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Broadway Goes to WarBroadway Goes to War

American Theater during World War II

Robert L. McLaughlin and Sally A. Parry

Narrated by

Available from Audible

Book published by University Press of Kentucky

The American theater was not ignorant of the developments brought on by World War II, and actively addressed and debated timely, controversial topics for the duration of the war, including neutrality and isolationism, racism and genocide, and heroism and battle fatigue. Productions such as Watch on the Rhine (1941), The Moon is Down (1942), Tomorrow the World (1943), and A Bell for Adano (1944) encouraged public discussion of the war's impact on daily life and raised critical questions about the conflict well before other forms of popular media.

American drama of the 1940s is frequently overlooked, but the plays performed during this eventful decade provide a picture of the rich and complex experience of living in the United States during the war years. McLaughlin and Parry's work fills a significant gap in the history of theater and popular culture, showing that American society was more divided and less idealistic than the received histories of the WWII home front and the entertainment industry recognize.


“In this impeccably researched study we are shown that American theatre of the thirties and forties presented a much more balanced view of the divide in public opinion than the flag-waving Hollywood movies.”

Stage and Cinema

“Broadway Goes to War fits well with the existing literature concerning World War II and popular culture, and successfully connects popular culture to the complicated politics of the period. In contrast to Hollywood films, McLaughlin and Parry argue that wartime theater productions took a nuanced approach to exploring new possibilities in the interest of promoting social change. In the process, such plays also highlighted some of the challenges faced by ordinary people during the war, along with their attempts to overcome and create a better postwar world.”

—Ralph W. Brown III, professor of history at the University of Louisiana, Monroe

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University Press Audiobooks