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Genres and Production Trends - CASE STUDY:THE MGM FREED UNIT MUSICAL

postwar war musicals film

During the immediate postwar period, the most significant genre-related development was the rapid phasing-out of the war film, and particularly the combat drama. In a matter of months, the genre that had so completely dominated movie screens for the previous five years virtually disappeared from view. The combat film went out in impressive fashion, however, with two major independent productions just after the war: John Ford’s THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (December 1945) and Lewis Milestones A WALK IN THE SUN (January 1946). Ford’s account of a PT-boat during the early months of the war in the Pacific actually did well at the box office, returning $3.2 million. Milestone’ searing account of a combat outfit’s experiences during one day in the Italian campaign of 1943, although critically acclaimed, fared poorly at the box office. That hastened the combat film’s demise, and by the summer of 1946, not a single war film was in release or in production. ARI had announced early in 1946 that the audience “want to see” factor on war films was virtually nil—something that the nation’s exhibitors had been proclaiming for two years—and the production community now seemed to concur.

After 1946, war film production stalled completely for several years. It began a tentative return in 1948-1949 in a variety of war-related pictures: an aerial combat film FIGHTER SQUADRON (1948); two dramas about the trials and tribulations of military leadership, COMMAND DECISION (1948) and TASK FORCE (1949); a Hawks-directed screwball comedy, I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE (1949); a geopolitical postwar romance with Humphrey Bogart, TOKYO JOE (1949); and a drama about racial prejudice in the military, THE HOME OF THE BRAVE (1949). All of these were in release in 1949, and several were solid hits. While none of them was of any singular importance as a war film, together they overcame the stigma that had been attached to the genre since the war.

Then, in late 1949, the combat film staged an impressive comeback via three first-rate dramas: BATTLEGROUND , the story of an infantry unit during the Battle of the Bulge, personally produced for MGM by Dore Schary; TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH , a Zanuck-produced study of a bomber unit commander (Gregory Peck) who begins to crack under the mounting pressures; and SANDS OF IWO JIMA , a John Wayne vehicle from Republic that veered between grim realism in its harrowing battle scenes and more traditional war melodrama. Like the superior films from the late war era, particularly THE STORY OF GIJOE and THEY WERE EXPENDABLE , these focused primarily on the psychology and camaraderie of men at war and on the brutal responsibilities of leadership in combat. All three were major hits: BATTLEGROUND and SANDS OF IWO JIMA both surpassed $5 million in domestic earnings, virtually ensuring the return of the combat film. They were critically acclaimed as well; in fact, Bosley Crowther in the New York Times called BATTLEGROUND “the best of the World War II pictures that have yet been made in Hollywood,” and he endorsed the current view that it was as important a postwar epic as THE BIG PARADE (1925) had been in the aftermath of World War I.

While the combat film was on hiatus from 1946 to 1949, Hollywood maintained its action-adventure output in various other venues like the Western and the noir thriller. An important related development was the postwar trend toward serious drama with a strong male focus. In fact, there emerged in 1946 a distinctive form of prestige-level “male melodrama,” invariably centering on the efforts of a vaguely despondent male beset by postwar angst to “find himself.” This search often took place in a dark and alienating milieu and clearly was related to the postwar film noir and social problem trends. At the same time, certain themes and concerns of the war film were displaced onto these melodramas.

A clear indication of this postwar trend was the Academy’s list of nominees for best picture of 1946: THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES , IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE , THE RAZOR’S EDGE , HENRY V, and THE YEARLING . All except Oliviers adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V (actually produced in 1944 as a British call-to-arms) were male melodramas, and even Oliviers film dealt with war-induced male anxiety. THE YEARLING was a coming-of-age story focusing on a boy’s relationship with his father—played by Gregory Peck, who was nominated for an Oscar as best actor. THE RAZOR’S EDGE , Zanuck’s carefully designed comeback vehicle for Fox star Tyrone Power on his return from the service, was an adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel about a World War I veterans search for “the meaning of life.” Both THE YEARLING and THE RAZOR’S EDGE were enormously popular, returning just over $5 million and finishing among the top five box-office hits of 1946.

