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.
(signed) Joseph P. Kennedy