Formation Of The Ambiguous Heroic Archetype: Three Jewish-American Film Actors And The United States’ Film System, 1929-1948

John Thomas McGuire


As Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell note, archetypes, or general ideas of human types, strongly influence societies, particularly the heroic archetype. Since the 1890s mainstream cinema has facilitated the heroic archetype for worldwide audiences. This article argues that Paul Muni (1895-1967), Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973), and John Garfield (1913-1952) became the first important Jewish-American film actors to help develop the ambiguous heroic archetype in the United States’ studio system from 1929 through 1948 in two ways: Muni’s and Robinson’s critical performances in the 1930s and 1940s, particularly in gangster and film noir films, and Garfield’s films from 1946 through 1948.


Film archetypes; twentieth-century United States; Jewish-American film history; Jewish- American dramatic film actors; Paul Muni, Edward G. Robinson; John Garfield

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