National Archives Hosts Free Marshall Plan Film Series
Press Release · Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Selling Democracy—Films of the Marshall Plan: 1948–1953

Washington, DC…The National Archives will host a four-night Selling Democracy film series featuring original films of the Marshall Plan from Tuesday, October 17 through Friday, October 20, in the newly-reopened William G. McGowan Theater. All film showings are free and open to the public. This series is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Foundation for the National Archives, and The Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film at the National Archives.

The landmark film series, organized by Sandra Schulberg and curated with Ed Carter of the Academy Film Archive, features 25 films made in Europe by the Marshall Plan’s Motion Picture Section and by the Documentary Film Unit of the U.S. Office of Military Government (OMGUS) after WWII. It is a fascinating cross-section of the more than 260 films originally produced to hasten the reconstruction of Europe and to encourage the democratization of Germany. Embodying "the largest peacetime propaganda effort directed by one country to a group of others ever seen," according to Marshall Plan historian David Ellwood, these films illustrate in surprisingly specific terms the strategy implemented by the Truman Administration for "winning the peace."

The Marshall Plan, as it was popularly called in recognition of its chief proponent and strategist, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, was officially known as the European Recovery Program (ERP). Over $13 billion in U.S. aid (the equivalent of about $90 billion in today’s dollars) was provided to 17 European nations, plus the city-state of Trieste. By 1951, in response to concerns about the perceived threat of Communism and the impact of the Korean War, the Marshall Plan’s focus shifted to European security and military issues. The films to be presented were produced between 1948 and 1953 by European filmmakers for European audiences under the aegis of four successive chiefs of the Marshall Plan Motion Picture Section: Lothar Wolff, Stuart Schulberg, Nils Nilson, and Albert Hemsing.

Because of the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, that prohibited the propagandizing of American citizens, very few of the films had been seen publicly in the United States until Schulberg mounted the first American retrospective in 2004. The series kicks off the third year of its U.S. national tour with the NARA screenings in Washington.

American Premiere of Newly-Restored Film Speak Up

The series highlight will be the American premiere of a fascinating film entitled Speak Up, which has been newly restored by the Academy Film Archive, and was not available for public presentation until now. Speak Up was the Marshall Plan’s response to emerging Cold War tensions in Germany and the rest of Europe, and was specifically intended to counteract the Soviet Union’s initiative to corral European intellectuals. It documents the creation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), founded in 1949 by Melvin Lasky and other anti-Communist writers and intellectuals. During the next 50 years, Lasky, who is featured in the film, became a towering figure of the Non-Communist Left (NCL), editing the influential journals Encounter in England and Der Monat in Germany, and facilitating the translation and publication in the West of numerous writers whose work was banned behind the Iron Curtain. He was heralded by many, including General Lucius Clay, as the ultimate "Cold Warrior." The work of the CCF was undermined by the revelation in the mid-60’s that it had benefited from covert CIA funding.

Over the past two years, the Academy Film Archive has conducted extensive restoration and preservation of the 25 films included in the Selling Democracy series, and is in the process of preserving others.

Screening Schedule

Tuesday, October 17, at 7 P.M. - Program One: Out of the Ruins (100 min.)
Hunger (1948)
It's Up to You! (1948)
Between East and West (1949)
The Bridge (1949)
Me and Mr. Marshall (1949)
Speak Up
Houen Zo! (1952)

Wednesday, October 18, at 7 P.M. - Program Two: Help Is on the Way (100 min.)
The Extraordinary Adventures of a Quart of Milk (1951)
The Home We Love (1950)
Rice and Bulls (1950)
Island of Faith (1950)
Town Without Water (1949)
Hansl and the 200,000 Chicks (1952)

Thursday, October 19 at 7 P.M. - Program Three: True Fiction (120 min.)
The Story of Koula (1951)
Aquila (1950)
The Promise of Barty O’Brien (1952)
The Smiths and the Robinsons (1952)
Let's Be Childish! (1950)

Friday, October 20, at 7 P.M. - Program Four: Strength for the Free World (100 min.)
The Hour of Choice (1951)
Without Fear (1951)
Struggle for Men’s Minds (1952)
Whitsun Holiday (1953)
Do Not Disturb! Meeting in Progress (1950)
The Shoemaker and the Hatter (1950)

Descriptions of the films to be shown in Washington, and examples of Marshall Plan posters, can be found at Linda Christenson has compiled a listing of all Marshall Plan films known to date (see, and other titles are coming to light through the work of the Selling Democracy project.

All films will be shown in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, located on the National Mall at Constitution Ave. and 7th Street, NW, and will be introduced by Sandra Schulberg, daughter of one of the Marshall Plan Motion Picture chiefs. The film retrospective is preceded by a panel discussion featuring Lincoln Gordon, one of the architects of the Marshall Plan, and Marshall Plan scholars, at which Schulberg will present clips from the films, to be held on Monday, October 16, at 7 P.M. in the Theater. Admission to the panel and films is free.

The film series is part of a month-long series of public programs focusing on Cold War history, held in conjunction with the new exhibition "Eyewitness: American Originals from the National Archives (on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery through January 2, 2007). Programming culminates on October 21 with an all-day public symposium, " The Cold War: An Eyewitness Perspective."

The National Archives is fully accessible. If you need to request an accommodation (e.g., sign language interpreter) for a public program please e-mail or call 202-357-5000 two weeks prior to the event to ensure proper arrangements are secured.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Goethe-Institute, the George C. Marshall Foundation, the German Historical Museum, and Schulberg Productions provided additional support for these programs.

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Members of the Press Only

Selected films are available for pre-screening by special arrangement. Still photographs and posters to accompany news stories are available for download by the press via the Selling Democracy ftp site. For press information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at: 202-357-5300.


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