KinoKultura: Issue 48 (2015)

Stalin’s Trophy Films, 1947-52: A Resource

By Claire Knight (U of Cambridge)

Introduction
One need not spend much time in the world of Stalin-era cinema before encountering the unusual case of post-war trophy films. These works, known as trofeinye fil’my (captured, “trophy” films), consist of Hollywood and Nazi productions from 1930-1944 that were reprocessed according to Soviet censorial strictures and released in cinemas across the USSR from early 1947 until 1956.[1] To date, scholarship has concentrated on two key questions in relation to these films. The first question is why these films were permitted to be screened. This issue is particularly relevant given the challenges faced by Soviet-made productions at the time in navigating censorship and securing release, which resulted in a period of malokartin'e (or film famine) from 1947-52. Early discussions by Maya Turovskaya, Peter Kenez, and Richard Taylor make a clear connection between the two post-war phenomena—trophy films and malokartin'e—pointing out that the dearth of Soviet features no doubt motivated the release of foreign pictures to supplement the domestic industry’s meager offerings. This supplementary function only added to their value as escapist fare for an audience enduring the hardships of post-war recovery (Kenez 1992, 213–214; Taylor 1998, 48–49; Turovskaya 1993, 51). More recently, earlier supposition as to the financial benefits of screening unlicensed foreign films has also been confirmed through the archival investigations of Natacha Laurent into the economics of censorship, and underlined by Kristin Roth-Ey in her holistic study of Soviet media (Laurent 2000, 234–239; Roth-Ey 2011, 39–43).

The second central question in the scholarship boasts greater implications beyond cinema history, and as such, has been pursued by scholars outside of film studies. This is because this second theme pertains to reception: how did Soviet audiences respond to trophy films? To this end, film historian Sergei Kapterev not only uses comparative film analysis to trace the influence of Hollywood trophy films on Soviet cinema, but also assesses official attitudes toward America in light of the motivations and manipulations of the Soviet attempt to negotiate a film trade agreement with the US after the war (which was not successful until 1958) (Kapterev, 2009). Further, historians of post-war youth culture and Soviet identity analyze anecdotal accounts of trophy film viewing drawn from memoirs and the Harvard Émigré Interview Project in order to identify the nuances and range of attitudes towards America during the early Cold War (Edele 2002, 53–56; Fürst 2010, 205–209, 237; Johnston 2011, 191–198, 206).[2] Finally, although trophy films have yet to be explored fully in their Cold War context, several Cold War cultural historians nevertheless identify cinema and the Soviet use of Western cultural production as fruitful topics for future research (Kachurin and Glants 2002, 4; Starck 2010, 4). 

Despite the growing interest in trophy film, much of the data fundamental to defining the phenomenon—numbers and titles of films, genres, release rates and distribution patterns, viewership statistics—has hitherto been fractured across various studies or lacking altogether from the scholarship. This resource seeks to begin to redress this deficiency by providing as comprehensive an accounting as possible of the trophy films released under Stalin between 1947 and 1952, the most intensive period of trophy screening. To this end, Table 1 identifies the 86 titles for which Soviet release during this period is certain, having been confirmed by cross-referencing archived directives for the processing of specific films, accounts of film purchases during the short-lived wartime exchange between the Allies, and secondary sources identifying foreign films that were shown. This cross-checking has enabled the identification of which films were actually screened, and which were captured and screened illegally (trophies) as opposed to purchased and licensed for distribution.[3] Subsequent tables break down this list of titles in terms of release rates (Table 2), genre (Table 3), and country of origin (Table 4). Finally, Table 5 enumerates those films that were excluded from release following initial approval or for which release has not been confirmed, as well as unidentified films that, although foreign, may or may not have been trophies. It is therefore possible that additional films will need to be added to the list in Table 1 as their release is confirmed in the future. For this reason, this resource remains a work in progress. Before tracing the progress so far in assessing the trophy film collection, let us begin with an overview of the collection and how it came to be.

