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Method Acting and 1950's Popular Culture

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Method Acting and 1950's American Politics and Culture

Throughout the twentieth century, method acting had been experimented with and practiced in the United States. The method had derived from Stanislavski's "system" at the Moscow Art Theatre and was then given its own identity by method pioneers in the Group Theatre, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and Elia Kazan. Through the early 1900's, the method had begun to gain recognition in American theatre, but swiftly attained considerable prominence on the stage and screen during the 1950's. Although method had been practiced prior in the United States, it rapidly emerged during this era. Along with other art forms such as poetry and painting -- performance -- through the use of the method, distinctly deviated from previous approaches to its respective craft. Simultaneously, the social and political spheres of the larger post-World War society were changing. Through their performances, actors presented a new style which corresponded with the political and social issues of the era; that period in American history is still defined by the presence and success of this performance theory.

The decade of the 1950's has historically been defined by many of its cultural trends, social norms and political ideals. With the end of the Second World War, America institutionally focused on family-centered principles, the fulfillment of the "American Dream" and the importance of patriotism through popular media. "During the 50's occurred...society's first effort to face...the affluent society of suburbia, the new medium of attitudes toward the discussion of sexuality and the political effort to include more groups in the definition of what it means to be American"(Braudy, 192). The social and political environment of the time reflect two differing views of the decade; while middle class families thrived and patriotic morale was high, mistrust grew surrounding Communist Russia. This caused the rampant treason accusations toward anyone who did not fit the typical mold and follow the institutionalized behaviors.

From the left, the period has been seen as a time of repression and paranoia, with McCarthyism rampant and rigid official values entirely in the saddle... From the right, in a mirror image, the 50's are seen as a period of booming economic expansion, in which the American Dream became



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