Sailing on the Silver Screen: Hollywood and the U.S. Navy

Lawrence Suid, Author
Lawrence Suid, Author US Naval Institute Press $32.95 (307p) ISBN 978-1-55750-787-7
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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Hollywood and the U.S. Navy, judging from this thorough but lackluster study, have been scratching each other's backs for a long time. According to Suid (Guts and Glory: Great American War Movies), the Navy has looked upon film as the perfect public relations vehicle; meanwhile, Hollywood has drawn upon ""the glamour inherent in Navy uniforms, jet planes, and esoteric ships to create exciting images."" It was just prior to U.S. involvement in WWI, explains Suid, that filmmakers began looking to the Navy for realistic props and settings. Reluctant to promote a prowar message at that tenuous time, the Navy insisted on approving any script involving its cooperation. For the past 80 years, Navy censors have denied requests on grounds of technical inaccuracy or inappropriate story content. As a result, Suid shows, many Hollywood films have tended toward pro-Navy propaganda. Even today, the Navy will insist on, and receive, script changes-as it did, for instance, in the making of The Hunt for Red October. Ever since WWII, however, an increasing number of producers have been willing to work around the Navy when necessary. Suid writes clearly and brings to his subject deep research including dozens of interviews with Navy personnel and filmmakers. His approach is more factual than reflective, however, and his text is ultimately more useful as a resource than as critical commentary. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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