1-Film Language: Terms and Concepts. Making a Movie. Hollywood Winners
2-The Birth. Silent Cinema (1894-1930).
3-Hollywood Classic Narrative & Style.
4-The American Studio System (1930-45).
5-The Star System.
6-Cinema in the Age of Television (1946-65).
7-Cynicism and Rebellion (1964-76)
8-The Return of the Myths (1977-today).
9-European Cinema (German, Soviet, Italian, French, and British)
10-Hispanic Cinema (Spanish, Mexican, Argentinean, and Cuban)
This glossary was created using different sources; the most important are the books:
Mast, G. & Kawin, B.F. (2000). A Short History of the Movies,
Kupsc, J. (1989). The History of Cinema for Beginners, and
Belton, J. (1994). American Cinema
/ American Culture.
1-Action: The word the director uses when he wants the actors to begin performing.
2-Actor's call: Your call to the set. You will be called at least an hour before the assistant
director thinks you will be neededbe sure to show up at least a half hour before that.
This will help you become accustomed to the set, the props, and the atmosphere. Never be
late; the cost of a crew waiting for you is enormous.
3-Animation: The process of making inanimate drawings or objects appear to come to
life and move by shooting sequential drawings or an object in sequential positions, one
frame at a time.
4-Assistant Director: Person who keeps order on the set and makes sure the production moves according
to schedule. Normally hired by the producer, the assistant director aids the director but
also watches over the production company's investment. Sometimes this involves prodding
the director to finish the shots planned for a particular day, or hunting down actors if they
are not where they should be on the set. The assistant director also functions as a record
keeper and handles time cards and minor union disputes.
5-B Films: Quickly made motion pictures, usually produced to fill the second half of a
double bill; low-budget and short movies.
6-Block Booking: When a distributor forces an exhibitor to rent a group of inferior films
together with the successful titles.
7-Blockbuster: A major box-office hit; presently one that grosses $200 million or more.
Also, extremely expensive Hollywood productions.
8-Blocking: Planning and rehearsing the positions and movements of the actors and of
the camera within a shot or scene.
9-Box-office: Movie theater. Exhibitor of a movie.
10-Cable Television: A system for the transmission of television signals that uses cable
wires or fiber optics instead of radio waves broadcast through the air.
11-CARA / MPAA: The Motion Picture Association of Americas Classification and
Rating Administration; the board that awards a film its MPAA rating (G, PG, R, etc.).
12-Changeover: The instantaneous switch from one projector to another, as the reel on
the first projector ends and the next reel begins.
13-Cheating: When an actor takes on a physical position that would not be natural in real
life, such as looking at something other than the person or object on which she is
supposedly focused. This is often necessary to get the right effect or perspective on film.
14-Cinéaste or Cinéphile: French terms applied to an enthusiastic and knowledgeable
film lover. Also, a filmmaker, producer, etc.
15-Cinema: The art of motion pictures; the movies in general; a movie theater; the
films of a country or group.
16-Cineplex / Multiplex Cinema: A theater with many separate auditoriums.
17-Cinerama: Triptych format introduced in 1952 (3 cameras, 3 projectors) employing a
high, wide, deeply curve screen; replaced by the anamorphic system in the early 1960s.
18-Co-production: A film produced by two or more business entities or nations.
19-Costume Design: The style or design of the clothing to be worn by the actors and
actresses who appear in a film.
20-Credits / Titles: A list including the name of the film, the studio, producer, distributor
and the names and contributions of those who worked on it. Head Credits: At the
beginning and Tail Credits: At the end.
21-Documentary: A nonfiction film that organizes and presents factual materials to make a point.
22-Electronic Cinema: The technology and practice of shooting, editing, and / or
projecting a movie with high-definition television camera, video editing board, and / or
video projector; the video images may or may not be transferred onto film with a
scanner or in a lab.
23-Exterior / Interior: Outdoor / indoor shooting location.
24-Feature: A movie whose running time is an hour or more. Also, a theatrical, narrative
film that usually lasts over 85 minutes.
25-Genre: A subcategory of the narrative film, define by the choice and treatment of
subject: mystery, musical, western, and so forth.
26-Gross: The amount of money earned by a film before any expenses are deducted.
27-Hit your mark: The ability to find your predetermined location in the scene without
looking at the marks that have been placed on the floor.
28-Hommage: A shot, a scene or element in a film that is reminiscent of and pays tribute
to the work of an earlier filmmaker.
29-Laserdisc: A digitally encoded disc that is read by a laser beam and yields a
high-quality video image with digital sound.
30-Letterbox: A video format that enables wide-screen films to be seen on television in
their original aspect ratio. It involves a reduction in the height of the image. A masking
appears above and below the original wide-screen image.
31-Location: A shooting site that is not on a studio lot.
32-Make up Person: The one responsible for all makeup.
33-Nickelodeon: The first permanent movie theater in America, which was converted
from a store, opened in 1905. Its name comes from Nickel (the admissions cost) and
Odeon (theater in Greek).
34-Pay-per-view: A cable television distribution system that enables cable companies to
charge home viewers a fee for watching an individual film or show, rather than a
subscription fee for a channel or group of channels.
35-Pickup: The director uses this term to indicate that he or she wants to redo a small part of
the scene. For example, if a scene is going well until someone forgets a line, the director
might want to pick up the scene near that point to avoid reshooting the entire scene.
36-Postproduction: The phase of motion picture production during which footage filmed
during production is edited and assembled, special effects are created, music is
composed and recorded, and the sound track is mixed.
37-Preproduction: The phase of motion picture production during which a screenplay is
written, stars and parts are cast, a crew is assembled, and sets and costumes are
designed and constructed.
38-Producer: The person who selects and hires the creative team to write and shoot a
film, pays all the costs of filmmaking, owns the finished product, and arranges for the
films distribution. Also, the studio or company that performs these functions.
39-Producers Gross: The amount of money returned to the filmmaker or production
company after deductions by the exhibitor and distributor are made.
40-Production: The phase of motion picture production during which actual filming takes place.
41-Production Designer: An art director responsible for designing the complete look of
a film, coordinating and integrating its sets, dressings, props, costumes, and color schemes.
