The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History

By Lewis Jacobs | Go to book overview

XXV
SIGNIFICANT CONTEMPORARY FILM CONTENT

THE turbulent course of national events since 1929, complicated by an increasingly acute European situation and directly touching the lives of all Americans, has made social, political, and economic issues of paramount interest to the common man. The flight from reality has come to an abrupt halt; the vogue of social irresponsibility, random self-indulgence, and escape into the "ivory tower," which prevailed in the twenties, has been abandoned. Most people have become social-minded and have developed a more realistic attitude toward life's problems. The desperateness of economic conditions, the need for equitable treatment and conditions for all, the menace of war and fascism, have produced an intense popular interest in current events, history, biography, social studies, facts, brought to us by legions of news magazines, topical and factual digests, reviews of all kinds, radio news commentators, and public debates. Government conservatism in the twenties has given way to progressivism (which is now being threatened once again by political reaction), and indiscriminate rebellion against moral conventions has been succeeded by an earnest search for moral norms. If cynicism still prevails, it is a new kind of cynicism, marked not by individualistic retreat but by a militant group spirit.

This quick transformation of American attitudes has been reflected in the content of American motion pictures during the past ten years, not only in fictionized films but in newsreels and documentaries. Movies reveal the change as it has progressed from the suspicion that something is wrong, to the exposure of corruption, to an awareness of widespread injustices and economic dis

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