Certain aspects of American popular culture had a formative influence on early Soviet identity and aspirations. Traditionally, Soviet Russia and the United States between the 1920s and the 1940s are regarded as polar opposites on nearly every front. Yet American films and translated adventure fiction were warmly received in 1920s Russia and partly shaped ideals of the New Soviet Person into the 1940s. Cinema was crucial in propagating this new social hero.
While open admiration of American film stars and heroes of literary fiction in the Soviet press was restricted from the late 1920s onwards, many positive heroes of Soviet Socialist Realist films in the 1930s and 1940s were partially a product of Soviet Americanism of the previous decade. Some of the new Soviet heroes in films of the 1930s and 1940s possessed traits noticeably evocative of the previously popular American film stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Pearl White and Mary Pickford. Others cinematically represented the contemporary trope of the ‘Russian American,’ an ideal worker exemplifying the Stalinist marriage of ‘Russian revolutionary sweep’ with ‘American efficiency.’
‘Russian-Americans’ in Soviet Film analyses the content, reception and underlying influences of over 60 Soviet and American films, exploring new territory in Soviet cinema studies and American-Russian cultural relations. It presents groundbreaking archival research encompassing Soviet audience surveys, Soviet film journals and reviews, memoirs and articles by Soviet filmmakers,and scripts, among other sources. The book reveals that values of optimism, technological skill, efficiency and self-reliance – perceived as quintessentially American – were incorporated into new Soviet ideals through channels of cross-cultural dissemination, resulting in a cultural synthesis.
About the Author
Marina L. Levitina teaches Russian Cinema at the University of Dublin Trinity College. She is also a documentary filmmaker.
Table of Contents
1. Sources and Models
2. American Cinema as the Source of the 'Russian American' New Soviet Man Model
3. The 'Crucified' and the 'Glorified' New Man
4. Contribution to the Field
PART I: POPULARITY OF AMERICAN FILMS AND STARS IN SOVIET RUSSIA IN THE 1920S
6. Before and After 1917: 'Daredevil' Pearl White through Russian Eyes
7. After 1922: Soviet Reception of American Films
8. Avant-garde Filmmakers' Response to American Cinema
9. Douglas Fairbanks as the Prototype of the Positive Hero of Socialist Realist Cinema
PART II: AMERICANS AND 'RUSSIAN AMERICANS' ON THE SCREEN IN THE 1920S: CINEMATIC AND LITERARY CONNECTIONS
10. 'Red Pinkertons': The Effects of the American Adventure Genre on Portrayals of the New Soviet Man
11. 'Russian American' New Soviet Man in 'Novyi Byt' Films of the Late 1920s
12. Representations of Americans in Soviet Films with Contemporary Themes
13. Representations of Americans in Soviet Film Adaptations of American Literature
PART III: NEW SOVIET WOMAN IN THE CINEMA OF THE 1920S
14. Reality and Transformation of a Soviet Woman
15. American Models of New Femininity in Early Soviet Films
16. From the 1920s to the 1930s: the Shift in Policy and Representation
PART IV: 'AMERICANIZED' NEW SOVIET WOMAN ON THE SCREEN IN THE 1930S AND EARLY 1940S
17. From Multiple Models of Femininity in the 1920s to the Unified Model of the 1930s
18. Liubov' Orlova: Pickfordian Femininity and the 'Russian American' Ideal
19. The New Soviet Woman in The Shining Path (1940)
20. Ianina Zheimo: Another Soviet Pickford?
PART V: 'AMERICANIZED' NEW SOVIET MAN IN FILMS OF THE 1930S AND EARLY 1940S
21. The New Optimism
22. Fitness and Fame: Sportsmen Heroes
23. Mastery over Technology: Engineers-Inventors
24. Efficiency and Rationalization of Labour
25. Trailblazers in the Skies: The Cult of the Aviator Hero
26. American Film Actor: The 'Brick and Cement' for Constructing Soviet Cinema
27. 'Americanization of Personality'
28. 1930s: Human Beings of a Superior Kind
29. 'Americanness' at the Root of 'Sovietness'?
What People are Saying About This
‘Russian Americans’ in Soviet Film provides a meticulously-researched discussion of the American films that Russians were seeing in the NEP-era 1920’s and the varied messages they took from them. Levitina argues convincingly that the “American” character traits of optimism, physical fitness, and energy, epitomized by stars like Pearl White and Douglas Fairbanks, continued to influence film images of the “new Soviet man and woman” well into the 1930’s and 40’s, long after American films were withdrawn from the Soviet market and America was officially a decadent rival, not an object for emulation.
This is a book that sparkles with fresh insights and information. Marina L. Levitina has studied the impact of American films, actresses, and actors on Soviet authorities, critics, and the broad film-going public. The result is a novel and convincing reading of Soviet film and cultural politics in the 1920s and 1930s. The popularity of American films in the early Soviet era is well known but here readers will discover much that is new about the cultural interchange in the heyday of American imports and long afterwards as well. More fascinating still is her elucidation of the links between the pop culture of the American film industry and the officially promoted heroes and heroines of the Leninist-Stalinist social order. One can only say, well done. I recommend it highly for students and scholars alike.