The Anatomy of My Research
For the past year or so, I have been reading and researching Hollywood’s cooperation with the government during World War II. It has taken me down roads I never thought possible. It’s also led me to some interesting finds along the way. This includes letters, memos, production notes, and Congressional testimony that has provided me with further insight, confusion (at the actions of some at the time), and laughter. I have learned one thing along this journey of mine: patience.
I have found books that offer clearer insight into how Hollywood worked for and against the government at times during the war years. I learned about the battles studios faced in the months preceding the Pearl Harbor Attack. I have watched more movies and shorts than I care to admit. I have been up all night transcribing notes and banging my head against the wall when things don’t pan out like I wanted.
Someone the other day asked me about my research. To be honest, there’s so much of it I can’t possible list it here. And I’m still writing, reading, and transcribing. I have multiple Google Docs and folders that focus on certain aspects of the entertainment industry at the time. I have movie reviews, short reviews, and document reviews. I have print-outs scattered about my room. I have books tucked in every spot that will hold one. My brain is filled with, to what some may call useless, knowledge. I know random things—I know things that will never be used. I have shaped, re-shaped, thought, re-thought how I will compile this research. I have also changed what I was focusing on more times than probably acceptable in most academic settings. I have also narrowed and expanded more than twenty times. In the end, I’m still not quite where I want to be with my research.
There are a few key books that I am using. All of these books I used when I first tackled this subject back in college. One of the key books is Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies by Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory D. Black. This book is the backbone of much of the research because it focuses on the relationship between Hollywood and the Office of War Information.
Another key book is Jeanine Basinger’s The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre. This book is also a foundation book in my research. Basinger’s book dives into the foundation of the combat film. She analyzed more than one thousand films in her research to come up with the formula for the combat film. Her work in this area continues to draw interest, mine included.
The OWI was the government’s propaganda agency, it saw Hollywood as one of its vessels to educate, etc the American public. This is where Robert Fyne’s The Hollywood Propaganda of World War II comes into play in my research. Fyne dives into the propaganda nature of films made and released during the war. Fyne is critical in some parts but offers insight into Hollywood during the war years.
Another book that goes hand-in-hand with Fyne’s book is Thomas Doherty’s Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture and World War II. Doherty examines the relationship between Hollywood and American culture during the war years. One of the characteristics of Hollywood during this time was its change from mere sources of entertainment toward being an influence on the viewing audience.
This is just four books. There are about a dozen others, which I’ll talk about at a later time. I’ll also have a recommended list of books if you’re interested in reading about this subject further.