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Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Moviesby David L Robb
Synopses & Reviews
The only thing Hollywood likes more than a good movie is a good deal. For more than fifty years producers and directors of war and action movies have been getting a great deal from Americas 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 films budget, the cost in terms of intellectual freedom can be quite 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 insiders look into Hollywoods "dirtiest little secret," the final product that moviegoers see at the theater is often not just what the director intends but also what the powers-that-be in the military want to project about Americas armed forces. Sometimes the censor 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 spokesman: "Well Im taking my toys and Im going home. Im taking my tanks and my troops and my location, and Im going home." That can be quite a persuasive threat to a filmmaker trying to keep his movie within budget.
Robb takes us behind the scenes during the making of many well-known movies. From The Right Stuff to Top Gun and even Lassie, the list of movies 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 directors unalloyed vision.
For anyone who loves movies and cares about freedom of expression, Operation Hollywood is an engrossing, shocking, and very entertaining book.
Book News Annotation:
In exchange for access to U.S. military equipment, set locations, and other budget-saving assistance from the Pentagon, Hollywood producers allow the military to have extensive control over scripts, with the Pentagon routinely changing them to reflect their views of themselves and even world history. Investigative reporter Robb goes behind the scenes to detail the many incidents in which the Pentagon wielded its influence to modify films so that they became little more than attempts to "aid in the recruiting and retention of personnel" (to quote the Army's own manual on cooperation with filmmakers) or promote the military's world view and politics. This, Robb believes, is essentially government involvement in the creation of propaganda and is blatantly unconstitutional and Congress should exercise its oversight responsibilities to put a stop to the practice.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Directors of war and action movies receive access to billions of dollars worth of military equipment and personnel, but it comes with a hidden cost. As a veteran Hollywood journalist shows, the final product is often not just what the director intends but also what the powers-that-be in the military want to project about America's armed forces.
About the Author
David Robb (Beverly Hills, CA), an award-winning freelance journalist who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times, has published articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, The Nation, LA Weekly, Salon.com, and Brills Content. For many years he was a labor and legal reporter for The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety.
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