When World War II occurred in 1939 through 1945, Hollywood was booming and bursting at the seams. Hollywood towered over international competitors and film became a passion for audiences. 1946 through the mid 1950’ brought hardship and adjustments for Hollywood,. When World War II ended, the American film industry seemed to be in an ideal position which was not necessarily the case. Three major issues that Hollywood faced in the post war era included its filmmaking system, new film genres and an overarching fear of communism.
The studio system combined all of the facets of film production with studio-owned distribution chains. System films were filmed, edited and processed over a few weeks which was extremely effective. The iconic movie, Singin’ in the Rain (1952) was produced in this period and exemplifies a classic studio system film as studio heads were devoted to production and similar style films were produced one after another. In addition to this, the public’s interests began to shift as consumerism became a passion of those that suffered hardships during the war.
The structure of the film industry changed in response not only to court-imposed orders but also to changes that took place in the area of leisure-time entertainment. Postwar audiences differed dramatically from prewar viewers.
This shift in demographics affected the films that people wanted to see such as film noirs. The film Double Indemnity is a film noir which became popular with audiences worldwide. “Noir is concerned with error and confusion… we do not know what is going on but we do know something bad is out there” (American Cinema).
The main characteristics of a noir is a double crossing crime story, femme fatale character and a fated outcome. Hollywood saw that in the post war era, people were demanding different styles of films and Hollywood did what it did best; crank out movies that people wanted to see and that would sell.
A third problem that Hollywood politically faced in the post war era was communism originally, what started out as an economic ploy by studios turning into a political weapon for artists. Hollywood soon became a place for political opportunists to gain maximum visibility and for many, it was hard to not believe that America was in danger from based on these films. This is seen in the film, On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan and released in 1954. Beginning in Hollywood in 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee began to investigate communist influence in motion pictures. Many Hollywood actors and directors were called to speak about their own and acquaintances communist affiliations. In November of 1947, the Hollywood Ten, a group of screenwriters and directors refused to testify and were blacklisted from the industry, preventing them from working.
On the Waterfront has ties to the HUAC era as the film greatly parallels Kazan’s own life during the investigations. The films tells the story of dock workers struggling against a corrupt union boss and racketeers which can be considered in terms of its relationship with the Communist hunt years prior, and specifically the effect Kazan’s on testimony had on his career and relationships. Kazan was criticized for the fact that he never apologized for voluntarily testifying to the Congressional committee. In the post war era, Hollywood faced many problems as the nation was somewhat disillusioned and began to resume a normal life. Financial difficulties forced Hollywood to make realistic small-scale dramas with stories reflecting the social problems those returning home and those adapting to postwar life faced.