During January, Turner Classic Movies, presented Shadows of Russia, a look at Russia and the Soviet Union as seen through Hollywood’s lens. This fascinating series was conceived and programmed by film blogger Self-Styled Siren and the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick.
Siren explains how it happened here.
Mission to Moscow (1943), based on the memoir of the same name by Joseph P. Davies, is, well, jaw dropping. Not because it’s so bad, which it is. But because it’s a piece of slick Stalinist propaganda produced by Warner Brothers.
How did this wretched film come into existence?
With the Soviet Union abandoning the Soviet-Nazi pact, and joining America and the allies against Germany and Japan, Roosevelt understood that the American people needed to be, um, reeducated in their attitude towards the Soviet menace. Thus, Roosevelt asked Hollywood to cooperate and produce films that cleared up all the alleged misunderstandings about totalitarian Soviet Communism and mass murdering Josef Stalin.
Or that’s the standard story. In Red Star Over Hollywood, Ronald and Allis Radosh report that:
In a newspaper interview, Davies said that it was he who had approached Harry Warner about the book, after other film companies had shown interest. If it was to be a movie, he told Warner, “I want you to make it.” Warner agreed, and Davies was paid $25,000.
Whatever the truth of the film’s genesis, using Davies 1941 memoir, Hollywood went to work.
A credulous dupe, Davies, Roosevelt’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, was, like New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, a reliable apologist for Communism and Stalin’s murderous policies. Davies was, as Lenin famously labeled Western liberals, “a useful idiot.”
Most shocking in Davies memoir is the treatment of the Moscow show trials that took place between 1936 and 1938. In a major purge, Stalin accused the old Bolshevik leaders of plotting with Nazi Germany to overthrow the Soviet regime. The defendants were primarily old buddies of Lenin who had been celebrated as the first heroes of the Soviet Revolution. They were now accused of working with Trotsky to sabotage industry, assassinate Stalin, and bring down the Soviet regime.
The charges were absurd and most of the defendants were executed. Their confessions are lovingly rendered in a courtroom scene that paints the Soviets as scrupulous jurists. In fact, the hapless defendants were drugged, horribly tortured and told that their families would be murdered unless they confessed.
To read the complete article, head on over to Big Hollywood.