The American Success Myth on Film

Overview

Contemporary cultural narratives, like ancient myths, speak to our common aspirations and anxieties. These ritually retold stories help to create a sense of communal identity. The American Success Myth on Film considers how movies, as bearers of modern myths, have illuminated the ideological contradictions at the heart of the American idea of success. In examining the enduring appeal that the success myth exerts on our collective imagination, the book highlights the central role that films have played in our ...

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The American Success Myth on Film

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Overview

Contemporary cultural narratives, like ancient myths, speak to our common aspirations and anxieties. These ritually retold stories help to create a sense of communal identity. The American Success Myth on Film considers how movies, as bearers of modern myths, have illuminated the ideological contradictions at the heart of the American idea of success. In examining the enduring appeal that the success myth exerts on our collective imagination, the book highlights the central role that films have played in our ongoing cultural conversation about success and work in America. Analyses of a range of movies from the late 1920s to the present are grounded in the history of rags-to-riches tales and in a consideration of the social functions of myth. This expansive analysis of the American success myth exposes the insistent, but sometimes implicit, attitudes toward success that infuse our cultural narratives and, not incidentally, underlie our national self-image, our public discourse, and our personal ideals.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

''The American Dream' and its treatment in movies has yet to be dealt with in book length form, which makes this a significant work. It is of a very high quality, well written, and expertly researched.' - Robert Sickels, Professor of Film, Whitman College, USA

'The promise of social mobility is the heart and soul of America's ongoing self-romance, not to mention an obsessive theme of our national cinema. In this lucid and entertaining examination of the filmic success story, Julie Levinson exposes the twinge of self-doubt that underpins the mythology. This is also a particularly timely book given our current economic woes: the question of how such fantasies are maintained (despite all evidence to the contrary) couldn't be more politically pertinent.' - Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University, USA

'This is an excellent book on a compelling and underexamined topic: the myth, or dream, of 'success' in American films. The book is graced with an arresting cover image of Andy Griffith as the egomaniacal entertainer Lonesome Rhodes in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, staring out at the Manhattan skyline from his luxurious penthouse apartment. Levinson (Babson College) discusses myriad Hollywood films that examine the quest for fame and fortune. She divides the book into five well-argued chapters, beginning with a sharply observed introductory chapter. The following chapters treat the concept of 'moving up' the American corporate ladder, films that document the perils and challenges of the 'corporate workplace,' what happens when and if one reaches the top of the ladder, and 'the glorification of unemployment' (i.e., those who drop out or refuse to become involved in the endless search for power and social status.) Levinson is a stylish, accessible writer, and her text is clear, concise, and well-illustrated.' - W.W. Dixon, University of Nebraska, Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781137482525
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 1/9/2015
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 232

Meet the Author

Julie Levinson is Professor of Film at Babson College, USA. She is the editor of Alexander Payne: Interviews and co-editor of the volume on acting for the ten-volume film history Behind the Silver Screen. Her other published work covers a range of topics including genre and gender, documentary film, and metafiction. She has been the film curator for several museums and arts organizations.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
1. Top of the World: Cultural Narratives, Myths, and Movies
2. Moving Up and Moving On: Mobility and the American Success Myth
3. Work and its Discontents: The Corporate Workplace Movie
4. Success Reassessed: Ambitious Women/Midlife Men
5. Hallelujah, I'm a Bum: The Glorification of Unemployment
6. Conclusion
Bibliography
Filmography
Notes
Index

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