CIA Manipulation of Hollywood Productions About UFOs: Part 4: The Day the Earth Stood Still
Part 4: The Day the Earth Stood Still
© 2013 by Linda Moulton Howe
Copyright © 1999 - 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe.
All Rights Reserved.
This file is used with permission.
“Gen. C. D. Jackson referred to Darryl Zanuck as being among
a group of Hollywood ‘friends’ – including Cecil B. DeMille,
Jack Warner and Walt Disney – on whom the government could
rely ‘to insert in their scripts and in their action the right
[ gov't.] ideas with the proper subtlety.’”
- Robbie Graham, Producer, Silverscreensaucers.com
February 7, 2013 Albuquerque, New Mexico - After posting Parts 1 through 3 about CIA manipulation of Hollywood productions concerning UFOs, I received the following email from one film and TV producer regarding his firsthand experience with such government intelligence and counterintelligence manipulation. With his permission, I am reprinting his email in full below.
Following the producer's email, is Part 4 of my Earthfiles reports with Robbie Graham in England, this one focused on the famous and now-classic 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still that I was told in 1983 was a script provided by the CIA through one of their “cutout” Hollywood insiders in order to test the public's reaction to the arrival of advanced non-human intelligence that could interrupt Earth power grids at will in the context of a warning to humankind about irresponsibly abusing Earth life and resources.
Email from Los Angeles Film and TV Producer
Subject: Hangar 18, Sunn Classic and CIA-Connected Producers
Date: February 4, 2013
I've been involved with UFO investigations and Hollywood productions related to UFOs, abductions and cattle mutilations going back to the late 1970s and later in the 1990s.
I believe we trod the same turf during that same period as you were shooting A Strange Harvest and I was producing a documentary related to UFOs in the 1970s. In listening to your February 1st Coast to Coast show and interview with Robbie Graham related to the feature film, Hangar 18, I realized that there were connections between my experiences in TV production that might confirm the connections between UFOs, Hollywood and the government, as you described on the radio. There had been rumors that the production company and an affiliated ad agency that were involved in the making of the UFO film I worked on were companies that had strong governmental, U. S. Air Force and CIA ties. In our work for them, the producers were hands-on involved as we developed segments for the production. We asked about a particular segment of the film and its use of still illustrations and the idea that it was simply a suggestion of what might occur in the future or may have occurred in the past, if a UFO were to land at a USAF base. In fact, the producers said they were shown AF footage purporting to show a saucer landing at Holloman AFB near Alamogordo, New Mexico, in 1964 and saw in the footage aliens emerge from the craft. They saw the footage at Norton AFB in San Bernardino, CA with the USAF audio-video archivist Paul Shartle in 1974. We asked if they thought the footage might be some sort of training film or disinformation piece directed at them. They did not think so and described it as "raw footage," not a cut film. They even recollected the name of the Staff Sgt. or Tech. Sgt. cameraman (from the slate) shooting from the helicopter. We would later check and find that there was, in fact, an airman by that name assigned to the combat camera unit at Holloman in 1964. I'm no longer sure of the exact date, but we checked and found that there had been a base-wide lock down around the UFO and ETs landing date, for an undisclosed reason.
The remarkable issue with this film was the production's ease of access to seemingly impossible to get locations (The Pentagon), personnel and other government resources including footage. Actual alleged UFO footage had originally been planned to be revealed at the end of the film. Paul Shartle had put in a request for its use in 1974 which was immediately and surprisingly rejected by the USAF. The archivist and executive producers were dumbfounded by this change of heart by the AF brass and according to Shartle, the footage was ordered sent to the Pentagon immediately. The producers had previously been given unprecedented access to AF facilities and materials and had even described a 1974 meeting in a secret underground facility somewhere between Barstow and Las Vegas. They described pulling off the highway at a particular mileage marker, driving up to a call box and upon announcing themselves were lowered into the facility, car and all.
My production partner and I visited Norton AFB and toured its Combat Camera Unit and Air Force film repository. Our tour guide was Paul Shartle, the AF archivist and would-be magician ("The Great Shartello"), who confirmed the UFO and alien footage from Holloman was as the producers had described. We saw no film there that day, but were shown library card catalogue cabinets filled with cards, representing footage held at the repository, from gun cameras and other sources taken by AF personnel of UFOs.
It would be sometime after moving on from that production that we heard the rumors that it was "common knowledge" that the producer and advertiser were government sanctioned operations and that the UFO project had not only had Air Force cooperation, but may even have been financed by the DOD. It all sort of makes sense now.
