Courtesy Reuters

120,000 American Ambassadors

LONG before an American motion picture finishes its exhibition life at home it begins voyaging among the 50,025 theaters wired for sound outside the United States. Not just one print, but an average of 200 prints of each film eventually makes a vast circular tour from Vladivostok to Patagonia, from Land's End to Yokohama. The tour takes a long time; American films many years old still give pleasure and arouse wonder in far places. Let us assume, though, allowing for pictures without foreign appeal and for other trade exigencies, that only the equivalent of one year's American output is talking to the world at a given moment. This would mean 600 pictures. Two hundred prints of each would mean a total of 120,000 prints currently travelling abroad.

These pictures do not present the American as a perfect being. Yet, though they show gangsters, they also show the gangsters' punishment. They show frivolity, over-luxury; but they also show the triumph of the poor boy. Everything is jumbled, like life. There is no preachment: "We are a godlike race. Look on us. Be like us." And because of this very unpremeditated approach, 150,000,000 theatergoers accept American pictures with the instinctive, subconscious comment: "These people are merely trying to entertain us, not proselytize us." Here is a fact worth pondering. No one forces these pictures on any public. Weary feet carry patrons to the box offices. Millions of hands of every hue extend clutched earnings. Every tongue -- outdoing Babel -- says for American pictures, "Two tickets, please."

Put aside for a moment considerations of American trade advantage and concentrate on the fact that these 120,000 travelling prints are America's most direct ambassadors to the masses of the world. The common people of other lands do not often hear our radio and never see our newspapers. They do not know, or care, what Mr. Kennedy says at Downing Street or Mr. Bullitt at the Quai d'Orsay. Only one reminder remains, for millions upon millions, that there still exists a way

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