RARA-AVIS: Re: Halberstam, Spillane, & Hays

Victoria Esposito-Shea (vmes@sbt.infi.net)
Wed, 29 Jul 1998 22:50:14 -0500 Mario,

> I find it very revealing that in David Halberstam's voluminous
> socio-historical tract _The Fifties_ there is neither mention of the
> brilliant generation of original paperback writers, including such
> best-selling ones as Spillane, Goodis, Prather, and MacDonald, nor of
> the strict censorship system exemplified in the film industry by the
> Hays code and on television by unspoken and unnamed but even stronger
> restrictions on what could be said and shown. His coverage of the beats
> is also close to nonexistent. Evidently, Mr. Halberstam _loved_ the
> fifties (of rosy Doris Day Hollywood).

I just got done reading _The Fifties_, and it does have coverage of
Spillane, albeit most specifically in tandem with McCarthy, HUAC, and
Spillane's anticommunism. (In fact, it has as many pictures of Spillane as
it does of Mamie Eisenhower, which proves. . .something.) Also, while
there was not a comprehensive section on the Hays code, I thought that the
section on Tennessee Williams, specifically on the changes that had to be
made in _A Streetcar Named Desire_ before it could be filmed (e.g. the
studio wanted to cut the rape scene) gave what seemed to be a pretty good
example of how the industry worked. Further, it seemed to me that
Halberstam went to considerable lengths to debunk "rosy Doris Day
Hollywood", not only in his movie & TV sections (see, e.g., treatment of
such iconic images as _I Love Lucy_ and _Ozzie & Harriet_) but also in the
introduction where he first states his thesis that the genesis of many of
what appeared to be "spontaneous" social upheaval in the 1960's in fact
occurred in the 1950's. (The beats section seemed to me to be perfectly
adequate, but I'll freely admit that they've never done that much for me.)

Did we read the same book? :)

Take care,


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