Skip to comments.Dalton Trumbo Had It Coming
Posted on 11/06/2015 9:52:02 AM PST by EveningStar
click here to read article
All art has a ‘message’.
But do you consider all films art? In a broad, generic sense, all films do convey messages. And that’s an argument liberals in particular are always stressing to me, saying every single artifact is innately embued with politics. In other words, EVERY film is propaganda of some kind. I don’t really buy into that. But some films are designed to convey an ideology, while others might be strictly designed to appeal to an aesthetic, while yet others might be made for the singular need to fill as many empty theater seats as possible.
Generally speaking, I don’t like films that are deliberately peddling ideology, as the self-consciousness of those efforts invariably take me ‘out’ of the story. That’s probably also why, as a film buff, I have a preference not for classics, but for little b-films, which are so distilled down to basics and are less apt to serve up unwanted subtexts.
Of course they’re art. What else are they? The idea of ‘propaganda’ as pejorative materialized in the wake of the Soviet and Nazi era. Prior to that it was assumed that books, plays etc had some sort of instructive or prescriptive value. The idea of a narrative work as purely aesthetic would have baffled people like Dante, Henry Fielding or Charles Dickens. If it holds up as a work of art then it doesn’t matter what the intent was. Reducing something like ‘The Big Parade’ to propaganda is reductive. What you said about ‘Force of Evil’ could be said about The Godfather as well couldn’t it?
I've seen quite a few "lefty"/Socialistic early movies, through the years as well as some eyeopening precode liberal ones as well. There were also many more proAmerican/capitalist ones that I've also seen, but MESSAGE movies are as old as movies themselves.
As a matter of fact, there have been SO many movies made with "triggers"/"microaggression" that seeing them would burst the poor little snowflake millennials heads would burst!
The perimeters of art aside, it’s when film is used as a blatant ideological tool that I regard it as offputting. When I see this occur, it’s like my mind turns off any belief or investment in the characters. The film becomes like a dry, empty, uninvolving term-paper. It’s one thing if a story is obviously alleghorical from the start, it’s another when I get the notion that I’m being deliberately and subtlely manipulated on some larger ideological agenda. Again, to certain degrees, ideological angles can be gleaned from just about every film, if you get down to the nitty-gritty. But to what extent are they deliberate, versus reflecting the worldview of the filmmakers?
Gathering together some of the films I’ve watched this past month, I’d be fairly hard-pressed to really find anything exemplifying more than the latter scenario...
“Finn and Hattie” (1931-Paramount) Leon Errol
“South of St. Louis” (1949-WB) Joel McCrea
“The Gun Woman” (1918-Triangle) Texas Guinan
“Wake Up and Live” (1937-Fox) Alice Faye
“Fangs of the Arctic” (1953-Monogram) Kirby Grant
“36 Hours to Kill” (1936-Fox) Brian Donlevy
“Oh! Doctor” (1925-Universal) Reginald Denny
“Four Fast Guns” (1960-Fox) James Craig
“Swing Hostess” (1944-PRC) Martha Tilton
You’re welcome to find any art or any ideology in any of these, but it’s clear to me that wasn’t the agenda of such films as these. Unlike items such as “These Three” or “The Ox-Bow Incident,” two film ‘classics’ that I actively dislike.
I have not seen any of those films but a lot of B films were actually quite loaded with all sorts of contexts. The Science Fiction films of the ‘50s with their Cold War parallels and such. The Ox Bow Incident is hampered by heavy handedness. That’s why it isn’t all that much talked about today except as a period film. The similarly themed ‘12 Angry Men’ has held up much better - despite heavy handed moments.
Oh, “Soak the Rich” was a satire that was markedly anti-New Deal. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote, produced and directed it, and they were strongly anti-commie. They made that film on the heels of another interesting and offbeat film, “The Scoundrel” (1935) starring Noel Coward.
Another Depression-era comedy, albeit a bit more commercial than the above, was “Three Cornered Moon” (1933-Paramount), with Claudette Colbert. At first you think it’s going to be a lefty-inclined item, as it’s about a silly, self-absorbed rich family of a dotty mother and her four children, who learn they are bankrupt. But as the film progresses, the children rally and get jobs and become more well-rounded individuals. And the boyfriend of Colbert, who is an artsy, pretentiously intellectual writer who can never finish his book, is proven to be a weak character. Thus, a film that leaned ultimately more towards a conservative outlook.
