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What Dreams Were Made Of

What Dreams Were Made Of: Movie Stars of the 1940s

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    What Dreams Were Made Of
    Book Description:

    Humphrey Bogart. Abbott and Costello. Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. John Wayne. Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. Images of these film icons conjure up a unique moment in cinema and history, one of optimism and concern, patriotism and cynicism.What Dreams Were Made Ofexamines the performers who helped define American cinema in the 1940s, a decade of rapid and repeated upheaval for Hollywood and the United States. Through insightful discussions of key films as well as studio publicity and fan magazines, the essays in this collection analyze how these actors and actresses helped lift spirits during World War II, whether in service comedies, combat films, or escapist musicals. The contributors, all major writers on the stars and movies of this period, also explore how cultural shifts after the war forced many stars to adjust to new outlooks and attitudes, particularly in film noir. Together, they represented the hopes and fears of a nation during turbulent times, enacting on the silver screen the dreams of millions of moviegoers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5084-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Stardom in the 1940s
    (pp. 1-11)

    The 1940s are often conceptualized as a split decade, a temporal ʺhouse divided.ʺ Most obviously, World War II deftly cleaved the decade in half. Hitler invaded Poland in late 1939, resulting in Britain and France declaring war on Germany. While the United States refrained from entering the fight initially, the pull grew month by month, until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The war then dominated all aspects of American public life for the next few years. Victory came in both the European and Pacific theaters in 1945, and suddenly the country and the entire world had entered...

  5. 1 Abbott and Costello: Who’s on First?
    (pp. 12-32)

    Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were undeniably the most prolific comedic actors of the 1940s. In that single decade the comedians appeared in more than two dozen films, as well as performed live on stage, broadcast multiple radio shows, appeared on Broadway, and made numerous fund-raising tours to sell U.S. war bonds. Their slapstick routines and flawless comedic timing captivated audiences and helped catapult them to fame far beyond the burlesque shows in which they began their partnership.

    In contrast to some Hollywood stars of the era who tried to maintain some degree of privacy in their lives, Abbott and...

  6. 2 Gene Autry and Roy Rogers: The Light of Western Stars
    (pp. 33-49)

    Friends have learned to tolerate my apparent obsession with the western movie (they donʹt any longer call them ʺcowboy filmsʺ when Iʹm around). Even so, there were some sniggers when I said I was trying to write something about singing cowboys. ʺYou mean Roy Rogers?ʺ theyʹd say with a laugh, scarcely bothering to disguise their disdain. ʺDo you really like that stuff?ʺ

    Such an apparently simple question raises a lot more questions in turn. First, thereʹs the assumption that in order to write about something you have to actively enjoy it. Perhaps only people who arenʹt film studies academics (normal...

  7. 3 Ingrid Bergman: The Face of Authenticity in the Land of Illusion
    (pp. 50-69)

    The story of Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish actress who starred in fifteen films in the 1940s and won one of the three Oscars for which she was nominated during that decade alone, has become known as a subset of the story of independent producer David O. Selznick. While Selznick, who distributed his films through United Artists during this period, did indeed work hard to get Bergman to Hollywood after seeing her in the Swedish version ofIntermezzoin 1936, his authorship of her personal and professional life may not have been what it has seemed to scholars searching to explain...

  8. 4 Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall: Tough Guy and Cool Dame
    (pp. 70-95)

    Although the thriving Hollywood studio system of the 1940s produced hundreds of movies featuring dozens of popular stars, Warner Bros.ʹ Humphrey Bogart, typically imagined with fedora and trench coat, cigarette dangling from his lip, may have been the decadeʹs most emblematic star—the thoroughly contemporary man. Bogart (1899–1957) had been paying dues onscreen since 1930 and made notable movies in the fifties before his untimely death, but the forties saw the apex of his commercial and artistic success. Midway through the period, he met and married an actress half his age, Lauren Bacall (b. 1924), his sultry co-star in...

