Vera Lynn on screen: popular music and the 'people's war'

Kate Guthrie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
759 Downloads (Pure)


By the outbreak of the Second World War in Britain, critics had spent several decades negotiating the supposed distinctions between highbrow and lowbrow culture, as recent scholarship has shown. What has received comparatively little attention is how the demands of wartime living changed the stakes of the debate. This article addresses this lacuna, exploring how war invited a reassessment of the relative merits of art and popular music. Perhaps the most iconic British singer of the period, Vera Lynn provides a case study. Focusing on her first film vehicle, We'll Meet Again (1942), I explore how Lynn's character mediated the highbrow/lowbrow conflict-for example, by presenting popular music as a site of community, while disparaging art music for its minority appeal. In so doing, I argue, the film not only promoted Lynn's star persona, but also intervened in a broader debate about the value of entertainment for a nation at war.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-270
Number of pages26
JournalTwentieth Century Music
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2017


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