811.4061 March of Time/38
The Chargé in Albania (Riggs) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 18.]
Sir: With reference to the Minister’s1 despatch No. 130 of May 29, 1936,2 regarding the activities in Tirana of a Mr. S. R. Sozio, whose name appears on his business card in small letters under the legend “The March of Time”, with addresses given at 21 Rue de Berri, Paris, and 4 Dean Street, London, I have the honor to transmit herewith in translation a memorandum2 which I received from the Minister for Foreign Affairs.3 The Minister had requested me to call at the Foreign Office and proceeded to express the disgust and indignation of King Zog and the Albanian Government at what he termed the violation of Albanian hospitality by Mr. Sozio and the gross and offensive forgeries which he said had been introduced into the film after it had left Albania. He stated that the film had been reported by Mr. George Prifti, the Albanian Consul at Boston. He asked me to report formally to my Government the reaction of the Albanian Government—which I said I would do. He also asked whether the American Government could prosecute or in any way take action against “The March of Time” or whoever was found to be responsible for the forging and circulation of the film. I replied that I feared that our federal powers did not extend to such cases, but that, if he wished to pursue the matter, he should instruct the Albanian Legation in Washington to obtain an opinion from competent legal counsel as to the possibility of court action. The Minister said that this incident had been a salutary lesson to the Albanian tourist organization which had persuaded the Government to let Sozio take films of the King, of General Sir Jocelyn Percy, British chief instructor of the Albanian gendarmerie, and others. The result, [Page 2]he said, is that from now on no American film concern will be granted a permit to expose film in Albania, unless it can display a written guarantee from the Legation (i. e. the Legation would be answerable for anything in the film to which the Albanian Government might later object). I replied that I feared the Legation could not under the regulations give such a guarantee. He said there was so much goodwill between the two countries that it was a pity to have resentment aroused in Albania against the United States by such people as these film producers. I pointed out that in the United States the Federal Government has no control over the production and showing of films and that I did not believe that American news reel concerns would with deliberate malice countenance forgeries such as the ones alleged by him. He did not give the name under which the film was shown.
I understand from private sources that the film or variations of it have been shown in various parts of the United States and that one of the forged scenes shows King Zog watching a local hotel with binoculars at night and subsequently telephoning some foreign guests asking if he might be allowed to join in their card game (a story of this nature appeared in an American publication some 2 or 3 years ago). I also understand that the “March of Time” has published still photographs in England taken from this film and showing General Percy under a caption indicating that he was losing his position since the instruction of the Gendarmerie had been turned over to Italian officers—which so far is untrue.
On consideration, and supposing all the allegations to be true, I find it difficult to believe that the Italian Government would consider such distortions in its interest, as it is desirous of enjoying as far as may be possible the goodwill of King Zog and his Government. Hence it seems improbable that Sozio could have forged his film (if he did so) at the instigation of the Italian authorities. If the forgeries were due to any cause other than the desire to pander to the public taste for cheap sensations, the agency must be sought rather in quarters hostile to Italian ambitions.