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Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies Hardcover – April 30, 2004

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Every year, Hollywood producers ask the Pentagon for help in making films, seeking everything from locations and technical advice to Blackhawk helicopters and nuclear-powered submarines. The military will happily oblige, it says in an army handbook, so long as the movie "aid[s] in the recruiting and retention of personnel." The producers want to make money; the Defense Department wants to make propaganda. Former Hollywood Reporter staffer Robb explores the conflicts resulting from these negotiations in this illuminating though sometimes tedious study of the military-entertainment complex over the last 50 years. Robb shows how, in the Nicholas Cage film Windtalkers, the Marine Corps strong-armed producers into deleting a scene where a Marine pries gold teeth from a dead Japanese soldier (a historically accurate detail). And in The Perfect Storm, the air force insisted on giving the Air National Guard credit for rescuing a sinking fishing boat, instead of the actual Coast Guard heroes. Even seemingly flawless recruiting vehicles had troubles: in Top Gun, the navy demanded Tom Cruise's love interest be changed from a military instructor to a civilian contractor (fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel being a no-no). At its worst, the author argues, the Pentagon unscrupulously targets children; Robb reveals how the Defense Department helped insert military story lines into the Mickey Mouse Club. To help, Robb suggests a schedule of uniform fees by which producers could rent aircraft carriers, F-16s and the like. It's an intriguing idea, though producers can go it alone: as Robb points out, blockbusters Forrest Gump, An Officer and a Gentleman and Platoon were all made without military assistance.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"...a bracing read into the backstory of big studio propaganda." -- Entertainment Today (Los Angeles), May 21-27, 2004

"...a shocking look at governmental interference in the filmmaking business over the past 50 years or so..." -- Tennessee Tribune, July 15, 2004

"...a tour of the integral workings of Hollywood's deal with the Pentagon. Our rating: A" -- Rocky Mountain News, April 23, 2004

"...addresses half a century of propaganda techniques used in Hollywood movies." -- Seattle Times/ Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 2004

"...one of the best I've read in a long time...[Robb's] a great writer and the researcher is far-reaching." -- MovieWeb.com, August 16, 2004

"...tremendous job of documenting how far film producers and television shows bend their vision to the military line..." -- OC Weekly, July 23-29, 2004

"An indignant, unsettling analysis of the military's influence on the film industry." -- Hollywood Reporter, May 13, 2004

"Anyone interested in the truth, in propaganda, movies, or the military should definitely read this book. It's an eye-opener." -- About.com (Agnosticism/Atheism)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; First Hardcover Edition edition (April 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021820
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021827
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #554,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a military public affairs officer myself, I bought this book thinking it would be a tell-all about the great relationship between Hollywood and the military; however, I was quickly wrong. This book obviously written by someone with a law degree or at least knowledge of constitutional law, makes it very clear his disdain for a decades-old technique for recruiting future service members. Throughout much of the book, I will admit that I failed to see Mr. Robb' s points most of the time, especially considering the millions of dollars of equipment the Pentagon loans to movie makers in exchange for a professional and serious depiction of the military. However, at the book's end, is when I can see the author's points. It does beg the question should DoD have the power to bend facts and rewrite history itself by only allowing what and who it wants portrayed?

Much of the book's examples are from the 1950s and earlier, so it would've been good to have updated stories from the 90s and 2000s...but overall a decent thought-provoking book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is, at its core, what the book is about.

Hollywood makes many kinds of films. Fantasy, science fiction and comedies and war movies. While they can re create many of their own props much of the time, its tough to build a dozen helicopters or even an aircraft carrier from scratch. So in order to properly tell a good war movie, there are times when its very, very cost effective to use authentic machines.

The problem is that the military, while eager to help, ( after all the people in uniform enjoy watching movies too) understandably wants to be shown in a good light.

And that's where the compromising begins. And the drama that happens behind the scenes, in and of itself, makes for some good story telling. Fact of the matter is, it was Hollywood that has done most of the compromising. While we have seen many many moving, dramatic stories of our military in action over the years, Robb reveals in these pages that there were times when story had to be watered down a bit to please the military in order to gain access to the machines it needed in order to put the films on the screen.

If you are a fan of war movies and are interested in what goes on behind the scenes, this particular book might provide some eye opening insight. You may in fact find yourself going back to re watch your favorite war film after reading what Hollywood had to do in order to tell that story. Very good book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's interesting, but the author's even further to the Left than I am. The information is very interesting, but when he editorializes, I can finally see what conservatives mean by "entitlement."
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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!
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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