  9. 5 Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers, and Barbara Stanwyck: American Homefront Women
    (pp. 96-119)

    Pondering the signature stars of the 1940s, one might not immediately consider Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers, and Barbara Stanwyck, who seem so much of the 1930s. Each was, however, a major star who appeared in many hits and contributed excellent performances to fine films. They achieved heights of cultural importance during the forties, and the trajectories of their images, from newfound peaks to postwar declines, are instructive. They had perfected images during the 1930s that still resonated, but the end of the Depression, and the onset of World War II and middle age, revised their personae. Their unique qualities in...

  10. 6 Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney: Babes and Beyond
    (pp. 120-141)

    Early in the musicalStrike Up the Band(1940), Jimmy (Mickey Rooney) and Mary (Judy Garland) envision their futures as the leader and lead singer in a big band. Jimmy sees these aspirations to popular music as artistically honorable: ʺLook at George Gershwin. His musicʹs as good as Beethoven or Bach. And best of all, heʹs American.ʺ Audiences in the 1940s seemed to regard Rooney and Garland in the same way: popular and good and American. At the timeStrike Up the Bandwas released, Rooney was enjoying the second of a three-year run as the top box-office star in...

  11. 7 Greer Garson: Gallant Ladies and British Wartime Femininity
    (pp. 142-165)

    During the first half of the 1940s, Greer Garson was a star with extraordinarily high visibility, appeal, and timely cultural resonance. Audiences responded enthusiastically to her persona and its dominant characteristics, which seemed to embody homefront fortitude and resilience, striking such a resonant chord during wartime that Garson, and the iconic character she played inMrs. Miniver(1942), came to epitomize England and womanhood to enormous success on both sides of the Atlantic. Garsonʹs persona was so of its time and context that it both rose and fell in line with the start and end of World War II.


  12. 8 Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth: Pinned Up
    (pp. 166-191)

    In March 1949,Lookmagazine published a cover story entitled ʺThe American Look Is a Proud Thing.ʺ Just as ʺAmerican Marshall Plan money rejuvenates the worldʹs economy,ʺ Look writes, ʺthe American Look rejuvenates its women, for this look is being copied all over the world todayʺ—indeed, the ʺlithe and vibrantʺ beauty of the American woman had become ʺthe worldʹs beauty standardʺ (71, 73). The article names as responsible for the international ʺpenetrationʺ of the American Look ʺGIʹs, American movies, [and] the well-traveled American woman herselfʺ (73). In the same issue,Lookfeatures a story about Rita Hayworth, who was...

  13. 9 Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn: Domesticated Mavericks
    (pp. 192-216)

    Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are rarely considered an onscreen ʺstar coupleʺ in the conventional sense of the term. Unlike Astaire and Rogers or MacDonald and Eddy, they did not become linked to each other in the public eye through repeated teamings in a series of star vehicles. In fact, the two appeared together just four times, in a period spanning five years. By the time Hepburn had switched from RKO to MGM (a studio that she remained attached to for the entirety of the 1940s), Grant had established himself as a free agent, never staying at one studio for...

  14. 10 John Wayne: Hero, Leading Man, Innocent, and Troubled Figure
    (pp. 217-234)

    John Wayne had a distinct 1940s, different for him from the decades that preceded and that followed. His forties began in 1939, with John FordʹsStagecoach, the film that promoted him from Poverty Row to major stardom. It ended with FordʹsRio Grande(1950), which elaborates a troubled, complex Wayne persona that began to unfold not long afterStagecoachallowed Wayne to leave Monogram, Mascot, and their like behind. Wayneʹs enduring image appears simple. In both his films and his life, he provided an icon of strong American masculinity, rugged individualism, contained capacity for violence, and unashamedly ʺconservativeʺ public values....

  15. In the Wings
    (pp. 235-238)

    Intriguingly, a sizable number of performers who became major stars just before and during World War II would see their popularity barely survive into the 1950s, including many of those discussed in this volume. On a basic level, the sudden and precipitous decline in fortunes for all of Hollywood during the postwar period would impact the durability of various A-list performers (see Kinder 319). As Milton Berle triumphantly demonstrated, television was capable of making stars too. As a result, certain stars responded by switching to the small screen, including Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Lucille Ball. Furthermore, beyond the economic...

    (pp. 239-244)
    (pp. 245-246)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 247-259)