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Americans & the California Dream #0005: The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940sby Kevin Starr
Synopses & Reviews
What we now call "the good life" first appeared in California during the 1930s. Motels, home trailers, drive-ins, barbecues, beach life and surfing, sports from polo and tennis and golf to mountain climbing and skiing, "sportswear" (a word coined at the time), and sun suits were all a part of the good life--perhaps California's most distinctive influence of the 1930s. In The Dream Endures, Kevin Starr shows how the good life prospered in California--in pursuits such as film, fiction, leisure, and architecture--and helped to define American culture and society then and for years to come.
Starr previously chronicled how Californians absorbed the thousand natural shocks of the Great Depression--unemployment, strikes, Communist agitation, reactionary conspiracies--in Endangered Dreams, the fourth volume of his classic history of California. In The Dream Endures, Starr reveals the other side of the picture, examining the newly important places where the good life flourished, like Los Angeles (where Hollywood lived), Palm Springs (where Hollywood vacationed), San Diego (where the Navy went), the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (where Einstein went and changed his view of the universe), and college towns like Berkeley. We read about the rich urban life of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and in newly important communities like Carmel and San Simeon, the home of William Randolph Hearst, where, each Thursday afternoon, automobiles packed with Hollywood celebrities would arrive from Southern California for the long weekend at Hearst Castle.
The 1930s were the heyday of the Hollywood studios, and Starr brilliantly captures Hollywood films and the society that surrounded the studios. Starr offers an astute discussion of the European refugees who arrived in Hollywood during the period: prominent European film actors and artists and the creative refugees who were drawn to Hollywood and Southern California in these years--Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Man Ray, Bertolt Brecht, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann, and Franz Werfel. Starr gives a fascinating account of how many of them attempted to recreate their European world in California and how others, like Samuel Goldwyn, provided stories and dreams for their adopted nation. Starr reserves his greatest attention and most memorable writing for San Francisco. For Starr, despite the city's beauty and commercial importance, San Francisco's most important achievement was the sense of well-being it conferred on its citizens. It was a city that "magically belonged to everyone."
Whether discussing photographers like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, "hard-boiled fiction" writers, or the new breed of female star--Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, Carole Lombard, and the improbable Mae West--The Dream Endures is a brilliant social and cultural history--in many ways the most far-reaching and important of Starr's California books.
Book News Annotation:
California State Librarian Starr continues his epic history of the state into a fifth volume, showing how people recovered from the Great Depression depicted in Endangered Dreams and lived a good life other Americans only saw on television or in the movies, then shared the experience of World War II. Most of the focus is on southern California.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In this fifth volume of Starr's history of California life and culture, the focus is on the positive aspects of California life during the 1930s - especially how the state developed a style of life that would greatly influence American society as a whole.
The fifth volume in Starr's classic history of California, The Dream Endures shows how Californians rebounded from the Great Depression to emerge in the 1930s into what is now known as "the good life." Starr illustrates the ways the good life prospered in California--in film, fiction, leisure, and architecture. Starr looks at the newly important places where Californians lived out this sunny lifestyle: areas like Los Angeles (where Hollywood lived), Palm Springs (where Hollywood vacationed), San Diego (where the Navy went), the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (where Einstein changed his view of the universe), and college towns like Berkeley.
"In this, more than any other of Starr's monumental California histories, we see the stirrings of uniqueness in the social and cultural evolution of California. Starr's theme is relevant to all of America and the national destiny."--Neil Morgan, San Diego Union-Tribune
"Enormously sensitive and moving. Social and cultural history doesn't get any better."--San Francisco Chronicle
"In his monumental continuing study of California, Kevin Starr belongs in the company of the best."--Herbert Gold, Los Angeles Times Book Review
What is now called "the good life" first appeared in California during the 1930s. In "The Dream Endures", an excellent companion volume to his "Endangered Dreams", Kevin Starr shows how the good life helped to define American culture and society then and for years to come. 40 halftones.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 403-427) and index.
About the Author
Kevin Starr is State Librarian of California, Chairman of the State of California Sesquicentennial Commission, contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times, and a member of the faculty at the University of Southern California. He is the author of a number of books, including Americans and the California Dream, Inventing the Dream, Material Dreams, and Endangered Dreams.
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History and Social Science » Americana » California