42-Prop. or Property: A physical object handled by an actor or displayed as part of a set.
The Property Master ensures the sets and actors have all the necessary dressing and props.
43-Rear or Back Projection: The projection of stills or footage onto a translucent
screen, from behind that screen, to provide a background for the live action that is
performed between the screen and the camera.
44-Remake: A movie copying other made before with the same content and characters.
45-Runs and Zones: A pattern of exhibition in which certain theaters secure the rights to
exhibit films before other theaters are permitted to show them. Runs are broken down
into first run, second run, and subsequent runs. New films are initially licensed only to
first-run theaters. Only one theater in a certain zone will be permitted to exhibit the
film in any particular run.
46-Restoration: Returning a film to the condition it was in when it was new and complete.
47-Scenario: A film script or screenplay.
48-Scene: The films smallest dramatic unit; it consists of one or more shots in a single location.
49-Screenwriter, Scenarist, or Scriptwriter: The author of a screenplay; the artist who
first determines the structure, characters, themes, events, and dialogue of a film as well
as many of its crucial images.
50-Segmentation: The breaking down of a film into its basic parts for purposes of analysis
51-Sequel: A film whose action follows that of a previously released film in a way that
extends, varies, or continues the essential narrative of the first film. Sequels have to be
shown in order.
52-Sequence: A series of related scenes with a consistent dramatic project, not
necessarily restricted to a single location, that has its own beginning, middle, and end.
53-Serial: A film made of chapters that are shown at regular intervals, in most cases weekly.
54-Series: A set of films that feature the same main characters but may be shown in any order.
55-Set: A decorated sound stage, interior or exterior. The Set Dresser decorates the set.
56-Slapstick: A style of film comedy rooted in burlesque and circus.
57-Studio System: The control of all aspects of film production, distribution, and
exhibition by a small number of big studios (Vertical Integration).
58-Stunt: Actor for dangerous scenes.
59-Subtitle: A line of words printed near the bottom of the screen as the translation of
60-Wardrobe Master: Person
responsible for all wardrobe needs.
Cinema Philosophies, Concepts and Movements
coherent thematic vision that are developed throughout a body of work.
movements in the arts, associated to modernism. As a style, it implies change and
rupture with the bondage of established tastes or structures; it involves an effort on the
part of the artist to release himself and his work from any constrain limiting his artistic horizon.
characters and situations, to forget their own problems. Escapist fictions that make
political analysis appear irrelevant and unnecessary.
the fiction, to analyze the dramatized situation in political terms, and to keep in mind
the theatrical / cinematic nature of the spectacle. Inspired by German playwright
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956).
cinema that involves certain narrative and stylistic practices. Narratives are structured
around characters who have specific, clearly defined goals and deal with their triumph
over various obstacles that stand in the way.
ideology and elements of a film to analyze its contradictions, problems, defects.
Formulated by Jacques Derrida.
from the perspective of the artists intuition, his / her inner being, his / her human
emotions and sensations. The art of rendering inner states as aspects of the outer
world. Emotionally intense creative distortion of reality.
of reality (corruption, greed, violence, crime), mostly taken from the novels of Dashiell
Hammett, Raymond Chandler or Graham Greene. These movies are full of mystery,
tough romantic intensity, deceptive surfaces, unsentimental melodrama, low-key
lighting, moral duplicity, treason and revenge
structure, techniques and strategies (artistry) of a film, rather than on its subject,
content, and circumstances (ideology).
person, group, or culture.
Usually, one that wants to make different type of movies, not oriented to satisfy the
taste of the common / large public, the masses. Very frequently, these movies dont
produce large profits.
draws strong, vivid distinctions between good and evil.
observation of hereditary, instinctive, psychological, social, economic, and political
forces, rejecting theistic explanations along with sentimentality. Exaggeration of some
negative social problems or acts caused by forces from the human nature..
socially committed plots, nonprofessional acting, emphasis on the everyday struggles
of common people. A rejection of bourgeois fantasy as well as Expressionism.
Locations are intended to present the characters in their real social environments and
the plot to show the political and economic circumstances of a way of life.
1950s. Also, the sudden appearance, on many fronts, of a host of brilliant films by
directors who had not previously made features or whose earlier work had gone
American identity based upon preindustrial, agrarian ideals, such as that of Jeffersons
yeoman farmer, the small businessperson, the opponent of big government, the
anti-intellectual, and the good neighbor.
to a contemporary, real-world topic of concern.
system of government, like helping to educate (indoctrinate) the people, show what
people are doing to build a socialist society, and the difficulties and achievements of
the people under that system. Many of the movies within this category are
history-war related or concerned with socio-political issues. The promoters of this
movement consider that to be arty was to be elitist, to confuse and distract the people
from the reality and from the real important issues (those of the government).
the juxtapositions, transitions,
and bizarre logic characteristic of dreams.
1-Anamorphic Lens: A lens that compresses the width of an image to fit it into the
films frame (it compresses the horizontal dimension of an image without affecting the
vertical dimension). During projection, the lens de-squeezes the image into the
original size to produce a widescreen effect.
2-Animation: Making inanimate drawings or objects appear to come to life and move,
usually by shooting sequential drawings or an object in sequential positions, one frame at a time.
3-Aspect Ratio: The ratio of the width of the image to its height (a constant). The
Academy (35mm):1.33:1; European Widescreen (35mm): 1.66:1; American
Widescreen (35mm): 1.85:1; Panavision wide-screen anamorphic format (35mm):
2.35:1; Cinemascope anamorphic (35mm): 2.35:1; 70mm anamorphic: 2.75:1.
4-Back Light: Light used to illuminate the space between characters and their
backgrounds, to separate one from the other.
5-Barney or Blimp: A cover placed over the camera to soundproof it.
6-Blue Screen: A special effects process which involves photographing a person, action
or object against a bright blue background and adding later to the image any desire
background through optical printing (green screen when using the digital variation of it).
7-Boom: The arm of a crane, which supports the camera platform and moves it.
8-Boom Shot / Crane Shot: A shot taken from a crane.
9-Cameraman / Cameraperson / Cinematographer / Director of Photography: The
person in charge of lightning and shooting a movie.
