Reelpolitik II: Beverly Kelley to sign latest film-politics book Saturday

May 19, 2004
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesFilm and politics often make comfortable bedfellows, according to noted author and lecturer Beverly Merrill Kelley, who will be signing Reelpolitik II, Political Ideologies in the 50s & 60s Films on Saturday at John Nichols Gallery on East Main Street.The May 22 book signing will be from 2 to 4 p.m.Kelley’s books on films and their political overtones and messages move past the typical liberal-conservative political distinctions that characterize most political film books by painstakingly examining the specific ideologies cycling through the U.S. during the ’50s and ’60s. Her first book, Reelpolitik I, dealt with the films of the ’30s and ’40s.Kelley, a Ph.D. who founded the communications department at California Lutheran University where she teaches courses including film and politics, is a former radio and television talk show host who writes an opinion column for a county newspaper.Reelpolitik II includes fascinating chapters on eight films, including A Face in the Crowd (fascism), The Green Beret (interventionism), The Manchurian Candidate (hawkism) and Dr. Strangelove (dovism).Quite a mixed bag, both film and political wise.Kelley said the original idea for the Reelpolitik series came during the 1997 centennial of film.“We were celebrating it at CLU and some closet cinema freaks were asked if they would talk about films for student lectures,” said Kelley.Her choice? “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which is populism. . .”Kelley’s lecture led to a class concentrating on politics and cinema which showed students how film themes and undercurrents ebbed and flowed with the times and through the different stages of American history.
Other writers examining the political impact of films are more general in their subject matter and Kelley’s books are lauded for filling the gap with insight presented in an entertaining manner.A challenge was subject matter: “You would be surprised at how few true political films there are.”Kelley’s work and research for each Reelpolitik book has taken up to four years to “really find the attitudes of the time. Take A Face in the Crowd, it made me explore the effect of television on film and its influence on politics.”Any political messages in the films of today? “Films done by the major studios today for the most part have no messages, just special effects,” but independent films are filling the gap.Kelley’s next book, Reelpolitik III, will center on films of the ’70s and ’80s: “Reelpolitik IV would be films of the ’90s and ’2000s. . .I’ll write that one in 2010.”Kelley’s books are for people “who like politics and history and movies who are interested,” in the film eras – and characters - she examines. “One chapter in Reelpolitik II is about John Ford. . .so many of the characters he directed were actually him.”For more information on the book signing, call John Nichols Gallery at 525-7804.

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