Screening Enlightenment

Screening Enlightenment: Hollywood and the Cultural Reconstruction of Defeated Japan

Hiroshi Kitamura
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Screening Enlightenment
    Book Description:

    During the six-and-a-half-year occupation of Japan (1945-1952), U.S. film studios-in close coordination with Douglas MacArthur's Supreme Command for the Allied Powers-launched an ambitious campaign to extend their power and influence in a historically rich but challenging film market. In this far-reaching "enlightenment campaign," Hollywood studios disseminated more than six hundred films to theaters, earned significant profits, and showcased the American way of life as a political, social, and cultural model for the war-shattered Japanese population.

    In Screening Enlightenment, Hiroshi Kitamura shows how this expansive attempt at cultural globalization helped transform Japan into one of Hollywood's key markets. He also demonstrates the prominent role American cinema played in the "reeducation" and "reorientation" of the Japanese on behalf of the U.S. government. According to Kitamura, Hollywood achieved widespread results by turning to the support of U.S. government and military authorities, which offered privileged deals to American movies while rigorously controlling Japanese and other cinematic products. The presentation of American ideas and values as an emblem of culture, democracy, and sophistication also allowed the U.S. film industry to expand. However, the studios' efforts would not have been nearly as extensive without the Japanese intermediaries and consumers who interestingly served as the program's best publicists.

    Drawing on a wide range of sources, from studio memos and official documents of the occupation to publicity materials and Japanese fan magazines, Kitamura shows how many Japanese supported Hollywood and became active agents of Americanization. A truly interdisciplinary book that combines U.S. diplomatic and cultural history, film and media studies, and modern Japanese history, Screening Enlightenment offers new insights into the origins of this unique political and cultural transpacific relationship.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6022-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Chapter 1 Thwarted Ambitions: Hollywood and Japan before the Second World War
    (pp. 1-21)

    For the October 1, 1932, issue of Kokusai eiga shinbun, a leading periodical of the film trade, Sahara Kenji contributed an essay titled “An International Aspect of the Mission of the Movies” (“Eiga shimei no kokusaiteki ichimen”). In the two-page opinion piece, the head of the International Travel Bureau of the Ministry of Railroads expressed his astonishment with cinema’s “international ability to influence” (kokusaiteki kankaryoku). Sahara’s best example was Hollywood. He noted that American cinema was a “spearhead of trade” as well as a force of “Americanization” in Japan. To him, Hollywood’s cultural power was partly evident in “gang” activities...

  5. Chapter 2 Renewed Intimacies: Hollywood, War, and Occupation
    (pp. 22-41)

    February 28, 1946: Tokyo. On a late winter afternoon, crowds of Tokyoites packed the movie houses for a much-awaited treat. The rumor had spread widely: Hollywood was returning to town! In a city laid low by the air raids and black market chaos, passionate fans crowded the dingy theater spaces, itching to see the new American releases: His Butler’s Sister (1943), a light-hearted Deanna Durbin comedy, and Madame Curie (1944), a sentimental biopic about the Polishborn scientist.¹ Despite bad weather and high admission fees—three times that for an ordinary Japanese film—these two pictures attracted an impressive 350,000 moviegoers...

  6. Chapter 3 Contested Terrains: Occupation Censorship and Japanese Cinema
    (pp. 42-61)

    On July 28, 1949, a group of men quietly gathered at Shōchiku studio for a closed screening. It was the day to view the rushes of Murderer (Satsujinki), an extended court story about a man’s suspected killing of his wife. Present in the dim room were three company representatives, three legal experts (one Japanese, two American), and two censors from MacArthur’s Civil Information and Education Section, which routinely monitored the content of the movies. The CIE censors had taken great interest in this production, as they believed that it could introduce “democratic court procedures” and “enlighten . . . the...

  7. Chapter 4 Corporatist Tensions: Hollywood versus the Occupation
    (pp. 62-86)

    It was an odd decision. On a routine summer day in August 1946, a censor from SCAP’s Civil Censorship Detachment came across Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). This award-winning Frank Capra film told the uplifting story of Jefferson Smith, a junior senator who launches a vigorous crusade to restore justice on Capitol Hill. Relentless, passionate, and unbending, Smith—a “young Abraham Lincoln,” the director later stated in his autobiography—stands up to corrupt state politics to defend the integrity of American freedom and democracy. His moral drive peaks in a twenty-four-hour filibustering act, which coaxes the guilty senators to...

  8. Chapter 5 Fountains of Culture: Hollywood’s Marketing in Defeated Japan
    (pp. 87-111)

    On the back cover of its February 1947 issue, Eiga no tomo (Friends of the movies), a popular monthly magazine that showcased American movies, ran a full-page advertisement that portrayed Hollywood in a distinct fashion. The “protagonist” of the colorful text was not a specific film or a top star but a page-high Oscar statue glittering with an aura of prestige. Next to it was the circular logo of the Motion Picture Export Association, the global distribution office for major U.S. studios. Above the MPEA seal, a nine-line blurb boasted that “the best guide to understanding American culture is American...

  9. Chapter 6 Presenting Culture: The Exhibition of American Movies
    (pp. 112-133)

    On July 1950, Irving A. Maas landed in Japan with a sigh of relief. After a brief visit to Korea, where a bloody war had just broken out between North and South, the vice president of the Motion Picture Export Association whisked himself away on “the last plane in the evacuation airlift” and arrived safely in Tokyo. In contrast to the war-torn Korean market, business in Japan was encouraging. The country was “largely in the hands of responsible nationals who have taken the initiative in setting up film deals,” he thought.¹ While pleased with a number of developments in Japan,...

  10. Chapter 7 Seeking Enlightenment: The Culture Elites and American Movies
    (pp. 134-154)

    In 1949 Hori Makoto, an eminent professor and a member of the House of Councillors, penned a letter to General MacArthur. In the letter Hori expressed his deep appreciation for Hollywood motion pictures, not solely for providing pleasure and amusement in the cities and towns across the country, but, more important, for offering knowledge and information about the victor’s moral values and cultural lifestyles. “American motion pictures,” he stated in a tone of thankfulness, were “an important social force in edifying the Japanese nation. By presenting aspects of American democracy in a way we can all understand, these films are...

  11. Chapter 8 Choosing America: Eiga no tomo and the Making of a New Fan Culture
    (pp. 155-176)

    Nakano Yutaka was excited. A resident of Matsumoto, a city in the heart of mountainous Nagano Prefecture, he did not lose hope when many of his peers seemed to sink in despair in the drab aftermath of the catastrophic world war. What kept his spirits high, Nakano explained in 1948, was the cultural fertility of his hometown. This modest city of eighty thousand was home to thirty bookstores, fifteen schools, several dance halls and an “excellent” music school. Even more important to him was its lively movie culture. Junior high and high school students gathered in film clubs; school teachers...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 177-184)

    December 31, 1951: Tokyo. It was a cold winter day, but the streets were bustling with energy. As the final hours of the year slipped away, swarms of people—women, men, and children—crowded the stores and shopping streets as they prepared for another New Year’s celebration. It was hard to imagine that six years had already passed since the end of the war: although the miseries of defeat remained etched in people’s minds, many of them were starting to look toward the future, hoping to build a better life. The times were still tough for most, but the lives...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 185-186)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 187-228)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-248)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 249-252)
    Hiroshi Kitamura
  17. Index
    (pp. 253-260)
  18. Index of Films
    (pp. 260-264)