Savvy political manipulators as far back as Woodrow Wilson and V. I. Lenin recognized the pivotal role of motion pictures as a strategic weapon of the State’s predatory policies of war, aggrandizement and exploitation.
Soon after the commencement of the American intervention in the Great War, Hollywood was enlisted in the martial endeavor of shaping and molding misperceptions and disinformation in Wilson’s bloody crusade.
The cinematic struggle for the malleable minds of the masses continued throughout the post-war intermediate years up to the global conflict of the Second World War. Classic movies such as Strike, October, Battleship Potemkin, J’Accuse, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, Metropolis, The Public Enemy, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Modern Times, Things To Come, Triumph of the Will, Alexander Nevsky, The Eternal Jew, Young Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, and countless others acted as ideological change agents of the new medium.
Once again during World War II, Hollywood put forth its propagandistic best with such films as The Great Dictator, Sergeant York, Casablanca, Hangmen Also Die, Keeper of the Flame, The Pride of the Marines, Action in the North Atlantic, Sahara, Passage to Marseille, Watch on the Rhine, Mrs. Miniver,To Be or Not To Be, Lifeboat, The Master Race, Commandos Strike at Dawn, Hitler’s Children, The Mortal Storm, The Seventh Cross, Tomorrow, the World, Dragon Seed, Flying Tigers, Blood on the Sun, The Fighting Seabees, The Purple Heart, Destination Tokyo, The Fighting Sullivans, Back to Bataan, The Sands of Iwo Jima, This Is The Army, The North Star, Song of Russia, Mission to Moscow, Moscow Strikes Back, Counter-Attack, and Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series.
After WWII, during the crucial year of 1947 when the National Security State was born, a Congressional investigating committee began its intrusive inquisition of Hollywood Communists and fellow-travelers after widespread internecine disruption and Red-led strikes on the back lots and sound stages of the major studios.
The divisiveness and division of those years has never ceased, as outlined by LRC contributing author David Martin in this perceptive article, “Elia Kazan, American Hero.” The Hollywood wars, both internal and external, continue to shape our national consciousness.