By far the most successful film of the lot was THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES , Goldwyn and Wyler’s postwar readjustment drama focusing on three returning servicemen (Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell). The biggest commercial hit of the decade, it returned over $10 million on its initial release. 18 BEST YEARS also provides an interesting complement to IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE , Frank Capra’s postwar paean to a “home-front veteran” (Jimmy Stewart) whose travails are presented as no less severe. Both are male melodramas focused squarely on the postwar American experience, incorporating romantic and comic dimensions and a generally upbeat outcome, although both have darker moments as well.

BEST YEARS , with its three-hour running time and multiple principals and plot lines, was the more accomplished of the two, bringing a new maturity to the screen. Scripted by Robert Sherwood and photographed by Wyler’s longtime collaborator Gregg Toland, who like Wyler had done documentary work during the war, BEST YEARS was at once a Hollywood movie and a clear attempt to create a more realistic portrayal of the postwar American experience. Employing a visual style which relied on elaborate compositions, location shooting, and Wyler and Toland’s usual deep-focus, long-take approach to filming individual scenes, BEST YEARS evinced a technical realism that jibed well with its social and thematic aspects. The film addresses timely and acute postwar issues—anxieties brought on by physical and emotional trauma, troubled marriages, the prospect of unemployment, problems with alcohol—with uncommon subtlety and dramatic power. And despite well-drawn female roles and excellent performances, especially by Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright, these issues are treated from a distinctly male viewpoint.

James Agee devoted two of his review columns in The Nation to BEST YEARS under the title “What Hollywood Can Do.” He was especially impressed with the film’s delicate interplay of narrative intimacy and documentary technique, writing that Wyler “has come back from the war with a style of great purity, directness and warmth.” 19 Terry Ramsay, reviewing the film in the Motion Picture Herald, also noted its “decided documentary quality,” although he qualified the point by referring to “a glossy sort of realism.” 20 Bosley Crowther in the Times simply saw it as a first-rate Hollywood product and “enthusiastically” endorsed the film “not only as superlative entertainment but as food for quiet and humanizing thought.” 21 The heaviest praise came from the Academy: THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES won eight Oscars, including best picture of 1946, along with the Thalberg Award for producer Sam Goldwyn.

Despite the huge commercial and critical success of BEST YEARS , only one other postwar male melodrama centered on the trauma of readjustment, TILL THE END OF TIME (1946). Produced by Dore Schary and directed by Edward Dmytryk for RKO (which also released BEST YEARS ), TILL THE END OF TIME starred Guy Madison, Robert Mitchum, and Bill Williams as three ex-marines struggling to adjust after coming home, (in fact, the Williams character lost his legs in the war and suffers from much the same trauma as Harold Russell in BEST YEARS , who lost his hands.) TILL THE END OF TIME added another dimension through Madison’s romance with an emotionally devastated war widow (Dorothy McGuire), thus taking its romantic subplot well beyond the standby-your-man mentality of BEST YEARS .

While the male melodramas addressed the emotional and psychological aspects of the postwar male experience, the deluge of Westerns provided a more traditionally male and mythic Hollywood treatment. The output of both A- and B-Westerns accelerated in the late 1940s, owing no doubt to the cutback of combat films. All told, Westerns comprised more than one-fourth (27 percent) of all films released from 1946 through 1949. In 1948, a peak year to that point in the genre’s history, fully 30 percent of all Hollywood features were Westerns.

The Big Eight’s output of Westerns, which had fallen to only twenty-eight features in 1945, steadily climbed after the war, peaking in 1950 at sixty-one. Most of the A-class Westerns came from Fox, MGM, Warners, and Paramount, which collectively produced twenty Westerns from 1946 through 1949 (up slightly from the war era). RKO produced twenty-five Westerns in the late 1940s, mostly B’s. Universal’s changing market strategy cut its postwar Western output to only fourteen, including only one in 1948. Columbia cranked out an astounding seventy-two Westerns from 1946 through 1949, nearly half of the total (152) released by the Big Eight. The minor independents like Republic and Monogram, meanwhile, produced 246 Westerns from 1946 through 1949. Although Republic was edging into the A-Western arena (the first was Ford’s RIO GRANDE in 1950), virtually all of these were B-Westerns. And like Columbia’s, they were split between “singing cowboys” and straight “actioners.”

