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"Mission to Moscow" was made at the behest of F.D.R. in order to garner more support for the Soviet Union during WWII. It was from the book by Joseph E. Davies, former U.S. Ambassador To Russia. The movie covers the political machinations in Moscow just before the start of the war and presents Stalin's Russia in a very favorable light. So much so, that the movie was cited years later by the House Un-American Activities Commission and was largely responsible for the screenwriter, Howard Koch being Blacklisted. Written by
E. Barry Bruyea <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Because of its notoriety, this film did not make its U.S. TV debut until November 21, 1977, airing as part of part of a PBS series on "Films of Persuasion'' curated by Richard Schickel. See more »
Aside from the issue of the fairness of the Moscow purge trials, or the truthfulness of the alleged confessions of the accused, the people shown standing trial together in the film in fact did not all stand trial at the same time. There were two such major show trials, one in 1937, the second in 1938, and the real life characters depicted in the film as being tried simultaneously were actually tried in separate groups at one of the two trials. See more »
Opens with a card reading: We have the honor to present the former Ambassador from the United States to the Soviet Union, the Honorable Joseph E. Davies, who will address you prior to the showing of the film made from his important book, "Mission to Moscow". In the picture itself, Mr. Walter Huston portrays Mr. Davies during those vital years encompassed in his now significant report to this nation. And now, Mr. Davies: [Mr. Davies gives a presentation on the actual events leading up to these events, and to this film.] See more »
The flaws in this film are gigantic and obvious. The scenes of the show trials, to take one example, not only falsify history, but come off as so flat and awkward as to make it impossible to believe any of the confessions. Which makes me wonder: was this just bad writing by an otherwise gifted screenwriter or deliberate sabotage?
We know this much: that Davies had final script approval. It shows: he is in every scene and given the last word on every subject. You can imagine him standing over Howard Koch's shoulder, insisting on rewriting this scene and adding extra touches to another. All this must have been maddening to a professional writer at the pinnacle of his career.
Which leads to my pet theory: that Koch exacted his revenge by making Davies look like a fool. While the film may appear to be painting Davies in a positive light – it would be hard for him not to be at least likable with Walter Huston playing him – a closer viewing depicts him not only as naïve and gullible, but also self-centered and vain.
What else do we make of those scenes – and they keep recurring – in which various Soviet figures tell Davies how insightful, open and honest he was? Davies, of course, never disagrees, but instead launches into another speech in which he assures his friends that he will tell America or the world what's really going on in the Soviet Union. Whether Davies realized it or not, the film shows him as someone who only needs to be tickled under the chin in order to be seduced.
Which brings us back to the show trial scenes. Bukharin did as much as he could to defeat Vyshinsky by admitting as much as he had to in order to save his family but denying whatever else he could, while dropping broad hints that none of what he was saying was true. Koch's script does something similar: the confessions of Radek, Bukharin, Yagoda and the rest sound canned and unconvincing and the defendants themselves look more like defeated party functionaries than conspirators. Which is, of course, the truth—it's just not advertised as such.
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