Joseph R. McCarthy, and: Point of Order, and: Charge and Countercharge, A Film of the Era of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 5, Number 4, December 1975
- pp. 17-18
- Additional Information
FILM REVIEWS Joseph R. McCarthy (26 min., b&w, 16 mm.), David L. WoI per Productions/ Biography series, 1964. Point of Order (97 min., b&w, 16mm.), Emile de Antonio and David Talbot producers, 1964. Charge and Countercharge, A Film of the Era of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (40 min., b&w, 16mm.), Emile de Antonio producer, 1968. Three film presentations focusing on the public career of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) are available for classroom use. The presentations are of a documentary nature and rely heavily on the televised Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 for material. Unfortunately, for the student of the Seventies who knows McCarthy only as an historical figure, there does not appear to be a wealth of footage from other sources avail about about a man who stood in the center stage of American politics between 1950 and 1954. Consequently, all three productions tend to be myopic and are of limited value for the historian who wishes to inform his students about the mass movement known as McCarthyism. As one would expect, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy is an attempt at a biographical sketch of the leader of the anti -Communist crusade. Haunted by the acerbic narration of Mike Wallace, little effort is made at objectivity, and McCarthy and his movement come across as a national aberration. (The entire Biography series, a potentially valuable classroom tool, suffers from the love/hate relationship Wallace and his writers have with each of their subjects.) Nevertheless, it is the only thing available which touches upon McCarthy before his Wheeling speech in February 1950 and by its very nature does add something of a human dimension . McCarthyism as a national movement is poorly explained and given very little context. The untutored viewer can easily go away with the idea that McCarthy was an irrational or devious demagogue who deliberately and maliciously perpetuated a charade on millions of people. That impression, common to many who lived through the McCarthy era and who wish to forget it or be absolved for their participation in it, is a gross oversimplification of history and inappropriate for presentation in the classroom on its own merits. Point of Order is an ambitious attempt to edit 36 days of film and two million words of testimony from the Army-McCarthy hearings into a manageable package. Abridged though it is, the film is more historical document than a visual aid. No context is provided, no narrator at17 tempts to bridge the gaps. The audience is assumed to have a familiarity with the subject, the issues and individuals. If one has that familiarity, Point of Order has an almost macabre quality as a dead McCarthy returns to intone his ever present point of order. Without that familiarity, however, the film has little intrinsic meaning. The editing is reasonable in that it covers the salient points of the hearings and makes an honest effort to present the contending viewpoints. De Antonio's work could provide a model for an edited version of the 1973 Watergate hearings. Charge and Countercharge. A Film of the Era of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy is a further editing of Point of Order with some modest additions . Three-quarters of the footage is drawn from the Army-McCarthy hearings. The remaining quarter is a weak effort at explaining McCarthyism and providing some kind of a context for his anti -Communist crusade. A narrator is present prior to the footage of the hearings with an informative script and an attempt is made at objectivity. Sponsored by a publisher and intended for classroom use, Charge and Countercharge is superior to the other two, but it still requires a thorough preparation of the students before viewing. That is the principal liability of all three films. So much preparation is necessary before using them that you run the danger of over-saturation. But they do provide the historian of recent America, especially with Point of Order, a chance to recreate history in the classroom. They are suitable for use in advanced courses and could be employed in a survey offering. Lawrence L. Murray, St. Johns University Mirror of America (1964, 36 min., b&w), Ford Motor Company, Motion Picture Division and the National Archives and Records Service. Henry Ford...