A Note on Emile de Antonio: Historical Documentarist
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 20, Number 2, 1990
- pp. 31-33
- Additional Information
United States' allies," An Historical and Descriptive Analysis ofthe Why We Fight Series: With a New Introduction (New York: Arno Press, 1977), p. 14. 7 It is interesting to note that throughout the war Hollywood completely ignored Great Britain's colonial possessions. 8 Crowther "Passage to Marseilles,"p. 12. 9 Roy Kinnard and R. J. Viton, The American Films ofMichael Curtiz (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1986), p. 88. 10Crowdler, "Passage to Marseilles,"p. 12. 1 1 Roy Kinnard and R. J. Viton, The American Films ofMichael Curtiz, p. 87. 12This scene was controversial and offended the Office of War Information because the killing ofunarmed soldiers was essentially undemocratic. Due to public and governmental pressure the scene was eventually deleted from the export version ofthe film, Koppes and Black, Hollywood Goes to War, p. 295. A Note on Emile de Antonio: Historical Documentarist Terence Ripmaster Terence Ripmaster ¿s Professor ofHistoiy at William Paterson College. Emile de Antonio died on December 15, 1989. He once said, "The documentary film artist lives in opposition.... My films come from the life and times of my country." Speaking about his satiric documentary on Richard Nixon, Mulhouse: A White Comedy (1971), Vincent Canby wrote, "de Antonio has no special interest in balanced reportage.... By this I don't mean to say that it's not true but rather than it shares with fiction the kind of truth that is greater than the sum of its factual parts." (New York Times, September 29, 1971) All of de Antonio's films are based on his clearly stated radical political philosophy. "We live in a police state," he charged. He referred to PBS as the Petroleum Broadcasting System and called the network "cringing, servile and bootlicking." This is not exactly the thinking and the language that wins academic and critical support for one's work. However, in many ways, it was his outspoken partisan stance that gave his films credibility. For example, Mulhouse is decidedly unbalanced; it is intended to be so. De Antonio's showing of Nixon as "tricky" Dick, of Watergate, and a host of Nixon's "dirty tricks" serves unquestionably to substantiate de Antonio's critical assessment of the man. If only one of de Antonio's films remained for future generations to evaluate, they might not judge it to be as one-sided as did his contemporary critics. De Antonio told this author that he regarded Mulhouse as his best film. In the Year of the Pig (3969) is an assemblage of news footage and interviews which presents viewpoints from Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, and which features a Russian reenactment of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Pauline Kael wrote that In 31 the Year ofthe Pig was a "strong film that does what American television has failed to do." (New Yorker, November 15, 1969). By the time this film appeared, television journalists had had plenty of time to assemble and present some information on the "enemy" position in what was, after all, an undeclared war. While de Antonio's very partisan documentary clearly presents his personal view, it remains one of the fullest treatments of Washington's "official" justification for the war. Of course, it also predicts America's defeat in Viet Nam. De Antonio liked to remind us that Alistaire Cooke received awards for fatuously telling us what we were looking at. When criticized for the bias in his films, de Antonio insisted that documentary films had the right and duty to offset the conservative-corporate accounts that dominated post World War II American journalism. In 1964 every established newspaper and television journalist leaped to applaud the conclusions of the Warren Commission on President Kennedy's assassination. De Antonio produced Rush to Judgment. The documentary features Mark Lane, author of the book by the same title, interviewing witnesses who saw or thought they saw more than one assassin. At the time of the release of de Antonio's Rush to Judgment, critics giggled in their hands. Since that time two federal studies, the Church Senate Committee on Assassinations and the United States House of Representatives Select Committee disclosed that evidence did indeed point to a conspiracy in Dallas and to more...