10-Camera Angle: Position of the camera in relation to the subject (High Angle: camera
above the subject; Low Angle: camera below the subject; Dutch Angle: camera tilted
to one side to deviate from the horizontal and vertical axis of the subject; Eye-level Angle:
camera looks at the action head-on, from a position that is chest or head high).
12-Camera Distance: The relative distance of the camera from the action or subject. The
scale upon which the distance is measured is generally that of the human body. Each
film establishes its own scale of distances. Extreme close-up ECU (eye), close-up CU
(face), medium close-up MCU or close shot CS (chest), medium shot MS (waist up),
medium long shot MLS (knees up), long shot LS (full-figure), extreme long shot
ELS (human body is overwhelmed by the setting).
13-Camera Movement: The physical movement of the camera. Rotation on an axis: Pan
or Tilt Shot. Movement on a track, a dolly, a crane, or other: Crane Shot, Dolly
Shot, Pan, Tilt, Tracking Shot.
14-Celluloid: Transparent material chemically derived from cellulose; cut into strips to be
used as film base.
15-Close Shot (CS) / Far Shot (FS): The position from which the camera takes the shot:
the camera is near / far from the subject or -using a long lens (Telephoto Lens)-
appears to be close (CS). Also, a CS is a shot in which the head and upper chest fill
the frame (slightly broader than the close-up).
16-Close-up (CU): A shot whose field of view is very narrow: the face, a hand.
17-Colorization: The computerized process of adding color to black-and-white movies electronically.
18-Cranking: Moving forward the turning device attached to the camera to expose new
frames of the film to the light, to film the movie, to shoot a scene.
19-Cranking Back: Rewinding the film a short distance in the camera, usually so it can
be re-exposed. Invented by R.W. Paul.
20-Dailies or Rushes: Quickly processed footage from the previous days shooting. These film clips are viewed
after each day's work in order to evaluate performances and spot any technical problems. They are shown to only
a few peoplenormally, only the director, producer, and director of photography.
21-Day-for-Night: Shooting in the daytime while using filters or underexposing to create
the impression of night.
22-Deep Focus: A visual field that is in sharp focus from foreground to background;
these two planes appear to be widely separated to accentuate composition in depth.
Effect usually created by a Wide-angle Lens.
23-Diffusion: The dispersion, unfocusing, or scattering of light to create a soft effect.
24-Dissolve / Lap Dissolve: A superimposed fade-out and fade-in; a transitional device in
which one image vanishes evenly and gradually while another gradually appears.
25-Dolly: A camera platform with rubber wheels that allow it to move freely over a floor,
unlike the earlier steel wheels that had to run on steel rail tracks.
26-Dupe: A print copied from another print.
27-Emulsion: The light-sensitive component of film stock, raw stock, stock or virgin /
28-Establishing Shot: A long shot, early in a movie or scene, that shows where the
action takes place. Any shot that introduces a location.
29-Exposure: The amount of light that is allowed to reach the film. Overexposure
indicates too much light; underexposure too little.
30-Extreme Close-up (ECU): A shot with a very narrow field of view showing a very
specific detail. A mouth, a scar, a tattoo or the eyes may fill the frame.
31-Extreme Long Shot (ELS): A shot with a very broad field of view. The camera
appears to be extremely far from the subject. A human figure might be less than one
tenth of the height of the frame.
32-Fade-out / Fade-in: A transitional effect in which the image gradually disappears into
/ appears from darkness.
33-Fast Film: Film whose emulsion has a high speed, making it extremely reactive to
light and useful in low-light conditions.
34-Fast Motion or Undercracking / Slow Motion or Overcracking: Fast motion is the
effect of speed-up movement, achieved by exposing fewer than the normal (24)
number of frames per second. Slow motion is the contrary effect: slow-down
movement, achieved by exposing more than the normal (24) number of frames per second.
35-Film: The flexible medium, consisting of a perforated base coated with emulsion, on
which images are photographically imprinted. Also, a movie and general term for the
art of motion pictures. Also, the action of shooting.
36-Fill Light: A light used to fill in shadows cast by the key lights
37-Format: The physical and optical characteristics of a negative or print, the gauge of
the film, the aspect ratio of the image, and the number of perforations per frame. Also,
the type of soundtrack, optical or magnetic.
38-Fps.: Frames per second. The rate of exposing or projecting frames. Sound films run
at 24 fps. Silent films ran at 16 fps.
39-Frame: An individual photograph or picture area on a strip of film.
40-Freeze Frame: A sudden cessation of movement created by the continual reprinting of
the same frame.
41-Full Shot (FS): A medium long shot that offers a relative complete view of the set and
shows the human figure from head to foot.
42-Gauge or Gage; The width of a strip of film in millimeters (8mm: used by amateurs;
16mm: preferred in documentary, TV and low-budget films; 35mm: the standard
commercial gage; 65mm and 70mm: only used by big-budget epics; IMAX gage:
frame area 3 times larger than 70mm, used for super high-definition films presented in theme parks.
43-Gaffer: The person responsible for making sure all the lighting equipment is where it should be
and operating correctly. The gaffer sets the lights so that the finished picture will have the
44-Head: The beginning of a reel of film or tape. Tail: The end of a reel of film or tape.
45-High-key Lighting: A lighting plan in which the set is brightly lit and there is a low
contrast ratio. Low-key Lighting, on the contrary, is a lighting plan in which the set is
dimly lit, with rich shadows and occasional high-lights, and there is a high contrast ratio.
46-Iris: A circular mask. A transitional device in which the image appears as an
expanding circle (iris in) or disappears as a contracting circle (iris out). Iris Shot: A
shot whose picture area appears within a circle, whether or not the circle changes size.
47-Key Grip: Person responsible for the rigging (carpentry) and for moving and readying the
sets and camera dollies.
48-Key Light: The chief or brightest source of light of a scene.
49-Leader: Opaque film spliced to the beginning (head leader) and end (tail leader) of a
reel. Used to thread film in a projector.
50-Lighting: The illumination of the set or filming location by means of natural or
artificial lights. the standard lighting set-up used in Hollywood is called the
Three-point Lighting: Key Light, Fill Light, and Back Light.
