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SPY-Fi Archives: Where the Worlds of Entertainment and Intelligence Collide

The CIA Museum offers visitors a glimpse inside the CIA – from past operations and cutting-edge gadgets to an in-depth look at its history. But the CIA Museum has also opened its doors in a less traditional sense – giving visitors a glimpse into the world of intelligence through the eyes of Hollywood.

After all, the entertainment world has its own interpretation of the intelligence world. And one collection, the SPY-Fi Archives, takes visitors back in time to the 1960s when SPY-Fiction characters like James Bond, Maxwell Smart, and Illya Kuryakin captured Americans' imaginations. These characters let viewers dream of a life filled with intrigue and adventure.

Now part of the CIA Museum’s online pages, the SPY-Fi Archives is an entertaining look at how Hollywood viewed intelligence work during the Cold War and beyond. The items in the Archive are from screenwriter Danny Biederman’s private collection. (Read more about Danny Biederman.)  

When President John F. Kennedy revealed his fondness for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels in the early 1960s, the SPY-Fiction craze began. While CIA’s intelligence officers were tight-lipped about their sometimes life-and-death Cold War missions, the movie industry filled the void with glamour, intrigue, and even humor — with some interesting implications for the real world of intelligence.

Like real intelligence officers, these TV and movie spies knew the value of protecting their sources and methods. Their world reflected the diversity in personnel necessary for an effective intelligence-gathering organization (e.g., Bill Cosby in “I Spy” and Diana Rigg in “The Avengers”). They also portrayed the adventure, resourcefulness, and dedication to a greater cause, which inspired some Agency employees to choose intelligence as their career path.

And then of course there were the gadgets, like The Shoe Phone and the Pen Communicator. These gizmos were but fantasy precursors to today’s wireless communications. James West’s sleeve gun device was a variation on the Office of Strategic Services’ glove pistol from WWII, fulfilling the spy world’s need for concealment. These are examples of art imitating life.

So visit the SPY-Fi Archives and take a journey where the worlds of intelligence and entertainment collide.




Historical Document
Posted: Nov 08, 2007 07:18 AM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:57 AM