Origins and Contents of the Trophy Film Archive
Practically from the first moment of Soviet military involvement in the conflict in Europe in September 1939, the Red Army began amassing trophies of war, not least among these the reels of celluloid that would become known as trofeinye fil'my. These prizes were collected from Western Ukraine and Belorussia, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and even Bessarabia (Moldova), and conveyed to Glavkinoprokat (Glavnoe upravlenie massovoi pechati i prokata kinofil'mov, or General Directorate for the Mass Printing and Distribution of Films), the state agency for film distribution and promotion (archival documents reprinted in Levitova 2008a, 38; 2008b, 224). It was not until May 1945, however, that the jewel was added to the crown with the capture of the Reichsfilmarchiv, an expansive collection of films compiled both by and in honor of Nazi Minister of Propaganda and notorious cinephile Joseph Goebbels. Within a week of the German surrender, Soviet Committee of Cinematography functionary I. Manevich was in Babelsberg surveying the holdings of 17,300 films secured by Red Army soldiers (Roth-Ey 2011, 39). Manevich filled two train cars with 3,500 feature films and 2,500 shorts for immediate shipment to Moscow, whence they were transported to Belye Stolby by early August to join the rest of the Soviet film collection (archival documents reprinted in Levitova 2008a, 37; Roth-Ey 2011, 40). By November, another two train cars and two plane loads of celluloid had been added to the collection (archival documents reprinted in Levitova 2008a, 38), bringing the total to 100,000 reels or 30 million meters of celluloid, constituting 10,669 films. Of these, 8,813 were fiction films, with 3,730 full-length sound features, 68 of which were in color. They hailed from 28 different countries, primarily America, Germany and France (see Table 4), and covered a wide range of genres, with drama, comedy, musical and crime leading the way (see Table 3) (RGASPI 17/132/88/2-6).[4] The remaining fiction films consisted of 2,336 silent pictures, 1,913 talkie shorts, and 834 color shorts and cartoons, while the non-fiction films included ethnographic pictures, popular science, and several thousand reels of news chronicles. Additional films continued to trickle in to Belye Stolby over the next few years with, for instance, 95 features added in early 1952 (RGASPI 17/133/386/51-52).

Cataloguing the films commenced in August 1945 and took three years to complete, at which point Minister of Cinema Ivan Bol'shakov was tasked by the Central Committee with compiling a list of films for release on Soviet screens (RGASPI 17/132/88/2, 7; archival documents reprinted in Levitova 2008a, 37). By this time, six films had already been drawn from the new cinematic store, “Sovietized”, and distributed across the Soviet Union—two American dramas and four German musicals—while another six musicals had been approved for release six weeks earlier as part of the 1948 cinema production plan. What started as a trickle soon escalated to a flood so that by the end of 1952 at least 86 captured films had been released—a rate nearly commensurable with that of Soviet-produced features (see Tables 1 and 2). Let us now consider more closely these 86 titles and what they reveal of the oddity that was the trophy film of late Stalin era cinema.

