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Hollywood History: A Love Affair with America

With the recent auction of some of the most prized pieces of Hollywood History, we are reminded just how profound movies are to the American psyche. Below is an excellent narrative from the Digital History website on the role of Hollywood in American History and culture. Then after that are two videos featuring an introduction by Ms Reynolds and mind-boggling results from this historical Hollywood Auction.   

Hollywood as History

Of all the products of popular culture, none is more sharply etched in our collective imagination than the movies. Most Americans instantly recognize images produced by the movies: Charlie Chaplin, the starving prospector in The Gold Rush, eating his shoe, treating the laces like spaghetti. James Cagney, the gun-toting gangster in Public Enemy, shoving a grapefruit into the side of Mae Clarke's face. Paul Muni, the jobless World War I veteran in I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, who is asked how he lives and replies, "I steal." Gloria Swanson, the fading movie goddess in Sunset Boulevard, belittling suggestions that she is no longer a big star: "It's the pictures that got small." Even those who have never seen Citizen Kane or Casablanca or the Treasure of Sierra Madre respond instantly to the advertisements, parodies, and TV skits that use these films' dialogue, images, and characters.

Movies are key cultural artifacts that offer a window into American cultural and social history. A mixture of art, business, and popular entertainment, the movies provide a host of insights into Americans' shifting ideals, fantasies, and preoccupations. Like any cultural artifact, the movies can be approached in a variety of ways. Cultural historians have treated movies as sociological documents that record the look and mood of particular historical settings; as ideological constructs that advance particular political or moral values or myths; as psychological texts that speak to individual and social anxieties and tensions; as cultural documents that present particular images of gender, ethnicity, class romance, and violence; and as visual texts that offer complex levels of meaning and seeing.

"My lifetime dream has been to assemble and preserve the history of the Hollywood film industry. Hollywood has been an enormous part of my life as I know it has been for countless fans all over the world.  This collection represents a lifetime of collecting Hollywood artifacts and this is a rare opportunity to own a piece of Hollywood History for those who love the movies as much as I do.  For the first time in nearly five decades, these iconic pieces will be made available to the public through a series of auctions presented by Profiles in History beginning in June 2011."

-Debbie Reynolds