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Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies [Hardcover]

David L. Robb

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Book Description

20 April 2004
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 America s 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 film s 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 insider s look into Hollywood s "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 America s 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 I m taking my toys and I m going home. I m taking my tanks and my troops and my location, and I m 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 director s unalloyed vision.

For anyone who loves movies and cares about freedom of expression, Operation Hollywood is an engrossing, shocking, and very entertaining book.

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Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies + Hollywood, the Pentagon and Washington: The Movies and National Security from World War II to the Present Day (Anthem Politics and IR) + Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great subject, poor execution 16 Sep 2004
By Yarby - Published on Amazon.com
While reading of this book would be a good education in propoganda for everyone, it could have been written in a far more educational manner.

I, like many, I would guess, did not realize that those credits at the end of the movie, thanking the armed forces, are more than a simple thank you. They indicate the Pentagon has approved the movie for propoganda purposes.

Most people realize that propoganda was a prevailing force in the movies of the World War II era. But the same propoganda continues today, in a much more subtle form.

A more interesting book would have covered the history of government propoganda in Hollywood releases, not just centered on mostly movies of the last 20 years. There was not a mention of the Disney movies seen on the DVD release "On the Front Lines", or of other movies of the era (such as Abbott and Costello's "Buck Privates"). This was propoganda at its peak.

Also, it would have been interesting to understand the logic behind how the Pentagon would think movies such as "The Swarm" and "Airport 77" would make individuals want to join the armed forces.

I also continue to wonder, as it wasn't mentioned in the book, why the Pentagon supported movies such as "Run Silent Run Deep" or "The Caine Mutiny", both of which deal with mutiny in great detail.

While I admire the author for tackling such a subject, and in bringing it to the public's attention, I just wish he had tackled it with a bit more fervor.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Look at Hollywood's Relationship With the Army 9 Jun 2004
By Charles J. Rector - Published on Amazon.com
Operation Hollywood is an interesting book about the common practice in which studios alter scripts to meet military PR requirements in return for free access to both bases and equipment.
The book shows how pro-military movies leads to spikes in recruitment and as a result, the military wants to control everything that goes into a movie. All too often, Hollywood acquiesces to their demands. The military believes that they are only enforcing accuracy, but they also maintain that any film that does not reflect well on the military is "inaccurate."
This baleful influence has altered the view that Americans now have of the military. They believe that the U.S. military is intrincsically good and is incapable of doing anything wrong.
Operation Hollywood is an interesting and revealing book. As such it is recommended.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critics Pay Taxes Too 31 Aug 2004
By Douglas Doepke - Published on Amazon.com
Robb's book is an invaluable resource for those interested in the mechanics of propaganda from Hollywood. The author shows again and again how the Pentagon sanitizes its image through the raw power of institutional trade-off. Movie and tv producers simply do not get the Pentagon's money-saving goodies unless their scripts conform to the high command's self-serving demands. Unsurprisingly, the result is often a subtle but sometimes dangerous departure from reality which may benefit the Pentagon's recruiting program, but in turn witholds important facts from public scrutiny. In Vietnam, American troops experienced a particularly savage disconnect between the war they expected and the war they got. It's at least an open question whether the disconnect would have been as great had the post-war years featured more of the unsanitized realism of "Attack" or "Paths of Glory" instead of the relentless banality of stereotypes like "Battle Cry", "Operation Petticoat", or scores of other unchallenging recruiting posters for the Pentagon. I'm sure thousands of others like myself were similarly seduced into paying a personal price for Hollywood's deals with the Defense Department. (And In response to the anonymous reviewer from "Heartland"-- the 5th Amendment applies only to legal proceedings, which hardly applies in this case.)

On the downside--and I'm sorry to say there is one--the book would have benefitted from better editing. As far as I can tell, the chapters follow in no particular order, adding up to a loose format that scatters both focus and impact. I don't know whether the chapters could have been grouped around common themes, but some such would have helped sharpen the presentation. Moreover, facts tend to be needlessly repeated as though someone has lost track of the earlier text. In short, the text could use some honing and reorganizing.

Nonetheless, Robb has performed a genuine service by calling attention to this long-standing sweetheart arrangement. The chapters on "The Green Berets", "Battle Cry", and "Lassie", are particularly revealing of how the system works. In the future, I hope some enterprising researcher will go further back to produce a history of Hollywood's relation to the armed services, which would lend valuable perspective to Robb's findings, and perhaps open up options for reforming the process. At book's end, the author lists some Hollywood personalities notable for their resistence to Pentagon pressure, such as Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner. With this book, Robb shows that his name deserves a place among them.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bank it 9 Jun 2012
By L. Korshak - Published on Amazon.com
The subject is long overdue. The temptation is to react according to our well packaged beliefs so I thought instead of reviewing the book, I'd 'review' the author.
If David Lee Robb wrote it, you can take it to the bank. Within the investigative journalistic crowd, he has always been the most exhaustive and thorough researcher in the industry. Unlike 99.9% of the others, Robb has never had to retract a word.
Well done!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Movies=Propaganda, like Duh! 22 Mar 2010
By Cwn_Annwn - Published on Amazon.com
This book documents how the Pentagon and branches of the United States military bully filmmakers into revising scripts, editing scenes from movies and even rewriting factual history by denying them access to military bases, use of soldiers as extras and use of tanks, jets, helicopters, etc if they do not make the alterations to the films. There are multitudes of examples and firsthand accounts of this being done in this book. In fact there are so many that it gets monotonous after a while.

One thing that shouldn't be surprising is that the overwhelming majority of the films that catered to the Pentagon/Military were complete and total garbage and great films like Apocalypse Now, Platoon and An Officer and a Gentlemen received no help whatsoever. But really what films are there that aren't full of propaganda and attempts at brainwashing. They do it overtly and in subtle ways. Probably even subliminally for that matter. Whats documented in this book is the overt public relations type attempts at propaganda. The real social engineers and mind benders in Hollywood operate in a much more shadowy way.
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