A very innocent time

I wonder what impression a viewing marathon of 1946 films would leave on the mind of someone who never knew that year. How true a picture would it give of the time? When I look back, as I frequently do, at movies of the thirties and forties, and compare them with the reality I knew then, as schoolboy, soldier and young newspaperman, I can say that they reflect very fairly our backgrounds, our values and some of our ideals.

I insert the word “some” as one who has never been politically committed, except for brief periods after every political meeting I ever reported: if it was a Labour meeting I came out somewhere to the right of P.C. Wren; if Conservative, my feelings would have made Lenin look like a hesitant moderate. But I concede that those with strong political views might not think that old movies gave a true picture, inasmuch as they had no time for extremism, either way.

What does come off them, very strongly, is a remarkable innocence. No doubt the Hays Office and the British Board of Film Censors had something to do with it, but not all that much. It was, as I look back and remember, a very innocent time – even with the Depression and Hitler and the atom bomb, it was still innocent. Perhaps that was why they happened.

– George MacDonald Fraser, The Hollywood History of the World

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