© 2012

The American Success Myth on Film


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Julie Levinson
    Pages 173-177
  3. Back Matter
    Pages 178-220

About this book


In examining the enduring appeal that rags-to-riches stories exert on our collective imagination, this book highlights the central role that films have played in the ongoing cultural discourse about success and work in America.


American dream social mobility Hollywood cinema popular culture myth American cinema America bibliography discourse film imagination knowledge mobility play women

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Babson CollegeUSA

About the authors

JULIE LEVINSON is a film professor at Babson College, USA. She has been the film curator for several organizations including the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and New England Foundation for the Arts. Her publications have focused on genre films, gender representation, and metafictive narrative.

Bibliographic information


''The American Dream' and its treatment in movies has yet to be dealt with in book length form, which makes this a significant work. It is of a very high quality, well written, and expertly researched.' - Robert Sickels, Professor of Film, Whitman College, USA

'The promise of social mobility is the heart and soul of America's ongoing self-romance, not to mention an obsessive theme of our national cinema. In this lucid and entertaining examination of the filmic success story, Julie Levinson exposes the twinge of self-doubt that underpins the mythology. This is also a particularly timely book given our current economic woes: the question of how such fantasies are maintained (despite all evidence to the contrary) couldn't be more politically pertinent.' - Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University, USA

'This is an excellent book on a compelling and underexamined topic: the myth, or dream, of 'success' in American films. The book is graced with an arresting cover image of Andy Griffith as the egomaniacal entertainer Lonesome Rhodes in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, staring out at the Manhattan skyline from his luxurious penthouse apartment. Levinson (Babson College) discusses myriad Hollywood films that examine the quest for fame and fortune. She divides the book into five well-argued chapters, beginning with a sharply observed introductory chapter. The following chapters treat the concept of 'moving up' the American corporate ladder, films that document the perils and challenges of the 'corporate workplace,' what happens when and if one reaches the top of the ladder, and 'the glorification of unemployment' (i.e., those who drop out or refuse to become involved in the endless search for power and social status.) Levinson is a stylish, accessible writer, and her text is clear, concise, and well-illustrated.' - W.W. Dixon, University of Nebraska, Choice