Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Driving Force: Clarence Greene

The bitter truth is, I wish my research into the motion picture had been far more comprehensive. For my first article, published in Official UFO, I faced a deadline. Far worse, I had no expense account and when all was said and done I was only paid a few hundred dollars, so to depict my research as a labor of love would be accurate. I couldn't fly about the country seeking out principal movie associates and, quite honestly, the long distance phone bills racked up in the mid-seventies as I attempted to find people and information took a toll in themselves. Yes, for the first article I would certainly have preferred additional interviews with such key personnel as screenwriter Francis Martin and director Winston Jones, and I'm sure everybody from the camera crew to the set decorators would have fascinating anecdotes to pass along. I tried to locate radar expert Wendell Swanson and inquired of such sources as the "new" NICAP about where I could find UFO photographers Newhouse and Mariana -- with no success. Unfortunately, the initial article, printed more than 30 years ago, must stand on its own merits now. As I write this blog entry in June of 2008, I'm also more than aware that pretty much all of the major folks involved with 1956's "U.F.O." are dead now. Even Al Chop, who, like Tom Towers, always seemed somehow immortal to me, passed away a couple of years ago.

On a brighter note, in the weeks ahead I'll post numerous letters from the likes of Chop, Towers, Dewey Fournet and Willis Sperry, for written communication sent back and forth via "snail mail" was the method I used -- the method I had to use -- three decades ago. Looking back, I'm grateful for the written words of one and all, for this is crucial history interpreted in their very words, not just some pile of notes I jotted down in my own handwriting. Yes, much of this information appears in my magazine and journal articles of the past, but I think you'll agree that one's ability to examine the original source -- the letters themselves -- takes everything to a higher level of documentation.

Yet, I would never have searched for any of these gentlemen, were it not for motion picture producer Clarence Greene's little effort entitled "U.F.O." Already established in the industry with his partner Russell Rouse in Greene-Rouse Productions, Greene was somebody I obviously needed to contact. Nevertheless, while actually thrilled that he responded to my letter and questions in January of 1976, I was profoundly disappointed that he provided little more than one-word or single-sentence answers. I've posted his letter, but the questions to which Greene offers answers are as follows:

1. I asked him if I could extract and use any information from press kit materials (a redundant question, since they were already for public distribution) regarding the movie, and that was acceptable to him.

2. There was further confirmation about using other visuals from the movie, and again he harbored no objections.

3. This is his response to my request for a list of his recent films.

4. I asked about his own UFO sighting, and received precious little information. He probably assumed I could obtain details from the press kit.

5. This was an attempt to establish a time frame when "U.F.O." was started and finished. I still tend to believe, however, that the whole procedure from research to end of filming required something closer to 2 1/2, if not three years.

6. A brief, funny, response! I asked Greene about the costs involved, losses at the box office and "Is it possible that the country wasn't ready for the documentary-form motion picture in 1956?" He quips that "It is possible but the audience wasn't ready."

7. I hoped to get more insight on Greene's use of numerous Los Angeles Sheriffs Dept. personnel as extras in the film. His response about their "experience with UFOs" certainly could have led to other questions -- though the chance that he would have replied in detail was slim, indeed.

8. How would "U.F.O." do at the box office, were it released in 1975 instead of 1956, I pondered. Okay, bad question, predictable answer.

9. Did Greene consider making a "part 2" after the first movie? No.

10. I wondered about problems encountered in obtaining prints of the Utah and Montana UFO films, and Greene assures me that there were none.

11. Greene likewise responds negatively about difficulties with official government opposition or interference.

12. Greene offers no response when I ask about interesting anecdotes during filming.

13. Again, he skips a question. I had asked about anything he might have changed regarding "U.F.O."

14. Here, Greene confirms that actor Harry Morgan provided the voice of a pilot during the segment about the Washington, D.C. UFOs. Nowadays, you can find this information on the Internet in two seconds. Back in the seventies, not so quickly.

15. Considering how public interest in UFOs has become more heightened and sophisticated over the years, would you ever consider making another UFO film documentary? "Possibly," Greene replies, honoring me with the word chosen to close out my earliest magazine article.

I listed five more questions, but producer Greene quit after no. 15 above.

Fortunately, Clarence Greene appeared far more verbose years earlier. In 1967, he stepped forward with a detailed explanation of why he made the movie. I'm posting his statement below, but I regret that I don't know where it appeared originally. Some quotes from this piece have been attributed to me, but I had nothing to do with the following account, so if any of my readers know its origin I'll be happy to add a credit. In the meantime, here's producer Greene's 1967 statement: (Note -- I found this some time ago on the Internet, uncredited, and I have taken the liberty to correct the spelling on a few words, as I'm not sure if Greene originally made these errors, or if somebody made errors in posting his comments.)

UFO: WHY I MADE "UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS," by Clarence Greene -- July 26, 1967

I made "Unidentified Flying Objects" because of a simple, but most urgent belief: that the public should know the true facts about flying saucers.

Although "Unidentified Flying Objects" didn't go into production until may of 1954, it could be said the picture had its conception on an August night in 1952. I was with a friend when the latter called my attention to a strange object in the sky. Although it was like nothing I had ever seen before, it had the shape and appearance of a sphere of light. We watched it for about five minutes, during which period it stopped, made various turns, then finally sped over the horizon.
Later that night I learned that the strange flying object had also been observed by members of the Ground Observation Corps.

The incident made an indelible impression on me, and the next morning I told my partner, Russell Rouse, and the members of the Greene and Rouse staff about it. All along I had been reading newspaper stories scoffing at reports of flying saucer sightings. Now, having seen one of the strange objects myself, I could understand how the sighters must have felt at being ridiculed. Later I was to learn that hundreds of other sightings had been made, with the sighters reluctant to mention it for fear of ridicule. I found myself becoming irritated at the scoffers. I was at a complete loss to understand why there seemed to be such a determined effort to suppress all news of Unidentified Flying Objects by what seemed to be a planned campaign of skepticism and scoffing.

