Explore how Hollywood musicals of the 1940s linked America’s entertainment heritage with its victory in the war
During America’s participation in World War II, a notable body of musical films were produced which reflected on the current crisis through the historical metaphor of America’s role in World War I. By binding these wartime stories with settings concerned with vaudeville and performance, these films conveyed patriotic messages which made entertainment culture central to American values.
Drawing on a variety of sources from the British Library’s North American collections, including original sheet music, the talk will discuss early 20th century entertainment, cultural and social history, using three films as specific examples: For Me and My Gal (Busby Berkeley, 1942, MGM), Yankee Doodle Dandy (Michael Curtiz, 1942, Warner Bros) and This is the Army (Michael Curtiz, 1943, Warner Bros). Through film clips and discussion, Dr Cara Rodway, Deputy Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies, will explore why musicals work well in wartime, why Hollywood was looking back at an older, extinct art form (vaudeville) and what cultural work the films were doing.
Image: Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal (dir. Busby Berkeley, 1942, MGM), production still