The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s

The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s

by Kevin Starr

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What we now call "the good life" first appeared in California during the 1930s. Motels, home trailers, drive-ins, barbecues, beach life and surfing, sports from polo and tennis and golf to mountain climbing and skiing, "sportswear" (a word coined at the time), and sun suits were all a part of the good life—perhaps California's most distinctive influence of the 1930s. In The Dream Endures, Kevin Starr shows how the good life prospered in California—in pursuits such as film, fiction, leisure, and architecture—and helped to define American culture and society then and for years to come.
Starr previously chronicled how Californians absorbed the thousand natural shocks of the Great Depression—unemployment, strikes, Communist agitation, reactionary conspiracies—in Endangered Dreams, the fourth volume of his classic history of California. In The Dream Endures, Starr reveals the other side of the picture, examining the newly important places where the good life flourished, like Los Angeles (where Hollywood lived), Palm Springs (where Hollywood vacationed), San Diego (where the Navy went), the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (where Einstein went and changed his view of the universe), and college towns like Berkeley. We read about the rich urban life of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and in newly important communities like Carmel and San Simeon, the home of William Randolph Hearst, where, each Thursday afternoon, automobiles packed with Hollywood celebrities would arrive from Southern California for the long weekend at Hearst Castle.
The 1930s were the heyday of the Hollywood studios, and Starr brilliantly captures Hollywood films and the society that surrounded the studios. Starr offers an astute discussion of the European refugees who arrived in Hollywood during the period: prominent European film actors and artists and the creative refugees who were drawn to Hollywood and Southern California in these years—Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Man Ray, Bertolt Brecht, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann, and Franz Werfel. Starr gives a fascinating account of how many of them attempted to recreate their European world in California and how others, like Samuel Goldwyn, provided stories and dreams for their adopted nation. Starr reserves his greatest attention and most memorable writing for San Francisco. For Starr, despite the city's beauty and commercial importance, San Francisco's most important achievement was the sense of well-being it conferred on its citizens. It was a city that "magically belonged to everyone."
Whether discussing photographers like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, "hard-boiled fiction" writers, or the new breed of female star—Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, Carole Lombard, and the improbable Mae West—The Dream Endures is a brilliant social and cultural history—in many ways the most far-reaching and important of Starr's California books.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195157970
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 11/28/2002
Series: Americans and the California Dream Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.25(d)
Lexile: 1510L (what's this?)

About the Author

Kevin Starr is State Librarian of California, Chairman of the State of California Sesquicentennial Commission, contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times, and a member of the faculty at the University of Southern California. He is the author of a number of books, including Americans and the California Dream, Inventing the Dream, Material Dreams, and Endangered Dreams.