Table 1: Confirmed Trophy Film Releases, 1947-52

Country of Origin

Original Film Title

Soviet Release Title

Soviet Release Date

Director

Original Release Date

Studio

Genre*

Cz

Port Arthur

Спасенные знамена†

1948

Nicolas Farkas

1936

FCL, Slavia Film

Hist

Ger

Das Herz der Königin

Дорога на эшафот

1948

Carl Froelich

1940

UFA

A/B

Ger

Das indische Grabmal

Индийская гробница

1948

Richard Eichberg

1938

Richard Eichberg-Film

Adv

Ger

Das Lied der Wüste

Восстание в пустыне

1949

Paul Martin

1939

UFA

Mus

Ger

Der Bettelstudent

Нищий студент

1949

Georg Jacoby

1936

UFA

Mus

Ger

Der Dschungel ruft

Встреча в джунглях

1949

Harry Piel

1936

Ariel-Film

Adv

Ger

Der ewige Traum

На вершине Монблана

1949

Arnold Fanck

1934

Cine Allianz

Adv

Ger

Der Fuchs von Glenarvon

Возмездие

1949

Max W. Kimmich

1940

Tobis Filmkunst

A/B

Ger

Der Kaiser von Kalifornien

Золотая горячка

1949

Luis Trenker

1936

Luis Trenker-Film

Western

Ger

Der letzte Runde

Последний раунд

1949

Werner Klingler

1940

Tobis Filmkunst

Drama

Ger

Der weiße Traum

Снежная фантазия

1949

Geza von Cziffra

1943

Wien Film

Mus

Ger

Der Zigeunerbaron

Цыганский барон

1949

Karl Hartl

1935

UFA

Mus

Ger

Die drei Codonas

Воздушные акробаты

1948

Arthur Maria Rabenalt

1940

Tobis Filmkunst

Bio

Ger

Die Fledermaus

Летучая мышь

1948

Paul Verhoeven & Hans H. Zerlett

1937

Imagoton, Tobis Filmkunst

Mus

Ger

Die Frau meiner Träume

Девушка моей мечты

1947

Georg Jacoby

1944

UFA

Mus

Ger

Du bist mein Glück

Ты мое счастье

1947

Karl Heinz Martin

1936

Bavaria-Filmkunst

Mus

Ger

Ein unsichtbarer geht durch die Stadt

Невидимый идет по городу

1949

Harry Piel

1933

Ariel-Film

Adv

Ger

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Ночная серенада

1948

Leopold Hainisch

1940

Tobis Filmkunst

Mus

Ger

Fanny Elssler

Судьба балерины

1948

Paul Martin

1937

UFA

Hist

Ger

Friedrich Schiller

Призвание поэта

1949

Herbert Maisch

1940

Tobis Filmkunst

Bio

Ger

Kautschuk

Охотники за каучуком

1948

Eduard von Borsody

1938

UFA

A/B

Ger

Lache Bajazzo

Где моя дочь?

1947

Leopold Hainisch

1943

Tobis Filmkunst

Mus

Ger

Madame Bovary

Мадам Бовари

1949

Gerhard Lamprecht

1937

Euphono-Film

Adapt

Ger

Maria Ilona

Ошибка дипломата

1948

Geza von Bolvary

1939

Terra

Hist

Ger

Mein Leben für Irland

Школа ненависти

1949

Max W. Kimmich

1941

Tobis Filmkunst

A/B

Ger

Nora

Брачном круге

1948

Harald Braun

1944

UFA

Adapt

Ger

Ohm Krüger

Трансвааль в огне

1948

Hans Steinhoff

1941

Tobis Filmkunst

A/B

Ger

Operette

Оперетта

1948

Willi Forst

1940

Deutsche Forst Film, Wien Film

Mus

Ger

Paracelsus

Чудесный исцелитель†

1949

G.W. Pabst

1943

Bavaria-Filmkunst

Bio

Ger

Starke Herzen im Sturm

Тоска

1948

Herbert Maisch

1937

UFA

Mus

Ger

Titanik

Гибель Титаника

1949

Herbert Selpin

1943

Tobis Filmkunst

Hist

Ger

Traummusik

Гибель мечты

1949

Geza von Bolvary

1940

Itala Film

Mus

Ger

Truxa

Артисты цирка

1949

Hans H. Zerlett

1937

Tobis-Magna

Drama

Ger

Unsterblicher Walzer

Знакомые мелодии

1949

E.W. Emo

1939

Wien Film & Tobis Filmkunst

Bio

Ger

Vergiss mein nicht

Не забывай меня

1947

Augusto Genina

1935

Itala Film

Mus

Ger

Wen die Götter lieben

Мозарт

1948

Karl Hartl

1942

UFA

Bio

Ger

Zauber der Boheme

Богема

1948

Geza von Bolvary

1937

Interglorio Film, Standard-Film

Mus

It

Il re si diverte

Риголетто

1948

Mario Bonnard

1941

Scalera Film

Mus

It

Il sogno di Butterfly

Чио-Чио-Сан†

1948

Carmine Gallone

1939

Grandi Film Storici

Mus

It-Fr

Le comte de Monte-Cristo

Граф Монте Кристо

1950

Robert Vernay

1942

Regina Films, Excelsa Film

Adapt

US

(several possibilities)

