'Working hard and saving up': Australian masculinity and meanings of work and class in 'Smiley' (1956)

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This article considers the representation of masculinity and its connection to work in the 1956 Australian film 'Smiley'. Although the 1950s were marked by economic growth and full employment, the memory of the uncertainty of war and depression meant that this economic climate was met with distrust. At the centre of this tension between concern and hope were two competing understandings of masculinity, intimately tied to ideals of work and class. The first was championed by Prime Minister Menzies and his advocacy of his 'superior' middle class. In opposition were the radical nationalists, celebrating the working-class man and his investment in the nourishment of male friendship and independence of spirit. This article explores Smiley's engagement with these competing models, demonstrating the postwar cultural domain as a dynamic and active space, and argues that the film represented the gendered conflict through its eponymous protagonist and his father. Ultimately, this article contends that 'Smiley''s narrative treatment of the two characters solved the conflict in the film between these masculine models, through a rehearsal of Menzies' middle-class, masculine ideals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-106
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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