While the B-Western maintained its naive charm and largely adolescent appeal, the A-Western continued to incorporate adult themes, most notably in Selznick’s DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) and Howard Hawks’s RED RIVER (1948). The chief antagonists in Selznick’s sexual psychodrama are Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones, both cast against type as libidinous, violent renegades. In fact, the most basic of Western conventions, the climactic shootout, occurs in the desert (hence the title) between these two, who then crawl into a dying embrace. RED RIVER , conversely, is a remarkable study in male heroism and a veiled remake of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)—John Waynes aging, obsessive rancher feuds with his adopted son (Montgomery Clift) during an epic cattle drive.

Two other significant and vastly underrated Westerns of the period were PURSUED (1947) and YELLOW SKY (1948). PURSUED , an independent production directed by Raoul Walsh and released through Warners, is a bizarre tale of familial abuse, vengeance, and murder. The story centers on star-crossed lovers and adoptive siblings (Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright) who reconstruct their fated lives while waiting in the ruins of Mitchum’s childhood home for a crazed relative (Dean Jagger) who has sworn to kill him. Aptly described by Edward Buscombe as “Walsh’s exquisitely ‘noir’ masterpiece,” the film is a remarkable amalgam of postwar themes, styles, and genres. 24 So is William Wellman’s YELLOW SKY , a hybrid of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and John Huston’s THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE . The story is about an outlaw band (Gregory Peck, Richard Widmark, et al.) on the run. They stumble into a ghost town where a crazed prospector and his spitfire daughter (James Barton and Anne Baxter) have struck gold. Here, too, Freudian themes and a complex interplay of lust, greed, and violence push the traditional Western into areas anticipated by films like THE OUTLAW and DUEL IN THE SUN .

Another significant trend in the late 1940s was a spate of military Westerns, the most notable of which were John Ford’s so-called cavalry trilogy—FORT APACHE (1948), SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), and RIO GRANDE (1950). Besides refining the Wayne persona (he starred in all three), the cavalry films were also veiled combat dramas focusing on the Indian wars of the late nineteenth century. Like their World War II counterparts, they dealt with military command and leadership, the psychopathology of combat, and the myriad rituals of soldiering. On a very different note, the currency of the postwar Western was further reinforced by a cycle of genre parodies released in the late 1940s, the most successful of which was the 1948 Bob Hope vehicle THE PALEFACE .

Despite the postwar bias toward male stars and genres, the period saw its usual array of women’s pictures and romantic dramas. Indeed, the marked increase in love stories in the late 1940s was scarcely surprising given the social conditions at the time. 25 Most of these were light romances—modest contemporary films celebrating the courtship and coupling rites of postwar America. There were weightier romances as well: prestige-level adaptations and period films like FOREVER AMBER (1947), GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947), THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948), and THE HEIRESS (1949). The last, an eminently successful adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square costarring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift, was among the many late-1940s spinster melodramas, a subgenre whose stock was rising for two fairly obvious reasons: the pressure on women to marry and the aging of stars like de Havilland, Davis, Crawford, Stanwyck, and Rosalind Russell, all of whom took a turn at this type of melodrama.

