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“An energetic and adventurous book
scholarly, even encyclopedic, yet written occasionally in a style akin to the Hush-Hush columns of L.A. Confidential.”
—London Review of Books
“A welcome acknowledgment of how complicated the story of one particular period really is.”
“An epic: an alternately fevered and measured account of what might be called the primal scene of American cinema.”
“An important, overflowing and often compelling study of movie history
Smartly conceived, and its richness defies capture in a book review.”
Sharp analysis of postwar-era Hollywood by a leading film critic and historian.
LongtimeVillage Voicemovie critic Hoberman (Cinema History/Cooper Union;Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film between Two Worlds, 2010, etc.) published the second part of his projected Cold War trilogyThe Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixtiesin 2003; here he covers the politically tumultuous and often dangerous period that preceded it, from the end of World War II in 1945 through Eisenhower's first term, ending in 1956. It was an era when some of the canon's greatest movies appeared (High Noon,On the Waterfront, The Searchers) alongside some of the schlockiest kitsch (My Son John,The Next Voice You Hear,The Prodigal). Hoberman, whose historical narrative is as richly detailed as his movie lore, masterfully shows how Washington's anti-communist crusaders influenced the culture-makers in Hollywood in the projects they chose to develop. Both sides of the divide were especially motivated by paranoia, of communism on the right and on the left of Senator McCarthy and HUAC. Paranoia inspired some of the most interesting, multilayered films, including several of the aforementioned, as well as Don Siegel'sInvasion of the Body Snatchers, Elia Kazan'sPanic in the Streetsand Samuel Fuller'sPickup on South Street. Quoting period memoirs, FBI files, HUAC hearing transcripts and movie reviews from the mainstream and communist press, Hoberman argues that many of the themes of these movies—fear of alien invasion and the rescue of captives, to name two of the most pungent examples—were already deeply ingrained in the American national consciousness from its earliest days and continue to resonate today.The author's engaging prose will provoke many an urge to revisit the familiar and forgotten gems of a film era that was less placid than it pretended to be.
Urbane, witty cultural history.
The collective drama that An Army of Phantoms recounts was not restricted to America's movie theaters but played out in the press, comic books, popular music, ongoing FBI investigations, congressional hearings, and political campaigns. Thanks to the movies, however, this drama was elevated to a cosmic struggle against National Insecurity for possession of the Great Whatzit. The war was waged in desert surrounding Fort Apache and the streets of Hadleyville, as well as the hills of Korea and halls of Washington, D.C., and invoked all manner of imaginary beings. In the national Dream Life, this war was fought by archetypal figures: the Christian Soldier and the Patriot Roughneck were pitted against an Implacable Alien Other, as well as the Wild One, and sometimes themselves.
I. Aliens Among Us: Hollywood, 1946–47
MGM’s Manhattan Project: The Beginning or the End?
When HUAC Came to Hollywood …
Showtime (“Hooray for Robert Taylor!”)
Decision at the Waldorf: The Big Mop-up
II. Fighting for the Ministry of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, 1948–50
The Iron Curtain Parts and the Campaign Begins
Fort Apache, Our Home
Hollywood Alert: From Red Menace to Storm Warning
“The Saucers Are Real!” (And Guilty of Treason)
Sunset/Panic/In a Lonely Place
III. Redskin Menace from Outer Space: America at War, 1950–52
Across Rio Grande … into Manchuria?
This Is Korea?
The Communist Was a Thing for the FBI!
Three Cases: Joseph L., Carl F., and Elia Kazan
Campaign ’52: Take Us to Our Leader, Big Jim
High Noon in the Universe
IV. The PaxAmericanArama: Eisenhower Power, 1953–55
“No One on This Earth Can Help You”: Above and Beyond and Fantasies of Invasion
The Hammer, the Witch Trials, and Pickup on South Street
After Quo Vadis: Onward Christian Soldier, Watch Out for The Wild One
Marilyn Ascends, Joe Goes Down
Sh-Boom Them! (DeMillennium Approaching …)
V. Searchin’: America on the Road, 1955–56
Coonskin Kids, or the Martians Have Landed
On the Brink of the Wild Frontier: Kiss Me Deadly, Rebel Without a Cause
Better Red Than Dead: Body-Snatched Prisoners of Comanche Mind Control
“That’ll Be the Day!” The Spirit of ’56
Epilogue: The Face of the Crowd