Thursday, January 6, 2022

Hollywood Victory by Christian Blauvelt

Hollywood Victory
The Movies, Stars, and Stories of World War II
by Christian Blauvelt
Foreword by Dr. Robert M. Citino
Hardcover ISBN: 978076249992
TCM and Running Press
240 pages
November 2021

“By the end of the war, motion pictures, having become the voice of the nation, would end up as the definitive American art form– America’s greatest cultural export to the world.” — Christian Blauvelt

During WWII, movies reached the peak of their cultural influence over the American public. Hollywood rallied to support the war effort in many ways. Actors served overseas or entertained the troops. Directors documented battles on film to keep the American public back home apprised of what was happening during the war. Hollywood stars traveled all over the country selling war bonds. The Hollywood Canteen, started by John Garfield and Bette Davis, entertained the troops giving them a morale boost before they went off to battle. And it was movies like Confessions of a Nazi Spy that rang the alarm bells that something truly sinister was happening abroad. And when the United States officially entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, movies offered the public a unique form of encouragement to help get through the struggles ahead.

Hollywood Victory: The Movies, Stars, and Stories of World War II by Christian Blauvelt takes a look at the many ways Hollywood participated in the war effort and bolstered the American public. This book featured themed essays that tackle many aspects of WWII Hollywood in a way that is both informative and visually appealing. It includes a wide breadth of stories; some classic film fans will be familiar with and others that will be quite enlightening. The behind-the-scenes or lesser known stories alongside the ones we come to expect to be told about the war enriches the reading experience.

Key figures discussed in the book include: Lena Horne, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Stewart
Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Leslie Howard, Veronica Lake, Hedy Lamarr, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Otto Preminger, Anna May Wong, Orson Welles, Bob Hope, Carmen Miranda, John Huston, Hattie McDaniel, James Cagney, John Ford, Edward G. Robinson, Billy Wilder, Paul Robeson, Marlene Dietrich and many more.

“Entertainment is always a national asset… Invaluable in time of peace, it is indispensable in 
wartime.” — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Movies discussed at length include: Confessions of a Nazi Spy, The Great Director, Casablanca, Mrs. Miniver, The Human Comedy and many more.

Much attention is given to the history of minorities during WWII. There are several essays about how Hollywood's involvement with Latin American talent as part of America's Good Neighbor Policy, how Chinese American actors were used to depict Japanese characters, how black soldiers were treated during the war and about black talent including Lena Horne and Hattie McDaniel who were very active on the homefront.

The essays are presented in a rough chronological order so you follow the story of Hollywood during WWII from right before Pearl Harbor to the end of the war in 1945.  I particularly enjoyed reading about how the studios approached telling war stories, about the Hollywood Canteen and the Hollywood Victory Caravan, how individual films made an impact on both audiences but also key power players and how each star approached their involvement in the war effort. I wasn't particularly interested in the pieces on Disney however animation enthusiasts will be eager to read more about that. 

Hollywood Victory is a must have for classic movie enthusiasts who have a particular interest in WWII history.

Thank you to TCM and Running Press for sending me a copy of Hollywood Victory for review. 

Check out the video below to see what else I've been reading.

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