With Direct Reference to at Least One Film, How Did Hollywood Address the Paranoid, Hysterical Political Climate of the 50s? Essay

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With direct reference to at least one film, how did Hollywood address the paranoid, hysterical political climate of the 50s?

The Cold War began in 1947 between the USSR and the USA. After World War II, both countries began to distrust each other, as they knew the amount of power each country had in terms of nuclear weapons. Not only did they distrust each other, but they lacked a mutual understanding of each other’s culture. The USA believed in capitalism and the USSR believed in communism. This lack of mutual understanding caused mass paranoia within America as they feared that communists would infiltrate their society. This hysteria was known as the Red Scare which lead to “a range of actions that had a profound and enduring effect on
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Alfred Hitchock played a huge role on commentating on the political state of America as he made films that dealt with “the threat that espionage posed to the safety of the nation” (Genter, 2012, p. 131). The Wrong Man (Hitchcock, 1956) tells the story of an innocent man mistaken for a criminal. The film is based on a real Stork Club bass player, Christopher Emanuel Balestro, “who was arrested in 1953 for supposedly committing a series of local robberies” (Genter, 2012, p. 133). The film was designed to criticise the American legal system as the police use “questionable methods” (Genter, 2012, p. 133) to establish the guilt of Balestro. This was similar to HUAC and how they would draw out a confession from the witness and force them to confess to the crime of communism. In the film, the police go to a number of lengths to accuse Balestro of being guilty such as being forced to appear in a criminal line-up and be identified by different employees at the stores where the robberies occurred. Manny finds it almost impossible to prove himself innocent, and is let free only when the real criminal is caught red handed. Hitchcock uses The Wrong Man to express “the lack of legal protection” (Genter, 2012, p. 134) in America, and to reiterate his “continual fear of the American judicial system” (Genter, 2012, p. 134) because they were continually accusing innocent people. The film is shot in a way that looks similar to a