You can get an idea of what it was like by taking a look at The New Republic — “The best-selling magazine of the time,” in the words of the editor, James Fallows. The New Republic, after all, has covered everything from World War II to Ronald Reagan’s rise to the presidency. The magazine also introduced America to a new kind of political pundit who has been with us ever since.
On October 18, 1930, Charles Coughlin appeared in a video titled “The Social Problem in America: An Interactionist Manifesto”, an extended discussion on the political implications of the Industrial Revolution. It wasn’t the first time one of Coughlin’s video essays had been adapted for the screen, he wrote in an e-mail. But it would be the first time he’d appeared in a movie.
The film that would become “The Social Problem” was a hit and went on to have five Oscar nominations, including best picture. And, of course, it’s the one that gets discussed in retrospect a lot more than the other Coughlins because it features a charismatic, charismatic actor who could deliver a great line — “the war is won, the revolution is over, the world is at peace, and the only thing missing is the dog that bit me!” — that can’t be seen without a laugh.
I don’t know about you, but that seemed like a little thing to bring up in the first place. I guess it wasn’t exactly what “classicism” meant.
What really got me thinking about these films is that — well I mean, at least Coughlin was talking about a problem, so that’s kind of what gets me.
Coughlin’s best-selling book, “America the Beautiful”, published in 1929, is well known to anyone who loves history, history, and the American past of it. The basic story is easy enough. If the industrial era was “a good thing, and a great blessing of the age”, then the post-war period had the opposite of good and really bad things — some in fact were evil, because of the corruption of the government and the power politics. The government had been hijacked by the industrial business lobby, which controlled all the politicians and, it was suspected to be the source of the “craze” for war that had started after World War I. The United States was a nation on the path to destruction if not destruction,
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