Heroes and happy endings

Class, gender, and nation in popular film and fiction in interwar Britain

Popular culture became a crucial aspect of the rising consumer society in the interwar Britain. Romantic exchanges and happy endings were a defining trait of bestselling novels and popular films in 1920s and 1930s Britain. This book ties contemporary concerns about ex-soldiers, profiteers, and working and voting women to the heroes, villains and love-interests that occur in several films and novels. It addresses the role of the hero as a character who embodies traits collectively valued by readers and the audience. In books and films like Sorrell and Son, the pre-war masculine role model was re-established as patriotic soldier, breadwinner and pater familias. The male villain is the opposite of this value set, and in works such as Bulldog Drummond, he is concerned with profit and the undermining of the national economy and social well-being. The female love-interest often occupied a fairly dynamic role in bestselling novels and hit films. Women in A Star Is Born and Queen Christina are shown as giving up their careers for love and forsaking wealth and power for love. Villainesses, by contrast, seek wealth, status and power at all costs. Censorship of films by the British Board of Film Censors and of literature by the Home Office in interwar Britain contributed to the construction of a popular narrative formula. Censorship aimed to produce an idealised vision of man's and woman's place within the economy and nation. The troubles of the real world were not to have a significant place in film or fiction.

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‘Heroes and Happy Endings makes a valuable contribution to the study of popular culture in the interwar period.'
Laura E. N. Mayhall, The Catholic University of America
Twentieth Century British History
February 2016

‘Heroes and Happy Endings stands out for its ambition and clarity, and deserves a wide readership among scholars of interwar Britain. The book will be a valuable addition to reading lists by providing an accessible entry to theories of mass culture, which encourages students to engage with books and films not simply as discrete texts, but as components of a broader ideological apparatus.'
Max Jones, Department of History, University of Manchester
Contemporary British History
October 2016

‘The book is certainly fit for students and scholars interested in historical perspectives on the role of popular culture in general and in the interwar period in particular. It is of relevance to people in cultural studies, film studies, cultural histories and media studies but, really, it can be enjoyed by anyone interested in popular culture and/in the interwar period.'
HILDE VAN DEN BULCK, University of Antwerp
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

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