Next Screening: Tommy Lee Jones is MacArthur in “Emperor”

I’ve seen the trailer to this, know a bit about the history. And as always, I’m intrigued by the idea of Tommy Lee Jones tackling a larger than life figure from history. I re-watched “Cobb,” the other day. He was better than the script and movie around him, there. Here, he’s the General who oversaw the occupation of Japan, deciding whether or not the plainly complicit Emperor Hirohito should be arrested and tried for war crimes after WWII. High-handed, smart, bullying and vain, not every trait we attach to TLJ matches MacArthur. But a few do. “Emperor” opens March 8.

(Roger Moore’s review of “Emperor” is here.)

(Roger Moore’s interview with Tommy Lee Jones about “Emperor” is here.)


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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4 Responses to Next Screening: Tommy Lee Jones is MacArthur in “Emperor”

  1. The actual facts about Pearl Harbor have been known since 1996, when retired KGB General Vitalii Pavolov published his memoir, ‘Operation Snow’. Essentially, Soviet intelligence knew that Hitler was going to turn on them and attack–it was obvious, Hitler was transferring troops and tanks from France to Poland. In order to meet that threat Moscow had to be able to free up its troops from the far east of Russia (where they stood ready to repulse an attack from their historical enemy, Japan) and move them west. Problem; Stalin refused to believe his new best friend Adolf would be so treacherous.

    So in the spring of 1941, Pavlov (then a newly minted espionage agent), was dispatched to Washington DC to re-activate one of their most valuable assets within New Deal Washington; Harry Dexter White. White, a former Harvard economist, was the brains behind then Treasury Sec’y Morgenthau. Pavlov, over lunch at a restaurant, filled White in on Hitler’s plans and gave White the assignment of provoking Japan into attacking the USA. Meaning they couldn’t also attack Russia at the same time.

    White’s machinations were successful. Essentially, he got the American govt to change its diplomatic stance toward Japan from neutrality toward outright hostility. Historians had long been puzzled by the diplomatic blunders in the summer of 1941–especially cutting Japan off from its lone source of petroleum, which made the oil fields of Indonesia suddenly a prize for the taking–Pavlov’s story makes those ‘blunders’ understandable; they had a purpose.

    Japan did not want war with the USA, but were left with little alternative thanks to the Soviet penetration of the American govt at the highest levels. Whether or not MacArthur knew this story is doubtful. But, he could have, as the FBI had been on to Harry Dexter White thanks to the Venona decrypts for some time before the end of WWII.

    I’m making a wild prediction; none of the above will be in this movie.

  2. Interesting knee jerk reaction to a book! Though the ‘commie’ in question (a former KGB agent) was attempting to pay tribute to Harry Dexter White, who he considered a hero for helping the Soviet Union to survive Hitler. Hard to see what reason he would have had to lie.

    As I said, historians have long been puzzled by the diplomatic maneuvers of the US back in 1941. Just for one, Howard Zinn (go ahead, call him a ‘commie’ too if it pleases you) said, in his People’s History;

    ‘One of the judges in the Tokyo War Crimes Trial after World War II, Radhabinod Pal, dissented from the general verdicts against Japanese officials and argued that the United States had clearly provoked the war with Japan and expected Japan to act. Richard Minear (Victors’ Justice) sums up Pal’s view of the embargoes on scrap iron and oil, that “these measures were a clear and potent threat to Japan’s very existence.” The records show that a White House conference two weeks before Pearl Harbor anticipated a war and discussed how it should be justified.’

    Justice Pal’s dissent was prohibited from being published in Japan and the USA. It didn’t see the light of day until 1998. Clearly, he made some powerful people uncomfortable.

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