chapter  1
14 Pages

Moving Pictures as a Historical Resource

The other night my twelve-year-old son walked into the room and asked: “What are you watching?” To him, it was some old black-and-white movie or maybe a Twilight Zone episode. Actually it was Since You Went Away, a threehour sentimental drama from 1944 about a mother, Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert), raising her two daughters (Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple) alone while husband Tim is off to war. This was a “women’s picture” made by producer David O. Selznick of Gone with the Wind (1939) fame, based on a “women’s book” by Margaret Buell Wilder. It did well at the box office, earning almost $5 million, roughly double the cost of the production, and it was the third-highest grossing film of the year at a time when people went to the movies much more than they do today.1 It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but won only for Best Musical Score. So, in its day, it was a “major motion picture.”