Случай в пустыне

1952

Herbert Leeds

1939

Fox

Western

US

Captain Fury

Долина Гнева

1948

Hal Roach

1939

United Artists

Adv

US

Cardinal Richelieu

Кардинал Ришелье

1952

Rowland V Lee

1935

20th Century Pictures

Hist

US

David Copperfield

Тяжелые годы

1948

George Cukor

1935

MGM

Adapt

US

Dead End

Трущобы большого города

1948

William Wyler

1937

United Artists

Crime

US

Emile Zola

Я обвиняю

1948

William Dieterle

1937

Warner Bros

Bio

US

First Love

Первый бал

1948

Henry Koster

1939

Universal Pictures

Mus

US

Geronimo

На земле предков

1950

Paul Sloane

1939

Paramount

Western

US

Give Us this Night

Песнь о любви

1951

Alexander Hall

1936

Paramount

Mus

US

Grapes of Wrath

Дорога бедствий

1948

John Ford

1940

Fox

Adapt

US

I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

Побег с каторги

1947

Mervyn LeRoy

1932

Warner Bros

Crime

US

I Dream Too Much

Её мечта

1949

John Cromwell

1935

Radio Picture

Mus

US

Les Misérables

Именем закона

1949

Richard Boleslawski

1935

United Artists

Adapt

US

Mad About Music

Секрет актрисы

1948

Norman Taurog

1938

Universal Pictures

Mus

US

Maytime

Весенние дни

1952

Alexander Hall

1937

MGM

Mus

US

Meet John Doe

Познакомьтесь с Джоном Доу

1951

Frank Capra

1941

Frank Capra Prod.

Com

US

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Во власти доллара

1949

Frank Capra

1936

Columbia

Drama

US

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Сенатор

1947

Frank Capra

1939

Columbia

Drama

US

Mutiny on the Bounty

Мятежный корабль

1949

Frank Lloyd

1935

MGM

Adv

US

New Moon

Таинственный беглец

1948

Robert Leonard

1940

MGM

Mus

US

Robin Hood of El Dorado

Мститель из Эльдорадо

1949

William Wellman

1936

MGM

Adv

US

Romeo & Juliet

Ромео и Джульетта

1948

George Cukor

1936

MGM

Adapt

US

Rose-Marie

Роз Мари

1949

W.S. Van Dyke

1936

MGM

Mus

US

Stagecoach

Путешествие будет опасным

1948

John Ford

1939

United Artists

Western

US

Suez

Трудный путь

1948

Allan Dwan

1938

Fox

Adv

US

Tarantella

Двойная игра

1948

Robert Leonard

1937

MGM

Mus

US

Tarzan Escapes

Тарзан в западне

1952

Richard Thorpe

1936

MGM

Adv

US

Tarzan Finds a Son!

Тарзан находит сына

1952

Richard Thorpe

1939

MGM

Adv

US

Tarzan the Ape Man

Тарзан

1952

W.S. Van Dyke

1932

MGM

Adv

US

Tarzan's New York Adventure

Приключения Тарзана в Нью-Йорке

1952

Richard Thorpe

1942

MGM

Adv

US

The Adventures of Marco Polo

Приключения венецианца

1948

Archie Mayo

1938

United Artists

Adv

US

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Приключения Робин Гуда

1952

Michael Curtiz & William Keighley

1938

Warner Bros

Adv

US

The Count of Monte Cristo

Расплата

1948

Rowland V Lee

1934

United Artists

Adapt

US

The Crowd Roars

Восьмой раунд

1948

Richard Thorpe

1938

MGM

Drama

US

The Gladiator

Гладиатор

1952

Edward Sedgwick

1938

David L. Loew Prod., Columbia

Com

US

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Собор Парижской Богоматери

1949

William Dieterle

1939

Columbia

Adapt

US

The Man in the Iron Mask

Железная маска

1950

James Whale

1939

Edward Small Prod., United Artists

Adapt

US

The Mark of Zorro

Таинственный знак

1949

Rouben Mamoulian

1940

Fox

Adv

US

The Prince and the Pauper

Двойники

1948

William Keighley

1937

Warner Bros

Adapt

US

The Roaring Twenties

Судьба солдата в Америке

1952

Raoul Walsh

1939

Warner Bros

Crime

US

The Sea Hawk

Королевские пираты

1952

Michael Curtiz

1940

Warner Bros

Adv

US

The Story of Louis Pasteur

Жизнь для науки

1949

William Dieterle

1936

First National Prod., Warner Bros

Bio

US

The Three Musketeers

Три мушкетера

1951

Allan Dwan

1939

Fox

Adapt

US

Tower of London

Башня смерти

1948

Rowland V Lee

1939

Universal Pictures

Hist

US

Viva, Villa!

