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Best Years

Going to the Movies, 1945-1946

Charles Affron and Mirella Jona Affron

Publication Year: 2009

Best Years shines light on a critical juncture in American history and the history of American cinemaùthe end of World War II (1945) and a year of unprecedented success in Hollywood's "Golden Age" (1946). This unique time provides a rich blend of cinema genres and typesùfrom the battlefront to the home front, the peace film to the woman's film, psychological drama, and the period's provocative new style, film noir. This book focuses on films that were famous, infamous, forgotten, and unforgettable, with big budget A-films, road shows, and familiar series share the spotlight.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book was to have had a third author, our colleague and great friend George Custen. George’s death came as we had made a first pass at a concept for the project, which later, as so often happens, took a very different turn. We owe George a debt for the breadth of knowledge and the wit and brio he brought to our, alas, too brief collaboration. ...

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1. Standing Room Only: U.S.A., January 1, 1945–December 31, 1946

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pp. 3-15

Best years? The most successful year in the “Golden Age” of Hollywood followed hard upon the euphoric end of World War II. The industry was at the center point of the three-decade-long heyday of the studio system during the sound era. For many moviegoers the times coincided with their own “best years”; for others, who came later, the movies of this period mirror an extraordinary chapter in the nation’s saga they regret having missed. Hollywood was put to the test, in war and then in peace. ...

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2. Over Here: Detroit, February 10, 1945, Since You Went Away and The Very Thought of You

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pp. 16-45

We choose Detroit as the example of a city whose industrial capacity made it critical to the war effort. In spite of the enormous successes of conversion to military manufacture, all went far from smoothly in the war’s last year. Plants suffered from restrictions on fuel; workers, including union women, walked out repeatedly. Difficult questions about draft deferment for factory workers were debated in the Detroit News. Military procurement officers warned management and labor that if “laxness, inefficient workmanship, and loafing on the job” did not stop, the city ...

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3. Nation: Atlanta, April 12, 1945, Wilson

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pp. 46-85

During preproduction and production MGM announced An American Romance under a series of working titles: American Miracle, The Magic Land, American Story, This Is America, and just plain America. What Vidor had in mind was not simply the romance of America with the automobile but the at-first-sight and enduring love affair between the immigrant and the adopted country. Stefan Dangosbiblichek arrives at Ellis Island in 1898 with $4 and change in his pocket, hopelessly short of the $25 ...

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4. Over There: Honolulu, June 26, 1945, Back to Bataan

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pp. 86-113

What we call “immediacy,” and have defined as the intersection of the front page and movie page, contemporary trade journals, dailies, and weeklies called “exploitation,” a more narrowly commercial construction of one of the defining practices of the years on which we focus.1 Examples of immediacy in the preceding chapter include the translation of U.S. Latin American policy into the Good Neighbor musical and, looking ahead to San Francisco and beyond, the reverberation of ...

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5. Stars: Los Angeles, November 22, 1945, Hollywood Canteen

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pp. 114-141

On November 22, 1945, more than three months after V-J Day, the front page of the Los Angeles Times was still filled with coverage of the war: tallies of the dead worldwide (22,060,000 according to the Vatican) and of Victory Loan sales (Southern California had met only 46.2 percent of its quota), revelations that the Japanese had plotted to assassinate Stalin in 1939 and that Roosevelt had been informed, ...

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6. Big Picture: Boston, January 1, 1946, Forever Amber

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pp. 142-164

On the first two days of 1946 the front pages of the Boston Daily Globe featured columnist Walter Lippmann’s three-stage proposal for global peace: “pacification, international cooperation, and the formation of a world state.” A related article voiced optimism that the city’s bid to bring the United Nations Organization to Boston had been braced by revised specifications for the permanent site of the world body. Yet a third, a communication on Britain’s angry charge of a Soviet double cross on ...

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7. Imports: Philadelphia, April 25, 1946, and June 5, 1946, Open City

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pp. 165-200

We locate this chapter in Philadelphia, one of a handful of American cities capable of drawing an audience of any size for imports, foreign-language imports in particular. The engagement of Open City (Roma citt

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8. Homecoming: Chicago, December 18, 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives

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pp. 201-238

We choose Chicago, capital of America’s heartland, as the setting for this chapter on homecoming. No sooner had GIs returned to the Windy City than they found the press, radio, and newsreels filled with speculation about a third global conflagration. Family and friends were already consumed, not with the war just ended but with its aftermath, with the deteriorating international situation, the threat of Soviet expansionism and rumors ...

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9. Continuous Showings: New York City, January 1, 1945–December 31, 1946

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pp. 239-287

Of the nearly eight hundred U.S. releases during 1945 and 1946, one-quarter trains the camera on the war and its aftermath.1 Another fourth is studded with the tropes of nation we probed earlier. The remaining four hundred titles, roughly, fall into the various categories and hybrids of comedy and drama on which cinema had settled early in its history. The musical chimed in with the coming of synchronous ...

Appendix A: Boxoffice Rankings

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pp. 289-296

Appendix B: Star Rankings

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pp. 297-298


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pp. 299-322


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pp. 323-341

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About the Authors

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p. 352-352

Charles Affron is professor emeritus of French at New York University. He has writ-ten on French literature of the nineteenth century and widely on film. His books in-clude Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life (2001), Divine Garbo (1985), Cinema andMirella Jona Affron is professor of cinema studies at the College of Staten Is-land/The City University of New York, where she served as provost from 1995 to...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813548456
E-ISBN-10: 0813548454
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813545820
Print-ISBN-10: 081354582X

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 51 photographs
Publication Year: 2009