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Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies Reprint Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0520071612
ISBN-10: 0520071611
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Beware of censors bearing high ideals. That's the message of "Hollywood Goes to War, a careful account of America's flirtation with cultural commissarship during World War II. . . . The descriptions of behind-the-scenes fiddling by bureaucrats (particularly with King Vidor's ambitious flop, 'An American Romance, ' which was 'transformed from a paean to rugged individualism into a celebration of management-labor cooperation') are instructive. They expose the political mentality of the time and the mentality of propagandists of all times."--Walter Goodman, "New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Clayton R. Koppes is Houck Professor of Humanities and Chairman of the History Department at Oberlin College. Gregory D. Black is Chairman of the Communications Department at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Director of the American Culture program there.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (August 16, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520071611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520071612
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Steven Hellerstedt on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
`Hollywood Goes to War" is the biography of a federal government agency, the Office of War Information (1942-45.) The OWI - not to be confused with the OSS, OGR, OCD or any other agency in that alphabet-soup happy era - was a creation of the Roosevelt Administration whose purpose was to control the message contained in American movies during the duration. In other words, it was a propaganda agency which, as authors Koppes and Black explain in the preface, issued instruction manuals to the studios, sat in on story conferences, reviewed screenplays, pressured studios to change scripts and even scrap pictures, and sometimes even wrote dialogue for key speeches. Politicians, even in a democracy that prides itself on its tolerance of free speech, aren't above trying to spin a message now and then. Spinning is usually done as covertly as possible. World War II was seen as a `total' war, though, and controlling the content of Hollywood movies (employing , as they put it, a `strategy of truth') was seen as a necessity. One of the chapter titles phrase the problem succinctly enough; Will this movie help us win the war? OWI was created to arbitrate and answer that question.

Of course, the demands of propaganda are different than those of mass entertainment, and HGtW offers a few surprising battles. None more so, perhaps, than OWI's strong reaction against Preston Sturges' frothy screwball masterpiece, 1942's Palm Beach Story, a movie HGtW quotes an OWI reviewer characterizing as "a fine example of what should not be made in the way of escape pictures." Palm Beach Story's transgression seems to have been that it didn't take the war quite seriously enough. The idle rich spent money with frivolous abandon, distressed lovers ignored the war and its issues.
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