Veteran’s Day remembers and celebrates the lives and efforts of soldiers, sailors and airmen the world over and especially those who gave the last full measure. It has been said of World War One that it very nearly obliterated an entire generation. In the wake of this most dreadful time followed prohibition, speakeasies, organized crime, the Jazz Age, the Stock Market crash, the migration of masses from the farm to the city and ulitmately the Depression and World War Two. The dissolutionment felt after World War One was expressed in literary, music, art, education, theater, financial and political upheavals felt round the world.
In the art world, painters, sculptors and artists veered off the beaten path of classicism, impressionist and expressionist art. Angst in government was expressed in new and startling exhibits from surrealist dream world conceptions, Cubist geometric portraiture, dadism, Fauvist riots of color and modernism with no attempt at form. In literary circles again traditionalism gave way to vastly divergent forms in prose and poetry; Hemingway’s manic-depressive tales, Tolkien’s flight of fantasy, Eugene O’Neil’s stark reality. In music jazz was king and music ruled the night. Drugs and disillusionment ruled the passions and plagued the souls of art. Bright Young Things pimped out in post-Edwardian boater hats, pin stripes, long fur coats and flappers with bobbed hair, knee revealing dresses, beads and ostrich plumes smoked and drank on the border of frenzy and some beyond.
Here is a list of literature and literature-based movies that walk us through the pleasure and heartache of post world war one and the jazz age.
Georgia O’Keefe: (2009)Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons share with the love story of artist Georgia (Virginia) O’Keefe and Alfred Steiglitz photographer and owner of the reknown Steiglitz Gallery
Johnny Got His Gun – Should be required reading in all high school American Lit classes. Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted and banned for writing this story of a young soldier shot on the last day of World War One. Both arms and legs are amputated Joe also lost his eyes, ears, nose and mouth but not his life. One of the most haunting books you’ll ever read. Also made into a movie in 1971.
All That Jazz or Chicago Either the 2008 or 1979 version is excellent way to introduce students to the life and music of the jazz era.
The Jazz Singer: 1927 with Al Jolson. Jewish cantor must defy his strict father to become a jazz singer.
Funny Girl (1968) Story of Zeigfield Follies singer Fanny Brice and her rise to stardom from the Jewish slums of Manhattan’s lower east side. See also Funny Lady (1975) both with Barbara Streisand. Funny Girl was the first movie that my father took me to see.
The Great Gatsby psychodrama about the high society party life of the Bright Young Things.
The Sting – Classic story of organized crime and organized rebellion.
Reds – 1981 (Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton) story of communist underground movement in post World War One United States.
Ragtime: E.L.Doctorow One of the most comprehensive sagas of post World War One, the Jazz Era, Prohibition and life in the 1920s. More of an epic than a novel. 1981 movie also.
Public Enemy: Classic Cagney gangster film takes an honest look at life behind a gun.
Bonnie and Clyde: 1967 Faye Dunaway and Warren Beattie; surprisingly beautiful story wild, foolish and mostly disillusioned kids who turn to crime for money and laughs.
All Quiet on the Western Front- Erich Maria Remarque Excellent story of the War to End all Wars from the perspective of the ‘enemy’. Excellent novel.
Perfect for students in high school American literature and history classes.