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Pop Culture

August 2016 update--sadly, no pop culture classes in the schedule for this year.  I will be cleaning up removed videos and adding some new ones later this fall for students and teachers looking for some extra resources.

Cold War Educational Films:

Duck and Cover (1951) is one of the best known civil defese educational films.  This is a great place to start studying how the nuclear threat was part of everyday life. How do you train young children to prepare for nuclear war? With a cartoon turtle of course!  Remember what to do, friends......

Atomic Alert (1951)  Another educational film from the cold war. 

The House in the Middle (1954)  This is one of my favorite cold war civil defense films, suggesting that a neat and tidy home is safest from atomic attack.  Funny and scary at the same time!

Cold War Feature Films:


If time permits, we will watch segments of The Big Lift starring Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas.  Filmed on location in occupied Berlin, the rest of the cast are actual military personnel and Berlin residents, giving the film an almost documetary sense of realism rather than a Hollywood look.  A great combination of post war tensions in occupied Germany and the evolving Cold War with the Soviet Union.  Watch the entire film here online.

The Missles of October (1974)  An ABC-TV teleplay dramatizing the behind-the-scenes activity of President Kennedy and his cabinet trying to navigate the Cuban Missle Crisis, the closest we came to turning the cold war into all out nuclear war.  Not as much dramatic action as Thirteen Days, but very well acted in a TV form we do not see anymore.

Cold War Television:

TALES OF TOMORROW:  "All the Time in the World"  Before the Twilight Zone, Tales of Tomorrow featured similar stories.  This episode features an interesting cold war tale.  Like most early television, the production values are a little sketchy, but still an entertaining show!

Other great Anthology TV If you liked "All the Time in the World" you can get the rest of the episodes of Tales of Tomorrow on these 3 DVD sets from Amazon.
The Twilight Zone was the best of the anthology series.  The best two cold war episodes were "Time Enough at Last" in the first season, and "The Shelter" in season 3.   The first two seasons of Twilight Zone are on Neflix, and join seasons 3 and 5 streaming free if you have Amazon Prime.  Click below for a 30 day free trial.


Many of my students are Doctor Who fans.  CLICK HERE for a cool app to remix you own Doctor Who theme from the BBC

Pop Culture for the Holidays!

Just as we can learn a great deal about periods like World War II or the Cold War from the films, music, or TV and radio shows of the period, we can learn about the holidays and what people in different time periods were going through or thinking about by studying the pop culture artifacts of their holiday celebrations.  I hope this special section of the Pop Culture page is enjoyable for students and parents, and I hope it helps you think about the different ways we have celebrated this time of year.

I can still remember when there were only a few holday specials for kids on TV, and many of those early specials have become favorites of many familys.  A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer may be the best known examples.  They are still covered by copyright, so I can only post links to purchase copies of these classics.  There are lots of other interesting Christmas episodes of TV shows that are now in the public domain that I can post on the site for you to watch.

One of my family's holiday favorites is an episode of the Jack Benny Program from 1957.  It is incredibly funny, and has long been a favorite of students that I have introduced it to, but it is a fascinating time capsule of how very different holday shopping was some 50 years ago. Students are surprised to see professional and personalized customer service, free gift wrapping, and delivery once common in department stores, but also an awareness and fear that Christmas was becoming too commercialized, and holiday shopping becoming a battleground, just as many worry today.

Jack Benny's comedy was rooted in his reactions to the very funny and absurd people and situations around him.  His radio and TV character was a cheapskate and tightwad, even though his was generous in real life.  In this episode, Jack Benny and his valet Rochester go shopping for gifts for Benny's co-workers.  Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and many other cartoon characters, is hilarious as a store clerk.  Dennis Day, who sang on Benny's show, played a dim-witted young man in many episodes.  The show works as a funny Christmas special, a look at what Christmas retailing once looked like, and a look at early television when many shows were broadcast live, complete with bloopers and breaks in character.  Hope you enjoy it!

Another favorite Christmas episode is from the Honeymooners. Jackie Gleason played Ralph Kramden, a big mouthed, but big hearted New York bus driver, Joyce Randolph his wife Alice, and Art Carney as his best friend and neighbor Ed Norton, a sewer worker.  WIth only a small, spare apartment set, Gleason created one of the most popular characters in early television.  Enjoy!

I am a Charles Dickens fan, and A Chrismas Carol may be one of my favorite stories.  There are so many different filmed versions to choose from, and everyone has their favorites.  Mine is the 1951 version with Alistar Sim.

George C. Scott also did a great Scrooge, and the Reginald Owen version is also a favorite.  While I have seen them on YouTube, they are not in the public domain.  One that is would be the first sound version from 1935 starring Seymour Hicks. 

 Here is an animated version from CBS-TV's Famous Classic Tales series that I had almost forgotten about from 1969:

Check back for more holiday pop culture TV epsodes and movies!

BIG GREEN ALERT!  Previous sessions of the Pop Culture of the Cold War class included viewing both the original Japanese version and the recut American version of the original Godzilla film.  The original Japanese version highlightrs the very raw nuclear fears held by Japan after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, personified in the big green monster Godzilla, unleashing atomic destruction on Tokyo, where the American version reflects a very different set of nuclear fears.  Both versions form the centerpiece of the Godzilla box set, with 5 other classic Godzilla movies in both the U.S. and Japanese versions. 

Amazon Movie & TV Lightning Deals

Mr. Bower previously offered two different pop culture classes.  Each pop culture section offers a focused study of a period of American history presented using the popular entertainment of the time period.  By examining the movies, television, radio, music, books, and even advertising of a time period, we learn a great deal about the viewpoints, thoughts, and worries ordinary people had and based decisions on during that time period.  World War II heroes battiling spies and sabotuers, and cold war era radioactive monsters reflect contemporary fears ordinary people shared, giving unique insight into our shared history.

World War 2 Feature Films:

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1941)  In the Universal film series, when war broke out, Holmes & Watson went from fighting traditional crimes to fighting Nazis.  This film depicts England's struggle before the U.S. became involved in the war.


World War 2 Propaganda Films:

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Line (1942) A Disney cartoon teaching housewives to save used cooking grease to be used to manufacture munitions.  An unusual example of how all of America was fully involved in a total war effort.

Food Will Win The War is a propaganda cartoon produced by Disney reminding Americans of the contributions of farmers to the war effort.




Atomic Test

Pop Culture of the Cold War
Spring 2013
Click here for my old history class cold war page with cold war links and films!

Cold War Pop Culture Artifacts:

Important Note:  These films, radio shows, songs, etc. are presented as historical artifacts.  As such, they reflect attitudes, prejudices, political beliefs, and moral constructs of the times in which they were produced, and of the people that produced them.  Their inclusion on this site should in no way be construed as acceptance or endorsement of any of the content by Mr. Bower or Fluvanna County Schools.  To edit or censor them would do the disservice of trying to edit or alter history.  By examining these artifacts in their original form, you gain valuable unedited insight into the thinking and mindset of the time they were created, and can better make historical judgement of your own, rather than being told what to think.


Cold War Pop Culture Material not in the public domain:

Note:  Not all of the films, TV shows, and other items have gone through the school approval process, and may not be middle school appropriate.  Parents/Guardians may wish to preview.

Back to Bataan Lobby Card

Pop Culture of World War II
Fall 2012
Click here for old history class World War II page with links to the World War II online theatre