Selective Filmography

  • Casablanca
  • Little Tokyo, U.S.A.
  • Flying Tigers
  • Tender Comrade
  • Holiday Inn

  • Warner Brothers, released November 27, 1942.

    Casablanca is one of the best films produced by the World War II Hollywood propaganda machine. One of the early war films, it represents the OWI's early intentions of truthfully representing the war and educating the moviegoer about the issues surrounding the conflict. The film addresses the intricacies of the Berlin-Vichy situation, and makes subtle references to Spain and Ethiopia. While the film often gets bogged down in it's attempts to accurately depict the war (did the average viewer truely understand the numerous allusions to the complicated issues of Ethiopia and Vichy France?), it is not lacking in propaganda.
    movie poster (17)

    Casablanca glorifies the heroism of the resistance movement. Humphrey Bogart stars as Rick, the tough, cynical owner of a glamerous nightclub in "neutral" Morocco, where thousands of refugees have fled Nazi brutality. Behind Bogart's cynical exterior is a man who used to care. Throughout the course of the film, Rick reveals that he has fought fascists in Ethiopia and Spain, and fled Paris in the face of German occupation. As the plot develops, Rick softens to the resistance cause once again, although he has asserted that he sticks his head out for no one. He eventually helps Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), the head of the Czechoslovakian resistance movement and the husband of Rick's former lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), escape capture. Rick heroically sacrifices his chance to be reunited with Ilsa, giving Laszlo the two exit visas intended for Rick and Ilsa.

    While the propaganda is much more subtle in Casablanca than in later war films, it is none the less prevelant. In one scene, the French refugees in Rick's bar sing "La Marseillaise" in defiance to the German soldiers singing "Horst Wessel". Rick's cynicism is due to broken love (not lack of political commitment), he stoicly forfeits a renewed chance at love, sacrificing his personal happiness for the resistance cause. The message is clear: resistance to the Axis powers is more important than personal happiness. In aiding the movement, Rick too becomes a hero. So shall the average citizen who puts the war effort ahead of his own interests.

    Casablanca movie poster (17)


    Little Tokyo, U.S.A.

  • Twentieth Century-Fox, released July 8, 1942

    Little Tokyo, U.S.A. became a milestone in the relationship between OWI and Hollywood as a result of its treatment of war themes. Twentieth Century-Fox siezed on one of the most contoversial aspects of the homefront, the roundup and internment of people of Japanese descent on the West Coast. Little Tokyo basically developed the theme that anyone of Japanese descent, including American citizens, was loyal to the emperor of Japan and a potential traitor to America.

    The movie employed a quasi-documentary style of filming. Twentieth Century sent its cameramen to the Japanese quarter of Los Angeles to shoot the actual evacuation. However, after the evacuation, night shots were difficult in the deserted "Little Tokyo". Night scenes were filmed in Chinatown, instead-who would notice that the street signs had Chinese instead of Japanese characters? This assumption carried over to casting: Chinese actor Richard Loo played one of the lead Japanese roles in the film.

    Little Tokyo took its tone from Martin Dies, chairman of the Special Committee of the House on Un-American Activities. Dies charged that 15,000 Japanese nationals were involved in espionage against the United States. As the hero "Mike Steele" attempts to investigate a murder in "Little Tokyo" (image above right, 18), he constantly encounters oppostion from the Japanese community, who are secretly planing to aid a Japanese invasion of the west coast. The message of the film is clear: the Japanese-American community is a single, unified body which works together at all times for itself and against America. (19)

    Little Tokyo, U.S.A. was condemned by OWI as an "invitation to the Witch Hunt", preaching hate for all people of Japanese descent. After the Little Tokyo episode, OWI took a much more active role in the regulation of Hollywood propaganda. It is ironic that an effort to protest Japanese-American's civil rights prompted OWI to impose stricter censorship. OWI stepped up its demands that the studios submit screenplays to it before shooting began, and began to enlist the help of the Office of Censorship.


    Flying Tigers

  • Republic, released September 23, 1942

    Flying Tigers epitomizes the blast-them-from-the-skies genre of wartime films. The film depicts the heroic exploits of an American volunteer group-the Flying Tigers-who openly fought the Japanese long before war in the Pacific was declared. The film opened in September of 1942, at a time when the war news from the Pacific was dismal and uncertain. Flying Tigers provided the thrills necessary to sustain and improve morale on the home front.

    John Wayne and John Carroll in Flying Tigers(20)

    In addition to boosting home front spirits with thrilling scenes, Flying Tigers emphasizes that team effort is paramount in war time. The film also praises the Chinese people, who are being mercilessly attacket by the savage Japanese. Flying Tigers is a prototypical example of Hollywood propaganda, glorifying the skills of the American armed services, and praising heroism, unity, and all who resist Axis domination.


    Tender Comrade

  • RKO, released December 29, 1943

    Tender Comrade is a World War II soap opera, staring Ginger Rogers and Robert Ryan as high school sweethearts who marry but are seperated when Ryan enters the Army at the start of the war. Rogers soon finds herself sharing an apartment with four other working women who have been left alone, their men having gone off to war (image bellow left, 21).

    The film was produced under tight supervision by the OWI. Tender Comrade represents Hollywood's (and the OWI's) glorification of the everday sacrifices of the American home front. The women encounter rationing, shortages, hoarding, the black market, and opportunism-issue which threatened the domestic mobilization effort. Rogers remarks to her roommates: "...I think anyone who hoards is a heel.", and the women berate a local butcher for showing favoritism to certain customers by ignoring rationing laws. The message of the film is clear: black marketeers and hoarders took their orders from Berlin.

    Rogers' character gives birth in the film, but the joy of her son is short-lived, as news of her husband's death reaches the house. The stoic widow cradles her infant, reaffirming that his father's sacrifice had helped protect freedom for all Americans. Tender Comrade farily drips with propaganda and patriotism. The film provided an example for all American women to live up to: it Ginger Rogers could ration her food and cope with her husband's death, they should be willing and able to act similarly.


    Holiday Inn

  • Paramount, released 1942

    At first glance, Holiday Inn may not appear to be an outgrowth of the Hollywood propaganda machine. The film in no way deals with the issue of the war. The rather loose plot revolves around the purchase of an old inn, set out in the country-side. Bing Crosby intends to fix up the place and use it as a "holiday inn", with themed shows revolving around the different seasons (enter Fred Asraire and Marjorie Reynolds). Holiday Inn is simply an excuse for elaborate song-and-dance numbers. Some of the most famous Hollywood routines, including Fred Astaire's firecracker dance, are found in the film. "White Christmas", the most famous song to ever come out of a movie, is featured in Holiday Inn ("White Christmas" won the 1942 Academy Award for best song).

    Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds (22)

    While the film does not deal directly with World War II, Holiday Inn still represents Hollywood's effort for the war movement. The film served contradictory purposes. On the one hand, the song-and-dance routines were intended to take the audiences' minds off of the hardships and sorrow of war. At the same time, the film relied hevily upon American iconograghy. Hollywood used this patriotic imagry to subtley remind the moviegoers why we fought: for the preservation of the innocent, democratic American way of life.


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