It was hard to believe that just after what was thought to be Hollywood’s greatest decade there seemed to be such lost promise. With the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and the resulting outbreak of World War II, the American film industry suffered a slump during the early part of the 1940s. As it did following the Great Depression, Hollywood would have to again find a formula for survival.
The world was in turmoil, and oddly enough, it would be this very same War that helped start Hollywood on its comeback. In an effort to support the national war effort, Hollywood studios began producing a large number of movies that became war-time favorites. One of the classic motion pictures of all-time was also a subtle wartime propaganda film Casablanca, was released in 1942. Many stars of the time enlisted in the Armed Forces, or provided entertainment for the troops, resulting in a large boost in morale for both the military and the general public.
These war related efforts showed immediate results, as major movie studio profits began to grow to record levels. As the war drew to an end, so did the number of films produced that were war related. However, the influence of World War II has a permanent residence in the history of the motion picture industry. Some of the most memorable war-time classics would include Guadalcanal Diary, Bataan, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, The Story of G.I. Joe, They Were Expendable, A Walk In The Sun, and a great many more. There were also a number of pictures dedicated to portraying life after war for the returning veteran. One of the most well-known of these stories is also one of the best films in motion picture history – The Best Years of Our Lives. This multi-Oscar winning picture (including Best Picture) touched the hearts and lives of all Americans.
The 1940’s also brought refinement to the art of film making, with technological improvements in sound recording, lighting, color usage, and special effects. These production advances made film-watching a much more enjoyable activity leading the way to record setting profits from 1943-1946. The light, escapist entertainment offered by Hollywood musicals during the 1940’s skyrocketed their appeal, and a new breed of directors and stars rose to prominence.
It seemed that once again Hollywood had withstood a great challenge and survived to flourish. Some however, realized that right before their eyes the greatest threat to Hollywood’s dominance of the entertainment industry was busily developing. The popularity of television was growing by leaps and bounds.