How was the classical Hollywood film score utilised to manipulate societal perceptions of soldier identities in the Second World War period?

  • Francesca Hindley

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis examines the way in which soldier identities were portrayed in the classical Hollywood film score in the Second World War period. While the term ‘Hollywood’ initially referred only to the Hollywood studio, it has now become a more encompassing term for American film culture. In this thesis, ‘classical Hollywood film scores’ will be used to refer the music accompanying films released in America between 1940 and 1950. By selecting and analysing the scores of six main case study films, this thesis identifies three main elements of persuasive ideas (fear, patriotism and masculinity), and analyses the musical motifs used to communicate them.

The six main case studies examined in this thesis are:

● Why We Fight: War Comes To America (Capra, 1945)
● Know Your Enemy: Japan (Capra, 1945)
● Destination Tokyo (Daves, 1943)
● Objective Burma (Walsh, 1945)
● The Best Years Of Our Lives (Wyler, 1946)
● The Men (Zinneman, 1950)

The way in which similar musical motifs can be found in a range of films, both propaganda and fiction, demonstrates the persuasive power of film music and demonstrates the way in which the film score can be used to influence and reveal societal perceptions. This thesis also examines the way in which these musical motifs are adapted to portray different types of soldier identities, for example, hero soldiers, enemy soldiers and veteran soldiers. This work is significant as, by utilising semiotic analysis to understand the roots of these musical motifs, evidence is created that can be used to understand perceptions of masculinities, nationalities, disabilities and events such as the Second World War off screen as well as on.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCatherine Haworth (Main Supervisor)

Cite this