Celluloid Wars: A Guide to Film and the American Experience of War

Celluloid Wars: A Guide to Film and the American Experience of War

Celluloid Wars: A Guide to Film and the American Experience of War

Celluloid Wars: A Guide to Film and the American Experience of War


This easy-to-use guide explores the relationships between film images and the experience of war, showing how films influence war-time behavior and how wars influence films. This unique reference combines essays on the aesthetic and historical aspects of war films with classifications and discussions of films about different wars, a filmography arranged alphabetically with annotations, a bibliography of books and articles dealing with war films, a general guide for film study, along with separate indices to film titles, filmmakers, and subjects.


The influence of film upon twentieth century life cannot be overstated. As a movement in mass art, the rise of motion pictures is unique. No other art form has so pervaded public consciousness. No other art makes such insistent claims upon our attentions, our tastes and our sensibilities. Nor do we demand-- perhaps even expect--so much from any other artistic expression.

Film and modern life work upon each other in a complex and intimate symbiosis. We have come to take this intimacy between life and films very much for granted: we are no longer surprised when films alone create mass cultural trends and sustain them for a highly public moment. Films are a perfectly appropriate engine for cultural change in a disposable society.

Perhaps because films have so profoundly and widely affected modern life, scholars have found it difficult to make sense of them as a whole, as contributors to intellectual history, as cultural artifacts in their own right, shaping as well as reflecting their times. The shelves of film history are full of books pretending to be films. Photos have taken primacy over text, which now seems wholly incidental to the purpose of the book. It is as if their authors assume that anyone interested in film is likely to be impatient of any message not conveyed by image. The intervals between books on the order of Lillian Ross' Picture, for example, are substantial, and are growing.

Ross' Picture is a book about a film about a book about war, a biography of sorts, depicting John Huston's struggle to make a film based on Stephen Crane Civil War classic The Red Badge of Courage. Huston has every intention of making a film true to Crane's original conception, but Huston's studio bosses are dubious about the commercial value of what looks to be dangerously close . . .

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