War changed everything, destroying whole film industries and heralding a new era of realism, grit and shoots on location
The 1940s sundered the 20th century, dispatching an entire global framework and any number of abiding social orders to the ashcan of history. It offered both pinnacle and nadir of human achievement, along with 60 million dead, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the iron curtain. Inevitably, they changed cinema for ever, too. By 1939, the major Hollywood studios had perfected studio artifice in films such as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, and bestrode the cinematic world like a colossus; by 1950, they would face the triple threat of the upstart new medium of television; the arrival of the red-phobic House Un-American Activities Committee in Hollywood; and the 1948 supreme court decision ordering the break-up of the studios monopoly on production, distribution and exhibition.
In between times, under the hot lamps of history, Hollywood, in common with other national cinemas, discovered reality instead of artifice. Its directors and many of its actors went to war and returned changed for ever; and audiences changed along with them, either in battle or on the industrially reinvigorated home front. In the US and Britain, war propaganda brought out the best in film-makers as diverse as John Ford and Humphrey Jennings, George Stevens and Powell-Pressburger, in both features and documentaries. Once people had seen what war looked like neighbours bombed out, platoon buddies blown to pieces just yards away their taste for artifice and escapism ebbed somewhat.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us