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Broadway Goes to War (Hardback)

American Theater during World War II

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Film, Media & Television

Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Pages: 300
Illustrations: 11 b&w photos
ISBN: 9780813180946
Published: 8th June 2021
Casemate UK Academic

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"Theater is the art by which human beings make or find human action worth watching." - Paul Woodruff,  The Necessity of Theater: The Art of Watching and Being Watched Before World War II.


Hollywood dictated what films were released, debuting movies such as The Man I Married (1940), The Mortal Storm (1940), Escape (1940), and  he Great Dictator (1940) that conveyed an unambiguously critical view of Nazi Germany and warned the public about the dangers of fascism and the threat of war. Meanwhile, the theater stages in New York broached and debated topics of fascism, interventionism, and the democratic state of the country with productions like  Watch on the Rhine (1941),  The Moon is Down (1942),  Tomorrow the World (1943) , and  A Bell for Adano (1944) . While the United States' government used media platforms such as posters, periodicals, and radio to convey a popular opinion on the war and Germany, theater was not as highly monitored, and writers, directors, actors, and even audiences were able to discuss and argue their viewpoints on topics that would have been considered taboo on a film set. The theater became the perfect medium to express home-front tensions and anxieties.


In Broadway Goes to War: American Theater during World War II, authors Robert L. McLaughlin and Sally E. Parry explore numerous theater productions during the era of the Second World War, analyzing how the American stage grappled with significant issues ranging from neutrality and isolationism, to racism and genocide, to heroism and battle fatigue. Theater engaged in public discussion about war's impact on daily life, and McLaughlin and Parry suggest that these productions raised critical topics about the war well before other forms of popular media. Through the details of each production, the authors highlight challenges faced by ordinary people during the war alongside their attempts to overcome and create a better post-war community.


American drama of the 1940s is frequently overlooked, especially in comparison with the plays of the surrounding decades. Taken together, the numerous plays performed during this eventful decade provide a picture of the rich and complex experience of living in the US during the war years. Furthermore, the theater provided an understanding of the complexities of popular culture and how it functioned alongside a world war. Filling a void in World War II scholarship, McLaughlin and Parry provide a unique perspective on theater activity during a time of division and social change. Broadway Goes to War will appeal to historians of wartime studies, film, and theater.

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