This is the first work ever written on the most important film studio in U.S. Cold War history: Lookout Mountain Laboratory, known during the 1960s as the 1352nd Photographic Group of the United States Air Force. The studio, christened Lookout Mountain Laboratory after its hilltop location in Hollywood, operated from 1947 to 1969 at the nexus between the emerging military-industrial complex and the Hollywood culture industry. It made hundreds of movies, processed hundreds of thousands of feet of film, stored volumes of Cold War imagery, and served as a regular meeting spot for atomic scientists, military brass, and Hollywood professionals. In the course of its history, Lookout Mountain Laboratory employed hundreds of Hollywood studio veterans and could summon the services, as needed, of such film luminaries as John Ford, Jimmy Stewart, and Marilyn Monroe. Moreover, Lookout Mountain Laboratory worked closely with the most important innovators in scientific and technical film and photography in mid-century America, above all the government contractor EG&G (or Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier). Based on extensive archival research and interviews, this landmark history engages with issues of the Cold War, the visual culture of the era, and the cultural collaborations of the national-security state.
About the Author
NED O’GORMAN is a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of The Iconoclastic Imagination: Image, Catastrophe, and Economy in America from the Kennedy Assassination to September 11. KEVIN HAMILTON is a professor of art and design at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Table of Contents
Preface • Introduction • Hollywood’s Nuclear Weapons Laboratory • Colonels, Cameras, and Security Clearances • Strategies of Containment: Lookout Mountain’s Oceanic Operations • Sense and Sensibilities: Lookout Mountain’s Operation Ivy • Routine Reports: The Nevada Films • The Vectors of America: Missile Films • Engineering Geographies: Arctic and Space Films • The Vietnamization of the Cold War Camera • Mushroom Cloud Cameras • Closure • Epilogue and Acknowledgments • Notes • Sources • Index
What People are Saying About This
“How was that distinctive U.S. Cold War visual aesthetic created, recruiting Americans to identify with the perverse technoaesthetics of atomic bombs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and space missions? Kevin Hamilton and Ned O’Gorman recover the all-but-lost history of the central image-making institution of the Cold War nuclear state and theorize its distinctive photographic program. Lookout America! is a pathbreaking book, a must read for anyone interested in the politicsor visual cultureof the Cold War.”
“Lookout America! is the fascinating story of the Cold War’s very own MGM – a top secret military film studio that operated out of a complex in the Hollywood Hills and documented everything from atomic tests to Vietnam bombing missions. This essential and image-packed book (Marilyn Monroe has a cameo!) is the result of a decade of obsessive detective work by the co-authors. Against long odds, they have rescued a lost chapter of history that the government was too indifferent to properly preserve.”
“In this detailed and meticulously documented study, Kevin Hamilton and Ned O’Gorman explore the inner workings of one of the most important, prolific, and practically invisible centers of American Cold War film production. They show us the process through which the U.S. national security state came to picture its operations and also what these pictures, in turn, tell us about a transition over the decades from cinematic story-telling to cybernetic information streams. An impressive book about the Cold War image world, Lookout America also reflects on the challenges of researching a secret studio whose archive is as dispersed as nuclear fallout. A fascinating and hugely significant book!”
“The secret, cinematic history of the Cold War is revealed in Lookout America, where the military-industrial complex meets the culture industry and the Atomic Age was styled. Meticulously researched, persuasively written, and beautifully designed, Lookout America is a blast from the past.”
"Lookout America! is all of the following: a rollicking story populated by an unlikely mix of Hollywood artists, nuclear scientists, and military movers and shakers; a feat of innovative design in its lovingly crafted layout and image curation; the reclamation of a forgotten Cold War archive; and a profound critical reflection on the nature of vision and visuality in an increasingly surveillant state. Hamilton and O’Gorman beautifully use the extraordinary history of the Lookout Mountain Laboratory to critique not just what we saw but more importantly how we saw in the Cold War, and the immense effects that has on our political culture today."