Jeffrey Richards / “16. Images of Peace and War” / The Age of the Dream Palace: Cinema and Society in Britain, 1930-1939 / 1984Posted: August 7, 2012
Experience of WW1 gave most British people a strong desire for peace. “War is hell” mentality. League of Nations established 1920, goal of international diplomacy and disarmament. 1927 and 32, major disarmament conferences. 1928, 15 powers signed Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as national policy instrument. BUT, 1931 Japan invades Manchuria, wars on China. 1933 Hitler comes to power, 1934 Disarmament Conference collapses, 1934 Italy-Germany-Japan forms axis, 1935 Italy invades Abyssinia [Ethiopia], 1936 Germany reoccupies Rhineland, 1936 Spanish Civil War. Cinema reflected mood of appeasement and diplomacy. Recall close links between Gaumont British and Conservative Party Central Office and British Board of Film Censors. The Iron Duke 1935, East Meets West 1936, His Lordship 1936, all starred George Arliss.
SCIENCE FICTION. Genre that most declared opposition to war and militarism, and faith in science and scientific planning: science fiction. 1930s, British high water mark, Korda, Things to Come 1936. Themes 1) pacifism 2) scientific planning. The 1930s panacea, planning, meant faith in the efficiency of reasoning and science to solve national problems.
PLANNING. Had worked during the Great War, and political and economic crises at end 1920s prompted return. Imitated FDR New Deal, Stalin 5 year plan. Keynes prominent. Abandoned free markets, est. tariffs. Planning constant theme, 1930s documentaries. Roadways 1937, Children at School 1937, Kensal House 1938. Men in Kensal House self-improved with carpentry rather than idle and drink in pub. [DRINK.]
Other British sci-fi films to explore themes of pacifism and planning, forgotten films High Treason 1939, and The Tunnel 1934. High Treason like Things to Come, began w/1940 London surprise arial attack. [See Gravity’s Rainbow 1973.] High Treason inspired by Fritz Lang Metropolis 1927. 1936 saw peak of pacifist sci-fi with Things to Come. After, Korda began series calling for rearmament and preparedness. Only ~26 war films in decade preceding WW2. Most in 1 year = 5 in 1939. 2nd most = 4 in 1930, and 1938. Only 1 in 1931, 32, 34. Tell England 1930, Anthony Asquith. Edgar declares that he knows what he would like to tell England about war. We see montage of barbed wire, explosions, bloody slaughter. He is DRUNK and “cracking up,”- J. Richards. [DRINK.] Later, pulls himself together: “Tell England, ye who pass this monument, we died for her and here we rest content.” [Form, content.] 1935, Britain began rearming, and cinema began boosting.