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12.Dorothy Jones, "The Hollywood War Film: 1942-44", in Hollywood Quarterly, I (1945). 1 3.Manny Färber, Op. Cit., p. 1 6. THE PROPAGANDIST S ART By William Hughes William Hughes who has written on aspects offilm culturefor The Nation The Sun (Baltimore), and University' Vision is currently preparing the chapter on "The Evaluation offilm as evidencefor inclusion in The Historian and Film to be published by Cambridge University Press in 1975 He teaches history at Essex Community College Baltimore. Charlie Chaplin dances with Marie Dressier at a Liberty Loan rally, while Doug Fairbanks leads the cheers of the crowd; Donald Duck, responding to a wartime appeal for prompt payment of income taxes, makes a manic dash directly to Washington with his returns ("taxes to bury the Axis"); Ernest Hemingway advances the cause of the Republic in a film of the Spanish Civil War; native-born Japanese-American women learn "Americanism" by sewing American flags in Relocation Centers ("They are not under suspicion, they are not prisoners, they are casualties of war.") These images highlight a senes of "Films of Persuasion, 19161945" recently shown at the National Archives in Washington. Similar programs have attracted capacity crowds since these public screenings were initiated three years ago. This series, like its predecessors, drew on the Archives' extensive holdings of newsreel footage, government agency films, Signal Corps combat material, and captured enemy films. "Films of Persuasion" demonstrates the political use of motion pictures during three periods ofcrisis — World War I, the great depression, and World War II. According to William Murphy, the archivist who put together this interesting program, the series illustrates several important characteristics of film as propaganda: "they argue from a definite point of view, present selected facts, reduce large, complex problems to simpler, more emotionally satisfying terms, and ask for a commitment." In implementing these tactics, film propagandists used the full range of cinematic techniques available at any given moment — animation (using the novelty of the cartoonist's art to catch our fancy), reenactments (substituting melodrama for reality), actuality footage (real scenes ofbattlefield suffering or depression hardships to enlist our sympathy), and celebrity appeals (borrowing a time-tested technique from Madison Avenue and Sunset Boulevard). It was Lenin who said "the cinema is for us the most important of all the arts", but it was capitalist Hollywood, not the Soviet cinema, that provided the techniques and talents for much cinematic propaganda. Even before the Great War, as Murphy told the opening night audience at the Archives, America's film industry produced-political morality films that took stands on controversial contemporary issues. Even early newsreels, which incorporated much actuality footage, often conveyed partisan political messages. And D.W. Griffith's spectacular productions forcefully demonstrated film's capacity to awaken powerful emotions. 44 When America entered the War, Hollywood rushed to enlist. Some of its efforts were on view in the "Films of Persuasion" series, including shots of Chaplin, Pickford, Fairbanks, and Dressier at a Liberty Loan rally in Washington; two briefbut elaborately staged dramatizations ofbattlefield heroics by American soldiers (in one, a mini-melodrama reminiscent ofGriffith's early Biographs, a mortally wounded orderly places an Iron Cross torn from a dead German soldier onto his own fallen commander, then collapses); an extremely skillful animation ofthe sinking ofthe Lusitania, reinforcing the moral rectitude of America's commitment to the Allied cause ("the babe that clung to her mother's breast cried out to the world to avenge the crime"). The Hollywood influence is even more evident in America's World War II propaganda. The programs at the Archives included, for instance, a series of Walt Disney animations commissioned by the government. One of these, Reason and Emotion, is an effective call for reason in a time ofcrisis. The audience is shown that it is primarily through manipulation of fear, hate, and racial pride that Hitler, "that master rabble rouser", controls the so-called Nazi Superman. Here Disney's attack on Hitler's phony racial theories marks something ofa departure from a rather notorious episode in his earlier Three Little Pigs, in which the wolftook on the stereotypical guise of a Jewish peddler to insinuate his way into the practical pig...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 44-47
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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