Award Date

5-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Committee Member

Andrew Kirk

Second Committee Member

David Tanenhaus

Third Committee Member

Joseph Fry

Fourth Committee Member

Alan Simmons

Fifth Committee Member

Ronald Smith

Number of Pages

405

Abstract

This dissertation explains how Gene Autry used his mastery of multiplatform entertainment and the techniques of transmedia storytelling to make the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd President of the United States, more attractive to the American public. Making a case for cultural significance, the work shows how Autry developed a singing cowboy persona to exploit the western genre as his modus operandi, because it appealed to rural, small town and newly-urban Americans in the Midwest, South and Southwest. Examining Autry's oeuvre within a context created by Roosevelt administration policies, the dissertation exposes a process of public diplomacy at work in American media culture from 1932 to 1942. I used a storyboarding technique and other methods of history museum exhibition to organize archival research with artifacts, photographs, sound recordings, radio broadcasts, motion pictures, and video recordings preserved by the Autry Qualified Interest Trust, Autry Foundation, Gene Autry Entertainment and the Autry National Center of the American West. Music proves to be a transcendental art form, capable of tying together these multiplatform entertainments into a single name-brand enterprise. As President Roosevelt's policies shifted from the New Deal to the Good Neighbor and war preparedness strategies, Gene Autry's cultural products reflected these changes. The self-described New Deal Cowboy helped Americans deal with the cultural transformation that accompanied the Great Depression and the run up to World War II.

Keywords

Audiences; Autry, Gene, 1907-1998; California – Hollywood; Celebrities – Attitudes; Film; Information; Mass media – Political aspects; Melody; Mexico; New Deal, 1933-1939; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945; Social change

Disciplines

Mass Communication | Public Policy | Social Influence and Political Communication

Language

English


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