Капитан армии свободы

1949

Jack Conway

1934

MGM

Western

US-Brit

Under the Red Robe

Под кардинальской мантией

1952

Victor Seastrom

1937

New World Pictures, Fox

Adv

Mus=Musical; Bio=Biography; Adapt=Adaptation/Ekranizatsiia; Doc=Documentary; Hist=Historical; A/B=Anti-British; Adv=Adventure; Com=Comedy

* The collection itself was sorted according to genre by the original team of Soviet cataloguers in 1945-48, but the report preserved in the Agitprop archives at RGASPI only provides total numbers within each genre with a few titles as examples, rather than an enumeration of the generic designation of each film. Only the generic categories used by the original Soviet cataloguers are used here in assigning the trophy releases to genres. Ministry of Cinema descriptions of the films have been consulted wherever possible in order to garner insights into how they were perceived in generic terms, that is, as comedies, adventures, and so on. This scant information has been heavily supplemented, however, by the author’s personal assessment of the films and by the genre designations used by the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).
† The release of these films was ordered in the year indicated in the second column; however, it is possible that they did not screen until the following year due to delays in processing.
‡ Herbert Leeds directed six films for Fox in 1939, three of which—all Westerns—would suit the Soviet title Sluchai v pustyne: The Arizona Wildcat, The Return of the Cisco Kid, and The Cisco Kid and the Lady.

Table 2: Annual Rates of Trophy Film Release

Year

Soviet feature film releases

Trophy film releases

Trophies as % of Soviet releases

1947

24

6

25.0%

1948

21

34

161.9%

1949

12

28

233.3%

1950

13

3

23.1%

1951

9

3

33.3%

1952

10

12

120.0%

TOTALS:

89

86

96.6%

Note: The figures for ‘Soviet feature film releases’ include all full-length features, but exclude all filmed concerts (kontserty) and theatrical performances (fil'my-spektakli), of which there were four and ten, respectively, during these years.

Comments:
Initially, the Ministry of Cinema seemed to treat the trophy film archive as a more affordable replacement for foreign imports, which averaged between five and eight per year by the end of the war (RGASPI 17/125/576/3). To this end, a modest half-dozen trophy films were released during 1947, while a further six were approved on 14 June 1948 for release that same year. However, this cautious approach was abandoned once the entire collection had been catalogued in August, so that by the end of the month the Politburo had commissioned a startling fifty trophy films for release during 1948–49. By May 1949, the majority of these films had been reprocessed—edited for content, dubbed or subtitled, and prefaced with an ideological disclaimer as to what the film revealed of the depravity of capitalism—and many already screened. On the basis of this success, seven more were selected, followed by a further eighteen in June. After this latter batch, the rate of trophy film production returned to the earlier, more moderate pattern with approval being granted for individual and small groups of films throughout the remainder of the trophy period. For instance during 1951, the four Tarzan films were sanctioned in January, and a third Frank Capra film—Meet John Doe (Russian: Poznakom'tes' s Dzhonom Dou,1941)—in August.

In addition to relatively high release rates, trophy films also benefitted from wide distribution, although Glavkinoprokat did not dedicate equivalent resources to their circulation and promotion as to that of Soviet feature films. (For instance, the four German musicals released in 1947 warranted only 150-200 copies apiece compared with the 600-800 copies that was usual for Soviet features at that time [RGASPI 17/125/576/60])[5] The Sovietized foreign films nevertheless permeated every corner of the Union, from the cities of the Russian heartland to the towns and villages of Altai; from the Baltic states, Ukraine and Moldova to Georgia and Azerbaijan (RGASPI 17/125/576/57-58; Roth-Ey 2011, 41). Glavkinoprokat records for 1947 show that regions as far-flung as Kirgizstan, Turkmenistan, and Kabardino-Balkaria (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) received copies of nearly all available foreign (predominantly trophy) films that year, in numbers of copies at least equivalent to those of Soviet titles, if not slightly higher. For instance, Kirgizstan received 111 copies of 25 Soviet titles (an average of 4.4 copies per title) and 37 copies of 9 foreign films (4.1 copies); Kabardino-Balkar ASSR received 83 copies of 64 Soviet titles (1.3 copies each) and 14 copies of 10 foreign titles (1.4 copies); and Turkmenistan, 168 copies of 60 Soviet titles (2.8 copies each) and 34 copies of 9 foreign titles (3.7 copies) (RGASPI 17/132/88/139-142).

