Letter from Joseph Kennedy to Harry Cohn

EMBASSY OF THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

London, November 17, 1939

Dear Mr. Cohn:

. . . I am afraid that we are looking at [Mr. Smith] from different eyes. I haven't the slightest doubt that the picture will be successful in America and I have no doubt that, financially, it will be successful here and will give great pleasure to people who see it. It is my belief, however, that . . . it will give an idea of our political life that will do us harm....

. . . For instance, today I am disgusted, in reading all the English papers, to see Al Capone's release from the penitentiary receives front page notice, while only one paper gives an obituary notice concerning a man who has given many years of his life to service in the Supreme Court of our land--Mr. Justice Butler . . . it is amazing, the impression they have about our Country being run by gangsters and crooked politicians.

. . . I have a high regard for Mr. Capra . . . but his fine work makes the indictment of our government all the more damning to foreign audiences . . . I feel that to show this film in foreign countries will do inestimable harm to American prestige all over the world.

I regret exceedingly that I find it necessary to say these things . . . The fact remains, however, that pictures from the United States are the greatest influence on foreign public opinion of the American mode of life. The times are precarious, the future is dark at best. We must be more careful.

Sincerely yours, (signed) Joseph P. Kennedy