Running Time: Films of the Cold War by Nora Sayre 60’s. The Fifties were a time when movies reflected and interacted with politics and international rivalry dominated American culture. The house on Un-American Activities Committee and the McCarthy investigations effected a cold war within the states. Film writers, actors and producers could find themselves blacklisted and unable to work until well into the Sixties. Nora Sayre captures the climate of the times as it is portrayed both directly and obliquely in the films of the era. Sharp-tongued in the manner of Dorothy Parker, Nora demolishes absurdities: “You can sometimes spot a Communist because his shadow looms larger and blacker than his adversary’s” (81).
Nora shows that during World War II, Russia was depicted as a joyful, dancing country all dressed up in embroidered blouses. Soon after the war, the Soviet Union hit the screen as a bunch of murderous thugs. Hollywood felt the threat from Washington and produced anti-Soviet propaganda which was not always well received by the public. It turned out that the film had to be goodin addition to being morally adjusted to the tenor of the times for the audience to respond.
As the decade progressed, the movies turned toward domestic conflict. Nora heaps praise on On the Waterfront, and shows how pictures about such matters as father-son conflicts (vehicles for actors like James Dean) began to dominate the box office. Epics drawn from the Bible, likeThe Robe helped the populace find refuge at the cinema.
So many of those fifties films I saw as a child. This fascinating book gave me a new perspective on an era I lived through. Here is a perceptive and often funny – in a devastating way – look at our recent past.