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Upstaging the Cold War

American Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy, 1940-1960

Andrew J. Falk

Publication Year: 2010

Traditional interpretations of the 1950s have emphasized how American anti-communists deployed censorship and the blacklist to silence dissent, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. Yet those efforts at repression did not always succeed. Throughout the early years of the Cold War, a significant number of writers and performers continued to express controversial views about international relations in Hollywood films, through the new medium of televi-sion, on the Broadway stage, and from behind the scenes. By promoting superpower cooperation, decolonization, nuclear disarmament, and other taboo causes, dissident artists such as Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Rod Serling, Dalton Trumbo, Reginald Rose, and Paddy Chayefsky managed both to stretch the boundaries of Cold War ideology and to undermine some of its basic assumptions. Working at times under assumed names and in some cases outside the United States, they took on the role of informal diplomats who competed with Washington in repre-senting America to the world. Ironically, the dissidents’ international appeal eventually persuaded the U.S. foreign policy establishment that their unconventional views could be an asset in the Cold War contest for “hearts and minds,” and their artistic work an effective means to sell Ameri-can values and culture abroad. By the end of the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration not only appropriated the work of these talented artists but enlisted some of them to serve as official voices of Cold War cultural diplomacy.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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List of Illustrations

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p. xi

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pp. xiii-xv

One of the great joys in being a historian is the ability to spend time with interesting people from the past. This book allowed me access to the private thoughts and correspondence of many gifted diplomats, moguls, and screenwriters of the period. I suspect, and my family will probably agree, that I would have completed ...

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Introduction: The New Negotiators

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pp. 1-10

A few minutes past three on the sunny afternoon of April 30, 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt officially opened the New York World’s Fair. For the next six months, Depression-weary Americans happily shelled out money all day long to enjoy the many attractions there. Thematically, the fair offered a look at peace and progress by focusing on worlds of tomorrow where problems ...

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Chapter 1: Hollywood in the Crucible of War

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pp. 11-38

In early May 1940, Hollywood producer David O. Selznick spoke to an audience gathered at the University of Rochester. While his motion picture Gone with the Wind (1939) was playing in crowded movie houses around the country, Selznick had strutted through a season of awards ceremonies and speaking engagements. Hollywood’s bespectacled “wunderkind”— at the very pinnacle of his storied career— gladly accepted ...

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Chapter 2: One World or Two? The American Postwar Mission

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pp. 39-62

The Second World War represented a triumph for American internationalists yet also ushered in a period of uncertainty and debate over the American postwar mission in the world. American internationalists uniformly agreed that overseas events compelled the nation to enter the war, but as the conflict subsided, they disagreed among themselves over the reasons why the nation had fought the war. With the help ...

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Chapter 3: Casting the Iron Curtain

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pp. 63-85

In September 1946, while vacationing on the lovely island of Nantucket, literary agent Audrey Wood received a letter from a friend and client, playwright Tennessee Williams. Accustomed as she was to Williams’s antics, she relished learning of his latest adventures and his bursts of creative genius. At the conclusion of a letter updating his progress on the script for ...

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Chapter 4: Projectors of Power: Containment Policy in Hollywood

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pp. 86-118

On New Year’s Day 1946, Bartley Crum, an urbane California attorney, received a telephone call informing him that President Truman had invited him to serve on the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry into Palestine. Six American and Six British members investigated the Holocaust, the plight of 400,000 Jewish war refugees, the situation in Palestine, and worldwide anti- Semitism. ...

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Chapter 5: Test Patterns: Making Room for Dissent in Television

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pp. 119-142

As thousands of readers picked up their copies of the August 20, 1945, issue of Newsweek magazine— the first postwar issue— they probably flipped the pages a little more slowly around the article titled “A New Era: The Secrets of Science.” Within the previous week, Japan ...

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Chapter 6: Guardians of the Golden Age: Cold War Television and the Imagined Audience

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pp. 143-177

Ed Sullivan began his television career in 1948 as a host of his long- running variety show, Toast of the Town. Late the next year he booked dancer Paul Draper and harmonica aficionado Larry Adler to appear. Both men had been targeted by anticommunists, but Sullivan gave them a stage nonetheless. Anticommunist columnists George Sokolsky and Westbrook Pegler, though, pressed ...

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Chapter 7: The Cultural Battlefield in Europe

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pp. 178-211

Anticommunists effectively contained radicals in the motion picture industry during congressional hearings in the fall of 1947. Congress approved contempt citations against the Hollywood Ten, and studio moguls soon agreed to impose a blacklist on talent. A few weeks later, one member of the Hollywood ...

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Afterword: The Cold War Epic

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pp. 212-214

George Kennan was one of the policymakers present at the creation of the Cold War. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he lived long enough to witness the end of the Cold War as well. Writing the first volume of his memoirs in 1967, surrounded by the turmoil and turbulence of that era, Kennan looked back at his original advocacy ...


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pp. 215-245


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pp. 247-258

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760208
E-ISBN-10: 1613760205
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558497283
Print-ISBN-10: 1558497285

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794700519
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Upstaging the Cold War

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Screenwriters -- Political activity -- United States.
  • Communism and motion pictures -- United States.
  • Blacklisting of authors -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Motion picture industry -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Motion pictures -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Cold War -- Influence.
  • Television and politics -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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