We'll Always Have the Movies
American Cinema during World War II
Robert L. McLaughlin and Sally E. Parry have screened more than 600 movies made between 1937 and 1946—including many never before discussed in this context—and have analyzed the cultural and historical importance of these films in explaining the war to moviegoers. Pre-Pearl Harbor films such as Sergeant York, Foreign Correspondent, and The Great Dictator established the rationale for the war in Europe. After the United States entered the war, films such as Air Force, So Proudly We Hail! and Back to Bataan conveyed reasons for U.S. involvement in the Pacific. The Hitler Gang, Sahara, and Bataan defined our enemies; and Mrs. Miniver, Mission to Moscow, and Dragon Seed defined our allies. Some movies—The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero, and Lifeboat among them—explored homefront anxieties about the war's effects on American society.
Of the many films that sought to explain the politics behind and the social impact of the war—and why it concerned Americans—Casablanca is perhaps one of the most widely recognized. McLaughlin and Parry argue that Rick's Café Américain serves as a United Nations, sheltering characters who represent countries being oppressed by Germany. At Rick's, these characters learn that they share a common love of freedom, which is embodied in patriotism; from this commonality, they overcome their differences and work together to solve a conflict that affects them all. As the representative American, Rick Blain (Humphrey Bogart) cannot idly stand by in the face of injustice, and he ultimately sides with those being oppressed. Bogart's character is a metaphor for America, which could also come out of its isolationism to be a true world leader and unite with its allies to defeat a common enemy.
Collectively, Hollywood's war-era films created a mythic history of the war that, even today, has more currency than the actual events of World War II.
About the Authors
Sally E. Parry is Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Illinois State University.
"Addresses many probing questions pertaining to the wartime movies. . . . Enjoyable reading."—America in WWII
"Surveying the wide, diversified field of WWII films, the authors . . . examine how many films went beyond simply evoking patriotism to maintaining support for the War on the 'home front' and to forming perspectives and expectations on it and characterizing the enemy."—Antiques Today
"Provides and excellent analysis of the many wartime motion pictures that Hollywood produced. It is recommended not only to the many film buffs who still enjoy watching classics . . . but also to those who seek a greater understanding of America's home front during the war."—Journal of America's Military Past
"A terrific book that explores not only the themes of hundreds of films but also their impact on patriotism and national will in a time of war."—WWII History
"Hollywood films from 1937 to 1946 are rearticulated as myth-making propaganda. . . . [This book] opens the window to a vanished and deeply interesting world that these pages recover with a sense of sympathetic understanding."—Journal of America & Culture
"Even the most devout cinemaphile should be able to discover at least one new treasure in the filmography of this volume. McLaughlin and Parry present a rather exhaustive survey of the Hollywood films made between 1939 and 1946."—Ron Briley, History News Network
"A compelling appraisal- aesthetic and cultural- of films (including Casablanca) that eventually would form a mythic history of World War II A masterful study of film narrativity."—The Historian
"This book is a wonderful addition to insights of how the media plays a role in the life of Everyman."—Gerald F. Kreyche, USA Today, Society for the Advancement of Education
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