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If WW II had not come along, what would the movies of the 40's been about?


lydecker
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Movies are a reflection of whatever is going on in society but I do wonder what kind of movies we might have seen if the war had not come along and suddenly it was "All Patriotism, All The Time" and non stop war films.

 

Anyone willing to posit a theory??

 

Lydecker

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That's almost impossible to say, given that virtually all of the worthwhile postwar movies reflected the experiences of the war in one way or another. There are too many unknown variables to be able to do anything but make a wild series of guesses based on purely speculative knowledge.

 

Just to take one random point, does "no WWII" mean no *American* participation, or does it mean Hitler and Tojo leaving the rest of Europe and Asia alone in peace? Don't forget that World War II didn't exactly begin at Pearl Harbor, contrary to what many American movies seem to suggest. ;)

 

Sorry to throw cold water on what's an interesting thought exercise, but maybe I'm just running a little low on imagination tonight. :)

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Well, i can think that the late 30s moviemaking styles would not have been curtailed so quickly; the tightening of budgets and the downsizing of certain movies, and the cancellation of others, due to the sudden unavailability of European markets, might not have happened the way it did. THE MARK OF ZORRO and THE SEA HAWK mightve been done in Technicolor, as might the originally conceived four hour epic of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.

 

Conversely, America would not have pursued the Good Neighbor Policy, and exotics like Carmen Miranda and Maria Montez might not have gained a toe hold.

 

AND, most importantly, the Paramount antitrust decision and the commercial development of television, both put on hold by the war, would have probably happened sooner than they did, with all that would entail.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Jan 17, 2014 11:04 PM

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Well, I think Lydecker simply means, what if the hostilities, in the East and the West, had never happened. Don't overthink it! What if we had transitioned out of the Depression years into some other type of nominal peacetime economy?

 

I think it's actually a very interesting exercise when it comes to the movies. Obviously it would mean no "war movies," but I'm sure Lydecker is asking us to go deeper than that. What would the stars had done? The ones that went to war and the ones that didn't? Would a guy like Lew Ayres (conscientious objector) had a different career track? And on and on....

 

Too tired tonight to get into detail, but it is a fascinating idea....

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I only thing that comes to my mind with this supposition is that it's been said many times by many people that the genre of Film Noir became especially popular with a more cynical and world-weary post-WWII American audience, and much of the more lighthearted fare such as screwball comedies and musicals waned in popularity after that conflict and because of the war acting as that "social catalyst".

 

And so, I'd say IF the war never occurred, then it might be very possible that at least THESE two or three genres might have experienced different fates...at least for a while, anyway.

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Carole Lombard might have lived, and continued as one of our premiere comediennes,.even tragediennes. Garbo might have not retired, with hrr movies making profits overseas. And all the men stars that went to war: Gable, Power,.Taylor,.Payne, etc. would have had their careers uniterrupted. And fhe male.stars that replaced.them: Cornel Wilde, Dana Andrews, Van Johnson, might not have had the opportunities they did.

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>AND, most importantly, the Paramount antitrust decision and the commercial development of television, both put on hold by the war, would have probably happened sooner than they did, with all that would entail.

 

I agree.

 

By 1936, Germany had an active TV station transmitting live local studio shows every day in Berlin, and Berlin had several small TV "theaters" where people could watch live broadcasts.

 

Also, they did something very clever, by filming long "live" newsreels, using radio announcers as newsmen, and they rushed these films to their developing lab in Berlin and projected them over their live TV station the same day they were filmed, giving almost a "live" TV broadcast of remote events, i.e. filmed presentations delayed by only a few hours.

 

IMDB lists some British teleplays from the 1930s and 40s, but I've never seen any of them available for view. If they were live broadcasts, they could not be recorded yet.

 

Also, I think it was NBC that broadcast the opening of the 1939 World's Fair in New York.

 

RCA TV promotional film, 1939:

 

 

 

But of course the war effort required all electronic developments to be devoted to the war effort, and I think the Berlin TV station went off the air around 1943 or 44.

 

So, with no world war, we would have had world-wide TV 10 or 15 years earlier.

 

Live TV broadcasts of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin:

 

lympics1.jpg

 

Ironically, without the war, Germany could have become a world leader in modern technology.

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A very good question but, a complicated one. Because hostilities had not totally ended after WWI. But, I'll play along.

 

Berlin might have continued producing those German Impressionist films. Which might have led to more good Noir films. Maybe even rivaling Hollywood. Maybe that competition would have produced more daring, exciting films. More innovation, more new stars.

 

And since there is no major war, no major xenophobia. No need for the Americans to win in every movie . The old Hollywood rules may have change where the hero doesn't always win. Crime can actually pay sometimes.

 

More films set around the world where hostilities are going on. Like "For whom the bell tolls" and "The Sand Pebbles" for example.

