On the day America officially ended its neutrality in World War Two and declared war on Japan, Roosevelt held his iconic Infamy Speech, which was filmed as footage for newsreels,. Roosevelt did not object to being filmed, but he also did not encourage or organize it. This is surprising, given how eager he was to use and to be seen using innovative techniques (radio, airplanes, cars, etc.). He generally strongly associated himself with the modern and the future. He also personally commissioned film shooters like Pare Lorentz to make short films showcasing New Deal public works. But moving images of himself remain scarce and those that exist they were usually filmed at public occasions for use in newsreels, like this Pearl Harbor clip. Which actually works just as well, or better, over the radio.
Starting today, I will be working on a new chapter which combines two new topics: the Second World War in American cultural memory, and the shift in mediation from an oral towards a visual culture over the course of the twentieth century. I’m not yet sure what exactly the argument is going to be, but I am hoping to show how representations of Roosevelt’s role in World War Two became more visual (or visual in a different way) over time, and if possible, how Roosevelt himself prepared or tuned in for that shift, which was of course already starting to happen in the 1940s. I’m currently looking for “case studies” of enduring (or forgotten!) war themes or motifs related to FDR which have been envisaged and mediated in different ways over time. For instance: representations of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the Holocaust or the internment of Japanese Americans. If you have ideas for themes, and especially, if you can think of Roosevelt/World War II representations in popular culture that are useful or important, please let me know!