Coldest Cold War Flicks: Cold War History, Cold War Film

This course will examine the earliest and coldest days of the Cold War, a period extending from the end of World War II in 1945 to the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, through a sampling of historical texts and American movies made during that time. Movies are often more than just mindless escapism: the stories and texts continually recast by our culture not only entertain but also can provide a window into who we are, and were.

Because films, like literature, can reflect the time in which they are produced, we can study history and film together to gain insights into values, issues, beliefs, hopes, fears and historical experiences. We will look at how the motion pictures of the day reflected the major preoccupations of the early Cold War era, chief among them dealing with nuclear weapons, responding to the Soviet communist threat and undertaking America’s new responsibilities abroad, as well as enjoying prosperity and mobility at home in the new suburbs while spawning a generation that eventually would be called the “boomers.” Special attention will be paid to the noir films of the 1940s and 1950s, family melodramas such as Mildred Pierce and Rebel Without a Cause, horror films of the 1950s such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and nuclear war films such as On the Beach and Dr. Strangelove.