UCL Institute of the Americas


Naomi Sutton

Naomi Sutton is a United States Studies: History and Politics MA student (2018/19). Here she tells us about her fieldwork trip to New York and Los Angeles.

The grant awarded by the Institute of the Americas for my trip to New York and Los Angeles between May to June 2019 was invaluable to my academic research.  

My dissertation focused on the relationship of the studio Warner Bros. to Franklin Roosevelt, and whether changes in the studio system in Hollywood affected how Warner Bros. supported the presidency.

Academically, it provided variety to my dissertation which was necessary to make it a potential contribution to the field. Without the grant I would have had to rely on online newspaper archives, which in this period were usually unreliable Hollywood gossip magazines. Film History is already an underappreciated form of History as it stands, especially by more traditional areas of political and presidential scholarship. Therefore, it is even more essential that any contribution made to the field needs to show a well-balanced, diverse range of materials.

My research in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library Archives in Hyde Park, New York, provided invaluable insights on how the administration actually viewed Warner Bros. The many, many telegrams sent to Roosevelt from both Harry and Jack Warner and the sometimes grateful but mostly exasperated replies from Roosevelt and his secretaries gave a very clear image of the tone of the relationship.  My research at the Margaret Herrick Library allowed me access to a broader ranges of sources, mainly allowing me an insight into the stars of Warner Bros. through: inter-office communications, personal letters, props and scheduling details, as well as script revisions for films such as Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939).

The elements of my dissertation which I am most proud of are certainly the ones which were a consequence of this trip.