World War II, the US, and Classical Hollywood

Wartime U.S.A. 1941-1945; the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, Uncle Sam recruits his troops, and nonetheless, Hollywood manages to sustain its dominant prowess. Certainly Hollywood experiences its much anticipated, yet seemingly nominal setbacks at the box office (following the U.S.’s involvement in WWII), but by 1943, Hollywood is undoubtedly recognized as “the worlds cinema.” This is courtesy of Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca, and most of all: The Second World War.

The catastrophic destruction of Pearl Harbor ultimately led to the United States participation in the war. Our contribution to the Worlds War effort s inevitably led to the deaths of countless valiant American men. This also meant America would become unified by way of Immense Patriotism, and no media outlet of the era triggered a more severe emotional response than the cinema. While Pearl Harbor and the War loomed over seas, an abundant of proud yet weary Americans elected to visit the movies on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. Several modes/ styles of cinema may have been accessible at the time, but no variation of film remained more paramount to Hollywood cinema (Post the U.S. joining the war) than the incessant method of Realism, Classical Hollywood’s proudest accomplishment.

Some of these films consisted of Casablanca, Once upon a Honeymoon, and The Best Years of Our Lives. A.O. Scott states, alluding to Casablanca,  “The basic storyline would become the staple of wartime American Cinema.” All of these films would fervently communicate to, and connect American film viewers to the war that was physically distant, yet emotionally imbedded within them.

Another way, in which Hollywood managed to maintain its corporate dominance over any other media outlet, was due to the halt in production and mass distribution of the Television. The period between 1941 and 1945 could have very well witnessed the birth of TV; a legitimate form of competition meant to combat Hollywood and the studio system. Logically, resources during wartime should focus predominately on the war effort (Man power, materials, etc.), this proved to be one of the principal reasons behind Hollywood’s continued prominence during that specific period.

1946 proved to be Hollywood’s most successful year at the box office. This was not a coincidental occurrence by any stretch of the imagination. 1946 marked the end of World War II, therefore soldiers had come home from battle, the United Stated rejoiced as they recalled their countless military exploits, and families began to emerge. This also marked the era of the baby boomer (child born after World War II’s end). Americans were visiting their local cinema 5-6 time a week, sometimes merely a day off from the movies would seem foreign to the average American man and woman during 1946.

Hollywood has thrived throughout its vast existence, but no era is more indicative of its success than within the studio era, or most of all, throughout the four years before and four years following WWII. Weather it was the propaganda film, military drama, or gangster film, Americans seemed to visit the theaters not as a means of escape, but as a way of subconsciously connecting themselves with the realities of war.


Works Cited

  1. O., SCOTT. “HOLIDAY FILMS; Hollywood in Wartime: Lessons of Pearl Harbor.” New York Times 04 Nov. 2001: 1. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
  2. Broadhurst, Stephanie. “In wartime, a conflicted Hollywood.” Christian Science Monitor 04 Apr. 2003: 13. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
  3. Worland, Rick. “OWI Meets the Monsters: Hollywood Horror Films and War Propaganda, 1942 to 1945.” Cinema Journal 37.1 (1997): 47. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
  4. Teachout, Terry. “The War That Never Ends.” Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition 05 Sept. 2009: W3. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
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