Monday, June 9, 2014

An ironic poster

So I was listening to a program from Polish Radio's English-language external service, and they were discussing the 25th anniversary of the first semi-free elections in Poland. What I didn't know is that Solidarity used the poster above as part of the campaign. That is, of course, Gary Cooper as the sheriff in High Noon, presumably giving Polish voters the implied message that Solidarity were the only ones with the courage to stand up to the massed forces of Communism, and won't you join them? (The literal message on the poster says something about voting at high noon on June 4; having studied on Slavic language in Russian I can make out some words in other Slavic languages but not a lot.)

I find there's some irony in using an iconic image from High Noon for a poster, since it's generally considered to be an anti-anti-communist movie, in that it was really a parable about standing up to the congressional committees investigating communist activity in Hollywood. John Wayne, one of the more anti-communist actors in Hollywood at the time, disliked the movie, although, to be fair, it apparently received a cool critical reception from actual movie critics who wouldn't be strongly anti-communist. The Soviets, who clearly weren't anti-Communist, disliked the movie too, while any number of people on the right (including Ronald Reagan, who although still a Democrat at the time was a noted anti-communist, having dealt with an allegedly Communist-backed union during the filming of Night Unto Night) praised it.

Gary Cooper, for his part, testified before the HUAC in the late 1940s and was considered a "friendly" witness, even though he didn't name any names, instead giving a bunch of vague platitudes about there being a bunch of useful idiots in Hollywood, and his drawing the conclusion that Communist ideas wouldn't work in real life. I'm reminded of the scenes at the beginning of The Iron Curtain about the Communists in Canada using "peace organizations" as a front; there really were useful idiots for Communism, and have been for almost any ideology you can think of. In 1959, long after Joseph McCarthy had died, Cooper was actually invited to visit the Soviet Union by Nikita Khrushchev. The Polish Radio broadcast I listened to yesterday also had a clip of Cooper himself speaking on a Voice of America broadcast to Poland in the mid-1950s, basically saying how pleased he was that it looked like some Hollywood movies were going to be shown again in Europe after a long absence, and how pleased he was about this because Hollywood was making some really fine movies. That reminds me of the short that TCM runs in which MGM announces the new picture palace it's opening in Cairo, and all the wonderful movies that Egyptian audiences would now get to see.


Tom said...

How can I listen to this radio station?

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

There are several podcasts, as well as a listen live link.

Tom said...

Thank you. I will look for the English podcasts and broadcasts (I do not speak fluent Polish, but I have Polish blood)