Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies
September 1, 2004
David L. Robb / Prometheus Books
This revealing new book uncovers a secret and disturbing collaboration between Hollywood and the military that has been going on for more than 50 years. This expose of the military's hidden role in shaping, sanitizing, and censoring hundreds of popular movies and TV shows is based on thousands of pages of Pentagon documents and interviews with filmmakers and military officials
Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies
by David L. Robb
$28.00 Hardcover 384 pages (April 30, 2004) ISBN: 1591021820
Prometheus Books 59 John Glenn Drive Amherst, New York 14228-2197 (800) 421-0351 Fax: (716) 564-2711
David L. Robb is an award-winning freelance journalist who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times. He has published articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, The Nation, LA Weekly, Salon.com and Brill's Content.. For many years Robb was a labor and legal reporter for the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety..
Foreword by Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law, George Washington University Law School
"Robb's book should outrage most Americans and lead to hearings in Congress. Congress has never given the military the authority to use public funds and resources to engage in its own self-serving efforts to shape its public image. In the very least, it is a misuse of public funds. At worst, it is a new variation on censorship, crafted to operate in the shadow of the First Amendment."
- From the Foreword by Jonathan Turley
This is the most important book ever written about Hollywood. It uncovers a secret collaboration between Hollywood and the military that has been going on for more than fifty years. Based on thousands of pages of Pentagon documents and interviews with filmmakers and military officials, Operatin Hollywood reveals that many of your favorite movies and television shows have been shaped, sanitized, and censored by the Pentagon.
Hollywood: The Pentagon's Best Propaganda Machine
David L. Robb takes you behind the scenes -- and behind the closed doors of the Pentagon -- as military officials and movie producers wheel and deal with the First Amendment. Robb reveals a world where filmmakers bow to pressure from admirals and generals, where movies are turned into propaganda, and where free speech is thrown out the window.
We may think that movies are free from government interference, but OPERATION HOLLYWOOD shows how the world's most powerful military has been placing propaganda into the world's most powerful medium for decades. This is investigative journalism at its best.
"Robb's book should outrage most Americans and lead to hearings in Congress. Congress has never given the military the authority to use public funds and resources to engage in its own self-serving efforts to shape its public image. In the very least, it is a misuse of public funds. At worst, it is a new variation on censorship, crafted to operate in the shadow of the First Amendment.
"What is clear is that the system will not end without a public outcry." by Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law, George Washington University Law School
Every year, Hollywood producers ask the Pentagon for help in making films, seeking everything from locations and technical advice to Blackhawk helicopters and nuclear-powered submarines. The military will happily oblige, it says in an army handbook, so long as the movie "aid[s] in the recruiting and retention of personnel."
The producers want to make money; the Defense Department wants to make propaganda. Former Hollywood Reporter staffer Robb explores the conflicts resulting from these negotiations in this illuminating though sometimes tedious study of the military-entertainment complex over the last 50 years.
Robb shows how, in the Nicholas Cage film Windtalkers, the Marine Corps strong-armed producers into deleting a scene where a Marine pries gold teeth from a dead Japanese soldier (a historically accurate detail). And in The Perfect Storm, the air force insisted on giving the Air National Guard credit for rescuing a sinking fishing boat, instead of the actual Coast Guard heroes.
Even seemingly flawless recruiting vehicles had troubles: in Top Gun, the navy demanded Tom Cruise's love interest be changed from a military instructor to a civilian contractor (fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel being a no-no).
At its worst, the author argues, the Pentagon unscrupulously targets children; Robb reveals how the Defense Department helped insert military story lines into the Mickey Mouse Club.
To help, Robb suggests a schedule of uniform fees by which producers could rent aircraft carriers, F-16s and the like. It's an intriguing idea, though producers can go it alone: as Robb points out, blockbusters Forrest Gump, An Officer and a Gentleman and Platoon were all made without military assistance.
— From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved
From the Inside Flap
The only thing Hollywood likes more than a good movie is a good deal. For more than 50 years, producers and directors of war and action movies have been getting a great deal from America's armed forces by receiving access to billions of dollars worth of military equipment and personnel for little or no cost.
Although this arrangement considerably lowers a film's budget, the cost in terms of intellectual freedom can be steep. In exchange for access to sophisticated military hardware and expertise, filmmakers must agree to censorship from the Pentagon.
As veteran Hollywood journalist David L. Robb shows in this revealing insider's look into Hollywood's "dirtiest little secret," the final product that moviegoers see at the theater reflects les about what the director intends and more what the powers-that-be in the military want to project about America's armed forces.
Sometimes a military liaison officer demands removal of just a few words; other times whole scenes must be scrapped or completely revised. What happens if a director refuses the requested changes? Robb quotes a Pentagon spokesperson: "Well, I'm taking my toys and I'm going home. I'm taking my tanks and my troops and my location, and I'm going home." Such threats can be persuasive to filmmakers trying to keep their productions on time and within budget.
Robb takes us behind the scenes during the making of many well-known movies and television series. From The Right Stuff to Top Gun and even Lassie, the list of movies and shows in which the Pentagon got its way is very long.
Only when a director is determined to spend more money than necessary to make his own movie without interference, as in the case of Oliver Stone in the creation of Platoon or Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now, is a film released that presents the director's unalloyed vision.
For anyone who loves movies and cares about freedom of expression, Operation Hollywood is an engrossing, shocking, and very entertaining book.
Rocky Mountain News, April 23, 2004:
"...a tour of the integral workings of Hollywood's deal with the Pentagon. Our rating: A"
Hollywood Reporter, May 13, 2004:
"An indignant, unsettling analysis of the military's influence on the film industry."
Seattle Times/ Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 2004: "...addresses half a century of propaganda techniques used in Hollywood movies."
Entertainment Today (Los Angeles), May 21-27, 2004 "...a bracing read into the backstory of big studio propaganda."
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