Hollywood’s America: 20th Century US History through Film

4 evenings, Wednesday 15 November – 6 December, 5:30 – 7:30pm
The University of Auckland City Campus
Presented by Jennifer Frost 
$85.00 incl. GST

‘If you want to know about the USA in the 20th century, go to the movies.’ – Historians Steven Mintz and Randy Roberts

This course is designed to provide participants with the opportunity to examine the production and reception of Hollywood feature film as historians, within the larger context of twentieth-century United States social and cultural history.

Course outline

Topic 1: Movies and the ‘American Century’

Discusses the intersection of US film and US history at the start of the 20th century and how film can serve as a primary historical source about the time period in which it was made.  Films include: The Great Train Robbery (1903) and Birth of a Nation (1915)

Topic 2: The American Dream on Film, 1920s and Hollywood and Hard Times, 1930s

Hollywood movies contributed to the new, modern America of the ‘Roaring’ Twenties, soon dashed by the Great Depression.  Films include: The Jazz Singer (1927), Public Enemy (1931), and The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Topic 3: World War II at the Movies, 1940-1945

Hollywood movies projected the idea of World War II as “the good war,” in which the USA fought abroad for democracy and against fascism, while wartime disruptions unsettled domestic relations.  Films include: Bataan (1943) and Mildred Pierce (1945).

Topic 4: Film and Cold War America, 1945-1960

During the Cold War, US film vividly showed how the benefits of the postwar economic boom intertwined with fears of communism and nuclear war.  Films include: Red River (1948), On the Waterfront (1954), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course participants will be able to: demonstrate greater knowledge of 20th century US history generally and Hollywood film specifically. analyze US film as a historical primary source, with attention to historical context and content.

Who should attend?

Those interested in the USA and in Hollywood film in the 20th century. About the Presenter [wp-svg-icons icon=”user” wrap=”i”] Jennifer Frost, PhD Jennifer is a United States women’s historian, focused on social, cultural, and political developments in the twentieth-century United States.  Her first book, An Interracial Movement of the Poor: Community Organizing and the New Left in the 1960s, was published by New York University Press in 2001, and named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title.  Her second book, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism, came out in 2011, also from NYU Press, and was named one of the Five Best Books on Hollywood and Politics in the Wall Street Journal.  Jennifer’s research very much informs her teaching, and courses on the USA in the 1960s, the African American Civil Rights Movement, and Hollywood history and film.