Movies as History

Scenes of America, 1930–1970


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About the Book

Popular movies can enhance the study of history. A dominant form of entertainment throughout the 20th century, they can serve as nontraditional primary sources and offer remarkable opportunities to observe attitudes about social concerns, gender or racial issues, politics, and historical events that were current when the movies were made. This book is a topical guide for educators, providing detailed analysis of 35 movies, followed by discussion questions that will help students interpret how each movie’s content and themes reflect the times when it was made. The book covers four main topics: the Great Depression, World War II, the early years of the Cold War, and the changing expectations and images of women in movies from 1930 to 1970. An historical overview chronicles how each topic was treated in movies from that time period. The movies should have wide appeal in grades 7 through 12 and can help students learn to think more critically about the images and messages that appear in popular media today.

About the Author(s)

Marie L. Aquila is an adjunct professor of history education at Mercyhurst University. She lives in Elma, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Marie L. Aquila
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 272
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4637-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1465-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface: Movies as Primary Sources 1

Introduction 5

Part I: Hard Times and Hollywood Hope, 1931–1939 15

The Public Enemy (1931) 22

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) 27

Lady for a Day (1934) 30

You Can’t Take It with You (1938) 34

Stagecoach (1939) 38

Part II: War and Peace Around the Globe, 1937–1956 45

Prewar Era Movies

Grand Illusion (1937) 61

The Lady Vanishes (1938) 65

Sergeant York (1941) 70

War Era Movies

Casablanca (1942) 75

The More the Merrier (1943) 79

Rome, Open City (1945) 84

Postwar Era Movies

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) 88

Bicycle Thieves (1948) 93

The Third Man (1949) 97

Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) 102

Part III: Red Fears and Nuclear Anxieties, 1939–1966 109

Red Fears

Ninotchka (1939) 118

Notorious (1946) 123

My Son John (1952) 127

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) 131

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) 135

Nuclear Anxieties

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) 139

On the Beach (1959) 144

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 149

From Russia with Love (1963) 153

The Bedford Incident (1965) 158

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966) 162

Part IV: Images of Women through Good Times and Bad, 1933–1969 169

Dinner at Eight (1933) 186

His Girl Friday (1940) 190

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) 195

Born Yesterday (1950) 199

Picnic (1955) 204

Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) / Gidget (1959) 210

The Thrill of It All (1963) 221

True Grit (1969) 227

Appendix 235

Notes 237

Bibliography 245

Index 251