Hollywood Goes to War: Links to Check Out
Hollywood enlisted and then some during World War II. Actors, writers, directors, producers, cameramen and other workers either joined the ranks of the military to fight on the front lines or they worked with the government to produce films to “inform” the American public. As I conducted my research into the collaboration between the film industry and the government, I’ve come across several useful links.
The Directors Guild has a short history of its contribution to the war effort, including a nice write up on some of the top directors who gave up their careers to go to work for the war effort. You can read about it here.
The Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection has a number of resources for your viewing pleasure, including the Academy during the war. This small collection includes letters, information on the Hollywood Victory Campaign (the war bond drive), and other useful information. You can check out that collection here. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can also request to visit to do in person research—though you cant just drop. You have to schedule an appointment and you have state a reason why you’re there.
The National Archives in Washington D.C. does not have its vast amount of resources pertaining to Hollywood’s work online. But you can find a few resources available digitally at the Library of Congress. The Farm Services Administration and OWI collection does not have a lot dealing with the collaboration but it does have some photos that if you have studied history, you have seen in textbooks or class lectures. You may recognize this photo, the Migrant Mother. It’s easily one of the most iconic photos from the Great Depression. It’s also a personal favorite because of the emotion that exists in the photo.
As I get further into my research, I will pull photos from the war and talk about their use as propaganda. A picture can tell a thousand words and how the photos are presented, edited and used can evoke a lot of emotion for the viewer.
The OWI collection from the Library of Congress also includes photos about war effort on the home front including workers in production factories, ration stickers and propaganda posters. The posters can also be found by searching Google Images.
The National Archives is on YouTube and so are many of the documentaries and propaganda films made during the war effort. You can view the playlist here. Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series is available. You can also check out one of my favorite propaganda features of the war, Private Snafu. You’ll never look at Dr. Seuss or Elmer Fudd the same way again—Mel Blanc did the voices. A number of films ordered by the War Department. One of the documentaries I will talk about is film: The Negro Soldier. You can watch it here. The filming and writing of this film was a huge undertaking.
The last link you should check it is C-Span’s Reel America series. Many historical events are covered, not just World War II. You can watch these videos for free. You can learn about pop culture and World War II by checking out this lecture by Randy Roberts, a history professor at Purdue University. The C-Span website also includes many World War II documentaries.