Coca-Colonization and the Cold War: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria after the Second World War

By Reinhold Wagnleitner; Diana M. Wolf | Go to book overview

8
The Influence of Hollywood

I meet people occasionally who think that motion pictures, the product that Hollywood makes, is merely entertainment, has nothing to do with education. That's one of the darndest fool fallacies that is current. When I was a motion picture editor on the Chicago Daily News we used to report what was a four-handkerchief picture as distinguished from the two-handkerchief picture. Anything that brings you to tears by way of drama does something to the deepest roots of your personality. All movies good or bad are educational and Hollywood is the foremost educational institute on earth, an audience that runs into an estimated 800 million to a billion. What, Hollywood's more important than Harvard? The answer is, not as clean as Harvard, but nevertheless, farther reaching.

-- Carl Sandburg, as quoted by Edward R. Murrow in a speech for the leading managers of the U.S. film industry on November 5, 1961

By our asinine emphasis on the material goodies we have seemed, by implication, to deny the existence of anything else in American life worth bragging about. Even during the most desperate days of the war we got our message of hope so tangled up with refrigerators and cars that, as one Office of War Information worker put it, we could have billed it as "The War That Refreshes." The commercial projection of America has gone a step further; while our information people spend millions trying to demonstrate that we are really cultural after all, the biggest information agency in the world, Hollywood, has been exporting films that seem to demonstrate the opposite--so persuasively, it might be noted, that in Austria the Russians have been saving their breath by letting several of our gangster films quietly circulate in their occupation zone.

-- Fortune, February 1951

This conception sees the popular artist as an enforcer of conformity, and reveals the views of art taken by the Hollywood mass producer and by the rigid communist not as things opposed, as both would like to believe them to be, but as essentially the same. They both have gone to the same lengths through their belief that thought is dangerous. The Hollywood producer measures the danger solely in terms of money, since any deviation from the approved and expected formula may mean the loss of a million at the box office. Both are committed to official versions of life, and must, therefore, be resisted at every point by anyone concerned with breaking through the official to the real.

-- F. O. Matthiessen, From the Heart of Europe ( 1948)

-222-

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