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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>
This film was often mentioned during the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in its investigation of alleged Communist "infiltration" of the motion picture industry and was chiefly responsible for the blacklisting of screenwriter Howard Koch. Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner defended the picture as being "made when our country was fighting for its existence, with Russia as one of our allies . . . The picture was made only to help a desperate war effort and not for posterity." See more »
Davies and the rest of the diplomatic corps are shown watching the 1938 May Day parade through Red Square. Some time later, at the farewell dinner being held in Davies's honor, Litvinov is handed a communique stating that Germany had just invaded and annexed Austria (the Anschluss). In fact Germany had taken over Austria on March 13, 1938, a full seven weeks before the May Day parade that in the film precedes the Anschluss. 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 »
Both the book, "Mission to Moscow" by the late Ambassador Joseph M. Davies, and this film, are severe attacks on intellectual honesty. Near the conclusion, the narrator speaks over a scene with the flags of members of the United Nations starting with the flags of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and "all the world's free nations."
Wow. To imply that the U.S.S.R. under Marshal Joseph Stalin was anywhere close to "a free nation" is as breathtakingly dishonest as any author or screen writer can be.
Now it is true that many Americans did not like Russia under Stalin and it is true that FDR wanted to justify American aid for the Russian Army because it was fighting on a second front to defeat Nazi Germany. It is also true that the Russian people suffered terribly, more than any other nation, from Hitler's attacks. The loss of Russian life, both military and civilian, on the eastern front was massive beyond comprehension. As bad as Londoners suffered during the blitz, Russian people suffered much greater loss of life.
But none of that justifies the incredible pro-Soviet lies in this film. Lies such as one where Ambassador Joe Davies, played by Walter Huston, justifies the Russian invasion of Finland by saying it was self defense. Lies such as Davies saying that it was British delays that would drive Stalin "into Hitler's arms." There was plenty of duplicity in both Moscow and Berlin over the shared occupation of Poland when the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact (mutual non-aggression treaty) was signed by Germany and the U.S.S.R. in 1939.
There are repeated references in the film by Huston as the narrator, by a "voice" of President Roosevelt, and by others to "pro-fascist" propaganda as being responsible for anti-Russian feelings in the U.S. Without any help from Hitler, many Americans in the late 1930s saw the Stalin state for what it was, a repressive monstrosity. A humorous but dark view of the U.S.S.R. was on display in "Ninotchka" in 1939 starring Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch. A similar 1940 film was "Comrade X" starring Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr directed by King Vidor. Those stereo-typical views, also mild distortions, still came far closer to the truth about the Stalin government than this 1943 film did.
There is a side issue in some user comments about the screen writer Howard Koch and whether or not he was fairly treated as a "black listed" writer in the 1950s when he and his wife wrote under different names in England. Whatever the merits or demerits of that separate debate may be, the writing in this film is not only laboriously pro-Soviet, direct from the party line, but it is also stilted. Almost every monologue by Walter Huston as Davies is a speech that constantly recovers familiar Communist Party talking points of that era.
It is rumored that FDR wanted this film to be made based on the book in an effort to drum up public support in America for the allied effort. This might be true. But by the time the film came out in 1943, American public opinion had already made its peace with the idea of a temporary tactical alliance with Russia for the limited purpose of defeating Hitler. That is why this film's blatant pro-Soviet drum beating is so puzzling even in the context of World War II and in 1943.
Americans understood that, as Churchill put it, if Hitler invaded Hell we would say nice things about the devil. Perhaps a hundred years from now, the crimes of Joseph Stalin will be as famous as those of Hitler. But in 1943, it was in the interest of the grand alliance that American films downplay Soviet crimes and praise the bravery of Soviet troops. The latter effort was honest, the former was not.
Even so, this film went way too far. One can legitimately admire the Russian people themselves and their army for a valiant struggle against the Wehrmacht without fawning over a cowardly, drunk, and militarily-stupid Stalin. The film even fawns over the always lovable Vyacheslav Molotov (of Molotov Cocktail fame) so improbably played by Gene Lockhart (of Bob Cratchett and the judge in Miracle on 34th Street fame).
There is the key difference. Davies was not just pro-Russian in the context of a necessary war time alliance. Davies used the war as his excuse to become an all out an apologist for the repressive Communist dictatorship of the U.S.S.R. and rationalized everything that government did no matter what. Whether he was a dupe or just a gullible fellow traveler is beside the point. It is the extreme extent of the ideological rationalizations that makes this film so dishonest.
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