The look of Catholics : portrayals in popular culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War /
Anthony Burke Smith.
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c2010.
xi, 284 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
0700617167 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780700617166 (cloth : alk. paper)
More Details
series title
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c2010.
0700617167 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780700617166 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
Introduction: Priests, gangsters, and cowboys : Catholic outsiders, American insiders, and the struggle over national community -- The Catholic front : religion, reform, and culture in Depression-era America -- A new deal in movie religion : the public sphere of Catholic films -- Cool Catholics in the hot American melting pot : Going my way, Bing Crosby, and Hollywood's new faith in consensus -- Pro-life Catholics : the representation of Catholicism in Life magazine, 1936-1960 -- Performing Catholicism in an age of consensus : Fulton J. Sheen, television, and postwar America -- From public dilemmas to private virtues : Leo McCarey, Hollywood comedy, and the household of Americanization -- John Ford's Irish American century : ethnicity, Catholicism, and the borderlands of national identity -- Epilogue: Catholics and the American community at the turn of a new century.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [227]-273) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2011-02-01:
Smith (Univ. of Dayton) examines Catholic contributions to Americanization from the 1930s to the late 1950s, focusing on major Catholic contributors to popular culture, including Bing Crosby (particularly in Going My Way), Bishop Fulton Sheen, film directors Leo McCarey and John Ford, but also representations of Catholics in Life magazine. By tracking shifts in the cultural byproducts of these figures to corresponding shifts in public ethos from communal (during the Great Depression) to more personal (during the Cold War), Smith argues that Catholics were as responsible for assisting in creating the rhetoric of American culture as they were in being transformed by it. Heavily dependent on Lary May, and at times both a bit monochromatic in his representation of the complexities of American Catholicism and a bit reluctant to fully examine non-Catholic factors in the evolution of Catholic representations (particularly in film, particularly in the era of the Production Code), Smith nonetheless contributes meaningfully to the examination of push-and-pull dynamics in public cultural integration. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers. E. M. Mazur Virginia Wesleyan College
Appeared in Library Journal on 2010-10-15:
This is a meticulously researched consideration of the evolution of American attitudes toward Catholicism during crucially transformative decades of the 20th century. Catholicism had been characteristically viewed with suspicion by the country's dominant Protestant culture, which considered Catholics as being subject to a foreign leader in Rome and thus marginalized Catholic populations. Smith (religious studies, Univ. of Dayton) shows just how these prejudices began to disappear during the Depression and had nearly ended by the height of the Cold War. Hollywood and popular American magazines led the way in this evolution. Smith has uniquely surveyed popular films-both those overtly portraying Catholics and those on other subjects, but with directors who brought their Catholic sensibility to their work-television programs, and photojournalism, showing how Catholicism became a constitutive force in the political and social fabric of American culture. The balanced analysis of Catholicism at the middle of the 20th century both demonstrates and critiques the influence of the modern media in moving a religious group from the margins in America into roles of international authority. VERDICT Recommended for general and more advanced readers interested in this aspect of 20th-century social and religious history and culture.-John Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin-Platteville Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, October 2010
Choice, February 2011
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Bowker Data Service Summary
'The Look of Catholics' examines how Catholics were depicted in American popular culture between the Great Depression & the height of the Cold War. It shows how catholicism was reimagined as an important element of the American dream & reveals the deeply political & social meanings of the Catholic presence in popular culture.
Main Description
When John Kennedy ran for president, some Americans thought a Catholic couldnt-or shouldnt-win the White House. Credit Bing Crosby, among others, that he did. For much of American history, Catholics perceived allegiance to an international church centered in Rome excluded them from full membership in society, a prejudice as strong as those against blacks and Jews. Now Anthony Burke Smith shows how the intersection of the mass media and the visually rich culture of Catholicism changed that Protestant perception and, in the process, changed American culture. Smith examines depictions of and by Catholics in American popular culture during the critical period between the Great Depression and the height of the Cold War. He surveys the popular films, television, and photojournalism of the era that reimagined Catholicism as an important, even attractive, element of American life to reveal the deeply political and social meanings of the Catholic presence in popular culture. Hollywood played a big part in this midcentury Catholicization of the American imagination, and Smith showcases the talents of Catholics who made major contributions to cinema. Leo McCareys Oscar-winning film Going My Way, starring the soothing (and Catholic) Bing Crosby, turned the Catholic parish into a vehicle for American dreams, while Pat OBrien and Spencer Tracy portrayed heroic priests who championed the underclass in some of the eras biggest hits. And even while a filmmaker like John Ford rarely focused on clerics and the Church, Smith reveals how his films gave a distinctly ethnic Catholic accent to his cinematic depictions of American community. Smith also looks at the efforts of Henry Luces influential Life magazine to harness Catholicism to a postwar vision of middle-class prosperity and cultural consensus. And he considers the unexpected success of Bishop Fulton J. Sheens prime-time television show Life is Worth Living in the 1950s, which offered a Catholic message that spoke to the anxieties of Cold War audiences. Revealing images of orthodox belief whose sharpest edges had been softened to suggest tolerance and goodwill, Smith shows how such representations overturned stereotypes of Catholics as un-American. Spanning a time when hot and cold wars challenged Americans traditional assumptions about national identity and purpose, his book conveys the visual style, moral confidence, and international character of Catholicism that gave it the cultural authority to represent America.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Priests, Gangsters, and Cowboys: Catholic Outsiders, American Insiders, and the Contest over National Communityp. 1
The Catholic Front: Religion, Reform, and Culture in Depression-Era Americap. 16
A New Deal in Movie Religion: The Public Sphere of Catholic Filmsp. 37
Cool Catholics in the Hot American Melting Pot: Going My Way, Bing Crosby, and Hollywood's New Faith in Consensusp. 66
Pro-Life Catholics: The Representation of Catholicism in Life Magazine, 1936-1960p. 88
Performing Catholicism in an Age of Consensus: Fulton J. Sheen, Television, and Postwar Americap. 125
From Public Dilemmas to Private Virtue: Leo McCarey, Hollywood Comedy, and the Household of Americanizationp. 152
John Ford's Irish American Century: Ethnicity, Catholicism, and the Borderlands of National Identityp. 182
Epilogue: Catholics and the American Community at the Turn of a New Centuryp. 222
Notesp. 227
Bibliographyp. 259
Indexp. 275
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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