Mission to Moscow (1943)

123 mins | Drama, Biography | 1943

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Writer:

Howard W. Koch

Producer:

Robert Buckner

Cinematographer:

Bert Glennon

Editor:

Owen Marks

Production Designer:

Carl Jules Weyl

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Joseph E. Davies, a lawyer, was the first chairman and then vice-chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. From 1936-38, he was the United States ambassador to Russia, and from 1938-39, ambassador to Belgium. He was married to cereal heiress Majorie Post. His name appears above the title in the film's credits. News items in HR add the following information about the production: The filmmakers made an effort to find actors who resembled the real-life characters they were portraying. Olivia De Havilland was tested for the role of "Marjorie Davies." Press releases announced that Pat O'Brien was to play "Father Leopold Braun," a Catholic priest, and Irene Manning was to portray a singer at the Moscow Opera House. Neither appeared in the completed film. According to modern sources, Davies wanted Fredric March to play the lead. Press releases included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library note that Erskine Caldwell wrote the first draft of the screenplay. His contribution to the final film has not been determined, however. Some scenes were shot on location at Lasky Mesa, CA. After a warm initial reception, the film was promoted with a $500,000 advertising budget, which HR claimed was unprecedented.
       Although Var lauded the film calling it "Hollywood's initial effort at living history," Mission to Moscow was criticized by many anti-Stalinists who were disturbed by the favorable depiction of the Soviet Union in the film. The scenes depicting Stalin's purge trials were the subject of great controversy, despite Davies' claims to have studied an actual transcript of the trial. According ... More Less

Joseph E. Davies, a lawyer, was the first chairman and then vice-chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. From 1936-38, he was the United States ambassador to Russia, and from 1938-39, ambassador to Belgium. He was married to cereal heiress Majorie Post. His name appears above the title in the film's credits. News items in HR add the following information about the production: The filmmakers made an effort to find actors who resembled the real-life characters they were portraying. Olivia De Havilland was tested for the role of "Marjorie Davies." Press releases announced that Pat O'Brien was to play "Father Leopold Braun," a Catholic priest, and Irene Manning was to portray a singer at the Moscow Opera House. Neither appeared in the completed film. According to modern sources, Davies wanted Fredric March to play the lead. Press releases included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library note that Erskine Caldwell wrote the first draft of the screenplay. His contribution to the final film has not been determined, however. Some scenes were shot on location at Lasky Mesa, CA. After a warm initial reception, the film was promoted with a $500,000 advertising budget, which HR claimed was unprecedented.
       Although Var lauded the film calling it "Hollywood's initial effort at living history," Mission to Moscow was criticized by many anti-Stalinists who were disturbed by the favorable depiction of the Soviet Union in the film. The scenes depicting Stalin's purge trials were the subject of great controversy, despite Davies' claims to have studied an actual transcript of the trial. According to the Var review, the actors spoke "exact words of the confessions of guilt made by the leaders later executed." In an open May 1943 letter, contained in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, critics of the picture stated: "The current movie Mission to Moscow raises a most serious issue; it transplants to the American scene the kind of historical falsifications which have hitherto been characteristic of total propaganda...." The accompanying statement charges that the film "falsifies history and even distorts the very book on which it is based. One of the chief purposes of the film is to present the Moscow Trials of 1936-38 as the just punishment of proved traitors...[the film] glorifies Stalin's dictatorship and its methods...and has the most serious implications for American democracy." John Dewey, who had headed a commission of inquiry into the Moscow trials, published a letter in the 9 May 1943 issue of NYT attacking the film as "the first instance in our country of totalitarian propaganda for mass consumption--a propaganda which falsifies history through distortion, omission or pure invention of facts." According to a 1 Jun 1943 DV news item, the Republican National Committee attacked the film as "New Deal propaganda" and hinted that the White House had shaped the picture. Others, including Herman Shumlin, in a 1 Jun 1943 letter to Walter White reprinted in a modern source, defended the film as "an instrument for understanding and friendship between the Allies." On 12 Nov 1943, U.S. Senator Sheridan Downey of California read a letter from Sergeant Phil Stern into the Congressional Record. Stern stated that a copy of a Nazi newspaper that he found on a dead German soldier contained charges against the film similar to those appearing in American newspapers. Stern objected to Americans attacking an ally whose soldiers "are stopping the same shrapnel, the same bullets, and the same booby traps used against Pvt. Johnny Smith in Italy."
       The film's favorable depiction of the U.S.S.R. attracted the attention of the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities during its 1947 hearings on Communist infiltration of Hollywood. It is possible that Howard Koch's participation in this film was a contributing factor to his subsequent Hollywood blacklisting. In his HUAC testimony on 20 Oct 1947, Jack L. Warner stated: "The picture was made when our country was fighting for its existence, with Russia as one of our allies. It was made to fulfill the same wartime purpose for which we made such other pictures as Air Force , This Is the Army ...and a great many more. If making Mission to Moscow in 1942 was subversive activity, then the American Liberty ships which carried food and guns to Russian allies and the American naval vessels which convoyed them were likewise engaged in subversive activities. This picture was made only to help a desperate war effort and not for posterity...." For more information on the HUAC hearings, See Entry for Crossfire . Carl Weyl and George J. Hopkins were nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction--Interior Decoration. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jun 43
p. 215.
Box Office
8 May 1943.
---
Daily Variety
29 Apr 43
pp. 3-4.
Daily Variety
26 May 43
p. 1, 4
Daily Variety
1 Jun 43
p. 9.
Film Daily
29 Apr 43
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 43
p. 1, 3, 9
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 43
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 43
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
1 May 43
p. 34.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 May 43
p. 1304.
New York Times
30 Apr 43
p. 25.
Variety
5 May 43
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Glen Strange
Mike Tellegan
Adia Kuznetzoff
Mischa Westfall
Valya Terry
Ted E. Jacques
Irina Semochenko
Alec Campbell
Oliver Prickett
Eddie Cobb
Frank Jacquet
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Orch arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Mont
DANCE
Ballet staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit pub
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Mission to Moscow by Joseph E. Davies (New York, 1941).
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
Washington, D.C. premiere: 28 April 1943
New York opening: 29 April 1943
Production Date:
10 November 1942--early February 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 May 1943
Copyright Number:
LP12064
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
123
Length(in feet):
11,162
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8958
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1936, progressive corporate lawyer Joseph E. Davies is called away from a vacation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who appoints him ambassador to the Soviet Union. On the way to Russia with his wife Marjorie and daughter Emlen, Davies stops in Germany, where he witnesses firsthand the country's military build-up. By the time Davies leaves Germany, he is convinced that Hitler's government is determined to go to war. On arrival in Moscow, Davies is greeted by Mikhail Kalinin, the chairman of the All-Union Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union. During their meeting, Davies makes it clear that although he is a confirmed capitalist, he intends to keep an open mind and see as much as he can before making his report. In order to accomplish this, Davies travels throughout the country. He visits a tractor factory where tractors that can be quickly converted to tanks are manufactured, as well as the Kneiper Dam; a steel plant; oil fields near the Caspian Sea; coal mines and cooperative farms. Davies is impressed by the rapid pace of Russian industrialization. Along the way, he also hears stories of sabotage. While Davies is gone, Marjorie visits the wife of Soviet premiere Molotov, who heads the cosmetic industry, and learns that many Soviet wives hold down jobs. On his return, Davies gives his impressions of what he has seen to Molotov and Maksim Litvinov, the Russian delegate to the League of Nations, who had argued futilely in favor of a united front against the fascists after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. In 1937, Joseph Stalin, head of the Communist party, orders a purge of the army. ... +


