Oscar Movies: Mission to Moscow (1943)–Agit-Prop from Warner

Requested by President Roosevelt to make a film supportive of America’s Russian allies, Warner adapted to the screen the memoirs of Ambassador Joseph H. Davies, who spent several years prior to WWII in the Soviet Union.

Walter Huston plays Davies, a pillar of incorruptable integrity, reporting the facts “as I saw them.”  Sent to Moscow to find out if Russia is a trustworthy ally, Davies and his family are given the royal treatment by the Commissars.

The Russian citizens are shown to be singing, smiling, freedom-loving individuals, in contrast to the Nazis, who are depicted as humorless and soulless.

Present the Soviet Union in a possible light, the film glosses over the notorious Purge Trials of 1937, presenting the trials as scrupulously fair and the defendants as traitors.

Even Russia’s annexation of Finland in 1939 is “justified” by Davies’ explanation that the Soviets wished to protect their tiny neighbor from Nazi domination

Screenwriter Howard Koch would be blacklisted, unable to get film work after the war because of his contributions to this “Pinko” project, while Jack Warner insisted that he was strongarmed into making the film.

Despite being agit-prop, Mission to Moscow is passably entertaining due to direction of vet Michael Curtiz, but it’s ludicrous as history due to distortion of basic facts.

The cast includes Gene Lockhart as Molotov, attorney Dudley Field Malone as Winston Churchill, Maynart Kippen as a benign, pipe-smoking Stalin, Charles Trowbridge as Secretary Cordell Hull, Leigh Whipper as Hailie Selassie, Georges Renavent as Anthony Eden and Alex Chirva as Pierre Laval, along with the more familiar faces of Ann Harding (as Mrs. Davies), George Tobias, Eleanor Parker, Moroni Olsen, Minor Watson, Jerome Cowan, Duncan Renaldo, Mike Mazurki, Frank Faylen, Edward van Sloan, Louis-Jean Heydt, Monte Blue, Robert Shayne.

The original print of Mission to Moscow includes a 6-minute prologue delivered by the real-life Joseph Davies.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Interior Decoration (black and white): Carl Weyl; George J. Hopkins

Oscar Awards: No

 

Oscar Context:

The Art Direction Oscar went to “The Song of Bernadette.”

Running time: 123 minutes.