Morality, Politics, and War

Selected and Introduced by James Forsher

Cinema was less than a year old when the U.S.S. Maine sank in Havana harbor. Newsreel makers brought back images of the war with Spain to discover there was an audience hungry for their topical wares, and that they could support the American role in the conflict as well. From this point onward, the propagandistic potential of film would be deployed with increasing frequency. Tonight we'll see a Vitagraph war newsreel from 1898; excerpts from Law of the Population (1917), a rare birth-control drama; Dick Powell singing the praises of the National Recovery Act in 1933; a star-studded variety show selling war bonds; coverage of the HUAC hearings with “factual reporting”; Fred MacMurray in Atomic Energy Can Be a Blessing; the late-fifties pep rally for capitalism Free Enterprise at Work; and many others.

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