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George Orwell Makes CIA Movie

DE ROCHEMONT & THE FBI (continued)


Orwell had a great deal of trouble getting "Animal Farm" published. His scathing attack on the Soviet regime finally appeared in 1946 when Britain was actually allied to Russia. Many British and American liberals were attracted to the writings of Karl Marx right after the war and Orwell rumpled lots of Leftist feathers. The story, which could be read as a fable to children and as political satire by adults, was an immediate success both in Britain and the USA. In his youth Orwell had even fought fascism as a British volunteer in Spain, and for his efforts had been shot through the throat. The wound possibly contributed to his early death at age 47 in 1950.

Goerge Orwell and Louis de Rochemont create Animal Farm film /

Not long after Orwell’s death an American producer living in New Hampshire, Louis de Rochemont , financed the first full-length British cartoon version of Animal Farm. But the secret source of de Rochemont’s funding was not known until the 21st century. The film with its foreboding message intact, was released in 1953. Reviewers praised the full-length animated film that is still used in schools today and is widely available on video and DVD. A report in a London newspaper said the Orwell cartoon might "Rock the Kremlin". Because it included no dialogue, the film could be seen by people in any country, which was exactly the plan.

Recently, through the Freedom of Information Act, researchers discovered that George Orwell had his own FBI file. Since Orwell was so strongly opposed to the "Commie" threat after World War II, one wonders why J. Edgar Hoover needed to keep a secret file on the famous author. And in the Orwell file we find material submitted by Louis de Rochemont himself.  

De Rochemont was no stranger to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As producer of the monthly newsreel series "March of Time" he had tracked the history of the FBI for millions of theatergoers through the 1930s and 40s. Created to root out domestic criminals, the FBI found its true calling when Nazi spies were discovered stealing government secrets on American soil. Suddenly the enemies of America had a face, and "March of Time" crews were the first to document the agency’s high-tech and costly counter espionage techniques. In the pre-television era Americans went to the movies weekly and de Rochemonts’s 20-minute "March of Time" episodes were their window on world news.

Urging President Franklin D. Roosevelt into war with his film "The Ramparts We Watch", Louis de Rochemont had done his bit to promote the American effort. His film "We Are the Marines" was pure military propaganda and his documentary about the Naval destroyer "Fighting Lady" won an Academy Award. By the end of WWII, Louis de Rochemont of Newington, NH, was as American as apple pie.

After the war de Rochemont turned to independent filmmaking. Shunning the artificial techniques of Hollywood studios, the maverick producer demanded realism. For material he reprised popular FBI cases, transforming true crime tales into gritty "film noir" stories shot on location. Two of de Rochemont’s maverick productions were ripped from the pages of FBI files, as the movie posters implied. "The House on 92nd" Street" (1945) and "13 Rue Madeleine" praised the nation’s under cover agencies for their war efforts. In the latter, James Cagney, famous for his portrayal of deadly gangsters, now played a heroic OSS double-agent cracking a ruthless spy ring. J. Edgar Hoover himself made a rare cameo appearance in de Rochemont’s film.

For the FBI, bloated by a wartime budget, the end of the Nazi and Japanese threats might have meant a reduction in force and power. Then Hoover discovered the Red Menace of Soviet Russia, and the Cold War was on. Communists, as Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon warned the nation, were everywhere, especially among the liberal-leaning "pinko" Left that often included many writers, entertainers and filmmakers.


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