The trophy films were also viewed widely. In fact, despite the disadvantage in numbers of copies, at least some trophies enjoyed more screenings per day and longer runs than even the most popular of Soviet features. Turovskaia found that turnover rates per copy of the German musical Die Frau meiner Träume (The Woman of My Dreams; Russian: Devushka moei mechty, dir. Jacoby, 1944), for instance, out-screened Boris Barnet’s box office leader Secret Agent (Podvig razvedchika 1947) by a factor of five (Turovskaya 1993, 51).[6] Similarly, a letter of complaint from Komsomol head Nikolai Mikhailov notes countless cases from across the USSR of trophy films commanding a disproportionate amount of screen time. For example, in Barnaul (Altai) the cinema October [Oktiabr'] showed five foreign films for a total of 45 days, while Mikhail Chiaureli’s Stalin epic The Oath (Kliatva 1946) entertained audiences for only two days, and the re-release of Mikhail Romm’s classic Lenin in October (Lenin v Oktiabre 1937), only one day. Meanwhile in Riga, screenings of Devushka moei mechty began at 11am and continued until the final showing at 1am (RGASPI 17/125/576/57-58).

Although box office data are available for only twelve trophy films, these few figures confirm their popularity.[7] Seven of the twelve ranked within the top five films for their year, with Tarzan films taking the top four spots in 1952, relegating Chiaureli’s final Stalin epic, The Unforgettable 1919 (Nezabyvaemyi 1919 god), to a distant fifth place. Despite widespread perceptions in both scholarship and memoir literature of the unrivalled popularity of The Woman of My Dreams (or more precisely, of Hungarian singer-dancer Marika Rökk and her scandalously displayed legs) (Fürst 2010, 206; Roth-Ey 2011, 39), it actually ranked lowest amongst the trophies for which there is box office data. At 15.7 million in the first twelve months,[8] ticket sales for the memorable musical were 3.4 million less than the Hollywood trophy release of the same year, LeRoy’s I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Russian: Pobeg s katorgi 1932), and but a fraction of those of the four Tarzan films, which garnered between 38.6 and 42.9 million ticket sales each (Kudriavtsev, n.d.). It was in fact the first installment of this Tarzan quadrilogy that outperformed every other film screened in the late Stalin era—apart from one: the filmed performance [fil'm-spektakl'] Liubov' Iarovaia (dir. Frid, 1953), which earned an unprecedented 46.4 million ticket sales in 1953. Overall, the trophies for which box office data is currently available averaged 27.5 million ticket sales per film, compared with 23.6 million per Soviet feature film.[9] These figures leave no room for doubt that trophy films played to packed houses.

Table 3: Generic Breakdown of Trophy Film Archive and Releases

Genre

# in trophy archive

% of trophy archive

# of trophy releases

% of trophy releases

% of the genre released

Adventure

103

3.4%

17

19.5%

16.5%

Anti-British/Colonial

41

1.4%

5

5.7%

12.2%

Biography

133

4.4%

7

8.0%

5.3%

Comedy

512

16.9%

2

2.3%

0.4%

Crime

213

7.0%

3

3.4%

1.4%

Drama

1,267

41.9%

5

5.7%

0.4%

Adaptation

66

2.2%

12

13.8%

18.2%

History

82

2.7%

6

6.9%

7.3%

Musical

232

7.7%

24

27.6%

10.3%

Western

62

2.1%

5

5.7%

8.1%

Other

312

10.3%

0

0%

0%

TOTALS:

3,023

 

86

 

2.8%

Comments:
In terms of genre, trophy films were a valuable supplement to Soviet releases during these years. Musicals and adventure films had long since been popular with Soviet audiences and were considered desirable by the regime, yet encountered great difficulty in passing censorship after the war. As a result, a mere eight Soviet-made adventure films premiered, of which only six were on wide release, while Grigorii Aleksandrov’s Spring (Vesna 1947) and Ivan Pyr'ev’s Kuban Cossacks (Kubanskie kazaki 1950) were the only proper musicals—meaning that they were advertised specifically as musical comedies and featured songs with lyrics relevant to the plot. It is therefore no mere happenstance that the most well-represented genres among trophy releases were in fact those underrepresented in Soviet production. Interestingly, trophy films have also been credited with reintroducing Westerns to Soviet audiences (Kartseva 2005, 210).

Table 4: Trophy Collection & Releases According to Country of Origin

Country of Origin

# in trophy archive

% of trophy archive

# of trophy releases

% of trophy releases

% of trophy archive actually released

Czechoslovakia

55

1.6%

1

1.1%

1.8%

Germany

906

25.6%

36

41.4%

4.0%

Italy

42

1.2%

3*

3.4%

7.1%

United States

1531

43.2%

46

52.9%

3.0%

Other

1010

28.5%

0

0.0%

0.0%

TOTALS:

3544

 

86

 

2.4%

* One of the three Italian films, Graf Monte Kristo (Le comte de Monte-Cristo, Vernay, 1942) was a co-production with France.

