Thursday, 26 August 2010
There's No Business Like Spy Business.
In the early days of cinema the line between fact and fiction, between art and reality, was often blurred. The actors in the first westerns were actual cowboys who were just continuing the tradition, started in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, of riding around and doing the things that the public expected cowboys to do; only this time for the camera. Before the film industry decamped for California the business was centred in New York. Such was the cost of film stock in those days that it was the norm for a film to be shown at one movie theatre before being transported across town to be shown at the next venue a couple of hours later. It was inevitable that rival cinema owners would hire gangsters to hijack the films and equally inevitable that other gangs would be hired to protect the stock. From here it was a small step to hiring the gangsters to chase each other across rooftops firing blanks at each other and generally hamming it up. Thus a whole new film genre was born. The thing came full circle when a new generation of real life cowboys and gangsters based their persona's on their celluloid heroes. For years the fans found it difficult to separate the life of movie stars from the roles that their idols played on screen and it was a confusion that the studios encouraged. Sometimes their continued to be an element of truth in all of this. Burt Lancaster looks so good in Trapeze because he really had been a circus performer. Most of the time however all but the most unsophisticated of fans learned to differentiate between illusion and reality and were not entirely surprised when dead hard Rocky/Rambo Stallone was afraid to travel abroad for fear of being blown up by terrorists or nice clean cut romantic comedy star Hugh Grant got given a blowjob by a working girl in the back of a taxi. We just thought, "that's movies". Now comes news that this new found sophistication came late to the Security Service and that MI5 suspected James Bond scriptwriter Wolf Mankowitze of being in the pay of SMERSH. Mind you, at the time MI5 suspected just about everyone from Harold Wilson to Mister Pastry of being a Soviet spy. In the hall of mirrors that was MI5 and MI6 during the Cold War there seems to have been a grip on reality that would have put any old time film fan to shame.