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In Secrecy's ShadowThe OSS and CIA in Hollywood Cinema 1941-1979$
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Simon Willmetts

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780748692996

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748692996.001.0001

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Secrecy, Conspiracy, Cinema and the CIA in the 1970s

Secrecy, Conspiracy, Cinema and the CIA in the 1970s

(p.222) 5. Secrecy, Conspiracy, Cinema and the CIA in the 1970s
In Secrecy's Shadow

Simon Willmetts

Edinburgh University Press

This final chapter examines the figuration of the CIA in the wave of paranoid conspiracy films that were made in the 1970s. Still suffering from the reverberations of Watergate and the Vietnam War, in 1975 America faced another season of scandal after the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a series of damning revelations of nefarious CIA and FBI activities in the New York Times. This compounded a culture of suspicion that had already set in, especially in Hollywood, by the beginning of the 1970s. The conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s, films like Three Days of the Condor and The Parallax View, were the polar opposite of the semi-documentary films that represented American espionage in the aftermath of the Second World War. Whilst the latter lauded the United States government as the arbiter of historical authenticity, the former perceived state secrecy and deception as nefarious obstacles that prevented citizens from knowing the truth of their history. Secrecy figures as history’s aporia, and few types of film express this better than the paranoid conspiracy thriller.

Keywords:   Conspiracy theory, conspiracy cinema, paranoia, Watergate, Church Committee, Investigative Journalism, Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, Alan Pakula, Robert Redford

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