A related postwar strain was the domestic comedy-drama, which enjoyed a remarkable postwar popularity in films like EASY TO WED (1946), LIFE WITH FATHER (1947), THE EGG AND I (1947), SITTING PRETTY (1948), I REMEMBER MAMA (1948), MOTHER IS A FRESHMAN (1949), MA AND PA KETTLE (1949)—and on and on in a seemingly endless procession of films celebrating the American hearth and home. Many were based on best-sellers (or, as with LIFE WITH FATHER , on long-running stage plays), although few were high-cost prestige productions. They were, for the most part, modest celebrations of the postwar marriage-family-baby boom, which later critics have treated in terms of an emergent postwar “cult of domesticity” that encouraged women to return to the home after doing their part in the workforce during the war. 26 This message, so crucial not only to restabilizing the social and familial structure but also to promoting postwar consumer culture, was reinforced on radio’s domestic comedies and soap operas. Like Hollywood’s domestic comedy-dramas, radio dramas were selling sanitized versions of American family life—and the myriad goods and services that came with it. This effort was even more pronounced on early television, and in fact several Hollywood films made their way to TV as situation comedy series, notably Mama, a long-running (1949-1957) CBS series based on I REMEMBER MAMA .

“Working-girl” dramas and comedies represented another significant strain of postwar women’s pictures, most of which follow one of three tacks: they disparage the “pink-collar ghetto” positions that awaited most women who remained in the workforce, invariably portraying them as desperately trying to get out via a husband; they portray women caught between a professional vocation and true love; or they dramatize the price paid by women who sacrificed love and home for a career. Among the most prominent of this last type were DAISY KENYON (1947), with Joan Crawford trying to choose between her career and two men; THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER (1947), with Loretta Young playing a maid-turned-politician; and ADAM’S RIB (1949), a Tracy-Hepburn film in a class by itself among postwar portrayals of working women—and working couples, for that matter. ADAM’S RIB centers on a married couple who are opposing attorneys in a highly publicized lawsuit (involving marital infidelity) and whose courtroom battles create comic havoc in their domestic lives.

While most of these films portray the postwar American female in a positive light, a significant countercurrent developed in a number of heavier, darker dramas. Particularly important was the late-1945 Fox release LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN , starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, and Jeanne Crain. A Technicolor prestige drama based on a current best-seller, the film stars Tierney as a new bride who resorts to murder to maintain control over her husband and her marriage. Zanuck later described the film as “an uncompromising character story of a vicious woman who…deliberately kills her own unborn child, drowns the crippled brother of her husband and endeavors to send her own adopted sister to the electric chair. And yet despite all of this, there are certain things about her that you rather like.” 28 LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN was a huge hit, earning $5.5 million, securing Tierney’s stardom, and wielding tremendous influence on the postwar woman’s picture.

The success of LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN surprised even Zanuck, particularly after the critical beating it took upon release. Bosley Crowther in the New York Times dismissed it as “a moody, morbid film,” and called Tierney’s performance “about as analytical as a piece of pin-up poster art.” 30 James Agee in Time magazine said that “the story’s central idea might be plausible enough in a dramatically lighted black and white picture,” but in the “rich glare of Technicolor” it was simply too much. 31 Although the Academy differed with these views—Tierney was nominated for best actress, and Leon Shamroy won an Oscar for his color cinematography—the filmmaking community seemed to concur. The subsequent spate of romantic dramas focusing on sympathetic, murderous heroines generally featured Hollywood’s top female talent—Barbara Stanwyck in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS , for instance, and Merle Oberon in TEMPTATION (both 1946)—and were done in the “dramatically lighted” style of film noir.

Meanwhile, Hollywood’s postwar musicals provided a much more upbeat, colorful, and romantic view. The genre veered away from its wartime emphasis on revues and show musicals, although the wartime male bias was still evident in some areas. Several Bing Crosby vehicles, particularly his costume musicals like THE EMPEROR WALTZ (1948) and A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT (1949), featured an individual male protagonist, as did the madcap musicals of the emerging musical star Danny Kaye, such as THE KID FROM BROOKLYN (1946) and THE INSPECTOR GENERAL (1949). The musical biopic also tended to focus on great men: Columbia’s THE JOLSON STORY (1946) and JOLSON SINGS AGAIN (1949); Warners’ Cole Porter biopic NIGHT AND DAY (1946); MGM on Jerome Kern in TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (1946) and on Rogers and Hart in W ORDS AND M USIC (1948).

