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The Film Industry During Cold War Essay


From 1946, the cold war affected almost all aspects of the world’s social, economic, political and cultural life (Quart & Albert 214). In 1991, Sir Churchill announced the separation of the Soviet Union from the eastern satellite Nations (Reinhold, 85).

This led to the birth of cold war which greatly influenced the film industry especially in American and in the Soviet Union (John & Peter 451).

In the United States for example, the film industry became a target for Un-American political and social film industry personalities. During the nineteen fifties, film personalities who failed to cooperate with the Hollywood film committee were blacklisted by the studios and worse still, some of them such as ‘the Hollywood Ten’ were made to serve a prison sentence (iMinds 2).

The Film Industry during Cold War

The ‘Hollywood Ten’ were screen play writers, film directors and producers. iMinds asserts that, “These 10 individuals had been summoned to appear before the congressional house committee that dealt with Un-American activities” (iMinds 1).

The end of world war two marked the start of the cold war between the Unites States of America and the Soviet Union. The congressional house committee reflected the climate of fear created by the rise of communism and clash of ideologies, initially over the partition of Germany (iMinds 1).

The committee existed to investigate the infiltration of Hollywood by communists in the belief that communist agents were planting propaganda in American movies (iMinds 1). It was illegal in America to join the communist party, and all the ten individuals had been members of the party at one time or another.

The ‘Hollywood Ten’ were convicted of contempt of congress, and each of them sentenced to up to a year in prison and a fine of one thousand dollars (iMinds 2).

They were also blacklisted by Hollywood, and after serving their sentences, their only avenue for work was to leave America, or to work under pseudonyms (iMinds 2).

The ‘Hollywood Ten’ cases was only the beginning. As the blacklist grew, it damaged the careers of hundreds of American artists. Many artists were forced to betray their friendships and their principles in order to continue working, and ideological censorship was promoted across the film industry in USA (iMinds 2).

The film industry was co-opted into this hysteria (iMinds 2). The screen actors Guild, led by Ronald Reagan, who later became the United States president, voted to make its officers swear a non-communist pledge in 1944 (iMinds 2).

In the year 1950 the screen actors Guild started to make all its employees to take loyalty oath (iMinds 2). In 1952 the Screen Writer’s Guild authorized the studios to delete the credits of writers who failed to clear themselves before the congress (iMinds 2).

Ironically three of the ‘Hollywood Ten’ had been members of the Guild when it was founded twenty years before (iMinds 2).

The pending cases before HUAC committee finally came to an end (iMinds 2). They were able to prove that some communists held important jobs in the film industry, particularly as writers.

However they failed to prove that the film industry was secretly spreading communist propaganda (iMinds 2). By 1960 the blacklisting began to die out. It was undermined by many different events (iMinds 3).

One interesting case was that of John Henry Faulk (iMinds 3). He was a comedian blacklisted in a private publication and sacked by his employer (iMinds 3). He sued his employer behind the publication in 1957 (iMinds 3).

The case dragged through the courts for years but in 1962, John Faulk won the case (iMinds 3). John Faulk’s legal outcome led to so many individuals threatening to sue that private firms against being blacklisted (iMinds 3).

Before blacklist was history, it was already being played in films (iMinds 3). The most famous film dealing with the theme of the cold war was “On the Waterfront”, starring Marlon Brando (iMinds 3).

This film was collaboration between director Elia Kazan and screen writer Buzz Shulberg with a plot that dealt with the issues of informers (iMinds 3). This film won academy awards in 1954 (iMinds 3).

Types of Movies Released During Cold War

Movies which were produced during the cold war era are documented and it is through what they exhibited that we individuals were informed about how the film industry responded to the external social pressures of the cold war and how the film industry reacted to it (Michael 173).

External social pressure is very vital when evaluating the effects of cold war era on the film industry (Whitfield 42). The cold war era had started a long time before the film industry started getting affected by it.

Many movies are produced based on the social events which take place at the time the movie scripts are formulated, therefore films that were produced during the cold war eventually reflected on ‘the garrison state mentality’ which surrounded many people’s minds during that time (Michael 173).

The movies produced in the cold war era which had cold war theme, mainly conveyed information touching on America and Russia quest for power (Sayre 122).

These movies included movies which deliberately contained anti-communist or anti-capitalism themes. Films in this category were concerned with effects of the cold war to Nations (Gaddis 24).

They could best be referred to as propaganda films and were meant to convince the informed public regarding the objectives and strategies of global cold war conspiracy (Whitfield 56).

These types of films were mostly directed from Moscow or Hollywood and were intended to underpin the American and Soviet Union’s ways of lives (Elaine 76).

The themes in these movies were straight forward and depicted the forces locked in mortal combat. These movies are vital to the historian because of the information of propaganda contained in them (Melvin 88).

Some of the movies in this category includes, “The Iron Curtain (1948)”, “I married a communist (1949)”, “I was communist for the FBI (1951)”, “The Conspirator (1950)” and “Walk East on Beacon (1952)” (Elaine 102).


In conclusion it can be asserted that, the cold war had a heavy social impact on the film industry. HUAC committee’s verdict in 1944 to black list any Communist party supporter in the USA, had posed a great challenges to the film industry but now that this challenge is long gone, the industry can continues to unleash blockbuster movies without any fear. It is obvious that the cold war era, continues to socially influence the scripting of themes in modern films.

Works Cited

Gaddis, John. The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

iMinds. Hollywood Blacklist: The Arts. New York: iMinds Publishers, 2009. Print.

John, Durham and Peter, Samson. Mass Communication and American Social Thought: Key Texts, 1919-1968. Oxford: Row-Man & Littlefield, 2004. Print.

May, Elaine. Home Ward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. New York: Basic Books, 1988. Print.

Melvin, Small. “Buffoons and Brave Hearts: Hollywood Portrays the Russians, 1939- 1944.” California Rhetorical Quarterly (1973): 327-37. Print.

Michael, Paris. From the Wright Brothers to Top gun: Aviation, Nationalism and Popular Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. Print.

Quart, Leonard and Albert, Auster. American Film and Society since 1945. New York: Praeger, 1991. Print.

Reinhold, Wagnleitner. Coca-colonization and the Cold War: the Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria after the Second World War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994. Print.

Sayre, Nora. Running time: Films of the Cold War. New York: Dial Press, 1982.

Whitfield, Stephen. The culture of the Cold War. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Print.

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IvyPanda. "The Film Industry During Cold War." December 8, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-diversity-5/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "The Film Industry During Cold War." December 8, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-diversity-5/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Film Industry During Cold War'. 8 December.

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