Cover image for Celluloid soldiers : the Warner Bros. campaign against Nazism
Celluloid soldiers : the Warner Bros. campaign against Nazism
Birdwell, Michael E., 1957-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxi, 266 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Warner Bros. and the opening salvos against Nazism, 1934-1939 -- Black Legion: fascism in the heartland -- The road to Confessions of a Nazi spy and beyond -- A change of heart: Alvin York and the movie Sergeant York -- Using the devil's tool to do God's work: Sergenat York, America first, and the intervention debate -- Hollywood under the gun: the Senate investigation of propaganda in motion pictures -- "This isn't what we had in mind".
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PN1999.W3 B57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



During the 1930s many Americans avoided thinking about war erupting in Europe, believing it of little relevance to their own lives. Yet, the Warner Bros. film studio embarked on a virtual crusade to alert Americans to the growing menace of Nazism.

Polish-Jewish immigrants Harry and Jack Warner risked both reputation and fortune to inform the American public of the insidious threat Hitler's regime posed throughout the world. Through a score of films produced during the 1930s and early 1940s-including the pivotal Sergeant York -the Warner Bros. studio marshaled its forces to influence the American conscience and push toward intervention in World War II.

Celluloid Soldiers offers a compelling historical look at Warner Bros.'s efforts as the only major studio to promote anti-Nazi activity before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Author Notes

Michael E. Birdwell is an assistant professor of history at Tennessee Technological University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Complementing Thomas Doherty's Projections of War (CH, Jun'94), Birdwell's study examines three famous Warner Brothers' movies that advocated US action against Hitler's Germany--Black Legion (1936), Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), and Sergeant York (1941). Doherty (history, Tennessee Tech) follows the films' production from their origins in contemporary news items through the controversies they generated at a time when US intervention in the European political and military crises of the 1930s was a hotly debated national issue. But though well-researched in several important archives and documented with excellent footnotes and bibliography, the text is often repetitive and occasionally confuses by presenting essential material out of sequence. Birdwell also focuses too often on the motivations of the producers at the expense of the films themselves. His account of the political awakening and growing interventionist zeal of the real Sergeant York--the leading popular opponent of "America Firster" Charles Lindbergh--is overly fine-grained, though he pays scant attention to the form of the films and the ways in which they adapted popular generic conventions to buttress the political messages they wished to espouse. For large collections supporting film studies at the upper-division undergraduate level and above. S. Liebman; CUNY Graduate School and University Center

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Time Linep. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Warner Bros. and the Opening Salvos against Nazism, 1934-1939p. 5
2 Black Legion: Fascism in the Heartlandp. 35
3 The Road to Confessions of a Nazi Spy and Beyondp. 57
4 A Change of Heart: Alvin York and the Movie Sergeant Yorkp. 87
5 Using the Devil's Tool to Do God's Work: Sergeant York, America First, and the Intervention Debatep. 131
6 Hollywood under the Gun: The Senate Investigation of Propaganda in Motion Picturesp. 154
7 "This Isn't What We Had in Mind"p. 172
Postscriptp. 177
Notesp. 179
Bibliographyp. 225
Indexp. 259
About the Authorp. 266

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