In 1936, progressive corporate lawyer Joseph E. Davies is called away from a vacation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who appoints him ambassador to the Soviet Union. On the way to Russia with his wife Marjorie and daughter Emlen, Davies stops in Germany, where he witnesses firsthand the country's military build-up. By the time Davies leaves Germany, he is convinced that Hitler's government is determined to go to war. On arrival in Moscow, Davies is greeted by Mikhail Kalinin, the chairman of the All-Union Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union. During their meeting, Davies makes it clear that although he is a confirmed capitalist, he intends to keep an open mind and see as much as he can before making his report. In order to accomplish this, Davies travels throughout the country. He visits a tractor factory where tractors that can be quickly converted to tanks are manufactured, as well as the Kneiper Dam; a steel plant; oil fields near the Caspian Sea; coal mines and cooperative farms. Davies is impressed by the rapid pace of Russian industrialization. Along the way, he also hears stories of sabotage. While Davies is gone, Marjorie visits the wife of Soviet premiere Molotov, who heads the cosmetic industry, and learns that many Soviet wives hold down jobs. On his return, Davies gives his impressions of what he has seen to Molotov and Maksim Litvinov, the Russian delegate to the League of Nations, who had argued futilely in favor of a united front against the fascists after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. In 1937, Joseph Stalin, head of the Communist party, orders a purge of the army. During the trial, faithfully attended by Davies, many of the arrested men confess to crimes against the Soviet state that were masterminded by Leon Trotsky, who is living outside the country. They testify that Trotsky planned to aid a fascist invasion of the U.S.S.R. and then overthrow the weakened Soviet government. Although other countries are outraged by the purge, Davies believes that the testimony is truthful. On May Day, 1938, the Davieses witness an impressive display of Russian military might. Later, the Chinese ambassador takes Davies to see some of the people wounded by the Japanese in the recent attacks on Shanghai. Many of the wounded, who are being cared for in Russian hospitals, are women and children. Davies' appointment comes to an end and, during his farewell dinner, he learns that Hitler has invaded Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia. Before Davies leaves, Stalin explains to him that reactionary elements in England are encouraging Germany to invade Russia and warns that if the anti-fascists do not band together to stop Hitler, the Soviet government will be forced to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany in order to gain time to amass its military force. On his way back to America, Davies meets with Winston Churchill, an important figure in the British government, asking him to encourage a stand against Hitler. At a meeting in Munich in September 1938, however, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sanctions Hitler's dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. In the United States, convinced that war will come, Davies asks the government to amend the Neutrality Act of 1937. The U.S. senators, however, do not believe that Hitler has the military strength to beat England and France. Events prove them wrong, and after the Nazi invasion of Russia and the fall of Paris, Davies travels through the U.S. carrying his message to the people, but fails to convince many Americans, who see the war as a chance to make a profit. On 7 December 1941, however, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and the Russians and the United States become allies. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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