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21 November 2018

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Book Review

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Russians in Hollywoood, Hollywood's Russians

by Harlow Robinson

One of the reasons film is so fascinating is that, perhaps more fully than any other art form, it allows its practitioners to fashion alternative worlds nearly independent of the view. Film (or television) is so vivid and fully realized a fantasy that the viewer's imagination is all but suspended, and full control is handed over to the filmmaker.

This fact is all the more relevant when considering, as Robinson does here, the fascinating history of how Russia has been viewed through American film. Film offers propaganda opportunities unlike any other medium, and how filmmakers have employed this tool can be a telling reflection of political moods, the role of filmmakers vis-a-vis society, and more.

Robinson shows that American filmmakers' portrayals of Russia has been greatly tempered by political events, from uncertainty in the early years, to overeager pollyanism during WWII, to knee jerk antipathy during the Cold War.

This book is rich in detail and full of great production and behind-the-scenes stories. The plots of numerous important films are well-recounted (saving hours of viewing time!), and Robinson's profiles of some of the main "actors" and actors are excellent. Unfortunately, all too few of the films he references are available at the local vid store or via Netflix...

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Nov/Dec 2008