Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I would like to express my gratitude for the guidance, support, and input that I have received while writing this book. The seed of this project was planted when I first watched Gentleman’s Agreement in Chuck Maland’s American film class at the University of Tennessee. Chuck’s interest in the social problem film was infectious and stayed with me long after college. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-18

A glance at the Academy Award Best Picture nominations from the years immediately following World War II reveals a pattern of films with topical subject matter: The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945), a “gritty” exposé of the problems of alcoholism; The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946), a triptych of the problems facing returning veterans; ...

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Chapter 1: Two Modes of Prestige Film

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pp. 19-44

In gauging the changes that Hollywood underwent during the 1940s, two scenes from “quality” films released two decades apart are exemplary. In the first, Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936), a series of six shots immediately signal classical film narration and elevated production values. Sam Dodsworth’s (Walter Huston) entrance into an ocean liner dining room consists of an elaborate tracking shot ...

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Chapter 2: Hollywood as Popular Sociology

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pp. 45-69

Hollywood’s postwar fascination with psychoanalysis might be more famous, but its embrace of the relatively new academic discipline of sociology was no less fervent. As with psychoanalysis, Hollywood filtered its narratives through a popular social science oriented toward public policy and translated for the general public by journalists. ...

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Chapter 3: Hollywood and the Public Sphere

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pp. 70-94

Sociological thinking may have come into vogue for Hollywood in the 1940s, but it was the journalist rather than the academic who was a common protagonist of the social problem film. A key example would be Gentleman’s Agreement, made in 1947 by 20th Century–Fox. The film includes briefly the character of a scientist whose views are meant to stand in for contemporary anthropology’s view of race as an artifice ...

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Chapter 4: A Genre Out of Cycles

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pp. 95-125

Under the influence of functionalist sociology, Hollywood’s social problem films by the 1940s started to invoke a more abstract sense of social causation. However, this historical narrative presents some challenges. By most historical accounts, social problem films predated the 1940s. Peter Roffman and Jim Purdy’s genre study, for instance, ...

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Chapter 5: Realist Melodrama

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pp. 126-156

Hollywood in the 1940s took a decided turn toward a realist aesthetic, and the postwar social problem films were a privileged genre in this trend. As Hollywood aspired to participate in the public sphere, it turned increasingly to realism as a suitable style to match topical subject matter. From subject matter to visual treatment, ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 157-160

I have made the case that the postwar cycle of social problem films not only solidified an inchoate genre but also formed a type of popular sociology bridging the newly emerged field of American sociology with the public sphere aspirations of the studios. Given the growth of the state and the mass public sphere in a period of liberal consensus, ...

Notes

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pp. 161-180

Index

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pp. 181-188

About the Author

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