"An Unpleasant Wartime Function": Race, Film Censorship, and the Office of War Information, 1942-1945
Wagner, Jessica Lauren
Gilbert, James B.
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This paper will try to untangle how the U.S. Office of War Information's Bureau of Motion Pictures tried to enact change in the world, using Hollywood films, during World War II. It will also show how inconsistencies within the agency and lack of support from the President, Congress, and Hollywood often sabotaged the Bureau's project. I argue that a structural component and a thematic component helped cripple the OWI's Bureau of Motion Pictures. First, the extremely decentralized, bureaucratic and conflict-laden nature of the government information network, and the limited enforcement power of the OWI and in particular the Bureau of Motion Pictures, limited its success. Second, the BMP's passionately liberal and racially progressive interpretation of U.S. war aims helped contribute to its downfall. The BMP operated during a watershed moment in race relations, in which hierarchies of racial and ethnic groups were shifting dramatically.