In 1978 we were hired to design and produce an opening sequence for a 3-hour TV special celebrating the 75th birthday of an American comedy icon. The same production company as before had been hired to create this opening and we were given access to photos and footage from the comedian's personal archive. As part of the opening, there was a sequence showing stills of him with a number of US Presidents. One famous image included in the sequence was that of the comedian nose-to-nose with Richard Nixon. It was funny and seemed in the spirit of the celebration. Our cut was sent out for approval. Surprisingly, we ended up with White House officials, in-person, in our Hollywood office going over the cut with a fine toothed comb and asking for the removal of that particular image. Very strange. How did the government, specifically the White House get involved in dictating image usage in an entertainment special?
Anyway, back to Hangar 18. Sunn Classic Pictures had the reputation as a super low-budget production company in 1970s, making religious and paranormal documentaries and docudrama productions, primarily for TV. Then in 1980, they produce an action/sci-fi feature film that, while still being low-budget, was way more sophisticated than anything earlier produced by them. It had numerous recognizable b-actors, mostly from TV with a high volume of visual effects. From your conversation with Robbie on Coast, I'm not surprised that Sunn Classic might have had government financial and content support on this film, similar to the previous UFO production. After going to your Earthfiles website, I saw the YouTube link for Hangar 18 and watched it on Friday. I recognized James Hampton, as the sidekick astronaut. I know his daughter, called her and asked her if she remembered the film and asked what her dad said about it at the time. She was 12 then, but clearly remembered her dad saying it was a "very, very strange" production and that he had lots of stories about the production shoot in Utah.
Interestingly enough in watching the film and its many visual effects, most of which were not particularly good, I recognized the shuttle orbiter model as one which had been developed in 1980 for a series of commercials for Rockwell Int'l. It had been commissioned by Rockwell for $10,000 (actually quite a lot for a physical model in 1980). It wasn't until hearing you and Robbie Graham on COAST February 1st that I realized and after seeing the Hangar 18 film's credits, that I realized the company that had done the visual effects was, in fact, a sister company of the production company that had produced the UFO film I had worked on.
So with Hangar 18, the CIA-connected producer with all of his support and involvement with the government, is contracted on yet another production with similar clandestine government support. There might, in fact, have been a number of these Hollywood companies that were linked into a network of government-approved vendors for getting the government's message out to the public on TV and film.
Lastly, in watching Hangar 18, I noticed that the Lear Jet at the end of the film had its N number clearly visible. Having produced a number of aviation shows, I know that one can quickly determine ownership and whereabouts of an aircraft from its N number, via the internet. Not sure who owned the plane in 1980 when the film was shot but in researching the number, it is currently signed for by someone at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, CA, a private non-profit school with obvious links to the government. Makes you wonder if maybe the plane wasn't a government loaner even back in 1980?
The CIA, the Movie Mogul and
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Evidence Mounts That This Iconic 1951 Movie Was A CIA UFO-Acclimation Project
© 2013 by Robbie Graham
Robbie Graham, independent U. K. scholar
and producer of Silverscreensaucers.com,
Reigate, Surrey, England.
Original screenplay by Edmund H. North, who had served
in U. S. Army Signal Corps. Movie produced by 20th Century Fox,
founded by Darryl F. Zanuck in 1933. He had worked for the U. S.
Army during WWII and with CIA-related organizations after the war.
Zanuck was closely involved in producing and editing his
studio's movies, including The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Colorized reprint of the 1951 poster.
1951 Hollywood feature The Day The Earth
Stood Still about an extraterrestrial humanoid and robot
on a diplomatic mission to Earth. Image source Wikipedia.
In 1983, Emmy award-winning filmmaker and journalist Linda Moulton Howe was working on a Home Box Office (HBO) project to produce an hour documentary UFOs: The E. T. Factor. She was told by a U. S. Air Force intelligence agent that the script for The Day the Earth Stood Still, which depicted an alien landing in Washington D.C., was “provided by the CIA,” and “was one of the first covert government tests of public reaction to such an event.”
If The Day the Earth Stood Still really was a CIA test of public reaction to open extraterrestrial contact – possibly containing classified information about UFOs – then the Agency would have needed at least one trustworthy asset working on the production in a position of creative influence. With this in mind, it is notable that the screenwriter of The Day the Earth Stood Still – Edmund H. North – was a Major in the Army Signal Corps prior to being selected by 20th Century Fox to pen the script.
During his time in the Corps, North had been in charge of training and educational documentaries, and later established himself as a Hollywood scribe of patriotic war films including Sink the Bismark! (1960) and Submarine X-1 (1968), as well as Patton (1970), for which he received an Oscar – all of which raises the possibility that he maintained an official or quasi-official role in the government’s cinematic propaganda campaigns throughout his career.
More notably, the man responsible for overseeing the production of The Day the Earth Stood Still – 20th Century Fox production chief Darryl Zanuck – was himself in charge of an Army Signal Corps documentary unit during the Second World War and was at the time of the movie’s production a board member of the National Committee for Free Europe (NCFE), which was established by the CIA in 1949 ostensibly as a private anti-Soviet organization. As a star member of the NCFE, Zanuck was directly associated with the organization’s executive committee, which included future CIA Director Allen Dulles and future US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 1951 – when the The Day the Earth Stood Still was being written, produced and released – the President of the NCFE was General Charles Douglas (C.D.) Jackson, who served as Deputy Chief of the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) during WWII, and would later be appointed as special advisor to President Eisenhower on Psychological Warfare. He was, in the words of historian Frances Stoner Saunders, “one of the most influential covert strategists in America.” Gen. C. D. Jackson referred to Darryl Zanuck as being among a group of Hollywood “friends” – including Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner and Walt Disney – on whom the government could rely “to insert in their scripts and in their action the right [ gov't.] ideas with the proper subtlety.”
With this in mind, and in light of what the USAF intelligence agent asserted to Linda Moulton Howe about The Day the Earth Stood Still being a CIA test of public reaction to open ET contact, a memo from Darryl Zanuck to the movie’s producer, Julian Blaustein (also a veteran of the Army Signal Corps) and screenwriter Edmund North makes for fascinating reading. In the memo, dated August 10, 1950, Zanuck stresses that that every effort should be made to “compel the audience to completely accept [emphasis in original] this story as something that could possibly happen in the not too distant future.”
Zanuck placed particular emphasis on the now iconic scene in which the alien Klaatu lands his flying saucer in Washington, D.C. before emerging to address the public. Zanuck advised Blaustein and North to “treat it as realistically as you possibly can,” even suggesting that the scene play out documentary style: “You should suddenly hear radio programs being interrupted with startling flash announcements from Washington, New York, Los Angeles, etc. The whole nation is ‘listening in.’ This should be dramatized like the opening of a documentary film.” The audience must “‘accept’ our entire project,” said Zanuck.
The script for The Day the Earth Stood Still was finally locked and approved by Darryl Zanuck on February 21, 1951. Virtually all of his script suggestions were followed. As a final thought on the movie in the context of propaganda and persuasion, the reader might find some significance in the following statement made by Zanuck in 1943 during his time in the Signal Corps: “If you have something worthwhile to say, dress it up in the glittering robes of entertainment and you will find a ready market… without entertainment, no propaganda film is worth a dime.”
- Linda Moulton Howe, telephone interview with the author, 8 Oct. 2008.
- Peter B. Flint, “Edmund H. North, 79, a Writer; He Shared an Oscar for 'Patton'”, The New York Times, Obituaries, 31 Aug., 1990, accessed on 4 June, 2012 at: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/08/31/obituaries/edmund-h-north-79-a-writer-he-shared-an-oscar-for-patton.html
- Leonard Mosley, Zanuck (Boston, MA, 1984), 195–244.
- Tony Shaw, Hollywood’s Cold War (Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 115. For the full list of the NCFE’s original members and Executive Officers, see: Central Intelligence Agency, “National Committee for Free Europe,” memo dated 4 Aug., 1949, Cia.gov, accessed on 14. Jun., 2012 at: http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000238872/DOC_0000238872.pdf
- Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London: Granta, 2000), 146 – 147. See also: “Jackson, C. D.: Papers, 1931-1967,” Eisenhower Archives (online), accessed on 14 Jun., 2012 at: http://eisenhower.archives.gov/Research/Finding_Aids/pdf/Jackson_CD_Papers.pdf
- Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, 289 – 290.
- Rudy Behlmer (ed.), Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox (New York: Grove Press, 1993), 192.
- Tony Shaw, Hollywood's Cold War, 9.
About Robbie Graham: He is an independent scholar whose work emphasizes the industrial, cultural and political processes by which Hollywood's UFO movie content is shaped, as well as the impact of these movies on popular perceptions of the UFO phenomenon. He holds a Masters degree with Distinction in Cinema Studies from the University of Bristol and a First Class Honours degree in Film, Television and Radio Studies from Staffordshire University. Robbie has been interviewed about UFOs and the politics of Hollywood for BBC Radio, Coast to Coast AM, Earthfiles.com, Canal+ TV and Vanity Fair, among others. His articles have appeared in a variety of publications including The Guardian, New Statesman, Filmfax, Fortean Times, Paranormal Magazine, Adbusters and the peer-reviewed journal of North American Studies, 49th Parallel. Robbie is currently writing a book on the subject of UFOs and Hollywood entitled: Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood's UFO Movies.