Reelpolitik: Political Ideologies in '30s and '40s Films

Overview

The movies that document American history during the interwar years still hold relevance today. While we may be put off by the corny sentimentality popular at the time, we feel attracted, despite our 1990s veneer of sophistication, to healthy portions of unadulterated American spirit. Americans resist encumbering themselves with political labels, Kelley asserts, content to remain simultaneously fragmented between elitism and populism, isolationism and interventionism even today, yet remain somehow united by a ...

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Overview

The movies that document American history during the interwar years still hold relevance today. While we may be put off by the corny sentimentality popular at the time, we feel attracted, despite our 1990s veneer of sophistication, to healthy portions of unadulterated American spirit. Americans resist encumbering themselves with political labels, Kelley asserts, content to remain simultaneously fragmented between elitism and populism, isolationism and interventionism even today, yet remain somehow united by a fundamental essence they can't quite define but readily recognize as the American can-do attitude.

Using the unique vantage point of eight classic American movies—Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Magnificent Ambersons, Gabriel Over the White House, Citizen Kane, Casablanca All Quiet on the Western Front, Daily Bread, and The Fountainhead—Kelley and her colleagues explore the political ideologies thrumming through the American psyche. The stock market crash and ensuing depression proved a defining experience. For the first time, the national psyche was sent careening toward alien political ideologies; the seductiveness of communism and fascism took hold in the wreckage wrought by the Depression. American foreign policy likewise fluctuated from the isolationist stance adopted after fighting the war to end all wars to an interventionist response to the intensifying pressure to vanquish communist and fascist bullies. Students, scholars, and the general public will find intriguing insights on a period of national catastrophe and triumph.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A teaching tool for classes in American government, political science, and film criticism, analyzing movies from the 1930s and 1940s that represent political ideologies. Looks at eight films, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Citizen Kane, and Casablanca. Each film selected for discussion suffered the wrath of critics, was boycotted by interest groups, or was threatened by political figures. All are available on video. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

BEVERLY MERRILL KELLEY is Professor and Chair of the Communication Arts Department at California Lutheran University.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Foreword
1 Introduction: Purpose, Methodology and Background 1
2 Populism in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 7
3 Elitism in The Magnificent Ambersons 25
4 Fascism in Gabriel over the White House 45
5 Antifascism in Citizen Kane 61
6 Internationalism in Casablanca 77
7 Isolationism in All Quiet on the Western Front 95
8 Communism in Our Daily Bread 115
9 Anticommunism in The Fountainhead 137
10 Conclusion 163
Selected Bibliography 175
Index 183
About the Author and Contributors 193
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