The American Worker on Film

A Critical History, 1909–1999


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About the Book

An examination of the cinematic and cultural discourse surrounding work, the worker, organized labor, and the working class in 20th century America, this book analyzes a number of films within the historical context of labor and politics. Looking at both comedies (Modern Times, Gung Ho, Office Space) and dramas (The Grapes of Wrath, On the Waterfront, F.I.S.T., Blue Collar, Norma Rae, and Matewan), it reveals how these films are not merely products of their times, but also producers of ideological stances concerning the status of capitalism, class struggle, and democracy in America. Common themes among the films include the myth of the noble worker, the shifting status of the American Dream, and the acceptability of reform versus the unacceptability of revolution in affecting economic, political, and social change in America.

About the Author(s)

Independent scholar Doyle Greene is the author of several books and serves on the editorial board of Film Criticism. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Bibliographic Details

Doyle Greene
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 15 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4734-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5776-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Abbreviations      ix

Preface      1

Introduction: From Tom Joad to Joe the Plumber (or, The Working Class of 2008)      5

PART ONE. 1909–1940

1. Reform and Revolution: The Progressive Era and D.W. Griffith      15

2. Man, Machine, Apparatus: Modern Times      31

3. The Promised Land (or, Many Will Enter, Few Will Win): The Grapes of Wrath      52

PART TWO. 1941–1956

4. Rally ’Round the Flag: Hollywood, Labor, World War II, and the Cold War      71

5. In Praise of the Individual: On the Waterfront      84

PART THREE. 1957–1979

6. The Union Label: F.I.S.T      103

7. American Nightmare: Blue Collar      122

8. The Dignity of Labor (and Intellectuals): Norma Rae      139

PART FOUR. 1980–1999

9. Labor Learns Its Place: Gung Ho      153

10. Requiem for the Worker: Matewan      166

11. White Collar Revolt: Office Space      185

Conclusion: Whither the Working Class?      197

Chapter Notes      205

Bibliography      227

Index      231