I always think of the 1950s sci-fi items as a bit more culturally alleghorical than doggedly ideological. Some people look at things like “Day the Earth Stood Still” as more reflective of a liberal mindset, with some grand peaceful, loving entity from afar bringing good things only to be met by unhinged, militaristic rabble of America. Coupled with the supposed conservative mindset of “The Thing” in which ordinary joes in the military work together to counter an evil, invading force that threatens home and hearth. But again, were these films really self-consciously promoting a left or a right ideology, or did it just arise from the worldviews of the writers/filmmakers?
Of course, those are “A” films, as opposed to “B’s.” I never liked “Seven Angry Men,” either. And that’s probably why I got a bit of gleeful delight in an episode of the “Naked City” which somewhat reversed the scenario. Some naive, immigrant man on a jury is oh-so-sure of the innocence of the man on trial. The man is found not-guilty due to this, but shortly afterward, evidence is discovered that proved him guilty. Supremely upset, the naive immigrant man gets a gun and decides to rectify his mistake himself.
That prosecutor of the trial in 12 Angry Men could call for a mistrial based on the behavior of the Fonda character. He brings in evidence not brought up in court.
‘Day the Earth Stood Still’ was made with the express purpose of expressing the possibility for the U.S. to surrender sovereignty to the U.N. The producer said as much. The film still holds up despite this.
Interesting footnote about “Earth.”
Two other, earlier fantasy-oriented items, “Things to Come” (1936) and “Lost Horizon” (1937), were movies I first saw when I was about ten or twelve years old. And I liked them quite a bit. I always took to far-out fantasy-themed items. But when I re-saw them as an adult, I started recognizing the collectivist/utopianist mindset of the narratives, and ultimately found them a bit grotesque. Especially the latter, where I was suddenly identifying more with Colman’s brother, who found Shangri-La rather hellish and wanted to escape.
But overall, I still believe that the further you go back in the history of film, the less inclined the material is to be ideologically pointed in a deliberate way. Despite the progressivism of some oddball things like Griffith’s “Grain” film, which goes back to the early beginnings. The wave of Broadway stage people at the silent-to-talkie transition period upped the leftism a bit. Then, the post-war obsession with psychiatry upped it some more. Then, there was another wave of liberal NY stage types when the early days of live-tv dried up, and they too moved to Hollywood. Then, the radicalized hippie crowd.
In other words, I don’t view it all as a constant, but a growing trend that reaches us today, where every word of dialogue, every item of set decoration, every camera movement, seems to be politically/ideologically charged. When I’ve met old-timers from the film industry (and I’ve met a lot), they just didn’t look at things that way.
Early films were derived from Edwardian melodrama. Stuff like ‘Birth of a Nation’ and many of Chaplin’s short films were fairly explicitly political. Things to Come was based on an H.G. Wells novel. Ever read his SF novels? He was a socialist.
Oh, yeah, I know about Wells’ socialism, and I think a bit of it certainly came through in the film. The only reason I guess I can somewhat tolerate the film is due to the far-flung sci-fi and Raymond Massey as the lead (Massey was quite conservative, from what I got from scanning his autobiography at the library one time).
The 10-20-30 melodramas that toured the country alongside vaudeville in the days right before the movie nickelodeons is a topic I’ve always found intriguing, and not too well documented. As for the early films, beyond the common Griffith fare, like the Thomas Ince stuff, along with the serialized “What Happened to Mary” sort of thing, I can’t say I’ve seen that much explicit ideology. I’ve seen quite a few of the Helen Holmes’ “Hazards of Helen” episodes, along with the entire 1916 “Dear Beatrice Fairfax” chapterplay, and beaucoups of related miscellanea. Academics really like to center in on politically-charged (progressive) fare, but in terms of the actual percentage, I find some question in it. It’s like the endless dissertations that talk about Depression-era films like “Wild Boys of the Road” and “Gabriel Over the White House,” and make it sound like they somehow dominated the movie landscape.
This conversation, is always about socialist fascism. All the varied adjectives, are to disguise a/the “man as god,” philosophy.
Islam is the basis for all socialist fascism. The friggin’ commies did not come-up with the idea of a system of no private property by direct Gov’t control. The Islamic State is the birth mother of this evil.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.