Table of Contents

1 Good Times on the Coast: Affluence and the Anti-Depression For many Californians, it was the worst of times; but for others, in such places as Palm Springs, Long Beach, Berkeley, the Peninsula, Pebble Beach, and Carmel, it was the best of times as well. Barbecues, swimming pools, surfing, sports, resorts, and leisure wear (including slacks!): the 1930s had it all, at least for the affluent. A lifestyle was emerging that would set the post-war paradigm.
2 Arcadian Shores: College Towns and Other Rusticated Enclaves While Los Angeles and San Francisco continued their dominance, an array of other settlements--Berkeley, Moraga, Burlingame, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Carmel, Big Sur, San Simeon--and the regions centered on the North Bay and Lake Tahoe were also offering pleasant alternatives, as either resorts or places of permanent residence. Many of these towns were connected to colleges or universities. Others, such as Carmel, began their existence as artistic enclaves. Each settlement attracted more than its share of interesting personalities.
3 Unto the Stars Themeselves: Astronomy and the Pasadena Perspective Astronomy boosted Pasadena into the big time. Founded as an agricultural settlement in the 1870s and refounded at the turn of the century as a genteel resort, Pasadena transformed itself in the 1920s and 1930s into a center of science and humane learning. From astronomy came the California Institute of Technology and, indirectly, the Huntington Library. One man, George Ellery Hale, and one institution, the Mount Wilson Observatory, catalyzed and shaped these developments. By 1931 Albert Einstein was seriously thinking of becoming Pasadenan.
4 Gibraltar of the Pacific: San Diego Joins the Navy Pasadena used astronomy for catalyst and metaphor. San Diego used the Pacific Fleet. Developed as a health resort, a theosophical community, a town with a special passion for horticulture and parks, San Diego wanted an economic future, but not at the cost of heavy industrialization. By joining the Navy, San Diego achieved a strategy whereby it could have both smokestacks and geraniums.
5 One Man's Family: Localism and Well-Being in Pre-War San Francisco San Francisco had a way of helping its citizens feel good about themselves. It was, after all, a town just big enough to be a city--and a city just big enough to enjoy the benefits of metropolitan culture. To experience The City (it was always capitalized, even the article) was to encounter big-city life at its best but in manageable proportions and in an urban setting second to none in the United States. Critics frequently found San Franciscans provincial, even smug. San Franciscans replied that they had a lot to be smug about.
6 Pershing Square: Los Angeles Through the 1930s While San Franciscans were busy creating a city according to classic urban patterns, the City of Angels was emerging as an entirely different archetype. Having arrived in an earlier era, the Folks of Los Angeles were growing gray by the 1930s and incresingly feisty. Joining the Folks were expatriates from England and Mitteleuropa and eccentrics from every part of the globe. How could a mid-American city suddenly become so idiosyncratic and outrageous? Los Angeles, as Carey McWilliams put it, was a human volcano in eruption.
7 An All-Seeing Eye: Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and the Landscape of California Like astronomy, photography possessed a special intensity in California. Theree was so much to see, and how exactly to see it remained a continuing challenge. In the nineteenth century Carleton Watkins, the Walt Whitman of California photography, achieved an epic of perception and presentation that fixed photography as the premier art form of the coast. In the 1920s and 1930s this affinity between California and photography renewed itself as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams captured in fleeting milliseconds of perception a portfolio of images that would preserve a pristine California for all time to come.
8 Angel's Flight: Social Realism Comes to California Art Given to landscapes over the built environment and to a dreamy, mystical view of nature, Post-Impressionism flourished in California through the 1920s. At the Same time, however, the Society of Six was exploding in solar storms of Fauvist color. Watercolorists, meanwhile, were making a direct and kinetic connection with people, architecture, and urban places. Supported by federal programs, muralists recounted the history of the state with a Mexican accent. Sculpture flourished, indoors and out. By 1941 a new view, a new vision, of California had been assembled.
9 Dreaming Through the Disaster: Hollywood Battles the Depression Thanks to Hollywood--the stars, the films, the studios--America was able to dream its way through the most dangerous possibilities of the Depression. Only an industrial systems was in a position to offer such wholesale dream-theraphy to a nation so severly shaken by industrial collapse. Far from stifling individual talent, industrial Hollywood was marshaling the artistic resources of an entire generation in a manner imposible to any other art form or communications system. Thanks in part to Hollywood, industrial capitalism avoided collapse.
10 The Boys and Girls in the Back Room: Minimalism and the California Novel Why, asked Edmund Wilson in 1940, was so much of the best fiction by Californians so spare, so minimalist, so hard-boiled? The answer, Wilson argued, was because California, as symbolized by its Ocean, was devoid of historical association. Writers felt dropped into a void that deconstructed more elaborate mades of language. In so much California fiction, Wilson theorized, rhetoric and allusion collapsed around an embattled self barely able to survive the disconnection, the emptiness, pervading daily life in the Golden State.
11 War and Peace and the Survival of the Species: Californians Contemplate a World on the Verge of Self-Destruction As war clouds gathered on the horizons of Europe and Asia, Carmel poet Robinson leffers, prophesying the end of civilization, offered a flight to nature at its most objective and austere, its most non-human otherness, as the only path to transcendence. Other Californias, equally disturbed by the drumbeats of war, were not so eager to set aside the value of personal ethics and human culture. As a documentarian and library-builder, former president Herbert Hoover continued to struggle for world peace. In Ishi, the last of the First Californians and a survivor of genocide, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber found a paradigm of transformation and renewal.
12 Ich Bin ein Sudkalifornier: Life and Art Among the Emigres With the rise of the Third Reich, a generation of artists and intellectuals sought refuge in metropolitan Southern California. In Hollywood, their presence added even further momentum to a process of Erupeanization already underway. By the late 1930s Los Angeles sustianed within its metropolitan formula a Berlin in exile and a strong suggestion of Vienna. A smaller but equally creative French community, together with assorted enclaves of Central and Eastern Europeans, also resettled beneath the palm trees of a transplanted Mitteleuropa.
13 From Catastrophe to Covenant: Jews and Christians in Exile Together Together, Jews and Christians had fled a Europe in the throes of the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism in human history. Only when the was over would the full extent of the evil be known. In the meanwhile, the exiles remained Jews and Christians together, part of a single emigre community. How could or would Jewish civilization reconstitute itself? asked Lion Feuchtwanger. What demonic urges lurked in the Faustion center of the German soul? asked Thomas Mann. How, asked Franz Werfel, could Jews and Christians ever again find each other after the enormity, the horror, of what had happened?
Notes 397(6)
Bibliographical Eassay 403(26)
Acknowledgments 429(4)
Index 433
Illustrations follow page

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