The Allied troops landed in Normandy in June 1944. Behind the troops came the para-military personnel of the American Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB), bearing films, mostly documentaries but also a selection of features. Apart from a few smuggled in from Spain and other neutral countries, these were the first recent American films to be seen in occupied Europe for four years. After these first films came the negotiators, Hollywood executives, some with military rank, preparing the way for a resumption of the film trade between America and Europe, or rather from America to Europe. Political and economic objectives were inextricable. In their dealings with the former Axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan, the western Allies were concerned to eradicate traces of Fascism from their cultures, and to ensure that any resurgent film industries in those countries did not perpetuate the ideologies that had brought the world to destruction. But the Americans were also keen to ensure that when trade was resumed it would be on free-market lines, without a return to the protectionism that had marked the European response to Hollywood penetration in the 1930s.
The task of reconstructing the devastated film industries in the defeated countries was entrusted to specialist commissions, part military and part civilian. In Germany, Erich Pommer played a prominent role, while in Italy Alexander Mackendrick, then with the PWB, and Stephen Pallos, a colleague of Alexander Korda, were brought on to the film commission. But reconstruction was not the only item on the agenda. At a meeting in Rome in 1944, the chairman of the Allied Film Board, the American Admiral Stone, roundly declared that Italy, as a rural and former Fascist country, did not need a film industry and should not be allowed to have one. His fellow Americans concurred, but the British did not, seeing it as a transparent move to restore, not so much democracy, as Hollywood hegemony. And, with a five-year backlog of films (including Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane) waiting to be unloaded on the European market, this was indeed what the Americans had in mind.
It was not only the American companies, but European audiences as well, who wanted Hollywood films back on the screen. A conflict soon emerged in many European countries between the exhibitors, sensitive to public demand, and film-makers and producers, eager to establish a new cinema in the climate of cultural renewal after the war and the fall of Fascism. Governments for their part were anxious to limit imports and protect the balance of payments. But the Americans were adamant. The Motion Picture Export Association was supported by its government. As far as possible, films were to be freely traded commodities like any other and free trade in films was written into the GATT agreement and the preparations for the Marshall Plan. The Europeans, who needed American aid more than the marginal improvement to the balance of payments obtained from import restrictions, were forced to capitulate, securing only modest concessions to protect the rebirth of their industries. The scene was set for a long, long struggle.
The situation in the west was mirrored in the east. With the onset of the Cold War, the Soviet Union took steps to assert its control over the countries it had liberated in 1944-5. In the 'People's Democracies' east of the Elbe, film industries were nationalized and the Soviet-dominated regimes imposed as a model the Socialist Realist aesthetic that had been mandatory in the Soviet Union since 1934. The cinemas of eastern and central Europe entered into a phase of development distinct from their western counterparts. Cultural relations with the west were restricted, but eastern-bloc film-makers did at least get to see some of the new cinema coming out of western Europe. The 'cinema of reconstruction' in east and central Europe was thus able to avail itself of the parallel experience of Italian neorealism as well as of Soviet models.
Western European cinemas differed considerably in their response to the changed post-war situation. In Britain, Michael Balcon at Ealing Studios pursued a policy of making films 'projecting Britain and the British character' that can be seen as a continuation of Ealing's wartime patriotism. Although traditionalist in their values, the Ealing films of the 1940s and early 1950s, particularly the comedies, reflected the political mood that had brought the Labour government to power in 1945 and -- without contradiction-the rebellion against austerity that brought Churchill back in 1951. For the industry as a whole, however, it was business as usual, and a return to