Movies and New Constructions
of the American Star
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his second inaugural address on 20 January, he envisioned himself as the leader of a nation fundamentally transformed by the brutal lessons of economic devastation. As the federal judiciary, conservative legislators, and industry leaders emboldened by the slow tide of economic recovery threatened to unmake the "New Deal" wherever they could, Roosevelt sought to canonize the victories of his administration's first one hundred days as the refurbished philosophical foundations of U.S. society (Inaugural 148–49). "Our progress out of the depression," he told the nation, "is obvious. But that is not all that you and I mean by the new order of things … the greatest change we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America" (Inaugural 149–50). Ostensible recovery still left "one-third of a nation illhoused, ill-clad, ill-nourished," and Roosevelt promised another four years of work "to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's government" and to make manifest a new national moral vision that had undermined "old admiration of worldly success as such" and abandoned "tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life."
Four months after Roosevelt's address, the horrific bombing of Guernica, Spain's civilian population, memorialized in Pablo Picasso's great painting, would draw the world's attention more intently to the escalating turmoil in Europe. As speculation about the merits and arguable inevitability of U.S. military involvement in the turmoil abroad continued to grow, Amelia Earhart's shocking disappearance in the South Pacific turned a news media sensation designed to celebrate American individualism and technological idealism into a sobering occasion for collective grief, and another drastic economic downturn in autumn further polarized debate about the virtues of Roosevelt's economic policy agenda. The opening of the A&P supermarket chain, featuring on its shelves new products like Spam, Pep-