Cinema History from the Cold War!

Let's Face It
Federal Civil Defense Administration
1955

Even as the United States was working to assemble the first atomic bomb, physicists were already theorizing the possibility of larger nuclear blasts using hydrogen to trigger a secondary explosion.  Theory became reality on November 1, 1952 when Operation Ivy saw the first successful detonation of a hydrogen bomb.  Two years later, a film of the same name was released which gave the American public their first in-depth look at the new weapon.  The film version of Operation Ivy was hosted by prolific actor Reed Hadley, perhaps best known for his television roles on Zorro and Public Defender.  By the time the majority of Americans were made aware of the hydrogen bomb's awesome power, however, the Soviet Union had been perfecting similar technology for over a year.  It was this fact, that an enemy superpower had acquired the frightening ability to devastate the United States with hydrogen bombs, which the Federal Civil Defense Administration sought to address with a new film.  With Reed Hadley once again narrating, the F.C.D.A. released Let's Face It in August of 1955 to encourage calm acceptance of the threat facing American citizens.

                             

Opening with a headline from the Los Angeles Examiner, Letís Face It stays true to its title by straightforwardly announcing Russiaís procurement of the hydrogen bomb.  The film immediately follows this, however, with several crisp and colorful shots of civil defense in action.  Images of evacuation exercises, shelter drills, and a detailed explanation of the CONELRAD Alert System show how civil defense counters the dangers of the nuclear age.  Additionally, clips from the previous F.C.D.A. films Operation Doorstep and The House in the Middle are incorporated to reiterate how citizens can expect to survive even a direct hit from the Soviets so long as simple preparedness steps are taken.  Prominently featured in the film is the red and white shelter sign used by civil defense authorities to indicate suitable places for the public to seek refuge.  Unlike the black and yellow fallout shelter signs that would debut in the early 1960's, these precursors directed citizens of large cities to shelters which were supposed to protect them from the blast, heat, and fire of an enemy bomb, as well as the subsequent radiation. 

                         

Let's Face It assumes that an enemy hydrogen bomb attack would be delivered via swarms of hostile bomber planes.  By the later 1950's, however, the threat to American cities lay not so much with Soviet aircraft, but with missiles capable of reaching their targets within a matter of minutes.  This development drastically reduced warning times and made the prospect of mass evacuations less feasible.  Additionally, as the decade progressed, focus began to center on shelter from fallout radiation, as opposed to the direct blast of an enemy bomb.  Because each of these elements, aerial bombardment, blast shelter protection, and evacuation, feature so heavily in Let's Face It, the impact of the film was quickly hindered by the changing nature of warfare.  In 1957, less than two years after its release, Let's Face It was included on a list of films deemed obsolete in the F.C.D.A.'s annual report.  Citing advancing weaponry and altered protection strategies, the federal agency urged officials to cease screenings of the film.

Let's Face It may be viewed in its entirety HERE.