American Film and Society since 1945

By Leonard Quart; Albert Auster | Go to book overview

1
INTRODUCTION

From shadows and symbols into the truth. John Henry, Cardinal Newman

In 1981, John Huston's almost legendary World War II documentary about psychologically crippled veterans, Let There Be Light ( 1945), received its first commercial public showing, thirty-five years after it was produced. While the film had originally been suppressed by the U.S. Defense Department, which feared its possible pacifistic influence, interest in it was kept alive by film critics-most notably James Agee, who even included it on his best films list of 1946, Unfortunately time had not dealt too well with Let There Be Light, and most contemporary film critics found it ingenuous and naive to the point of simplemindedness. 1

Despite the fact that Let There Be Light failed to live up to its critical reputation, it succeeded on another level. In fact, the showing of the film might be compared to lifting the lid on a time capsule-one that provided a clear insight into an era's cultural and social perspective and mood. By contemporary standards, a film that adheres to Let There Be Light's magical faith in the healing power of psychiatrists and Freudianism would be seen as innocent and overly sanguine. It's a vision of the human condition that would hardly be emulated by today's more cynical (albeit no more sophisticated) films. Let There Be Light may have left modern critics unimpressed with its moving portrayal of the plight of shell-shocked soldiers, but it does serve as a useful conduit to help understand the intellectual assumptions of the postwar period.

It is hardly an original point, though it bears repeating, that films have

-1-

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American Film and Society since 1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Second Edition ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Forties 13
  • Notes 39
  • 3 - The Fifties 41
  • Notes 69
  • 4 - The Sixties 71
  • Notes 100
  • 5 - The Seventies 103
  • Notes 134
  • 6 - The Eighties 137
  • Notes 174
  • Selected Bibliography 177
  • Index 181
  • About the Authors *
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