'Toast and Torpedoes': World War Two Naval Warfare on Film 1939-1960

Davenport, Paul (2008) 'Toast and Torpedoes': World War Two Naval Warfare on Film 1939-1960. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study will make an original contribution to the understanding of how naval warfare in World War Two was presented in popular British cinema between 1939 and 1960. The study examines the distinctive nature of naval war films, notable for the way in which both the warlike and domestic are mixed, and uses this as the starting-point to consider what the films reveal of attitudes about social class, gender roles, and 'the enemy'; and how this has been modified since 1945. It considers changes in representation between wartime and post-war films by analysing a selection of films using an empirical and historical methodology developed by Richards, Chapman and others, which places them in the context of the social and political climate of their production. The shift towards portraying an 'officer's war'in post war naval films has been examined in terms of its suggested causes, amongst which are class conflict, the availability of source material for film-makers, and a nation attempting consolation in the face of lost pre-eminence.
Furthermore, the portrayal of 'the domestic' in the films allows the study to examine the connections between wartime masculinities and the shaping of attitudes to the enemy, to a sense of national identity and also to the way the wartime role and conduct of women is shown. This complements an examination of the way the portrayal of different social classes and the use in films of 'accented' language link to the promotion of the ideal of a 'People's War. The contrast between the portrayal of this idea in wartime film and its postwar modification completes the study.

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