Complementing these male-dominant musicals were those featuring Hollywood’s two biggest female musical stars of the era, Betty Grable and Esther Williams. These musicals were clearly designed for the individual stars, despite their predictable romantic subplots, and in fact each star refined a characteristic subgenre unto herself: Grable’s Technicolor period musicals from Fox, like MOTHER WORE TIGHTS (1947) and WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME (1948), which generally had a vaguely biographical dimension; and Williams’s enormously popular water ballets, such as ON AN ISLAND WITH YOU (1948) and NEPTUNE’S DAUGHTER (1949). Produced by MGM, these aqua-musicals were altogether unique among the studios postwar musical output, which was dominated by the distinctive dance musicals produced by Arthur Freed.


The musical had been a key genre in MGM’s repertoire since the arrival of sound, and not even the rampant cost-cutting and retrenchment of the late 1940s diminished its currency, in fact, even after Dore Schary arrived in the late 1940s and attempted to build up more economical genres like the crime thriller and romantic comedy, Metro actually increased its musical output, though by then the genre represented a tremendous strain on studio resources. As Nick Schenck, Louis B. Mayer, and Schary well realized, the musical was MGM’s signature genre and chief revenue-generator, and studio operations were geared to the output of musicals. They realized too that as other studios cut musical production after the war, MGM’s musicals would further differentiate its high-end output and its house style.

MGM produced eight to ten musicals per year during Schary’s tenure at the studio (1948-1956). Most of them were Technicolor pictures, and in fact MGM’s postwar shift to color was directly related to its musical production. In the early 1940s, MGM had been somewhat tentative about doing Technicolor pictures, releasing only twenty from 1940 to 1945 (versus thirty-eight from Fox, the industry leader). The success of MEET ME IN ST.LOUIS in 1944-1945 convinced Mayer and company of the market value of color—and of color musicals, whose output steadily increased over the next few years. By decade’s end, MGM was the industry leader in color releases, with twelve in 1948 and ten in 1949 (versus six from Fox in each of those years). Of MGM’s twenty-two color releases in 1948—1949, fifteen were musicals.

MGM utterly dominated the musical genre after the war and into the 1950s. In the decade following World War II, musicals comprised more than 25 percent of MGM’s total output (81 of 316 total releases), while MGM musicals comprised more than half the total made in Hollywood. 34 Musicals ruled the box office—particularly MGM musicals. The Wall Street Journal reported in 1949 that musicals traditionally comprised roughly 10 percent of Hollywood’s A-class output while accounting for about one-third of its top box-office hits. Variety’s summary of top hits in 1949 indicated that the trend was continuing: five MGM musicals along with Columbia’s JOLSON SINGS AGAIN finished among the year’s top fifteen box-office performers.

Musical production at MGM was dominated by three producers, Arthur Freed, Joe Pasternak, and Jack Cummings. Pasternak and Freed were the most prolific, each turning out about a dozen musicals from 1946 through 1949, while Cummings produced about half that many. Cummings did produce a few sizable hits, notably Esther Williams vehicles like FIESTA (1947) and NEPTUNE’S DAUGHTER . Pasternak and Freed each had a remarkable run of hits during the period, and in fact they were Hollywood’s two top moneymaking producers in 1948. 36 But while Pasternak and Freed were roughly equal in terms of productivity and box-office performance, Freed garnered most of the critical acclaim—and deservedly so. Freed’s productions defined the trajectory of Hollywood’s musical golden age, from MEET ME IN ST .LOUIS in 1944 to G IGI in 1958. While Freed’s greatest success came in the early 1950s with AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951), SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952), and THE BAND WAGON (1953), he clearly hit his stride in 1948-1949, producing such musical masterworks as WORDS AND MUSIC , THE PIRATE , EASTER PARADE , THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY , TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME , and ON THE TOWN .

Two factors in Freed’s success were the production unit he assembled in 1947-1948 and the unit’s emphasis on dance. While Freed, Pasternak, and Cummings all drew from the same pool of MGM personnel, only Freed assembled a consistently coherent group of above-the-line talent. Besides directors, stars, writers, and composers, the most vital members of his production units were four choreographers—Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, Charles Walters, and Robert Alton—whom Freed developed into directors. The role of the director-choreographer was by no means common in Hollywood or even at MGM—except in the Freed unit, where it was the dominant and defining feature.

