Teacher's Guide: Great Escape

With the introduction of sound in 1927, movies become more popular than ever. Entertainment films soon shape people's values, behavior, and clothing, and propaganda films influence people's beliefs about other cultures and countries.

Unit Themes and Topics:
the Great Depression
mass entertainment
rise of a global society
values and popular culture

Connections Across History
connection: when: where: program:
growth of spectator sports 1900-1938 Argentina, Germany, Great Britain, United States, Uruguay "Sporting Fever"
television's evolution and influence 1939-1997 Great Britain India, Soviet Union, United States "Picture Power"

Nimmal Vellani
(moviegoer, India)

"If I had not seen those films, or gone to the cinema so often, I don't think I would have had romance in my life. I would have been just married off like an ordinary girl to the man of my grandfather's choice. And that would be it."
photographic portrait of Nimmal Vellani


Before Watching

1. How often do you go to movie theaters or rent movies? What makes seeing movies entertaining? How do you evaluate or rate movies that you see? What qualities do you look for?

2. As students watch the program, have them write down the reasons why movies became popular in the early 1900s and how movies influenced people's lives.

After Watching

1. Why do you think the program is titled "Great Escape"? Why were movies popular in the early 1900s? Are movies popular today for the same reasons? If not, why not? Explain.

2.In the program, what new values, behaviors, and clothing were presented in movies? How did movies encourage conformity or rebellion? Based on Nimmal Vellani's quotation, how do you think movies influenced her life? How did movies influence the lives of other people in the program?

3. How did movies contribute to the rise of a global culture? In your opinion, what is gained and what is lost by creating a global culture through movies or other mass media?


Have students write an essay about how a movie influenced them at one point in their lives. Ask them to describe why they liked or did not like the movie, how the movie changed their view of something, and if and how it changed the way they think or behave.

Divide the class into two teams in order to research and compare the influence of various forms of mass media, including movies, books, magazines, and television. Have each group choose one medium and select a popular product or show. Research its audience and impact. Which medium has the most influence today and why?

FOCUS: Propaganda and Persuasion

The following lesson focuses on a program segment about Russian, European, and American propaganda movies in the 1930s and during World War II. Citizens describe how they were affected by the ideas promoted in these movies.

Program Segment
approximately 12 minutes

Russian propaganda movies in the 1930s

Veronica Lake demonstrates hairstyles for the war effort


Before Watching

1. Define the term propaganda. Is there propaganda today? If so, give examples.

2. As students watch the program segment, have them write down how films sought to influence people's values, behavior, and perspectives on historical events.

After Watching

1. What ideas did governments present in the movies they sponsored? How did the movies attempt to provoke certain emotions? Why do you think governments used movies to present these ideas?

2. Why do you think the U.S. government used stars such as Bugs Bunny and Veronica Lake to encourage popular support of the war effort? How are cartoon characters and actors used to promote certain ideas, products, or services today? Are these promotions successful?

3. Compare the French movie The Night Visitors and the American movie Know Your Enemy: Japan. How did each movie try to influence viewers' attitudes toward an enemy nation? Would you consider both movies propaganda? Why or why not?


Organize the class into teams. Ask each team to choose a cause or idea they wish to promote. It could be for a local, national or international cause. Have the teams develop an outline for a short movie that would support their cause or idea. What format would they use (e.g., animation, live action, etc.)? How long would it be? What images and music would they choose? What actors or characters would they feature? Have each team pitch their movie proposal to the class, explaining the rationale for their decisions. Have the class discuss and critique the proposals.

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