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News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

February 28, 2002
CONTACT: Amy Cowles
(410) 516-7800

Art and Movies Convey America's Post-War Anxiety
Johns Hopkins senior Jordan Bear analyzes film noir
and Hopper's paintings

With the help of an undergraduate grant that funded research work at a film archive, Johns Hopkins University senior Jordan Bear was able to take a personal pleasure -- watching movies -- and use it in an academic pursuit. The dual major in history of art and English went beyond pulp with a pithy comparison of film noir and the urban paintings of Edward Hopper.

In both the films and Hopper's paintings, "a spirit of alienation, dehumanization and anxiety plays itself out on the stage of an increasingly urbanized America," he says.

Jordan Bear
Photo by Will Kirk.

"I've always been a bit of a film buff," Bear says of his interest in the dark films of the 1940s. "The fact that students are able to do in-depth research as undergraduates at Hopkins is excellent."

Bear's research took him to Los Angeles, where he spent three days sifting through boxes of director Fritz Lang's belongings archived in the Cinema-Television Library at the University of Southern California. Lang's major films include Metropolis, M and The Big Heat. Bear says he often lost track of time as he poured through the original scripts and critical reviews of Lang's films. The newspaper clippings were covered with Lang's notes in the margins.

"He corrected the reviews," Bear says. "You don't get to see much of an artist's reaction to his critics, so it was great to have a chance to see what his thoughts were ... His papers [at the USC library] had not been internally cataloged, so [the staff] have asked for a copy of my completed thesis. During this research, I sort of felt like a detective, which is appropriate to the topic."

Bear's goal for his research, funded by Johns Hopkins' Provost Awards for Undergraduate Research and to be submitted as an honors thesis in humanistic studies next month, was to show that both art forms relate how Americans felt about their increasingly urban world after World War II.

"I think in the 1940s, when these films were the most popular, they painted a world in which a lot of people were returning war veterans, and that hardened their world view," says Bear, a resident of East Brunswick, N.J. "When the war collided with the urbanization, it led to a bleak vision that showed up in the art. What I was able to do with the grant was to lay out a system where films and paintings create a way [the artists] chose to see urban reality."

As one of 42 Johns Hopkins students who received Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards in the 2001-2002 academic year, Bear will present an overview on his project during an upcoming awards ceremony. It will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, in the Glass Pavilion on the Homewood campus, 3400 N. Charles St., in Baltimore.

Color images of Jordan Bear are available. Contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7800.

The Johns Hopkins University is recognized as the country's first graduate research university, and has been in recent years the leader among the nation's research universities in winning federal research and development grants. The opportunity to be involved in important research is one of the distinguishing characteristics of an undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins.

The Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards program provides one of these research opportunities, open to students in each of the university's four schools with full-time undergraduates: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the Peabody Conservatory and the School of Nursing. Since 1993, about 40 students each year have been awarded up to $2,500 to propose and conduct original research, some results of which have been published in professional journals. The awards, begun by then provost Joseph Cooper and funded through a donation from the Hodson Trust, are an important part of the university's commitment to research.

Return to Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards news release.

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