The French in Love and War: Popular Culture in the Era of the World Wars

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9780300064339: The French in Love and War: Popular Culture in the Era of the World Wars

From the bloodbaths of the First World War through the military defeat and Nazi occupation of the Second World War, the people of France struggled with the pain and anxieties of a nation in crisis. In this sophisticated cultural history of France from 1914 to 1945, Charles Rearick tells how the French discovered ways to cope and found reassurance and relief through songs, movies, and images of ordinary people that they took to heart. Augmenting this fascinating story with more than 125 illustrations, Rearick reveals the power of popular myths and symbols at work throughout a critical period of the twentieth century. In everyday life of this time, stories of ordinary French people carried important messages of gritty self-reliance and cheerful good humor. Images of common folk - the jovial infantryman and his devoted woman, the bantering working-class Parisian, the suntanned hiking youth, the militant striker - drew on shared experiences, wishes, fears, and interests. These were embodied in the songs and personas of such musical stars as Maurice Chevalier, Mistinguett, Josephine Baker, Tino Rossi, Charles Trenet, and Edith Piaf; in the films of such directors as Rene Clair, Jean Renoir, Julien Duvivier, and Marcel Pagnol; and in movie characters played by Jean Gabin, Fernandel, Michele Morgan, and others. Rearick shows how these celebrities and characters influenced the ways in which the French redefined their lives and responded to adversity.

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From Library Journal:

Rearick (history, Univ. of Massachusetts) traces how the myths and symbols of popular culture fostered a common sense of French national identity during a disturbing and troubling time. He argues that popular culture helped people cope and survive during the world wars, and he draws examples from photos, songs, placards, films, music-hall repertoires, and musical stars. During World War I, for example, patriotism was extolled through cultural representations of le poilu, the tough French soldier, while in the postwar years commercial culture tried to steer attention away from political causes. The author asks us to consider the extent to which culture should be indicted for its failure to focus on economic and political problems, and he speculates on the utility of these recurring images for today. This fascinating and important book should be of interest to specialists in French history and culture.?Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

Between 1914 and 1945, popular culture in France flourished at an almost frenetic pace. Anchored by two world wars, that tumultuous period witnessed the emergence of a new type of social imagination fueled primarily by the media. According to Rearick, the French responded to the turmoil of those crisis years by creating and embracing a seemingly limitless string of images glorifying the "little people" or the ordinary Frenchman. Those nationalistic and heroic representations, appearing in various guises in songs and on films, are vital to understanding the collective French psyche of the era. Popular literature, cinema, and music, by continuously offering a rich variety of myths and symbols, provided both an escape valve and a survival mechanism for a population attempting to cope with privation and uncertainty. Trenchant cultural history. Margaret Flanagan

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