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The Iron Curtain

The Iron Curtain(1948)

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An opening title states that "This story is based on the Report of the Royal Commission June 27, 1946 and evidence presented in Canadian Courts that resulted in the conviction of ten secret agents of the Soviet government." In addition to court transcripts, the screenplay was also based on published articles by Igor Gouzenko (1919-1983) about his 1945 defection, as well as conversations between Gouzenko and screenplay writer Milton Krims. Documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library indicate that the studio also bought the rights to Behind the Iron Curtain by George Moorad and The Soviet Spies-The Story of Russian Espionage in North America by Richard Hirsch, but used no material from these books for the film. A book version of Gouzenko's articles was published to coincide with the film's release. With the exception of the Gouzenkos, all names of Canadian and Russian agents were fictionalized. A title at the beginning of the film states that all exterior scenes were photographed in Canada in the original locales.
       According to news items, a scheduled preview at the Roxy Theatre in New York was picketed by approximately a thousand "right wingers" as well as communists and liberals. An article in Time stated: "Their advent was not unexpected. For four hours a group of Catholic War Veterans had been trickling up with signs of their own, to picket the pickets. In strength they about equaled the opposition. Thousands of expectant bystanders choked the streets." The article noted that over 100 policemen broke up the mob with nightsticks and horses, and that six weeks before, the Roxy management had decided not to hold the preview, but had neglected to tell anybody about it. The picture opened uneventfully the next morning.
       New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther not only gave the film an unfavorable review but also devoted a feature column to it and questioned whether it contributed "in any way to a clarification of present problems" or merely aroused "more ire and hate?" Studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck responded to Crowther's column with a "Letter to the Editor" in which he wrote, "My answer is that the picture is calculated to, and does, arouse the public to vigilance against a menace....The Communists and their ideological companions in this country did not picket the newspapers which printed accounts of the trials, the Cosmopolitan magazine, Reader's Digest, or the publishing house which printed Gouzenko's book. But they did picket the Roxy Theatre...they were more afraid of the printed picture than the printed word....Our picture does not preach hatred of the Russians, but of the hatred they have for our democratic way of life."
       In May 1948, New York Times reported that the Russian composers whose works were used in the film had written a letter to the Soviet newspaper Izvestia in which they described the picture as "loathsome" and accused Twentieth Century-Fox of stealing their music. Time reported that they had "begged a New York court to cut their music from the sound track; it might make them look like traitors at home, their lawyers argued." Alfred Newman, head of the studio's music department, stated to the New York Times that although the composers' works were in the public domain in the United States, his studio had an agreement with the Leeds Music Co. and its subsidiary AM RUSS, giving the studio the right to draw from the Leeds editions of the four composers at will. A flat sum and a further price per composition had been agreed upon in advance, and between $10,000 and $15,000 would be paid to Leeds upon release of the picture. On June 8, 1948, Los Angeles Times reported that New York State Supreme Court Justice Edward Koch had ruled that the music in question was in public domain and enjoyed no copyright whatsoever.
       According to studio documents, the role of "Grubb" was originally intended for Lee J. Cobb, and scenes featuring actors Dennis Hoey, Eric Noonan and Eula Morgan were eliminated before the film's opening. In 1954, the MPTV Corp. produced Operation Manhunt for United Artists release. This film, starring Harry Townes and Irja Jensen, continued the story of the Gouzenko family in Canada and the Soviet Embassy's attempt to locate and liquidate them. Gouzenko, himself, appeared in a brief epilogue, but his face was hidden behind a hood.