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George Orwell Makes CIA Movie


DE ROCHEMONT & THE FBI (continued)

 

Orwell certainly did not see Animal Farm as a work of American propaganda. Orwell’s contempt was not directed only at Soviets or Communists, but at all governments that seek, even in times of war, to stomp on the rights and freedoms of its citizens. His message is more moral than political and his life and work show an inherent distrust of people with power. Eventually, he implies, those with power, abuse it. It isn’t hard to guess how Orwell would have reacted to Hoover’s FBI, to the CIA, to McCarthyism, Japanese-American Internment Camps, to Watergate to "insurgents" jailed at Guantanamo Bay or to the new Department of Homeland Security.

Animal Farm video cover 1954The FBI never officially investigated George Orwell, whose real name was actually Eric Blair. Despite his status as a Cold Warrior, Orwell certainly must have been a confusing, if not threatening personality to Hoover’s FBI. One note in the Orwell file from 1950 suggests that the author might have been referring to the United States when he wrote about "Big Brother" in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four. But the FBI concluded that rumor was just Russian propaganda.

Orwell was dead set against fascism, but as a British democratic socialist, he was also no fan of capitalism. While it is easy to decode the Russian leaders satirized in "Animal Farm", the allegory names no names.

While most of the 90 pages in Orwell’s FBI File #62-6917 have been released to the public through the Freedom of Information Act, 11 pages have not. And much of the text has been blacked out with a heavy marker, leaving the content unreadable. In an irony that Orwell might have enjoyed, a number of the censored pages contain the following hand-written message: "There is no mention of or reference to George Orwell on this page."

To his credit, de Rochemont’s cartoon production is largely faithful to Orwell’s novel, except for the ending. Thanks to a CIA revision, Farmer Jones joins with the evil pigs at the end of the cartoon. British animators Batchelor and Halas went on to direct less controversial cartoons, including animated TV versions of The Lone Ranger, The Jackson Five, The Addams Family and the Osmonds. De Rochemont went on to make more maverick films, but each was increasingly less political.

As his movie career waned, Louis de Rochemont and his wife Virginia Shaler moved from their 400-acre Blueberry Hill Farm in Newington, NH to the Rockingham Hotel in Portsmouth. In his final years, witnesses say, the producer became increasingly fearful that he was being spied on by the FBI, his rooms bugged and his phone tapped. Hoover, he feared, was coming after him. Perhaps he was.

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Copyright © 2006 by J. Dennis Robinson. Robinson is owner of the popular regional web site SeacoastNH.com that posts new content daily. His latest book is Rich with Children: The Birth of an Italian Family in America.

 

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