Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Emily Carman
Dr. Erica Aguero
Dr. Leah Aldridge
Wartime fantasy films produced by major Hollywood studios during World War II integrate the supernatural (i.e., ghosts, angels, and the afterlife) into wartime settings with relevant protagonists and themes to address the psychological trauma of wartime death and loss. Three case studies – The Human Comedy (Clarence Brown, 1943), A Guy Named Joe (Victor Fleming, 1943), and Between Two Worlds (Edward A. Blatt, 1944) – explore fantasy narratives and conventions unconventionally blended with the war film genre, and illustrate how the war film setting (home front vs. combat front vs. war zone) influences character focus (civilians vs. military), the depiction of death (onscreen vs. offscreen), and henceforth, the nature of their fantasy elements and the role of supernatural forces and the afterlife. Moreover, each film provides a unique scenario of loss and mode of emotional addressal for the wartime audience, specifically the different emotional through-line of grief, mourning, and hopelessness. This thesis argues the exemplary films function as emotional propaganda by utilizing supernatural devices and settings as a divine authority to transform the grief response into a direct threat to the wartime social order and war effort for both the films’ characters and audiences. Placing The Human Comedy, A Guy Named Joe, and Between Two Worlds in dialogue compellingly demonstrates how the unconventional blending of the fantasy and war film genres not only acted as entertainment for wartime audiences but also propagandistic texts (made in cooperation with the U.S. government’s oversight) to deploy instructional messages on appropriate, safe, patriotic, and moral emotional conduct in response to feelings of grief, bitterness, and hopelessness resulting from inevitable war-related losses.
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Williamson, Elise. "Pennies from Heaven: Death and the Afterlife in World War II Fantasy Films." Master's thesis, Chapman University, 2021. https://doi.org/10.36837/chapman.000254