Among the other top artists who worked closely with Freed at MGM, director Vincente Minnelli had the most intense alliance with the producer. All of Minnelli’s MGM musicals were done in collaboration with Freed. All told, Kelly, Donen, and Minnelli worked in various combinations on half of Freed’s two dozen musicals from 1943 to 1958. Freed also developed strong alliances with his performers, writers, and composers. Gene Kelly starred and danced in nine Freed musicals, and Fred Astaire in six. Alan Jay Lerner and the team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote virtually all of the top Freed unit hits, often the lyrics as well as the “book” (i.e., the dialogue and other nonmusical portions of the script).

The dance musical was scarcely new to postwar Hollywood; it dated back to such earlier cycles as RKO’s Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films of the 1930s. In fact, THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY marked the couple’s celebrated reunion after a ten-year separation. The Freed unit’s dance musicals were distinctive, however, for several reasons. Foremost perhaps was the integration of music and dance directly into the narrative as a means of both personal and romantic expression. In earlier musicals, the song-and-dance numbers tended to be realistically motivated through a backstage musical format, or else they were treated as distinct breaks wherein the characters momentarily escape from the circumstances and conflicts of the story. The Freed unit musicals overcame the break between the musical’s story and its "show"—and thus the tension between the star as dramatic character and as musical performer. And in the process, the narrative universe itself, the virtual world of the film, was steadily infected by music and energy and transformed into a distinctly Utopian realm.

Music and narrative had been integrated in earlier musicals, notably in the musical operettas of Ernst Lubitsch, like THE LOVE PARADE (1929), and in MGM’s 1930s hit operettas with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, like NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935) and ROSE MARIE (1936). Donen later remarked that the objective of the Freed unit was to develop a musical form with “its own reality,” as in those operettas. But as Donen noted, the Freed unit musicals also had a distinctive “energy, which has mainly to do with (a) America and (b) dancing.” 37 Nowhere was that more evident perhaps than in the 1949 codirectorial debut of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen in ON THE TOWN . A consummate integrated musical romance, the film went beyond the melding of song, dance, and narrative through its location shooting in New York City, thus melding reality and artifice.

ON THE TOWN was produced at a cost of just over $2 million and on a production schedule of thirty weeks, with ten weeks devoted to rehearsal and twenty to actual shooting. Based on Leonard Bernstein’s score and a script by Comden and Green (adapted from their 1944 stage hit), the film centered on three sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin) who spend a twenty-four-hour liberty in New York City. The tone is established in an elaborate opening number as the men disembark from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and dance their way across Manhattan. This dynamic routine not only showcases New York but also, by intercutting from one locale to another in an otherwise seamless musical number, integrates the city’s familiar landmarks into a high-energy celebration of the modern urban metropolis. The men team up with three women (Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, and Betty Garrett), each a thorough New Yorker with a comic-topical dilemma: one is an overworked cabbie, another is belly dancing to finance ballet lessons, and the third suffers loudly from war-induced sexual neglect. The men successfully liberate the three women, enabling them to express themselves musically and to overcome their woes. In the process, the couples gradually transform the most familiar of cities into an arena of musical play and expression.

Released during the 1949 holiday season, ON THE TOWN was a strong critical hit and earned $2.9 million. It underscored the currency and vitality of the MGM dance musical while securing the ascent of Donen and Kelly to director status. (Their next collaboration as codirectors would be SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN .) The location shooting in New York brought a new dimension to the postwar musical and marked a curious complement to the dramatic films shot there in the late 1940s. Most of the dramas were done in black-and-white, however, and often employed a documentary realist style which corresponded closely to their downbeat view of postwar urban life. In fact, the upbeat Technicolor musicals with their idealized couples and Utopian milieu provide a fascinating contrast to the noir thrillers and urban crime films, whose protagonists are utterly alone in a world gone terribly wrong.

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