Hollywood Melodrama and the New Deal: Public Daydreams, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Hollywood Melodrama and the New Deal

Public Daydreams, 1st Edition

By Anna Siomopoulos


156 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

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While many critics have analyzed the influence of the FDR administration on Hollywood films of the era, most of these studies have focused either on New Deal imagery or on studio interactions with the federal government. Neither type of study explores the relationship between film and the ideological principles underlying the New Deal.

This book argues that the most important connections between the New Deal and Hollywood melodrama lie neither in the New Deal iconography of these films, nor in the politics of any one studio executive. Rather, the New Deal figures prominently in Hollywood melodramas of the Depression era because these films engage the political ideas underlying welfare state policies—ideas that extended the reach of government into the private realm. As the author shows, Hollywood melodramas interrogated New Deal principles of liberal empathy—consumer citizenship, the refeudalization of the state, and minimal economic redistribution—only to support welfare-state ideology in the end.

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Public Daydreams": Fantasies of Redistribution in Hollywood Melodrama of the New Deal 1. Scarface Over the White House: The New Deal and the Public Gangster Film 2. Hollywood Sacer: The Forgotten Man, the Mass-Mediated Sovereign, and the Embodied Citizen 3. "I Didn't Know Anyone Could Be So Unselfish": The Welfare State, Consumer Citizenship and the Maternal Melodrama of the 1930s 4. The Refeudalization of Depression-Era America: The Asian Warlord, the Black Emperor, and Hollywood’s New Deal 5. The Doubleness of Indemnity: 1940s Film Noir and the Paternalist Welfare State Conclusion: Towards a Political Theory of Melodrama

About the Author

Anna Siomopoulos is Associate Professor of English and Media Studies at Bentley University.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Film Studies

This series is our home for innovative research in the field of film studies. It includes monographs and targeted edited collections that provide new insights into this important and evolving subject area.


To submit a proposal for this series, please contact:
Suzanne Richardson, Commissioning Editor for Media, Cultural and Communication Studies
[email protected]

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / United States / 21st Century
PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies