Cold War


In 1953 a reporter from Life magazine—who presumably believed Wellman's The Iron Curtain to be an accurate depiction of life in the Soviet Union—saw Serebristaya pyl ( Silver Dust ) by Abram Room (1894–1976) and labeled it "Red propaganda" and a libel on the United States. One of comparatively few Soviet Cold War films, it features an enterprising American researcher who wishes to test his radioactive dust on human guinea pigs, while a scheming big businessman and an ex-Nazi compete for control of the weapon. In the end, the capitalist's hired guns kill the scientist; incidental features that represent the typical American life include a false arrest, a lynch mob, and the kicking of a black maid. Though ostensibly more committed than Hollywood to the peddling of "government propaganda," Soviet cinema was rarely so blatant in its specific anti-Americanism.

On the whole, the most active film industries outside America in the 1950s were still too concerned with World War II to pay real attention to the current conflict. Whereas Hollywood made films about the Korean War ( Fixed Bayonets , 1951; Men in War , 1957; and Pork Chop Hill , 1959), Britain and the Soviet Union—even France, Italy, Poland, and Japan—were more likely to dwell on the 1939–1945 conflict. War films of the 1950s from these countries perhaps evince a subtle nostalgia for the certainties of the previous decade as opposed to the intricacies of the Cold War. However, an increasing realism, ambiguity, and violence, even in the simplest re-creations of wartime exploits, certainly had added relevance in the years of Suez, the Hungarian uprising, economic miracles, and the "Fortunate Dragon" incident (whereby the crew of a Japanese fishing boat died after exposure to fallout from a bomb test).

Outside the United States, Cold War themes were often treated allegorically or satirically—as in the British The Mouse That Roared (1959) or the Japanese Gojira (1954, later released in America in a reworked version as Godzilla King of Monsters , 1956), which reflect deeply mixed feelings about the use of atomic weapons. By the end of the 1950s, there was no longer a "Hollywood" in the previously accepted sense of the term; the political-cultural tenor of popular cinema began to be shaped by East Coast sensibilities emerging from the young television industry and even by a growing internationalism, whereby American movies might easily be made in England or Italy and would necessarily incorporate aspects of their locations' native cinemas and sensibilities.

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