Comments:
When they were released, the films from the various national cinemas were processed and distributed differently. While German films were dubbed and distributed widely na shirokii ekran or through the public cinema network, American films were subtitled and circulated na zakrytyi ekran—through the “closed” network of workers’ clubs and houses of culture. The distinction was rooted in the respective abilities of the producer nations to retaliate for Soviet non-payment of screening licenses. The Minister of Cinema Ivan Bol'shakov was concerned that America would boycott Soviet cinema in protest should unlicensed Hollywood films be screened openly, whereas there were no such fears with regard to the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany (later the German Democratic Republic) and the unlicensed screening of Nazi-era films (Laurent 2000, 238).

A further distinction to be made along national lines pertains to production dates: while the Hollywood and Western European pictures held in the trophy collection were filmed almost exclusively during 1936-39, with some from the early 1930s and the occasional early war era film, German and French films dominated the wartime productions from 1940-45.

Table 5: The Trophies that Might Have Been: films initially sanctioned for release but later excluded; unidentified films; and films for which release is as yet unconfirmed

Original Film Title

Country of Origin

Director

Original Release Date

Studio

Soviet Release Status

Genre

Chu Chin Chow

Brit

Walter Forde

1934

Gainsborough Pictures

u/c

Mus

Un Grand Amour de Beethoven

Fr

Abel Gance

1936

Général Productions

u/c

Bio

Andalusische Nächte

Ger

Herbert Maisch

1938

Carl-Froelich Film

u/c

Mus

Das Lied einer Nacht

Ger

Anatole Litvak

1932

Cine Allianz

u/c

Mus

Ein Lied für dich

Ger

Joe May

1933

Cine Allianz, UFA

u/c

Mus

Geheimnis Tibet

Ger

Ernst Schäfer & H.A. Lettow

1943

UFA

u/c

Doc

Immer wenn ich glücklich bin..!

Ger

Karl Lamac

1938

Projektograph Film

u/c

Mus

Rembrandt

Ger

Hans Steinhoff

1942

Terra

u/c

Bio

Tierparadies Südamerika

Ger

Werner Buhre & K. Krieg

1940

UFA

u/c

Doc

Träumerei

Ger

Harald Braun

1944

UFA

u/c

Bio

Wasser für Canitoga

Ger

Herbert Selpin

1939

Bavaria-Filmkunst

u/c

A/B

Schrammelm

Ger-Aus

Geza von Bolvary

1944

Wien Film

u/c

Mus

Casta diva

It

Carmine Gallone

1935

Alleanza CI

u/c

Mus

Giuseppe Verdi

It

Carmine Gallone

1939

Grandi Film Storici

u/c

Mus

[Oni ne skroiutsia]

 

 

 

 

n/i

 

[Paiatsy]

US?

 

 

 

n/i

 

Jew Süss

Brit

Lothar Mendes

1934

Gaumont British Picture Corp

ex

Adapt

Juarez

US

William Dieterle

1939

Warner Bros

ex

Hist

Of Mice and Men

US

Lewis Milestone

1939

United Artists

ex

Adapt

u/c=unconfirmed; n/i=not identified; ex=excluded
Mus=Musical; Bio=Biography; Adapt=Adaptation/Ekranizatsiia; Doc=Documentary; Hist=Historical; A/B=Anti-British

* Identified in a 1947 Agitprop memorandum as a foreign film released that year, and so may or may not have been a trophy. (See RGASPI 17/125/576/61)
† One of the eighteen trophies commissioned for reprocessing on 9 June 1949. It was earmarked for screening on the closed network of cinemas, implying it was an American film.

Comments:
Two of the three films excluded from release were deemed to be impossible to repurpose for Soviet audiences. In a report on the completion of the August 1948 Politburo order to prepare fifty trophy films, officials explained that Jew Süss (Russian: Evrei Ziuss; dir. Mendes, 1934) was permeated with nationalistic, Zionist ideas, while Of Mice and Men (Russian: O myshakh i liudiakh, dir. Milestone, 1939) depicted farm laborers as defective and dangerous to society and, as such, neither would be beneficial for Soviet audiences. The following month, when Bol'shakov filed an official request to exclude the films from production, a third had been added to the list, leaving one to assume that the violent depiction of the eponymous Juarez (Russian: Prezident Khuarets, dir. Dieterle, 1939) noted in earlier Ministry correspondence, similarly proved too difficult to reframe for the Gor'kii studio technical team responsible for reprocessing trophy films.

