Russians on film

The World

The Russian Revolution lent itself to the Hollywood treatment. But the Revolution really worked up Hollywood’s appetite. This new Soviet Union fascinated Hollywood in the 1920s, in the silent area. The ideological force of Bolshevism was seen as a threat, and opened Americans’ eyes. In one such film from that area, Greta Garbo is sent to France to rescue some secret officers back into line, but she’s eventually seduced by Bolshevism as well. The film is Hollywood’s prototype narrative for the Russian on film: a simple journey, cold Soviet thinking gets transformed by warm capitalism. During the Second World War, America and the Soviet Union were allies. This analyst says FDR even leaned on film producers to show Soviets as analysts. This 1943 movie tells the story of a Russian village brutalized by the Nazis. When the war was won, the Iron Curtail fell but the theatrical curtain rose to show competing ideologies. The Russians were made less appealing in movies in the 1950s, even vilified. In the 1960s, that approach gave way to the arrival of satire, in movies like Dr. Strangelove. This movie analyst says there are questions of the motivations and ideologies on both sides. In the 1980s, Soviets are still portrayed as villains, in both Hollywood in Washington. This approach hasn’t quite worked going forward�Arabs and Chinese have not filled that void, says this film analyst. He says there’s something about Chinese and Arabs that are too far for Americans to relate to, whereas this is not the case of the Russians.

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