Abstract

Writers across a wide spectrum of cold war discourse voiced an anxiety that American minds could be made to see things as some alien will might want us to see them. Cold War popular culture drew on such notions to fashion a spectacle of mind control and depicted advertising, Hollywood, and politics as sites for the manufacture of illusions. Each site finds its critique in a film from the first postwar decades: A Star Is Born (1954) shows Hollywood myths overwhelming the lives of their creators; John Cassavetes's Shadows (1957/1959) voices the hip critique of commodified mass culture; and The Manchurian Candidate (1962) spins a paranoid scenario in which American politics, Communist brainwashing, and television conspire to create a counterfeit reality so total there may be no escape. These films picture their characters struggling to escape the construct of false images that besets them. The musical scoring of these films, though while radically different, defines the boundary of the construct and marks the distance between reality and image.

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