chapter  12
12 Pages

The Propaganda of the Marshall Plan in Italy in a Cold War Context David W. Ellwood

In 1990, at a post-Cold War conference held to discuss the impact of American culture in all its forms in the ideologically radicalized Italy of the 1950s, the veteran left-wing intellectual Enzo Forcella proclaimed: 'The American myths kept their promises and won through!'1 Forcella was referring specifically to the images purveyed by the documentaries of the American way of life which accompanied the Marshall Plan, particularly those showing workers arriving at factories at the wheels of their own cars, an unthinkable notion in the Italy of 1949.2

We now know that European audiences always adopted whatever America was offering as far as this corresponded to their needs and no further, and that the cinema was one of the key sites of this filtering and appropriation process. The mechanisms at work are well illustrated by a long and interesting analysis of European attitudes to America supplied to the US intelligence services by an anonymous Italian observer, just after that country's elections of June 1953: '95% of all Europeans - friends and enemies of America - judge American society by what they see at the cinema', declared the source. From Hollywood's products many had taken away a dreadful impression of the country, of its crime and corruption, and of the venality and brutality of its ruling groups in particular. But the medium

... was useful above all in reinforcing the European admiration for the American standard of living, for American technique... Undoubtedly film has given the US a propaganda triumph, to the extent that it has reminded Europeans of their traditionally optimistic vision of the American paradise'.3