cover image OPERATION HOLLYWOOD: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies

OPERATION HOLLYWOOD: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies

David L. Robb, . . Prometheus, $28 (384pp) ISBN 978-1-59102-182-7

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. Agent, Michael Hamilburg. (Apr.)