51-Long Take / Long Shot: A shot that continues for a relatively long period of 20 or
52-Long Lens / Telephoto Lens: A lens with a long focal length and narrow field of
view. It appears to bring the subject closer. Contrary to the Wide-angle Lens: A lens
with a very short focal length and a very broad field of view.
53-Mask: A sheet of metal or cardboard, painted flat (matte) black, that admits light only
to specific areas of the frame.
54-Master Shot: A long take, usually a full or long shot, that covers all the major action
of a scene and into which closer or more specific views are intercut during edition.
55-Mindscreen: The field of the minds eye; a shot presenting the perspective of a
characters mind (dreams, thoughts).
56-Mise-en-scéne: French for to put in a scene. The atmosphere, setting, decor, and
texture of a shot. The way a scene has been designed and staged for the camera.
57-Negative: Film stock that turns black where it has been exposed to light. Also, the
original film in the camera.
58-Offscreen (OS): Outside of camera range.
59-Over-the-shoulder shot: A shot of one actor taken from over the shoulder of another
actor. An over-the-shoulder shot is used when two characters are interacting
face-to-face. Filming over an actor's shoulder focuses the audience's attention on one
actor at a time in a conversation, rather than on both.
60-Pan: Horizontal movement of the camera, turning from side to side. Also, panning
shot or panoramic shot.
61-Paper Print: A positive copy of a film, made on sheets of paper.
62-Point-of-view Shot (POV) or Subjective Camera: A series of shots that duplicate
the optical perspective of a specific character in a film. It involves three shots:
character looking at the object / action, the object or action per se, and the reaction of
the character to what he / she saw.
63-Principal Photography: The process of shooting the principal performers and every
dialogued scene in the script.
64-Print: Any printed copy of a film, whether positive or negative. Also, a positive,
projectable copy of a film. Also, the action of duplicating a frame, a shot, a reel, or a
65-Printer: A film-copying machine (raw stock or processed film).
66-Raw Stock or Film: Unexposed and unprocessed film.
67-Reaction Shot: A cutaway or reverse shot, usually a close-up or close shot, that
shows how one or more characters react to an action, usually one that has been shown
in the preceding shot.
68-Reel: One thousand (1,000) feet of film wound on a reel. A Double Reel: A metal or
plastic spool on which film or tape is wound; it has outside rims or flanges.
69-Setup: The position (location and angle) of the camera, fitted with a particular lens.
70-Shooting Script: A copy of the movies screenplay which includes precise directions
for camera movement, lighting, blocking, and other technical information.
71-Shot / Take: A continuously exposed series of frames; an unbroken strip of film made
by an uninterrupted running of the camera and edited at the beginning and end in
preparation for its inclusion in a film.
72-Stop-motion Animation: Frame-by-frame shooting of a model or any object
incapable of moving under its own power.
73-Superimposition: Multiple exposure, printing or shooting of one image over another.
74-That's a wrap: A phrase that means, "We're done. Shooting is over for today."
75-Timing: Correcting overexposure, underexposure, and color values when making a print.
76-Traveling Shot: A shot in which the camera moves from one place to another.
77-Zoom Lens: A lens with a variable focal length.
78-Zoom in or forward zoom / Zoom out or backward zoom: To adjust the focal
length of a zoom lens while the camera is running or a shot taken while the zoom lens
is being adjusted. In a Zoom in the lens behaves like a telephoto lens; in a Zoom out
the lens behaves like a wide-angle
considered complementary and related, accumulate into a whole, like a wall made out
of bricks. This type of montage was created by Vsevolod Pudovkin.
sequence; the plot as a string of scenes, as a result of edition. Shots taken at different
times and places appear to be recording a single, continuous event.
final version of the film, prepared by the editor.
actions, sometimes between scenes that are presented as occurring in different
locations at the same time and that are dramatically related.
another or the splice itself. Also, the way a particular version of a film has been
edited, as in the directors cut. Also, the instruction to stop shooting or to end a shot.
or significantly conflict with each other, ideally generating a synthesis or creating a
message in the mind of the viewer. Formulated by Sergei Eisenstein.
editing) and the tracks (sound editing) that make up the finished motion picture.
or symetrical way (A-B-C-D-C-B-A), using a flashback structure and using parallel
editing. This type of editing provides the structure of the film. From one scene to the
next editors use five basic transitional devices: the cut, the fade, the dissolve, the iris,
and/or the wipe.
to shot, making the film appear to be seamless flow of images. This process relies
upon a system of matches: graphic matches (major features in the composition in one
shot will be duplicated in the next shot, providing graphic continuity); matches on
action (use of the carryover of physical movement from one shot to the next to
conceal cuts); eye-line matches and point-of-view editing.
shot. Interweaving shots from separate scenes, not in a cross-cutting pattern.
different, that the subject appears to jump from one position to another. A
disorienting shot; a sudden transition that breaks the normal continuity and calls
attention to itself. Contrary to the Match Cut: A cut over which an action appears to
expand action, space, or time.
showing the optical perspective of
Sound / Music
1-Boom: The lightweight pole from which a microphone is suspended above the actors,
whose movements it follows.
2-Channel: The sound meant to be played through a particular speaker (left, right, center).
3-Clacker: Slate that is hold by an assistant in front of the actor's face and he / she snaps it shut before every
take. This will later aid the film editor in synchronizing the picture to the sound.
4-Contrapuntal Sound: Sound that is synchronized to clash with what is shown; a
soundtrack that works against the image track.
5-Diegetic Sound: Sound which comes from the world depicted in the film (radio, TV,
noise, music) and may be heard by the characters and is part of the plot.
6-Dolby Stereo / Dolby SVA: An encoded, optical, variable area soundtrack that
usually carries four channels (left, center, right, and surround) on two tracks, mostly
found on 35mm prints. See Dolby Digital.
7-Dubbing: Replacing one performers voice with that of another (singer). Also,
replacing all the dialogues spoken in another language.
8-Magnetic Soundtrack: One or more strips of magnetized iron-oxide particles bearing
the final soundtrack of a film (separated or bonded).
9-Mixer: The person responsible for recording the sound. Other sounds are added during
post-production by foley artists.
