"Your Job in Germany" and "Our Job in Japan" are examples of real propaganda, the kind that makes me wonder how anyone (let alone many people) could possibly refer to another new film, "Act of Valor," as such. Or a cute kid film like "The Lorax," either, for that matter. These two shorts were written by Dr. Seuss back when he was better known as Ted Geisel and working with/for Frank Capra at the First Motion Picture Unit at the United States Army Air Forces. Following his infamous Private Snafu animated shorts, he worked on these ironic and hypocritical documentary films aimed at soldiers who'd be occupying Germany and Japan after the war ended.
"Germany" was actually begun long before the Nazis surrender, rather optimistically. Its main point is that the German people are not to be trusted or befriended because we'd already been duped by their "fake peace" after the first World War, and so we need to stay on guard and keep the country from rising up again with their ideas of superiority and world domination. The strange thing is that Seuss/Geisel is the grandson of German immigrants. Still, he had more allegiance to the American way, which also ironically is claimed in the film as being accepting of other races and creeds. Speaking of respect, the film also trashes German history and tradition and then orders the occupying troops to be respectful of their culture.
Sadly the film's narration, which was nearly read by Ronald Reagan, isn't written in rhyme like Seuss' later children's books. But there is a playfulness, albeit of somewhat offensive nature, that does sound Seuss-like if you're watching with the knowledge that he's indeed the one who wrote it. He was aided by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony Veiller ("The Killers") and Oscar-nominated director Anatole Litvak ("The Snake Pit") as well as Capra, who oversaw the recording of the voice-over, which was performed by John Beal. You can watch the short in full below, and if you think it's "bullshit!" then you're not alone. That's allegedly what General George Patton yelled after screening it for approval (other generals liked it more).
A few years after the enlisted were treated to "Germany," it was reworked by Warner Bros. as a slightly longer short titled "Hitler Lives?" produced for public view. The narration was redone by Knox Manning and the film was now credited to director Don Siegel and writer Saul Elkins. But if you watch it after watching the earlier version you can be damn certain that much of Seuss/Geisel's words were kept in. It's no shocker that the future "Cat in the Hat" writer was pissed when "Hitler Lives" won an Oscar and his desire for recognition was dismissed. (By the way, if you think the Academy Awards are bad now, how about their celebration of blatant racism and xenophobia 70 years ago?)
The same thing wouldn't happen with "Japan," which was made as a companion piece to "Germany." Again, he worked with Capra on the post-WWII occupation propaganda piece, which like the first film hypocritically condemning of the Axis power's own brainwashing media and corrupt exploitation of the Shinto religion. When this film was reworked for a public and commercial version, titled "Design for Death," Seuss/Geisel retained credit as screenwriter, along with his wife, Helen Palmer Geisel. Not that they took home trophies when the film won the Oscar in 1948 (however, they did get to attend the ceremony).
Unlike "Germany," though, "Japan" was never released, not even to military personnel, until the '80s. While there's no legendary cursing attached to the complaints, this second occupation propaganda film was squashed by General Douglas MacArthur (he'd previously recalled a feature film Seuss/Geisel worked on called "Know Your Enemy -- Japan"). Compiled by Oscar-winning editor Elmo Williams ("High Noon"), it is a harsh documentary even if you've heard about Seuss/Geisel's prejudicial dislike for all Japanese and Japanese-Americans alike. But it's especially upsetting if you only know of the writer for his more liberal-minded works (just another instance of the very conservative Capra working with the enemy, a New Deal Democrat). Watch it in full here:
The Oscar-winning "Design for Death" is unfortunately not available online, as far as I can find, though it hasn't been lost entirely, as was once thought. Also not online, the short doc "The Costume Designer," which Seuss/Geisel wrote for the Academy Awards in 1949. As for his continued indirect success with the Oscars, a 1951 animated short based on "Gerald McBoing-Boing" won an Academy Award, while Ron Howard's live-action "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" picked up a win for Best Makeup, which wouldn't have been possible were it not for Seuss' wild character designs. He also wrote George Pal's 1943 Oscar-nominated animated short "500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins and Roy Rowland's Oscar-nominated musical "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T." Perhaps the new "Lorax" movie will be nominated next year, especially since everyone knows the Academy is filled with liberals.
As for other Doc Options relative to the work of Dr. Seuss, there's the PBS doc "The Political Dr. Seuss," which I can't find even a clip of, and the episode of A&E's "Biography" titled "Dr. Seuss: Rhymes and Reasons." Check out the part of this doc only slightly addressing the writer's propaganda work here:
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