The 101 Most Influential Coming-of-Age Movies

By Ryan Uytdewilligen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4. THE 1940S: THE LESSON

Film makers learned more and more to combine entertainment with valuable lessons on life, while inspiring audiences with a heightened sense of patriotism in order to support the decision to go to war.

As World War II raged, brave young men shipped off to battle without fully knowing the horrors that lay ahead of them. Women stepped up to the machines to keep industry booming and troops in supply of artillery. Women incrfeasingly moved into the workforce where they might not have been welcome before. Times were changing and roles were changing. Hollywood shifted gears in order to reflect the new reality, and to provide an escape from life’s hardhsips, as it always seemed to do before.

Cagney musicals like Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) provided the sweet, sugary entertainment the exhausted public needed, but more importantly, realism about current events came through to give the public a voice and a reflection about what was going on. Chaplin’s Hitler parody The Great Dictator (1940) painted a more comical but relevant picture about fascism. Best Picture Winner Mrs. Miniver (1942) followed a well-to-do English family coping with trials and tribulations of war. And most famously, Casablanca (1943) told the story of reunited lovers broken up and brought together by World War II. They were all successes because they reflected the times right when it mattered the most. People seemed to have a darker view of the world now, and Hollywood picked up on it.

Film Noir dominated the 1940s, following complicated gumshoes solving complex cases, often resulting in tragic and unconventional endings. It was a black and white decade, offering few films in color — a combination of cost control and the desire to set a certain mood. Humphrey Bogart became the face of the decade with his gloomy frown and sunken eyes. He’d been in the business for over ten years but was now quickly becoming a legend. This was the decade

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