 

That whole "we have to stick together to win the war" sentiment would not have been necessary which led to the pristine 50's stereotype. So no Cary Grant bobbysoxer films (which I would not have missed).

 

Off of the top of my head, very interesting concept :-)

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I feel that if WWII hadn't come along in 1939, then perhaps films would have focused more on how America was coming out of the Great Depression. Storylines could have focused on people's new found prosperity and produced "feel good" movies about people finding success after having lived with nothing since the stock market crash. There are a ton of different stories that could be told about people finally achieving a good quality of life after having lost everything and lived with nothing for the past decade.

 

Storylines could have focused on how America had changed for the better (or worse) after Prohibition ended in 1933. Films about the temperance movement's attempts to get Prohibition reinstated could have been produced. What happened to all the speakeasys? That could also be explored.

 

Non WWII movies that came out during that time, to cite a previous poster's example, "The Sea Hawk" may have been in Technicolor and more extravagant costumes. Perhaps the planned, but never produced, sequel to "The Adventures of Robin Hood" would have been made. I feel that costume dramas, or really elaborate productions would have been produced since materials like nylon and rubber (for example) wouldn't be rationed.

 

The possibilities of what movies could have been produced are limitless.

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Yeah, that's the thing with those lousy bears...not only do some of 'em steal pick-a-nick baskets, but they don't ever bother readin' those "No Dumping" signs either.

 

(...so glad you didn't hurt yourself tryin' to come up with an answer to this thing, Jake ol' boy!) LOL

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A fascinating question, I think Arturo's comments really hit the mark. The commonly held theory that "1939" was the high mark year for movies would be revised. If the war had eventually taken place, say September 1939 events would have happened 1, 2, or 3 years later, the films from Hollywood would have progressed ever further topping "Gone With The Wind" "The Wizard of Oz" etc. during those pre war times. But a lot of other history may well have been drastically altered too, the eventual war would have been fought under very different circumstances and its anyones guess what the outcome of that would have been. But sticking to the subject of movies, it would have been a grand time, and we would still have had Carole Lombard :D

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> lydecker wrote:

> If WW II had not come along, what would the movies of the 40's been about?

 

I believe they would have been about eleven minutes shorter.

 

I do not mean that to be flippant.

 

We have a database containing running time information of 8011 movies. The basis is Warner Bros (pre-1948), MGM (pre-1986) and RKO (all) but there are many from other studios.

 

Of movies with a running time greater than fifty-five minutes:

The average of the per year medians of running time from 1930 to 1939 is 76.8 minutes.

The average of the per year medians of running time from 1940 to 1950 is 87.86 minutes.

 

The trend towards longer movies is apparent also in that the average of the per year medians of running time from 1945 to 1950 is 90.5 minutes.

 

I must wonder if this was caused by wartime affecting the number of movies which could be made and so studios compensated by making each movie longer.

 

Our database is not reliable for making conclusions regarding number of movies made because of the lack of complete information for several major studios but it does show for the data included a consistent rise from 99 movies in 1930 to 210 movies in 1940 and then continual decrease to 156 movies in 1948 at which point the number rises to 182 in 1950.

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Some of the things that happened, might still have happened, just differently. Does that make sense?

 

Maybe it would have been Lombard's time to go. What if she had died on a plane on her way to a film location? Or while taking a domestic flight to see a relative?

 

I am sure there would still have been war films (probably about the Civil War and about WWI). Hollywood would not have stopped making war films.

 

And maybe WWII would have been delayed, and would have occurred later.

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Thanks for all of these thoughtful answers. Truly, this was not a

flippant question. If WW II had not come along, no doubt Hollywood's 1940's output would have been entirely different and, as many have stated, technology would have marched on and we would have been into the TV era years earlier, possibly (probably?) forcing the end of the studio system that much sooner. I think about the actors, writers and directors whose entire world views changed by going to war and how their subsequent work reflected that. The repercussions go on and on . . .

 

Lydecker

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The possibilities are so endless, I'm not going to try to imagine. A LOT would be different, not just movies. Many of the things we take for granted were developed during the war out of neccessity. Spam, Nylon, latex, instant mashed potatoes, freeze dried foods, and much more. Without WWII, our lives today would be vastly different.

 

As far as movies go, no WWII would have affected more than the 1940's movies. Think of all those COLD WAR based movies. The cold war was another result of WWII. A movie history WITHOUT "Fail Safe" or "Dr. Strangelove"? I shudder to think!

 

But in a similar vien, I did wonder recently what movies may have become over the years if the HAYES CODE never came to be?

 

Sepiatone

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But in a similar vien, I did wonder recently what movies may have become over the years if the HAYES CODE never came to be?

 

The main impact would have been that there would have been a *LOT* more variety. The more refined screwball comedies would still have made their mark, because (a) they were good; (B) there was an audience for them; and © there were precedents in the pre-code era (Trouble in Paradise; Bombshell; etc.) that they could have drawn upon. Contrary to popular myth, not all pre-Code movies were all that raunchy.

