The Screen Is Red: Hollywood, Communism, and the Cold War
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The Screen Is Red portrays Hollywood’s ambivalence toward the former Soviet Union before, during, and after the Cold War. In the 1930s, communism combated its alter ego, fascism, yet both threatened to undermine the capitalist system, the movie industry’s foundational core value. Hollywood portrayed fascism as the greater threat and communism as an aberration embraced by young idealists unaware of its dark side. In Ninotchka, all a female commissar needs is a trip to Paris to convert her to capitalism and the luxuries it can offer.
The scenario changed when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, making Russia a short-lived ally. The Soviets were quickly glorified in such films as Song of Russia, The North Star, Mission to Moscow, Days of Glory, and Counter-Attack. But once the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, the scenario changed again. America was now swarming with Soviet agents attempting to steal some crucial piece of microfilm. On screen, the atomic detonations in the Southwest produced mutations in ants, locusts, and spiders, and revived long-dead monsters from their watery tombs. The movies did not blame the atom bomb specifically but showed what horrors might result in addition to the iconic mushroom cloud.
Through the lens of Hollywood, a nuclear war might leave a handful of survivors (Five), none (On the Beach, Dr. Strangelove), or cities in ruins (Fail-Safe). Today the threat is no longer the Soviet Union, but international terrorism. Author Bernard F. Dick argues, however, that the Soviet Union has not lost its appeal, as evident from the popular and critically acclaimed television series The Americans. More than eighty years later, the screen is still red.
house detonates in a burst of blinding light that glazes the sand, driving Hammer and Velda into the ocean. A doctored version of the ﬁlm released shortly after the May 1955 premiere suggests that they did not survive, presumably demonstrating that even the invincible Mike Hammer is not immune to radioactivity. Mickey Spillane fans who saw the other version would have assumed their hero pulled a Houdini and went back to work, eventually moving on to television, where he was portrayed by Stacy
that left her in shock are mutated killer ants, whose presence is heralded by shrill chirping reminiscent of frenzied cicadas. The humongous ants prey on the locals, injecting formic acid into their bodies. When the formic acid is placed before the child, she screams, “Them,” thus validating the title. The ants are not just bomb-generated; they are also a totalitarian colony, whose workers are dominated by queens that have established nests beneath the streets of Los Angeles. Them! is atypical in
Later, the curate, hungry and raving, falls prey to a Martian, who lassoes him with a tentacle and presumably absorbs his blood into its veins. In the ﬁlm, a courageous minister replaced the pusillanimous curate. The minister is convinced that Martians are more advanced than humans because they are nearer to their Creator. Holding up a Bible and reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm, the minister fearlessly approaches a Martian, only to be zapped with its high-power rays. The Deity has not yet chosen
principle of division and specialization of labor, the only way in which the farm can grow and thrive. When the husband ﬁrst questions the men about their abilities, he is more favorably disposed towards farmers, carpenters, masons, plumbers, bricklayers, and tailors than towards the lone violinist, who nonetheless is welcomed into a community from which no one is excluded, including a potential home wrecker (Barbara Pepper at her blowziest). When the issue of self-determination arises, the
pants is the key to the apartment of Ruth Carlin, who has just been arrested. “Ruth Carlin Sentenced,” a headline later reads. However, by then Lucille had donated the trousers to the parish clothes drive and was obliged to retrieve them. Finding them, she feels the fabric and discovers the key. Unbeknownst to her husband, she ﬂies to Washington with the trousers, expecting to receive some kind of explanation from John. John conceals his anxiety, ﬁrst insisting the key is his key to his