Past Event

Cold War in the Mediterranean / Marshall Plan Films

October 30, 2008 - November 6, 2008
5:00 PM
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Speakers: Victoria de Grazia and Silvio Pons

More than 200 documentary-style films were made about the Marshall Plan, which sent billions of US dollars in economic and technical assistance for recovery and reconstruction in Europe. The Marshall Plan films were a unique facet of U.S. propaganda efforts in post-war Europe. These two evenings of programming - a selection of Marshall Plan films plus major fiction films from the late 1940s - show the contrast between two visions of postwar reconstruction: the picture presented by one aspect of U.S. propaganda, and the vision of Hollywood (and of Anti-Hollywood). 

Thurs., Oct. 30 at 5:00 pm
Two shorts, Miracle of Cassino and Village without Words, followed by the feature film A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder, 1948)
Speaker: Victoria De Grazia (Director, European Institute, Columbia University) 

Thurs., Nov. 6 at 5:00 pm
Two shorts, At the Foot of the Mountains and Marshall Plan at Work in Turkey, followed by the feature film Jour de Fête (Jacques Tati, 1949)
Speaker: Silvio Pons (Italian Academy Fellow)



Thurs., Oct. 30 at 5:00 pm
The Miracle of Cassino. This film chronicles the rebuilding of Cassino, a town northeast of Naples which was destroyed when the Allies laid siege to the retreating Germans in one of World War II's fiercest battles. The people of Cassino did not give up on their town and after the war they returned to rebuild it with the aid of Marshall Plan counterpart funds. Made in 1950 by the Telefilm production company, based in Rome, under the auspices of the ECA Mission to Italy, versions of this film were available in the following languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish. 

Village without Words. With stirring images and dramatic music, this film tells the story of how Marshall Plan aid brought hope and sparked economic recovery in a small Italian town paralyzed by the lack of raw materials and modern machinery for its shuttered industrial plant. Made in 1950 by David Kurland Productions, based in Rome, under the auspices of the ECA Mission to Italy, versions of this film were available for Danish, English, German, Italian, and Norwegian audiences.

A Foreign Affair (feature film). Marlene Dietrich is cafe singer Erika Von Schluetow, one-time mistress of a war criminal. Jean Arthur is Congresswoman Phoebe Frost, member of a congressional committee on a morals investigation in occupied Berlin. John Lund is Captain John Pringle, the link between the two women.

Thurs., Nov. 6 at 5:00 pm
At the Foot of the Mountains. Set in the Piedmont region of Italy, this film illustrates how the mountains provide the key natural resources to support the industries of the region. Iron mines and hydroelectric dams provide the raw materials and electricity to factories that were modernized with Marshall Plan aid to make them more efficient and productive. This film was produced by Phoenix Films of Rome under the auspices of the ECA Mission to Italy sometime between 1950 and 1953. 

The Marshall Plan at Work in Turkey. A report on the contributions of the Marshall Plan to the efforts of the Turkish people to modernize their country, achieve economic recovery, and build a closer relationship to the countries of Western Europe. Made in 1950 by Editorial Film Productions of London and sponsored by the ECA headquarters mission in Paris, versions of this film were available in the following languages: Danish, English, German, Norwegian, and Portuguese. 

Jour de Fête (feature film). Jacques Tati directs and stars in the tale of a hapless small-town postman in France eager to do his job the American way, using his bicycle to try to match the speed and efficiency of the US Postal System and its airplanes. 


Victoria de Grazia is the Moore Collegiate Professor of History and Director of Columbia's European Institute.

Silvio Pons is Professor of East European History at Rome University Tor Vergata (Rome II) and the author numerous books. His main research interest is the history of the Cold War. He is currently writing a book on the history of international Communism and working on a project about the political culture of Italian Communism in the last decades of its life.