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Upstaging the Cold War

Upstaging the Cold War: American Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy, 19401960

Andrew J. Falk
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Upstaging the Cold War
    Book Description:

    Traditional interpretations of the 1950s have emphasized how American anticommunists deployed censorship and the blacklist to silence dissent, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. Yet those efforts at repression did not always succeed. Throughout the early years of the Cold War, a significant number of writers and performers continued to express controversial views about international relations in Hollywood films, through the new medium of television, on the Broadway stage, and from behind the scenes. By promoting superpower cooperation, decolonization, nuclear disarmament, and other taboo causes, dissident artists such as Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Rod Serling, Dalton Trumbo, Reginald Rose, and Paddy Chayefsky managed both to stretch the boundaries of Cold War ideology and to undermine some of its basic assumptions. Working at times under assumed names and in some cases outside the United States, they took on the role of informal diplomats who competed with Washington in representing America to the world. Ironically, the dissidents’ international appeal eventually persuaded the U.S. foreign policy establishment that their unconventional views could be an asset in the Cold War contest for “hearts and minds,” and their artistic work an effective means to sell American values and culture abroad. By the end of the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration not only appropriated the work of these talented artists but enlisted some of them to serve as official voices of Cold War cultural diplomacy.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-020-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction: The New Negotiators
    (pp. 1-10)

    A few minutes past three on the sunny afternoon of April 30, 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt officially opened the New York World’s Fair. For the next six months, Depression-weary Americans happily shelled out money all day long to enjoy the many attractions there. Thematically, the fair offered a look at peace and progress by focusing on worlds of tomorrow where problems of the present day—traffic, pollution, poverty—had been solved. There was little to suggest that much of the rest of the world had been swallowed by fascism, militarism, and dictatorship. The peace and progress represented here were general,...

  6. 1 Hollywood in the Crucible of War
    (pp. 11-38)

    In early may 1940, Hollywood producer David O. Selznick spoke to an audience gathered at the University of Rochester. While his motion pictureGone with the Wind(1939) was playing in crowded movie houses around the country, Selznick had strutted through a season of awards ceremonies and speaking engagements. Hollywood’s bespectacled “wunderkind”—at the very pinnacle of his storied career—gladly accepted critical praise and box office rewards that spring. But despite shepherding his production with an almost obsessive eye, Selznick had other things on his mind this night in Rochester. On the eve of Hitler’s seizure of Paris, Selznick...

  7. 2 One World or Two? The American Postwar Mission
    (pp. 39-62)

    The second world War represented a triumph for American internationalists yet also ushered in a period of uncertainty and debate over the American postwar mission in the world. American internationalists uniformly agreed that overseas events compelled the nation to enter the war, but as the conflict subsided, they disagreed among themselves over the reasonswhythe nation had fought the war. With the help of Hollywood, the war marked a watershed for public conceptions of “the way things ought to be.” The Allied leadership and influential opinion-makers characterized the war in epochal terms of democracy versus fascism, lovers of peace...

  8. 3 Casting the Iron Curtain
    (pp. 63-85)

    In september 1946, while vacationing on the lovely island of Nantucket, literary agent Audrey Wood received a letter from a friend and client, playwright Tennessee Williams. Accustomed as she was to Williams’s antics, she relished learning of his latest adventures and his bursts of creative genius. At the conclusion of a letter updating his progress on the script forA Streetcar Named Desire, Williams swerved into a non sequitur. Although nominally apolitical, he wrote, “The International outlook is becoming quite fearful. Don’t you think there ought to be an organized movement in the Theatre to insist upon a clarification of...

  9. 4 Projectors of Power: Containment Policy in Hollywood
    (pp. 86-118)

    On new year’s Day 1946, Bartley Crum, an urbane California attorney, received a telephone call informing him that President Truman had invited him to serve on the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry into Palestine. Six American and Six British members investigated the Holocaust, the plight of 400,000 Jewish war refugees, the situation in Palestine, and worldwide anti-Semitism. Although many State Department officials favored controlling immigration to Palestine as a means to secure Arab oil, their efforts were balanced by Truman, who generally supported Zionism. A Roman Catholic, Crum held an awareness of domestic anti-Semitism and a sympathy for Jewish causes.


  10. 5 Test Patterns: Making Room for Dissent in Television
    (pp. 119-142)

    As thousands of readers picked up their copies of the August 20, 1945, issue ofNewsweekmagazine—the first postwar issue—they probably flipped the pages a little more slowly around the article titled “A New Era: The Secrets of Science.” Within the previous week, Japan had succumbed to a “conquest by atom.” Amid the articles detailing how American bombers flew over Japanese cities to unleash this new power, readers found a map showing planes cruising at 30,000 feet to “blanket” the United States with airborne antennas for television sending stations. In this, the same week that the Japanese surrendered,...

  11. 6 Guardians of the Golden Age: Cold War Television and the Imagined Audience
    (pp. 143-177)

    Ed Sullivan began his television career in 1948 as a host of his long-running variety show,Toast of the Town. Late the next year he booked dancer Paul Draper and harmonica aficionado Larry Adler to appear. Both men had been targeted by anticommunists, but Sullivan gave them a stage nonetheless. Anticommunist columnists George Sokolsky and Westbrook Pegler, though, pressed Sullivan’s sponsor, Ford Motor Company, to pull out. After discussing the matter at length, Ford executives sided with Draper and Adler. Sokolsky and Pegler, not to be outdone, appealed to the public to vent its ire at Ford. Almost 1,300 letters...

  12. 7 The Cultural Battlefield in Europe
    (pp. 178-211)

    Anticommunists effectively contained radicals in the motion picture industry during congressional hearings in the fall of 1947. Congress approved contempt citations against the Hollywood Ten, and studio moguls soon agreed to impose a blacklist on talent. A few weeks later, one member of the Hollywood Ten, a weary Dalton Trumbo, took a drag on his ever-present cigarette and examined his mail. “You’re washed up in America, you smokey punk,” one postcard promised him.¹ “And the Hollywood Ten went to prison,” is the way studies of the cultural Red Scare end typically; but that moment marked only the midpoint of the...

  13. Afterword: The Cold War Epic
    (pp. 212-214)

    George Kennan was one of the policymakers present at the creation of the Cold War. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he lived long enough to witness the end of the Cold War as well. Writing the first volume of his memoirs in 1967, surrounded by the turmoil and turbulence of that era, Kennan looked back at his original advocacy for the firm and lasting containment of Russian expansion. Much to Kennan’s dismay, after he left government for academia, American policymakers expanded his containment policy—ideologically and globally—and applied it to places like Vietnam. He must have been haunted by...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 215-246)
  15. Index
    (pp. 247-258)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-261)