Tuesday, November 16, 2004

By the 1930's, the Hollywood film industry was booming. There was money to be made both at home and abroad, as a great number of American films were being exported to countries world wide, especially to European countries. While it was a time of great prosperity, the Second World War was also one of the most tumultuous periods in American film history.

Film scripts which involved heavy military presence were sent off to the American armed forces for fact checking, to ensure that uniforms and traditions, among other details, were being correctly represented in the film. However if the film was found to be in the interest of the military, "the services would provide personnel and equipment to assist in staging battle and camp scenes. The savings in production costs could be enormous." (Koppes 113). Both the Film Industry and the armed forces profited from deals like this, and it was not until 1942, with the creation of the Office of War Information, that things began to change.

The Office of War Information, the United States agency in charge of propaganda (1942-1945), worked "to co-ordinate information policy and control the news from the battlefronts for the home front; overseas, to engage in experiments in psychological warfare." (Lexis Nexis Encyclopedia). The Office of War Information's main task on the homefront was to ensure that the American public was accurately informed on the war abroad, and since film had become such an important medium in the spread of information, part of the Office's mandate involved issuing manuals to movie studios telling them how they could be assisting in the war effort. One of the main themes the Office of War Information wanted to see on film was the denouncing of fascism and fascists, whom they defined by saying that the "enemy is many people infected with a poisonous doctrine of hate, of might making right…[who] engaged in wars of aggression, denied their own citizens democratic government, curbed labour organisations, stirred up racial and religious hatreds, and pitted various classes against each other. So as long as fascism continued to exist, the security of all Americans was imperilled."(Koppes 249).

The Office of War Information (O.W.I.) was careful to instruct filmmakers not to depict enemies, particularly the Japanese, in racial terms, writing in another of their manuals: "We are fighting a system not a race." After films such as Little Tokyo, USA (1942), a film in which Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up and sent to internment camps, the O.W.I. began to review scripts from most of the major studios. Their review of the script was often the film's ticket to getting past the Office of Censorship, which issued the export licenses which were necessary for the film to be profitable.

The Office of War Information believed that, left to its own devices, Hollywood would make films which were detrimental to the war effort by injecting racist themes and language into the scripts, making it a war about people rather than one about ideology. However the Office of War Information was found to be either suspicious (by artists and intellectuals) or "too liberal" (by everyone else), and after several large budget cuts, the Office of War Information became defunct in 1945, and the Film Industry and armed forces were once again free to make films such as the ones listed below.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Back to Bataan (1945)
Starring: John Wayne
Director: Edward Dmytryk

Flying Tigers (1942)
Starring: John Wayne
Director: David Miller

Flying Tigers tells the story of brave American bomber pilots sent to attack the Japanese. The purpose of the film was to raise spirits on the homefront during an uncertain time, and to praise the heroic allied forces. Interestingly, the film was made before the United States had declared war on Japan