10-Movietone: The sound-on-film (optical sound) process introduced by Fox. Identical to
Phonofilm invented by Lee de Forest
11-Leitmotif: A recurring musical theme that is associated with a recurring narrative
element or theme. Formulated by Richard Wagner.
12-Lip Sync: Perfect synchronization between picture and sound.
13-Live Sound: Tracks recorded during shooting.
14-Score: The original music arranged for a film.
15-Soundtrack: All the sounds heard in a film; the optical or magnetic track; the narrow
strip located next to the image on which all sound information is encoded optically or magnetically.
16-Sound Mixing: The combination, during postproduction, of three different categories
of film sound: dialogue, sound effects, and music.
17-Voice-over: A voice heard over the action which is not synchronized with any
character appearing on screen.
Usually used as a narration or explanation.
1-In the beginning (1890s), because movies were silent, there was no need for
dialogue: no screenwriters.
2-During the end of the 1920s, writers flocked to Hollywood in droves, including
some of the most famous (William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bertolt Brecht, and
Thomas Mann). High salaries ($6,000 for a story or $1,200 per week), a very
stressful pace (Hollywood was making movies like Ford was making cars in his
assembling lines), and low professional prestige in the studio ladder.
3-After WW II (1945), the power of the studios decreased and the authority of stars
and scripts writers increase (more money -$100,000 for a script-, more
participation, more creative control over their work).
4- The 1950s were the years of senator McCarthys Witches Hunt. A very strong
censorship and frequent accusations plagued Hollywood. Many screenwriters were
victims of the excesses of the time: Blacklists, the Hollywood Ten, etc.
5-Today, screenwriters are active and very important players in the filmmaking
process. They are paid as well as directors and producers and their work is consider
an art, sometimes published and sold in bookstores. Its very common that
screenwriters become directors.
6-Screenwriters, Scenarists, or Scriptwriters are the authors of a screenplay; the
artists who first determine the structure, characters, themes, events, and dialogue of
a film as well as many of its crucial images.
7-A good script is the foundation for a good film. On average, one script page is the
equivalent of one minute of screen time. When shooting the movie, each day are
Assignment: Write a brief script for two people traveling in a train, telling the story
of their lives. Check
1-The Director is the person who guides the actors in performance, determines the
staging of the action, supervises all aspects of shooting, and works with the
producer, writer, and designer before production and with the film and sound
editors after production to ensure the consistency and excellence of the movie. He /
she is also responsible for the best possible use of the personnel, materials, and
resources provided by the producer.
2-The directors vision shapes the look and feel of the film. He / she is the creative
force that pulls a film together, responsible for turning the words of a script into
images on the screen. He / she directs actors, cameramen, editors, etc.
3-One of the problems that a director has to face as an artist is to stay invisible for
the public, to pull you into the story without being aware of the directors hand.
However the imprint of some exceptional Directors is unmistakable.
4-As a Director, when you receive the screenplay you have to see the characters
coming to life, you have to envision the lighting and to hear the sound, you have to
be absorbed in the world of the story until the movie is finished.
5-A Director has to assembly the proper cast and crew, people who respect his vision
and work well with one another. He should make the suggestions to the producer to
hire the right people.
6-When the film goes to pre-production, the Director participates in the distribution
of the budget, the elaboration of the shooting schedule, the design of every shot and
set to be used.
7-During the filming period, the Director has to be able to improvise on the set and
be flexible and at the same time he / she has to continue communicating his vision of
the film to all the people involved. Previously, he / she met with the director of
photography and the storyboard artist to plan and decide about types of shots,
camera angles, distances, and movements.
8-Once the shoot is over, its time to guide the editors to create the Directors cut.
1-The Producer is the person who selects and hires the creative team to write and
shoot a film, pays all the costs of filmmaking, owns the finished product, and
arranges for the films distribution.
2-The Producer acts as an administrator, prepares the budget and deals with the
marketing and distribution of the
Prepare a detailed budget for a
film. See the parameters and recommendations.
Art Director or Production Designer
1-The Art Director is the person who designs a movies sets and decor; coordinating
and integrating in sets,
dressings, props, costumes, and color schemes.
Actor / Actress
1-You first need to read the script; then, you have to connect closely with your
character, to become that person.
2-You have to understand the relationships of your character with the other
characters in the film.
3-You have to learn your lines, plan and practice the expressions, emotions, feelings,
moods, gestures, and movements
that you are suppose to show or make.
Director of Photography
1-The Cinematographer or Director of Photography is an essential element in a film.
He / she is responsible for the lighting, choice of film, correct exposure, correct use of
lens, compliance with the types of shots, camera distances, angles and movements
agreed with the Director, and for
the supervision of the camera crew.
1-The Editor selects sounds and images from all the film that has been shot and
arrange them, following the script, to make the movie. He / she must know how to
tell a story.
2-Editors plan and suggest to the Director how one shot will best transition to the
next. He / she has to assemble the scenes during the shooting phase and show them
to the Director and Producer to view and make corrections or not.
3-Usually, the first cut or rough cut of a film takes up to three months to
complete. The final cut may take another month to finish.
4-Today, most editors use
computers or digital editing systems to edit a film.
Identify in order all the types of shots and cuts in the scene of the Odessa Steps in
the film Battleship Potemkin.