I decided to get to the bottom of the story. I learned that Albert M. Chop, who had been the Press Information Specialist for the Pentagon, handling all flying saucer news, was on the West Coast. I had several meetings with him. Chop was reluctant to talk at first. But when he realized I was dead serious about the Unidentified Flying Object business he gave me a breakdown on Project Blue Book, code name for the investigation of UFOs carried on by U.S. Air Force Intelligence.

Through Chop and certain newspapermen, a meeting was arranged with Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, USAF Reserve, former director of Project Bluebook. Together, we went into a lengthy and exhaustive study of reports, various documents and affidavits of UFO sightings and reports from radar experts.

I had been tipped off by some newspapermen who had heard rumors of the existence of actual motion pictures of UFOs which were being kept secret by the Pentagon. These reporters had tried to track down the films, but everywhere they turned they had met what seemed to be an official wall of silence and mystery.

I confronted Chop and Ruppelt with what I had been told. After much pressing on my part they finally admitted they had seen the motion pictures, designated by the Pentagon as the Utah and Montana films. Their existence had never been made known either to the public or the press.
I immediately contacted the two men who had shot the film: Navy Chief Photographer Delbert C. Newhouse (Utah film) and Nicholas Mariana (Montana film). When I saw the films with my own eyes, I had the confirmation of what I had seen in the sky.

I had both the Utah and Montana film analyzed by scientists and film experts. Their report was that the objects were unknowns, that they were not birds, nor balloons, nor planes. Chop and Ruppelt informed me that these reports agreed with the analysis of Air Force and Navy scientists, with the added information that they were not secret developments of any United States government agency nor of any foreign government agency.

Now I knew that I was on the trail of something of vital importance to the entire world.
Sometime later, through Ruppelt, I met Wendell V. Swanson who, Ruppelt told me, knew more about radar-tracked flying saucers than any other man in the world. I listened to Swanson as he told me about all the radar sightings of UFOs. Then Chop told me about his eye-witness experiences when UFOs flew over Washington, D.C., being picked up by radar, with visual contact also obtained by jet interceptors sent up by the Air Force.

Major Dewey Fournet was the senior officer in the radar room when the UFOs invaded the National Capitol. It was he who had recommended that the jet interceptors be sent up after the objects. I immediately got in touch with Major Fournet, who had been the liaison officer between the Pentagon and Project Bluebook.

If the other men had been cautious about revealing inside information on the subject, Fournet was doubly cautious. It was only after he was convinced that we would adhere only to the truth in what we told the public, that he agreed to participate in the project.

It had taken an entire year to get all these men together and to uncover the Utah and Montana films, and to get the actual facts on the Washington sightings.

Now I definitely decided to make a motion picture on Unidentified Flying Objects. After discussion with my partner, Russell Rouse, we agreed to give Winston Jones the directing assignment. Jones had been with us for over five years and been immersed in the UFO material from the very beginning. The assignment seemed most logical.

Screenwriter Francis Martin had just come out of the Navy. He, too, was vitally interested in the subject of UFOs. I felt that only men who were deeply caught up in the subject should be connected with the project. Martin was assigned the arduous task of putting the voluminous documents and records into screenplay form.

Then came months of interviews with saucer sighters, scientists, Air Force personnel, law enforcement officers, airline pilots, in fact, with anyone who had something to contribute in the way of legitimate information.

As an example of a credible observer, we selected from among the hundreds we interviewed Captain Willis Sperry, American Airlines pilot for 17 years, to appear in the picture and tell his experience with UFOs in his own words.

In order to film the picture, it was practically a tour of the entire country, with Jones shooting at the actual sites of events. In the Mantell case, for instance, Jones shot the scenes on the Kentucky location where Mantell was killed, the first pilot to meet his death while chasing the Unidentified Flying Objects. The full transcript of the report from the Kentucky State Police was studied before the incident was recreated for the screen.

The single objective was utter accuracy in everything that was to appear on the screen. This sometimes meant weeks spent on verifying the most minute points. A good example of this was during the filming of the July, 1952 appearance of the UFOs over Washington. Two eye-witnesses seemed to disagree over certain words expressed by Lt. Patterson, the jet pilot who established visual contact with the objects while chasing them. It was Chop and Major Fournet who disagreed over his exact phrasing, Fournet not recalling Patterson saying certain things. However, a Washington Times-Herald interview with Patterson secured right after he had landed his jet quoted the exact words Chop remembered. But Jones and I were still wondering why the original conflict in stories. Then Chop recalled that Fournet had been called out of the radar room by a telephone call. I called Fournet in Louisiana and he remembered that Robert Ginna of Life had telephoned at 4:00 a.m. to ask permission to interview the jet interceptor pilots. This time covered the period of the disputed dialogue. So that problem was settled.

This painstaking care was used on every piece of information that went into "Unidentified Flying Objects". I also held conversations with the Pentagon, keeping the officials informed in detail of the elements that would be included in the picture, including our use of the Utah and Montana motion pictures. Congressman Joe Holt of the local California district was also kept informed of what we were doing.

One definite fact emerges from all the facts compiled about Unidentified Flying Objects. There are objects appearing in Earth's sky that cannot be identified as anything known to man. The substantiated arguments of the skeptics and scoffers do not stand up against the overwhelming evidence. UFOs exist. This can no longer be disputed. The only questions left are: What are they? Where are they from? Why are they here? (signed) CLARENCE GREENE