11

Wartime and Postwar Cinema:
Italy and the United States, 1940-1951

THE EFFECTS OF WAR

World War II left the national cinemas of Western Europe in a state of economic, physical, and psychological paralysis. Cinema is an industry, and industries are dependent for their survival upon the stability of the economic systems in which they function. The Nazis had destroyed the shaky prewar economy of Europe and set up another in its place. That in turn was destroyed by the Allied victory in the spring of 1945. Until the Marshall Plan for the economic rehabilitation of Europe began to take effect in 1948-49, national industries of all types found it impossible to resume production on a large scale. Furthermore, the physical devastation wreaked upon the European film industries by the war was immense. In England, air raids destroyed 330 film theaters, or close to 25 percent of the total number. Germany lost nearly 60 percent of its film-production facilities in the firebombing of Berlin. And in France, which had managed to maintain fairly high standards of film production during the German Occupation, the industry was reduced to a state of chaos by Allied bombardment of Paris and street fighting during the liberation of the city in August 1944. In all of Europe, only the Italian film industry was left with its production facilities reasonably intact, a result of Italy's early surrender and the unique circumstances of its liberation.

More devastating to the cinema than either economic instability or physical destruction of facilities, however, was the state of psychological and moral collapse in which Europe found itself immediately following the Nazi surrender. It is estimated that World War II killed over forty‐ eight million people in Europe and created more than twenty-one million refugees. Whole urban districts, with nearly their entire civilian populations, had been wiped out in minutes by firebombing and the artifacts of centuries-old civilizations reduced to rubble. Indeed, at least 35 percent of all permanent dwellings in Western Europe were destroyed by the war. Liberation was joyful when it came, but the experience of Nazi barbarism left a dark imprint on the European consciousness; and the revelation of the true extent of Nazi atrocities in the occupied territories was nothing less than shattering. In one large province of the Soviet Union, for example, 40 percent of the inhabitants had been deported to death camps, and Poland had lost 25 percent of its entire population to the camps. The German-born sociologist and philosopher Theodor Adorno,

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