(See previous post: "The American Military at the Movies: The Pentagon-Hollywood Complex.") Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. are connected to the Pentagon by way of the Air Force-aided Iron Man (2008), and so is Dakota Fanning "at the side of top-gunner Tom Cruise" in Steven Spielberg’s Army-aided 2005 remake of War of the Worlds. (Image: Iron Man 2008.)
Oscar winners and/or nominees Jennifer Jones, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire, Faye Dunaway, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, and once again William Holden (not to mention O.J. Simpson, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, and Robert Wagner) are all in thanks to John Guillermin’s 1974 blockbuster and Best Picture Academy Award nominee The Towering Inferno. "The Navy lent helicopters," Nick Turse explains, "and the studio [20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.] said thanks in the form of an acknowledgment in the credits."
Regarding Paramount’s Jon Favreau-directed Iron Man, Air Force master sergeant Larry Belen remarked: "I want people to walk away from this movie with a really good impression of the Air Force, like they got about the Navy seeing Top Gun." Nick Turse adds that "Air Force captain Christian Hodge, the Defense Department’s project officer for Iron Man, may have said it best when he unabashedly predicted, ’The Air Force is going to come off looking like rock stars.’"
Now, there’s no mention of U.S. military cooperation on Robert Altman’s MASH or Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. It could be, of course, that there was no cooperation, as in these two Best Picture Academy Award nominees the military comes off looking like anything but rock stars.
The ’New York Times’ Renata Adler vs. John Wayne’s Vietnam War movie
The Green Berets is a film so unspeakable, so stupid, so rotten and false in every detail that it passes through being fun, through being funny, through being camp, through everything and becomes an invitation to grieve, not for our soldiers or for Vietnam (the film could not be more false or do a greater disservice to either of them), but for what has happened to the fantasy-making apparatus in this country. Simplicities of the right, simplicities of the left, but this one is beyond the possible. It is vile and insane. On top of that, it is dull.
Besides John Wayne himself, The Green Berets features David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Bruce Cabot, Raymond St. Jacques, Wayne’s son Patrick Wayne, and Star Trek’s George Takei. Ray Kellogg and veteran Mervyn LeRoy (Gold Diggers of 1933, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Random Harvest) reportedly gave Wayne a hand behind the camera.
The year after the widely reviled The Green Berets was released, John Wayne starred in True Grit. This old-fashioned, Henry Hathaway-directed Western comedy-drama would earn the veteran Wayne a sentimental Best Actor Academy Award at the 1970 Oscar ceremony.
More on the connection between American movies and the American military
Other articles discussing the pervasive Hollywood-U.S. military symbiosis include the following:
- Abraham Riesman’s “Bombers in Hollywood: The Price of Military Tech Assistance in Hollywood Movies” at vice.com.
- Kay Steiger’s “CIA and Pentagon have long-running influence over Hollywood’s representation of military” at The Raw Story.
- Steve Rose’s “The US military storm Hollywood” in The Guardian.
- The PBS report “U.S. Military Helps Create Hollywood Films on War and Warriors.”
- "Military movie censorship ’makes Americans warlike’" at rt.com.
- Julian E. Barnes’ "Calling the shots on war movies" in the Los Angeles Times.
Iron Man 2008 image: Marvel Studios / Paramount Pictures.