A great many more captured films were, of course, not even considered for release. The complete trophy collection boasted works from many nations in addition to those from which releases were drawn, including: France (572 films), Britain (183), Poland (58), Japan (49), Austria (47), Hungary (40), Sweden (11), Switzerland (8), Finland (7), Belgium, Mexico and Spain (5 each), Norway (3), Australia, Holland, Rumania and Denmark (2 each), and India, Tunisia, Palestine, China, Canada and Egypt (1 each) (RGASPI 17/132/88/2-6). Silent films and animation were likewise overlooked, while fairy tales, a substantial collection of war films, detective and spy thrillers, and horror films were ignored.

Closing Remarks:
In spite of its limitations, this resource is intended to initiate the discussion of the more practical side of trophy film production, equipping the film historian with a tangible starting point for assessing the significance of the trophy film collection. Much research remains to be done simply to complete this starting picture of the extent of the trophy film phenomenon—particularly with regards to the final three years of trophy film releases, trophy film distribution, and viewership statistics—let alone to develop a clearer understanding of the processes involved in transforming what were essentially enemy films into cultural products suitable for Soviet consumption.

Claire Knight
Cambridge University


Notes

1] German trophies continued to premiere until 1956, while American trophies screened until 1955, albeit under license from 1954, ending their run as pirated pictures (Kapterev 2009, 804–805; Turovskaia 1989, 45–46). These findings contradict Kenez’s assertion that trophy films, being foreign productions, disappeared from Soviet screens with the intensification of the xenophobic anti-cosmopolitanism campaign (Kenez 1992, 214).

2] Key memoirs for trophy film anecdotes include: Aksyonov, 1987; Brodskii, 2012; Okudzhava, 1988. All three link trophy films to post-war youth culture, with Brodskii even crediting them with contributing to the burgeoning dissident movement. The Harvard Émigré Interview Project was conducted from 1951–53, see “Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System,” n.d.

3] Key sources in undertaking this cross-referencing include: Agitprop archives held in RGASPI 17/125/576 and 17/132/88, 250, and 427; Anderson and Maksimenkov 2005, 801–11, 851–56; Artizov and Naumov 1999, 638–39, 651–52; Kartseva 2005; Kudriavtsev, n.d.; Sul'kin 2002; Turovskaia 1989, 45–46.

4] Of the 68 colour films, 47 were American (although one was incomplete), 11 German, 9 British and 1 Czech.

5] It is of course quite possible that subsequent trophy releases were reproduced in larger quantities.

6] There were, however, far more copies of the Soviet-made film, meaning that it took first place at the box office with 30 per cent more ticket sales overall.

7] Box office figures for trophy and foreign films have been collated by film critic Sergei Kudriavtsev and made available on his webpage, Kinanet.livejournal.com. These figures coincide with the gaps in Domashniaia sinemateka’s (Segida and Zemlianukhin 1996) box office rankings of Soviet features, although several tantalizing blank spots remain.

8] Of course, films continued to circulate and earn sales well past their initial year of release, so it is likely that overall ticket sales for the film were higher, particularly given that two more colour copies were added to the trophy collection in early 1952 (RGASPI 17/133/386/51). Unlike Soviet features, however, trophy films were not replaced when copies wore out beyond repair (RGASPI 17/132/429/54, reprinted in Anderson and Maksimenkov 2005, 856).

9] These averages are based on box office data for 12 out of 86 trophy films and 26 of the 89 Soviet features during 1947–52.


Works Cited

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Anderson, K.M., Maksimenkov, L.V., 2005. Kremlevskii kinoteatr: 1928-1953: dokumenty. Moscow: ROSSPEN.

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Sul’kin, M., 2002. “‘Trofeinoe’ kino?..Net, vorovannoe. Sovetskie kinotrofei v Amerike.” Iskusstvo Kino 9, 132–137.

Taylor, Richard, 1998. Film Propaganda: Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, London: I.B. Tauris.

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Turovskaya, Maya. 1993. “The 1930s and 1940s: cinema in context,” 34–53, in Richard Taylor and Derek Spring, (eds.), Stalinism and Soviet Cinema. New York: Routledge.

Claire Knight © 2015

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Updated: 23 Mar 15