War and Film in America

Historical and Critical Essays


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About the Book

America’s chief exports are war and entertainment; combined, they are the war films viewed all over the world. The film industry is a partner of the government; American film shapes the ways in which both Americans and others view war. The authors herein explore differing film perspectives across five decades.
The essays, written especially for this volume, explore topics such as frontier justice, Cold War fervor, government-sponsored terrorism, the “back-to-Nam” films, films as a venue for propaganda, and war’s far-reaching effects on personal values, family relationships, and general civility. The movies used in these analyses vary from conventional battle epics like Bridge on the River Kwai and The Green Berets to motion pictures with a war motif either as part of the story (The Way We Were) or as a historical setting (The Graduate). Some of the films are satirical (Dr. Strangelove); some are propagandistic (The Alamo, Big Jim McLain). Other films include Black Hawk Down, True Lies, The Deer Hunter, Patriot Games and Let There Be Light.
Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Nancy Lynch Street is professor emerita of communication studies at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Marilyn J. Matelski is professor emerita of communication at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Marilyn J. Matelski and Nancy Lynch Street
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 218
Bibliographic Info: notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1673-8
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5146-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Preface      1

Introduction      3

1. The Bridge on the River Kwai: The Collision of Duty and Pride      13

2. John Wayne: American Icon, Patriotic Zealot and Cold War Ideologue      25

3. The Cold War: Three Episodes in Waging a Cinematic Battle      43

4. Troubled Silences: Trauma in John Huston’s Film Let There Be Light      67

5. Patriot or Pariah? The Impact of War on Family Relationships      79

6. The Cold War, Cinema, and Civility: The Top Films of 1967      94

7. Top Guns in Vietnam: The Pilot as Protected Warrior Hero      114

8. Trauma, Treatment, and Transformation: The Evolution of the Vietnam Warrior in Film      134

9. American Hero Meets Terrorist: True Lies and Patriot Games After September 11, 2001

10. Stanley Kubrick and America’s “Strange Love” of War      175

Filmography      195

Bibliography      199

About the Contributors      203

Index      207

Book Reviews & Awards

“recommended”—Choice; “eclectic contributions…merit[s] perusing”—Film & History; “thought-provoking…will appeal to movie fans as well as military professionals…the essays, which are solid, objective, and interesting, show how the movies have to fit into the spectrum of American life over the past 60 years”—Military Review.