Best Years: Going to the Movies, 1945-1946

Best Years: Going to the Movies, 1945-1946

Best Years: Going to the Movies, 1945-1946

Best Years: Going to the Movies, 1945-1946


Americans flocked to the movies in 1945 and 1946- the center point of the three-decade heyday of the studio system's sound era. Why?

Best Years is a panoramic study, shining light on this critical juncture in American historyand the history of American cinema- the end of World War II (1945) and a year of unprecedented success in Hollywood's "Golden Age" (1946). This unique time, the last year of war and the first full year of peace, provides a rich blend of cinema genres and types- from the battlefront to the home front, the peace film to the woman's film, psychological drama, and the period's provocative new style, film noir.

Best Years focuses on films that were famous, infamous, forgotten, and unforgettable. Big budget A-films, road shows, and familiar series share the spotlight. From Bergman and Grant in Notorious to Abbott and Costello in Lost in a Harem, Charles Affron and Mirella Jona Affron examine why the bond between screen and viewer was perhaps never tighter. Paying special attention to the movie-going public in key cities--Atlanta, New York, Boston, Honolulu, and Chicago--this ambitious work takes us on a cinematic journey to recapture a magical time.


Best years? The most successful year in the “Golden Age” of Hollywood followed hard upon the euphoric end of World War II. The industry was at the center point of the three-decade-long heyday of the studio system during the sound era. For many moviegoers the times coincided with their own “best years”; for others, who came later, the movies of this period mirror an extraordinary chapter in the nation’s saga they regret having missed. Hollywood was put to the test, in war and then in peace. In 1945 the movie business found itself nearing the end of its mission as a partner in the government’s propaganda efforts. Many of the films in exhibition made a deliberate appeal to patriotism. They sought to inspire and validate the sacrifices necessary to the pursuit of victory. If some were locked in the present of the early dark days of the war, others were conceived in anticipation of V-E Day and V-J Day. Notable among the releases of 1946 are those that evoke the mixed implications of the peace, both domestic and international. Despite the inevitable time lag between current events and the distribution of a movie in preparation and production for months, the bond between the front page and the movie page was perhaps never tighter than in these years when America and the world were in such radical flux.

Nineteen forty-six has an added privilege. More tickets were sold than in any previous year. Between 1946 and 1948, movie attendance peaked at 90 million weekly admissions. Hollywood found itself more powerfully positioned than ever to articulate and shape the desires of its enormous and diverse audience. Yet by 1949 attendance was down more than 20 percent; by 1951 it was half of what it had been . . .

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