront even when the film was used as evidence of the Bros. making subversive films during the McCarthy Era.” (...) >>>

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