All-Time USA Box Office Leaders
Unajusted for Inflation .................................. Adjusted for Inflation
1-Titanic (1997)..............................................1-Gone With the Wind (1939)
2-Star Wars (1977)........................................2-Star Wars (1977)
3-Star Wars: Episode I (1999)......................3-The Sound of Music (1965)
4-E. T. (1982).................................................4-E. T. (1982)
5-Jurassic Park (1993)..................................5-Titanic (1997)
6-Forrest Gump (1994).................................6-The Ten Commandments (1956)
7-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's...............7-Jaws (1975)
Stone (2001)..................................................8-Doctor Zhivago (1965)
8-The Lion King (1994).................................9-The Jungle Book (1967)
9-Star Wars: Episode VI (1983).................10-Snow White and the Seven
10-Independence Day (1996)...........................Dwarfs (1937)
11-The Sixth Sense (1999)...........................11-Ben Hur (1959)
12-Star Wars: Episode V (1980)..................12-101 Dalmatians (1961)
13-Home Alone (1990)..................................13-The Exorcist (1973)
14-Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship..........14-Star Wars: Episode V (1980)
of the Ring (2001)..........................................15-Star Wars: Episode VI (1983)
15-Shrek (2001).............................................16-Star Wars: Episode I (1999)
16-How the Grinch Stole...............................17-The Sting (1973)
Christmas (2000)...........................................18-Mary Poppins (1964)
17-Jaws (1975)...............................................19-Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
18-Monsters, Inc. (2001)...............................20-Jurassic Park (1993)
20-Men in Black (1997)
Films with more Nominations and Academy Awards
Nominations ....................................................................... Oscars
All About Eve (1950).................14..............................Ben Hur (1959)........................11
Titanic (1997).............................14...............................Titanic (1997)...........................11
Gone with the Wind (1939)........13..............................West Side Story (1961)............10
From Here to Eternity (1953)....13...............................Gigi (1958).................................9
Mary Poppins (1964).................13................................The Last Emperor (1987).........9
Who's Afraid of VirginiaWoolf? (1966)....13................The English Patient (1996)...... 9
Forrest Gump (1994)..................13...............................Gone with the Wind (1939).......8
Shakespeare in Love (1998)......13...............................From Here to Eternity (1953)...8
The Lord of the Rings (2001)....13...............................On the Waterfront (1954)..........8
A Streetcar Named Desire........12...............................My Fair Lady (1964)..................8
On the Waterfront (1954)..........12................................Cabaret (1972)...........................8
Ben Hur (1959)...........................12...............................Ghandi 1982)...............................8
My Fair Lady (1964)..................12...............................Amadeus(1984)............................8
Dances with Wolves (1990)........12..............................Shakespeare in Love (1998)........7
Schindler's List (1993)................12.............................Dances with Wolves (1990)...........7
The English Patient (1996).........12..............................Schindler's List (1993)...................7
Gladiator (2000)..........................12..............................Out of Africa (1985).......................7
Mrs Miniver (1942)....................12..............................Patton (1970)..................................7
The Song of Bernadette (1943)..12..............................Lawrence of Arabia (1962)............7
The 100 Greatest Films According the A.F.I. (Alphabetcal Order)
1-The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)....51-Fargo (1996)
2-The African Queen (1951)........................52-Frankenstein (1931)
3-All About Eve (1950).................................53-The French Connection (1971)
4-All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).....54-From Here to Eternity (1953)
5-An American in Paris (1951).....................55-GoodFellas (1990)
6-Annie Hall (1977).......................................56-Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
7-Apocalypse Now (1979).............................57-Modern Times (1936)
8-Ben Hur (1959)..........................................58-My Darling Clementine (1946)
9-The Best Years of Ours Lives (1946)......59-Nashville (1975)
10-The Big Parade (1925)............................60-Ninotchka (1939)
11-The Big Sleep (1946)...............................61-North by Northwest (1959)
12-The Birth of a Nation (1915)...................62-On the Waterfront (1954)
13-Blade Runner (1982)...............................63-One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975)
14-Bonnie and Clyde (1967).........................64-Paths of Glory (1957)
15-Bride of Frankenstein (1935)..................65-The Philadelphia Story (1940)
16-The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957)...66-Psycho (1960)
17-Bringing Up Baby (1938).........................67-The Quiet Man (1952)
18-Broken Blossoms (1919).........................68-Raging Bull (1980)
19-Casablanca (1942)...................................69-Rear Window (1954)
20-Chinatown (1974).....................................70-Rebecca (1940)
21-Citizen Kane (1941).................................71-Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
22-City Lights (1931)....................................72-Roman Holiday 1953)
23-The Crowd (1928)....................................73-Schindlers List (1993)
24-Dr Strangelove (1964).............................74-The Searchers (1956)
25-Double Indemnity (1944).........................75-Shane (1953)
26-Duck Soup (1933).....................................76-Singin in the Rain (1952)
27-E. T. (1982)...............................................77-Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs (1937)
28-Easy Rider (1969)....................................78-Some Like It Hot (1959)
29-Fantasia (1941).........................................79-Stagecoach (1939)
30-42nd Street (1933)....................................80-A Star is Born (1954)
31-The General (1927)...................................81-Star Wars (1977)
32-The Godfather (1972)................................82-A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
33-The Gold Rush (1925)...............................83-Sunrise (1927)
34-Gone with the Wind (1939)........................84-Sunset Boulevard (1950)
35-The Graduate (1967)..................................85-Taxi Driver (1976)
36-The Grapes of Wrath (1940)......................86-The Third Man (1949)
37-Greed (1924)...............................................87-To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
38-High Noon (1952)........................................88-Top Hat (1935)
39-His Girl Friday (1940).................................89-Touch of Evil (1958)
40-Intolerance (1916).......................................90-The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
41-It Happened One Night (1934)...................91-Trouble in Paradise (1932)
42-Its a Wonderful Life (1946).......................92-2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
43-Jaws (1975)..................................................93-Vertigo (1958)
44-King Kong (1933)........................................94-West Side Story (1961)
45-The Lady Eve (1941)...................................95-Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
46-Lawrence of Arabia (1962)..........................96-The Wild Bunch (1969)
47-Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948)...97-The Wizard of Oz (1939)
48-The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)...........98-Wuthering Heights (1939)
49-The Empires Strikes Back (1980)...............99-Yankee Doodle Yankee (1942)
50-The Exorcist (1973)....................................100-Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Best Actor / Actress: Nominations and Academy Awards
1-Katherine Hepburn................................................12 Nominations / 4 Oscars
2-Meryl Streep..........................................................12 Nominations / 2 Oscars
3-Jack Nicholson.......................................................11 Nominations / 3 Oscars
4-Bette Davis.............................................................11 Nominations / 2 Oscars
5-Laurence Oliver......................................................10 Nominations / 1 Oscar
6-Spencer Tracy.......................................................... 9 Nominations / 2 Oscars
7-Marlon Brando......................................................... 8 Nominations / 2 Oscars
8-Jack Lemmon .......................................................... 8 Nominations / 2 Oscars
9-Al Pacino.................................................................. 8 Nominations / 1 Oscar
10-Paul Newman......................................................... 8 Nominations / 1 Oscar
11-Ingrid Bergman..................................................... 7 Nominations / 3 Oscars
12-Tom Hanks........................................................... 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
13-Jane Fonda............................................................. 7 Nominations / 2 Oscars
14-Dustin Hoffman...................................................... 7 Nominations / 2 Oscars
15-Richard Burton....................................................... 7 Nominations / 0 Oscars
16-Robert de Niro....................................................... 6 Nominations / 2 Oscars
17-Robert Duval.......................................................... 6 Nominations / 1 Oscar
18-Paul Muni............................................................... 6 Nominations / 1 Oscar
19-Vanessa Redgrave................................................. 6 Nominations / 1 Oscar
20-Gary Cooper........................................................... 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
21-Olivia de Havilland............................................... 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
22-Gene Hackman...................................................... 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
23-Elizabeth Taylor ................................................... 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
24-Shirley Maclaine.................................................... 5 Nominations / 1 Oscar
25-Gregory Peck......................................................... 5 Nominations / 1 Oscar
26-James Stewart........................................................ 5 Nominations / 1 Oscar
27-Susan Sarandon...................................................... 5 Nominations / 1 Oscar
28-Audrey Hepburn..................................................... 5 Nominations / 1 Oscar
29-Glenn Close.............................................................. 5 Nominations / 0 Oscar
30-Irene Duanne.......................................................... 5 Nominations / 0 Oscar
31-Humphrey Bogart................................................... 2 Nominations / 1 Oscar
Top 50 Actors / Actresses According to the A.F.I.
