Cinematic Cold War
The American and Soviet Struggle for Hearts and Minds
Tony Shaw & Denise J. Youngblood
The Cold War was as much a battle of ideas as a series of military and diplomatic confrontations, and movies were a prime battleground for this cultural combat. As Tony Shaw and Denise Youngblood show, Hollywood sought to export American ideals in movies like Rambo, and the Soviet film industry fought back by showcasing Communist ideals in a positive light, primarily for their own citizens. The two camps traded cinematic blows for more than four decades.
The first book-length comparative survey of cinema's vital role in disseminating Cold War ideologies, Shaw and Youngblood's study focuses on ten films—five American and five Soviet—that in both obvious and subtle ways provided a crucial outlet for the global "debate" between democratic and communist ideologies. For each nation, the authors outline industry leaders, structure, audiences, politics, and international reach and explore the varied relationships linking each film industry to its respective government. They then present five comparative case studies, each pairing an American with a Soviet film: Man on a Tightrope with The Meeting on the Elbe; Roman Holiday with Spring on Zarechnaya Street; Fail-Safe with Nine Days in One Year; Bananas with Officers; Rambo: First Blood Part II with Incident at Map Grid 36-80.
“A well-researched book that contributes new ideas and insights. Shaw and Youngblood have produced a valuable addition to the literature on film, popular culture, and the Cold War.”
—Journal of American Culture
“A comprehensive survey of U.S. and Soviet film output in the course of the waxing and waning of the Cold War conflict. . . . A rich and rewarding undertaking in helping us grasp Cold War issues through surveillance of one of its crucial theaters.”
—CineasteSee all reviews...
“An insightful and novel introduction to the visual culture of the Cold War.”
—Slavic and East European Journal
“[A] significant contribution to Cold War studies, film studies, and comparative history. It should interest a broad range of scholars and would make an excellent text in classes on the Cold War and Cold War culture.”
“Places American and Soviet Cold War cinema in direct dialogue. . . . The big contribution of [the] book is to provide a way to begin to see past the basic dichotomy of good versus evil, and propaganda versus entertainment, to a more subtle understanding of the workings of ideology.”
“[T]he first full-length history of American and Soviet cinemas important role in waging the Cold War warfare. Film scholars and historians alike will benefit from a careful reading of this path-breaking work.”
—Journal of American History
“Packed with new revelations and fresh insights, this is cultural history at its finest. A ‘must read’ for anyone interested in twentieth century popular culture or the Cold War.”
—Kenneth Osgood, author of Total Cold War: Eisenhowers Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad
“Provides a balanced and rigorously researched picture of the propaganda war that was fought on screen, and contributes to a deeper understanding of a crucial, and still enigmatic, period in our recent history.”
—Anna Lawton, author of Imaging Russia 2000: Film and Facts
“Bold, engaging, and thought provoking. The cinema emerges from this study as a vital window on the two combatant societies, an area of Cold War tension, and a frequent protagonist in its own right.”
—Nicholas J. Cull, author of The Cold War and the United States Information Agency
“Breaks important new ground on the history and representation of the cultural Cold War. Keen analysis, striking illustrations, and illuminating pairings of the Soviet and American films are among the strengths of this book. Highly recommended.”
—Walter L. Hixson, author of Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture, and the Cold War and Myth to Power: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy
“The two most knowledgeable people in the field of Soviet and American cold war films combined their talents to produce an important book. Their work demonstrates similarities as well as difference in the two film industries. The reader of this book will learn not only about movies but also about ideologies that motivated the antagonists.”
—Peter Kenez, author of Cinema and Soviet Society from the Revolution to the Death of Stalin and A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the EndSee fewer reviews...
Shaw breathes new life into familiar American films by Elia Kazan and Woody Allen, while Youngblood helps readers comprehend Soviet films most have never seen. Collectively, their commentaries track the Cold War in its entirety—from its formative phase through periods of thaw and self-doubt to the resurgence of mutual animosity during the Reagan years—and enable readers to identify competing core propaganda themes such as decadence versus morality, technology versus humanity, and freedom versus authority. As the authors show, such themes blurred notions regarding "propaganda" and "entertainment," terms that were often interchangeable and mutually reinforcing during the Cold War.
Featuring engaging commentary and evocative images from the films discussed, Cinematic Cold War offers a shrewd analysis of how the silver screen functioned on both sides of the Iron Curtain. As such it should have great appeal for anyone interested in the Cold War or the cinematic arts.