Robb, David L.
ROBB, David L.
ADDRESSES: Home—Beverly Hills, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Dr., Amherst, NY 14228-2197.
CAREER: Freelance writer and journalist. Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, labor and legal reporter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.
Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, foreword by Jonathan Turley, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist and Hollywood reporter David L. Robb explores a subtle but profound form of government interference in the making of motion pictures in his book Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies. Robb's position as a reporter on labor matters and legal issues in Hollywood for Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter has afforded him an insider's perspective on how movies are made and business is done in the U.S. motion-picture industry. Relying on interviews with directors, producers, screenwriters, military personnel, and Pentagon employees, Robb documents how the Pentagon shapes the image of the U.S. Armed Forces that is portrayed in the movies.
Hollywood producers and filmmakers interested in making movies involving any aspect of the U.S. military or the government have long been able to use the latest military equipment as props, military bases and installations as filming locations, and armed services personnel as extras. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense and various government agencies maintain offices dedicated to arranging deals with film studios. Such cooperation by the military results in dramatically decreased production costs for movie makers, as well as an authenticity and verisimilitude that would be difficult to achieve independently. However, as Robb explains, to secure the government's cooperation, filmmakers must submit their scripts to the Pentagon for approval, accept any changes the government wants, film the movie exactly as approved by the government, and pre-screen the film to officials prior to its release to ensure that final product matches the adulterated, military-approved version. Negative or unflattering portrayals of the government or military are not allowed.
To Robb, this type of control amounts to a pernicious form of censorship and a subtle propaganda and recruitment tool for the military, as well as misuse of taxpayer money. The Pentagon, however, sees their actions as "showing accurate and honest depictions of the military," Robb explained in an interview for the Village Voice Online. In Operation Hollywood Robb discusses a number of films that have been sanitized by the military. He also lauds filmmakers and motion pictures that have not been subject to Pentagon influence, including Platoon, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Forrest Gump. To equalize the process, Robb suggests the creation of a schedule of fees to be applied in all cases when moviemakers seek to use military resources to make movies. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Robb's work an "illuminating though sometimes tedious study of the military-entertainment complex over the last fifty years," while Kim Holston, writing in Library Journal, dubbed Operation Hollywood "a fully documented broadside fit for all public and academic libraries."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Hollywood Reporter, May 13, 2004, Gregory McNamee, review of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, p. 44.
Journal of Military History, October, 2004, Frank J. Wetta, review of Operation Hollywood, p. 1323.
Library Journal, May 15, 2004, Kim Holston, review of Operation Hollywood, p. 90.
Publishers Weekly, April 5, 2004, review of Operation Hollywood, p. 57.
Prometheus Books Web site, http://www.prometheusbooks.com/ (November 18, 2004).
Village Voice Online, http://www.villagevoice.com/ (June 8, 2004), Ed Halter, review of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies.*