Actors .............................................. Actresses
1-Humphrey Bogart.....................1-Katharine Hepburn
2-Cary Grant................................2-Bette Davis
3-James Stewart...........................3-Audrey Hepburn
4-Marlon Brando.........................4-Ingrid Bergman
5-Fred Astaire..............................5-Greta Garbo
6-Henry Fond...............................6-Marilyn Monroe
7-Clark Gable..............................7-Elizabeth Taylor
8-James Cagney...........................8-Judy Garland
9-Spencer Tracy...........................9-Marlene Dietrich
10-Charles Chaplin....................10-Joan Crawford
11-Gary Cooper.........................11-Barbara Stanwyck
12-Gregory Peck........................12-Claudette Colbert
13-John Wayne..........................13-Grace Kelly
14-Laurence Oliver...................14-Ginger Rogers
15-Gene Kelly............................15-Mae West
16-Orson Welles........................16-Vivian Leigh
17-Kirk Douglas........................17-Lillian Gish
18-James Dean..........................18-Shirley Temple
19-Burt Lancaster.....................19-Rita Hayworth
20-The Marx Brothers..............20-Lauren Bacall
21-Buster Keaton......................21-Sophia Loren
22-Sidney Poitier.......................22-Jean Harlow
23-Robert Mitchun...................23-Carole Lombard
24-Edward G. Robinson...........24-Mary Pickford
25-Willian Holden.....................25--Ava Gardner
Top Best Directors with more Nominations / Academy Awards
1-John Ford: 5 Nominations / 4 Oscars
2-William Wyler: 12 Nominations / 3 Oscars
3-Frank Capra: 6 Nominations / 3 Oscars
4-Billy Wider: 8 Nominations / 2 Oscars
5-David Lean:7 Nominations / 2 Oscars
2-Fred Zinnemann: 7 Nominations / 2 Oscars
3-Elia Kazan: 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
4-Frank Lloyd: 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
5-Steven Spielberg: 5 Nominations / 2 Oscars
6-Joseph L. Mankiewicz: 4 Nominations / 2 Oscars
7-Robert Wise: 3 Nominations / 2 Oscars
8-Oliver Stone: 3 Nominations / 2 Oscars
9-Milos Forman: 3 Nominations / 2 Oscars
10-Leo McCarey: 3 Nominations / 2 Oscars
11-Lewis Milestone: 3 Nominations / 2 Oscars
12-Frank Borzage: 2 Nominations / 2 Oscars
13-Woody Allen: 6 Nominations / 1 Oscar
14-George Cukor: 5 Nominations / 1 Oscar
15-John Huston: 5 Nominations / 1 Oscar
16-Francis F. Coppola: 4 Nominations / 1 Oscar
17-Michael Curtiz: 4 Nominations / 1 Oscar
18-Alfred Hitchcock: 5 Nominations / 0 Oscar
19-Robert Altman: 6 Nominations / 0 Oscar
20-Stanley Kubrick: 4 Nominations / 0 Oscar
21-Martin Scorsese: 3 Nominations / 0 Oscar
2-The Birth. Silent Cinema (1894-1930).
This unit summary was prepared using the following textbooks:
Cook, P. & Bernink, M. (1999). The cinema book. British Film Institute, St. Edmundsbury Press.
Mast, G. & Kawin, F. (2000). A short history of the movies. Pearson Education Co., Allyn & Bacon.
Nowell-Smith, G. (1997). The Oxford history of world cinema. The definitive historty of cinema worldwide. Oxford University Press.
2-Cinema of attractions, a technological novelty
3-Lumiére, Edison, Méliés, Pathé, Gaumont, and Porter.
1-Transitional cinema. Cinema of narrative integration.
2-Organization of the film industry.
3-Specialization increased as production, distribution and exhibition became
4-The formal elements of film making (lighting, shooting, editing) all became
subsidiary of the narrative.
5-Editing made possible characters subjectivity.
6-Directors and actors began to receive screen credit after 1912.
7-Griffith, Sennett, Chaplin.
technological innovations, has not precise originating moment or particular
Daguerreotype, 1837, France. Thomas Edison invented the incandescent lamp in
1879. George Eastman began his experiments with celluloid and with paper-roll
film in 1884 (Kodak).
the US, not in Europe), under his name, the invention of his English employee
William K. L. Dickson: the Kinetograph (camera) and the Kinetoscope (viewer)
in 1981. The first films were not edited. This was a bulky indoor camera. Man
Smiling and Waving was shown in 1891, to the National Federation of Womens
Clubs. The earliest film on record at the Library of Congress is Fred Otts Sneeze.
bought Edison machines and studied them. In 1895, they developed their own
machine: the Cinematographe, a portable camera-projector. This same year they
shot their first film Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory.
basement room of the Grand Cafe in Paris.
his own projector introducing a small loop to relax the films tension: the
Latham Loop. Edison would take credit and sell the projector (the Vitascope) as
his own and Armat would silently receive a share of the profits.