 

The absence of a code wouldn't have stopped anyone from making more "family" oriented films. All it would have meant would have been that such films wouldn't have enjoyed a state-enforced monopoly on screen entertainment.

 

In fact, there isn't a single movie genre in the "Code" era that didn't exist before mid-1934, and couldn't have continued to thrive in the absence of the Code. But in *addition* to those movies, we would also have had more movies that didn't pull punches for arbitrary reasons. The Code took away those movies without giving us anything in return that wouldn't have been there anyway.

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Heh heh, well, I WAS going for the "raunch factor" Andy, although I didn't look at it as "raunch". But I do think the code had a profound affect on the fashions women wore in movies, thus having the same impact on women's fashions in general. But subject matter and dialogue were also affected by the code. Perhaps language would have loosened up many years earier. Love scenes would have become more steamy in the '40's and '50's, instead of waiting until the late '60's and the '70's. Maybe there WERE some married couples who started sleeping in "twin beds" because they saw it in the movies, and the absence of the code would have squelched that. Again, the possibilities are endless.

 

Sepiatone

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Well, IF there had never been a Hays Code, MY guess is we would've seen a lot more movies featuring bears dumping in the woods.

 

(...'cause like I said earlier, those lousy bears NEVER read the "No Dumping" signs, and people have always loved watchin' movies about scofflaws!)

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I waited to see how other replied and I see you have the same idea as I had related to how the USA would of come out of the depression without the war spending and associated deficit.

 

What would have been interesting is the impact to film noir. Without a post WWII war depression, would movies of the late 40s and early 50s been more upbeat and less dark?

 

Would 40's comedies retained the spark that the 30's had? (yea there are some good 40's comedies but most just don't have the same light feel as the ones made during the 30's.

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So James, it appears you might have read my earliest(and yes, surprising serious) post in this baby, and where I pretty much said the same thing you just did here, huh?!

 

(...well, it's at least good to know that SOMEBODY around here reads my stuff occasionally!) ;) LOL

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I'm assuming that no WWII means no Hitler and no powerful Nazi party?

So, going with the absence of Hitler and the possible success of the Weimar Government and stabilization of the German economy and return to "normal" for them, I would guess that many of the talented Germans who left Germany might have stayed in Berlin. So possibly no "Lubitsch touch", no Billy Wilder, no Dietrich, no Korgold or Steiner scores(eek! can you imagine Robin Hood or Dark Victory without their soaring scores?) no Fritz Lang, probably no Garbo (yeah, she was Swedish, but was in Berlin when MGM got her under contract) no Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall,etc, etc...I'm also assuming that your average American would be reluctant to see German talkies except in big cities. Movies would likely have remained very American in tone and content.

 

And what about movies like Casablanca or The Great Escape ? Best Years of Our Lives ? To Be or Not to Be ? Lifeboat ? Miracle of Morgan's Creek ? Even movies like Rome Open City , which introduced America (I think) to Rossellini probably would never have been made.

 

Dear God, To Have and Have Not would not have been written and made and then there may have been no Bogey and Bacall! Sadly, we'd still probably have had Hepburn wearing yellow face and playing a Bryn Mawr educated Chinese peasant in Dragon Seed...

 

I also wonder who the Big Bad would have been without Hitler. Because there likely would have been one, eventually. Russia and Stalin seem like a good bet to me. Or possibly Japan and Russia together?

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You make a very good point that Hollywood would of likely missed out on a lot of great German talent. Of course this 'what if' assumes that Germany wouldn't of treated Jews harshly even if they didn't start a war.

 

But a movie like To Have and Have Not isn't a good example since the short story was NOT based on any war related events. In fact THAHN is an example of where WWII changed a movie and in my opinion not for the better. The Breaking Point with Garfield is more true to the book. So Hawks still could of made THAHN but without adding a war element to it and still have featured the sparks that Bogie and Bacall became famous for.

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Given the conditions in Germany between the wars, unless the Weimar Govt had managed to "fix" the situation and get things back to normal the persecution of the Jews might have happened anyway. I think it's part of why Hitler was able to take power--the German economy was a mess (that's putting it mildly) thanks in large part to the reparations they were forced to pay after WWI and the German people wanted someone to blame. The French were temporarily out of reach, but the Jews were there. And as they had long been the perennial scapegoats of Europe (and elsewhere) it was easy to blame them.

 

I've been thinking and it's possible that Germany might have been a Big Bad anyway--if the Nazis hadn't prevailed, they would probably have goen to some form of Communism and might have teamed up (for real and not pretend) with the Russians?

 

And I didn;t know about THHN--never was a fan of Hemmingway's books and stories, but usually liked the movies made from them (not sure what it says about me, but probably nothing good ;) )

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