Samuel Goldwyn is usually credited with the phrase, “If you have a message, call Western Union,” which was gospel in Hollywood for decades. But there are messages and there are messages. It is the contention of this book that all films carry messages, overtly or not.

Seeing Is Believing examines Hollywood films of the 1950s that everybody saw but nobody really looked at, classics such as Giant, On the Waterfront, Rebel Without a Cause, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Blackboard Jungle, and so on, and shows how movies that appear to be politically innocent — westerns, weepies, science fiction movies — in fact bear an ideological burden.

As we watch organization men and rugged individualists, housewives and career women, bad dads and smothering moms, men in uniform and men in aprons, cops and docs, teen angels and teen werewolves fight it out across the screen from the mean streets of the big city to the green lawns of suburbia to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, we understand that we have been watching one long dispute about how to be a man, a woman, an American — in other words, the political conflicts of the time — in action.



“Nothing escapes Peter Biskind and he is very funny. His book is indispensable reading for anyone interested in American cinema or recent American history.”—Michael Wood, author of America in the Movies

“A brilliant and imaginative analysis of the political and sexual crosscurrents of the fifties in the movies.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

“Peter Biskind has written a great book.” Marcel Ophuls, director, The Sorrow and the Pity

“Reading Biskind’s book is like putting on 3-D glasses: we see a different and exhilarating image of moves we thought we knew. A fascinating and incisive analysis of how the political and social ideas of the Eisenhower-Stevenson decade were reflected in movies audiences thought of as merely entertainment.” —Aljean Harmetz, New York Times Hollywood correspondent

“A fascinating look below the surface of the movies of the fifties: ‘Seeing Is Believing’ will make you look at them with different eyes.”—Robert Wise, editor, Citizen Kane, director, West Side Story, The Sound of Music

Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood Taught Us to Stop Worrying and Love the Fifties,” Film Quarterly, autumn, 1984