This article analyzes American silent film depictions of rural life in order to understand their role in the creation of new conceptions of the countryside during the first third of the twentieth century. The rise of motion pictures during the 1910s and 1920s was a critical component of an emerging consumer culture in the United States that coincided with its broader transformation from a rural to an urban society. Because of this conjuncture, silent movies depicting agrarian life were instrumental in establishing new understandings of rural society for a modern, urban nation. They resonated with city audiences, particularly those who had been raised on the farm, as well as with rural and small-town moviegoers, and they helped to reconcile both groups to vexing social changes. Besides providing comfort in a time of transition, however, these films also facilitated the new order by subverting traditional understandings of agrarian life and distancing it from its previous position at the core of American culture.

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