Film and the American Left: A Research Guide

Film and the American Left: A Research Guide

Film and the American Left: A Research Guide

Film and the American Left: A Research Guide

Synopsis

The American Left has produced a rich and varied cultural tradition that was largely suppressed during the Cold War but whose influence on the larger society has always been significant. Much of this tradition found its expression in film and, despite the suppression of overtly leftist content in most Hollywood films, there is still a substantial amount of leftist material in American movies. Booker's study gives the attention to the films of the American Left that they have long deserved. His book provides extensive entries for more than 260 films that are connected with the culture of the American Left, ranging from Citizen Kane to Apocalypse Now. The chronological arrangement of the entries allows the reader to trace the cinematic representation of the American Left across time, while an appendix and index provide alphabetical and thematic access to the material.

Excerpt

The following is a reference work intended to provide a useful starting point for students and scholars interested in the cultural production of the American Left, a phenomenon that has been largely ignored in mainstream accounts of American cultural history but that is coming more and more to be recognized as a crucial element of American culture in the twentieth century. This volume joins the author's earlier The Modern British Novel of the Left (Greenwood Press, 1998) and The Modern American Novel of the Left (Greenwood Press, 1999), which catalog the production of novels by leftist writers in Britain and the United States. the current volume includes detailed discussions of more than 260 films that have either addressed ideas and issues of concern to the American Left or at least included central contributions from writers, directors, and actors with leftist inclinations or associations.

The discussions of individual films in this volume focus on the engagement of the films with leftist ideas and concerns. "Leftist" is defined here in the broad sense of a quest for economic, social, and political justice for all people, regardless of their class, ethnicity, or gender. "Leftist" here also implies a suspicion, inspired by the Marxist tradition of social critique, that capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with this quest for justice. As such, this volume seeks to demonstrate the extent to which a leftist critique of capitalism has informed the production of the American film industry. the focus is on mainstream Hollywood films, although a number of documentaries and other independent films are also included, especially when their leftist messages are particularly strong or when they demonstrate important historical trends in American filmmaking.

There are, of course, a number of ironies and difficulties inherent in this project. For one thing, any attempt to tease out the presence of leftist ideas in films that are in general not overtly leftist places the investigator in a position weirdly reminiscent of that of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the late 1940s and 1950s, which seemed . . .

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