Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s

Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s
    Book Description:

    Wartime Kissis a personal meditation on the haunting power of American photographs and films from World War II and the later 1940s. Starting with a stunning reinterpretation of one of the most famous photos of all time, Alfred Eisenstaedt's image of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, Alexander Nemerov goes on to examine an array of mostly forgotten images and movie episodes--from a photo of Jimmy Stewart and Olivia de Havilland lying on a picnic blanket in the Santa Barbara hills to scenes from such films asTwelve O'Clock HighandHold Back the Dawn. Erotically charged and bearing traces of trauma even when they seem far removed from the war, these photos and scenes seem to hold out the promise of a palpable and emotional connection to those years.

    Through a series of fascinating stories, Nemerov reveals the surprising background of these bits of film and discovers unexpected connections between the war and Hollywood, from an obsession with aviation to Anne Frank's love of the movies. Beautifully written and illustrated,Wartime Kissvividly evokes a world in which Margaret Bourke-White could follow a heroic assignment photographing a B-17 bombing mission over Tunis with a job in Hollywood documenting the filming of a war movie. Ultimately this is a book about history as a sensuous experience, a work as mysterious, indescribable, and affecting as a novel by W. G. Sebald.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4488-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    How do we remember the Second World War now? Often it comes to us in famous photographs and movie scenes from those years. A sailor plants a kiss on a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day. Jennifer Jones runs tearfully alongside Robert Walker’s train as it darkly leaves the station in David O. Selznick’s home-front magnum opus of 1944,Since You Went Away. The photographs carve out a piece of time, the films unfold a short sequence of set-piece locomotion. The photojournalistic precision of an instant, the melodramatic crescendo of a tearful goodbye: these are the set-pieces wherein all...

  4. ONE Kissing in August 1945 Belita Jepson-Turner
    (pp. 5-22)

    He must have been in a hurry. Maybe he was out of breath. Alfred Eisenstaedt was running ahead of a sailor he had seen in Times Square. The sailor was kissing every woman who chanced in his path, and Eisenstaedt sensed an opportunity to make a photograph. The evening was historic: August 14, 1945, the Japanese were surrendering—the end of the Second World War was announced that night—and the kissing sailor was a good bet to sum up the joy of the occasion. What better American hero of the evening than this Davy Crockett of the spit-swappers? Eisenstaedt,...

  5. TWO Sleeping Beauty Olivia de Havilland
    (pp. 23-60)

    In 1940 a photographer named John Swope took a picture of James Stewart and Olivia de Havilland on a picnic (fig. 5). The two movie stars relax in a graceful, unselfconscious way, reclining on a blanket with a portable phonograph behind them on the grass. I encountered the photograph by chance, in a recent book of Swope’s work I saw in a bookstore. Of all the very good pictures I saw in that book—a revelation to me, since I did not know of Swope before—the one of Stewart and de Havilland made the strongest impression. In part this...

  6. THREE When the World Smiled Margaret Bourke-White
    (pp. 61-96)

    Margaret Bourke-White sped along on board theSuper Chiefen route from Chicago to Los Angeles. She had already taken the20th-Century Limitedfrom New York to Chicago, and now she was traveling the route farther west, sometimes at better than mile-a-minute speed, through Missouri, Kansas, the southeast corner of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and on into Los Angeles. TheSuper Chiefwas called the train of the stars, noted for making a special stop in Pasadena to let off Hollywood worthies, and Bourke-White was herself a celebrity. One of the four photographers hired to staffLifemagazine when it...

  7. FOUR Sentimental Mysticism Stovall at Archbury
    (pp. 97-126)

    At the start of the 1949 filmTwelve O’Clock High, an American gentleman emerges from a London hat shop, having just purchased a hat. It is four years after the war. Thanking the proprietor and his assistant, the man prepares to be on his way (fig. 30). In this movie about combat trauma, we will understand that the man’s visit is psychological—he has just had his head examined, and in a lengthy session. Parting ways with the milliners at the door, the gentleman tells them that he is grateful they have spent an hour and forty minutes with him,...

  8. FIVE Hold Back the Dawn Olivia de Havilland
    (pp. 127-146)

    Charles Boyer and Olivia de Havilland share an extraordinary kiss in the 1941 filmHold Back the Dawn. Boyer plays Georges Iscovescu, a Romanian gigolo residing in a hotel in a Mexican border town, waiting for a chance to cross legally into the United States. Emmy Brown, played by de Havilland, is a small-town southern California primary-school teacher guiding her students on a Fourth of July excursion to the town. Iscovescu, knowing that marrying an American is a ticket into the country, directs all his worldly powers of seduction at the naïve teacher. He quietly disables Emmy’s car, insuring that...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 147-148)
  10. Bibliographic Notes
    (pp. 149-168)
  11. Index
    (pp. 169-175)