This month, on American television and on the web, CMCI cultural historian Harvey G Cohen appears on the American History program on CSPAN, discussing the themes of his forthcoming book on the University of Chicago Press, The Great Depression Musicals and Hollywood’s New Deal. As Cohen explains in his book and on the broadcast, this represented a time of great cultural and political tensions, with Hollywood studio moguls getting involved in national politics like never before on both sides of the U.S. political spectrum. Special emphasis is paid to the topic of how the Warner brothers surprisingly supported the Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1932 campaign, with fundraisers and in their films and marketing — yet during 1933, Roosevelt’s first year in office, they abandoned him and his strategies for combating the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in American history.
This televised interview took place last month at the American Historical Association conference in Washington D.C., the largest history conference in the world, where Cohen put together a panel on 1930s Hollywood and politics which featured Professor Mark Wheeler from London Metropolitan University, who Cohen is paired with in the CSPAN broadcast.
A chapter from Cohen’s forthcoming book will be read later this month by all MA CCI students in their Research Approaches compulsory module here at King’s College London. Cohen’s lecture for that module will feature original documents on PowerPoint from the Warner Bros. archives in Los Angeles used to write the chapter.
In recent years, many scholars in the field of cultural and creative industries (Including some here at CMCI) have demonstrated how workers in these industries are often exploited. The chapter highlighted, titled “On The Job,” proves that such exploitation is not a new development — the workers on the Warner Bros. studio lot in the 1930s endured similarly harsh and non-remunerative working conditions.
You can view the CSPAN broadcast here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?316845-7/Cohena