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The AMMI offers a retrospective of Hollywood’s war years

Love and war unquestionably are defining elements of the human condition, and it's no coincidence that the themes have dominated motion pictures ever since Edison developed the medium.

No war has been captured on celluloid - both in actuality and drama - more intensely than World War II. Newsreels chronicling the reality, albeit filtered, of the GI in Europe and in the Pacific augmented the feature films depicting the many facets of the war years, both on the battlefield and in American life.

This weekend the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria begins a two-month-long retrospective, "Hollywood on the Home Front: American Film in the 1940s," screening 32 "of the best and most fascinating films made during a turbulent and productive decade," as described in AMMI publicity for the series.

Films like "Twelve O'clock High" and "They Were Expendable" depicted America's involvement in the war that was supposed to end all wars, while "The Stranger," "The Boomerang," Hithcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" and others revealed the psychological and social changes in America in the decade.

As the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust America into World War II, Hollywood found itself on the front lines of a sudden wartime economy. By the middle of the '40s, movie attendance climbed to a weekly average of 90 million people, the highest in the nation's history (compared to an average of 30 million last year), the AMMI points out.

Hollywood showed "a remarkable burst of creative energy, producing films of astonishing maturity and inventiveness," the AMMI says.

The museum launches the retrospective at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 21 with what has been described as the greatest film in motion-picture history, Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane." The film, directed by and starring Welles, "set the tone for a steady stream of movies that raised troubling questions rather than providing easy answers," says the AMMI.

A complete schedule, along with AMMI's capsule critiques, starts on Page E3.

Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn at glenn@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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