Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Emily Carman

Second Advisor

Leah Aldridge

Third Advisor

Kyle Longley


When World War II broke out in 1939, and as the United States entered the conflict after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, men and women all across America left their homes to serve the war effort, some of which included Hollywood stars. There were famous actors in the 1950s and 60s who served as unknown young men, but this thesis focuses on established movie stars who voluntarily left their lives of luxury to serve and returned to a changed postwar film industry, specifically James Stewart, Robert Montgomery, Marlene Dietrich, and Myrna Loy. By looking at each of these actors’ prewar star images and their individual acts of war service, this thesis analyzes how their postwar star images were altered by their war experiences and absence from Hollywood to argue that not only could their youthful, light-hearted star images no longer stand, but that their service ultimately did their film careers a disservice. Stewart’s journey with trauma after the war changed him from an endearing everyman to a rugged, battle-tested everyman. The various types of silence thrust upon Montgomery took him away from Hollywood and pushed him into the periphery of the political sphere. The effects of ageism on Dietrich hindered her glamour girl image and forced her out of Hollywood, while ageism turned Loy into an agreeable wife and mother, rather than an exotic, clever young woman. These actors’ extremely personal choices to leave the film industry to serve were at odds with Hollywood’s machine-like nature that saw them as forms of currency, thereby requiring them to reinvent their star images to survive in a hardened, postwar world.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.