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Citizen Spy: Television, Espionage, and Cold War Culture

Michael Kackman
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 278
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttshqj
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  • Book Info
    Citizen Spy
    Book Description:

    Looking at secret agents on television in the 1950s and 1960s, Michael Kackman explores how Americans see themselves in times of political and cultural crisis. From parodies such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart to the more complicated situations of I Spy and Mission: Impossible, Kackman situates espionage television within the culture of the civil rights and women's movements and the war in Vietnam._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9297-2
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: Doing Television History
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction: The Agent and the Nation
    (pp. xvii-xl)

    In 1966, amid an explosion of espionage programming on American television, the men’s magazineEsquiredevoted a special issue to “Spies, Science, and Sex.” The issue begins with a full-page image of Robert Vaughn, newly famous as secret agent Napoleon Solo ofThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Vaughn slouches selfconfidently, shoulders thrust back, his hands in the pockets of his crisp sharkskin suit. Above his head is printed simply “Spies . . .” with the ellipsis trailing off before his gaze. Turning the page, we follow his eyeline match, completing the image. Sprawled out before him is an attractive woman in...

  6. 1 Documentary Melodrama: Homegrown Spies and the Red Scare
    (pp. 1-25)

    Spies were everywhere in 1950s American media culture. Villains and heroes, they emerged from the shadows just long enough to affirm America’s worst fears of Communist infiltration. The Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s insisted that Communist spies lurked behind every curtained window and at the corners of every film set, as Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee proclaimed that a vast Communist conspiracy threatened to undo American democracy. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI stretched its net widely for subversives, and Hoover used popular media to extend his reach. While only a few documented cases...

  7. 2 I Led 3 Lives and the Agent of History
    (pp. 26-48)

    In May 1949 Herbert Philbrick, an advertising executive for a Paramount Pictures theater exhibition chain in Boston, stepped out of the shadows and into the witness box to give the star testimony in a widely publicized case against eleven Communist leaders. Through banner headlines, the nation learned that for nine years Philbrick had been a secret member of the Communist Party. Throughout that time, he had supplied the FBI with thousands of documents that exposed the operations of the Communist Party of America. Overnight, Herbert Philbrick became an outspoken anti-Communist and a hero of the political right. In 1952 he...

  8. 3 The Irrelevant Expert and the Incredible Shrinking Spy
    (pp. 49-72)

    In 1958 two new American spy programs entered into production. Hoping once again to capitalize on the profits to be gleaned from “real realism,” NBC contracted to airBehind Closed Doors,a reality-based espionage drama developed and produced by Screen Gems, the Columbia Pictures short-films unit that had expanded into the burgeoning television market.¹ Like the shows that came before it, it was to be based on the files of a highly visible heroic figure—in this case, retired rear admiral Ellis Zacharias, formerly of Naval Intelligence. Meanwhile, Ziv Television added one last spy program to its catalog.World of...

  9. 4 Parody and the Limits of Agency
    (pp. 73-112)

    In his obsequious history of the FBI (complete with a preface by J. Edgar Hoover), Frederick Collins wrote that the ideal FBI agent must “absorb the high ideals of the Bureau, [and adopt] that self-effacement or ‘passion for anonymity’ which is essential to the continued effectiveness of an FBI special agent.”¹ This contradictory but apt phrase—“passion for anonymity”—neatly captures the tensions embedded in espionage programs. Television narrative requires individualized characters with will, desires, and, well, passions—hardly the stuff of the bureaucratic functionary. The spy is an “organization man” of the most acute sort; he must somehow be...

  10. 5 I Spy a Colorblind Nation: African Americans and the Citizen-Subject
    (pp. 113-143)

    In the cover photograph of his 1964 Blue Note albumSpeak No Evil,jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter confronts the camera from behind a veil of bamboo. In the soft-focus foreground, an anonymous Asian woman gazes across the frame, aloof to (or unaware of) Shorter’s presence. In the image, the musician has slipped the bounds of the North American continent, caught in a trans-Pacific tangle. The album’s title,Speak No Evil,is superimposed by the scarlet smear of a woman’s lip print, literally sealing Shorter’s secret voyage with a kiss. In the liner notes to the album, Shorter reflects, “I’m getting...

  11. 6 Agents or Technocrats: Mission: Impossible and the International Other
    (pp. 144-175)

    By the mid-1960s, American espionage programs had largely abandoned reality-based narratives, favoring dramatic realism over the documentary variety. Sometimes, the failures are as telling as the commercial triumphs; screenwriter Jay Dratler spent several unsuccessful years developing a series calledOSS: Of Spies and Stratagemsthat evoked the documentarist style of the 1950s. The premise had been attempted before; the similarly titled semidocumentaryOSSaired on ABC during the 1957–58 season, though its demise was even swifter than that ofBehind Closed Doors,which it closely resembled. Dratler had hoped to take advantage of newly released additional files from Bill...

  12. Conclusion: Spies Are Back
    (pp. 176-190)

    The most succinct expression of the 1960s TV spy’s alienation from the state was not an American program but rather a short-lived British import that aired for a single summer season in 1968 on CBS.The Prisoner,created by and starring Patrick McGoohan, considers the consequences of a top secret agent’s resignation from civil service. McGoohan had for several years been familiar to American audiences as British NATO spy John Drake inDanger ManandSecret Agent. The Prisoner,however, was a radical departure from other spy programs, for in it the ambivalent relationship between the agent and the agency...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 191-220)
  14. Index
    (pp. 221-235)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 236-236)