April 23, 1896, at Koster & Bials Music Hall on 34th Street and Broadway in
New York City. Eventually, Edison also developed a portable camera and began
sending cameramen outdoors.
invented. Cinema is one of the most technological of art forms. The development
of new film technologies were the result of audience demands. Companies
invested in new technologies in order to win over their rivals, as a result of
market competition. The first films lasted between 15 and 90 seconds.
magician and owner of the Theater Robert-Houdin saw the movies as a new good
business. The same happened to Charles Pathé and his three brothers that created Pathé
Fréres, a company to make films, and to Léon Gaumont, who created in 1897
the first working model studio with writers, designers, cinematographers,
directors, performers, etc.
companies that began making and showing movies by 1897.
genres was the melodrama: evil triumphed over good during most of the play /
film, but good miraculously won out in the last seconds. The other genre was
Méliés vs Lumiére
-Lumiére documented the world, established that the camera could create a factual
record, setting the patterns for realism.
-Méliés transformed the world, proved that the camera could create an event that
never happened, opening the doors
of fantasy, illusion and distortion.
more than 500 movies. He was the first to light films from the side and from
above. His most famous work is the
30-scene A Trip to the Moon (1902).
chronologically; there were not leaps in time or space, no ellipses in the sequence
of events. Edwin S. Porter, Edisons cameraman, changed this. He prepared the
way for Griffith showing that actions could be made to appear continuous using
edition. He introduced the cause-and-effect shots and the mindscreen (a
close-up filling the screen) to show the characters thoughts. Porters two most
important films were Life of an American Fireman (1903) and The Great Train
Robbery (1903), considered Edisons masterpiece.
patents or professional ethics; pirating and duplicating any instrument, device,
or technique that could produce money was a normal way to do business. In
1897, edison started a series of law suits against all companies and individuals
using a loop of film (Latham loop).
accompanying its showings with a piano, and charging its customers a nickel.
This was the first Nickelodeon. Many appeared very soon creating a huge
demand for new films.
the films from manufacturers and rented them to exhibitors.
minutes). The first feature film (one hour long, four reels) was made in Australia
in 1906: The Story of the Kelly Gang. In 1907 comedies comprised 70% of all
of controlling the expanding cinema industry. In 1907, the Film Service
Association was created, linking most of film manufacturers and exhibitors, all of
whom agreed to pay license fees to Edison. Even Pathé, interested in the
American market, agreed to Edisons terms. In 1908, Film Service Company
became the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) also known as the
Trust, which now linked Biograph, Vitagraph, Gaumont, Méliés and all the
other companies as Edison licensees. In 1910, MPPC extended its monopoly to
the field of distribution with the formation of General Film, the sole film
distributor in the US.
distribution was undercut by the formation of new independent companies and
by antitrust charges in 1912. Eventually, General Film was dissolved in 1915 and
the Trust itself was
outlawed by the Supreme Court two years later.
David Wark Griffith (1875-1948)
playwright. However, in 1907, over 30 and out of work, he accepted an acting
job that Porter offered him at $5 a day in the new Edison studios in the Bronx.
Because of the great demand for films, Biograph needed to speed up the
production and therefore needed another director. In 1908, Griffith was offered
the job; his first film: The Adventures of Dollie. The huge demand for new films
gave Griffith an ideal laboratory for experimentation and development. Between
1908 and 1913, he directed over 450 movies.
characters in the scene and part of the scenery). Griffith developed a full series
of different shooting perspectives: the medium or American shot (two actors
from the knees up), the close shot (the head and shoulders of a single actor), the
close-up (the face or a hand), the extreme close-up (the eyes), and the extreme
long shot (huge vistas and panoramas). He also discovered two moving-camera
shots: the pan and traveling shot.
together in the audiences mind using a back-and-forth editing technique:
cross-cut or parallel cut.
Film: as with words, there is a way to combine film shots to produce clarity,
power, and meaning. He achieved this goal using different shooting distances,
camera movements, and through edition. Griffith also changed the way of
acting, making it much quieter and natural. He began to present women not as
merely frail victims but as forceful, clever, and able human beings who could
take care of themselves when they had to. He also introduced the Iris Shot,
masking a certain part of the frame, concentrating the viewers attention on a
circle of light (the Iris was the equivalent of the theater spotlight or todays zoom lens).
features were shown only in real theaters at higher prices. Biograph did not
wanted Griffith to make features and thats why he left Biograph in 1914 for an
independent company, Mutual/Reliance-Majestic. He would have the freedom to
make one picture of his own each year in addition to the company interests.
Thomas Dixon, The Clansman, which was extremely racist. Griffith was a
Southerner, whose father served in the Confederate Army. He used no shooting
script and it took six weeks to rehearse and nine weeks to shoot the movie. Its
cost, $110,000, was the most ever invested in a motion picture to date. This
movie was brilliant because of its hugeness of conception, its acting, its sets, its
cinematic techniques were superior to anything done before. It was 12 reels long
(3 hours). This movie became the first authentic blockbuster in film history,
earning untold millions of dollars.
complex film. It cost $493,800 to produce. The movie told not one story but four:
Babylon (6th B.C.); Judea, in times of Jesus; the Reformation in France (16th
A.D.); and America in the 20th century. Instead of telling one story after
another, Griffith tells these stories all at once, interweaving them into an
intellectual and emotional argument. This is a demonstration that love, diversity,
and common people have always had to struggle against the overwhelming forces
of hypocrisy, intolerance, and oppression. Intolerance makes it clear that Griffith
detests those who meddle and destroy, those who take advantage of the poor,
hypocrites and monsters of lust and power. The audience of 1916 found the film
confusing and unpleasant. This was also a pacifist movie in a time when America
was preparing itself to send its
soldiers Over There. Intolerance was a financial
Mack Sennett (1884-1960)
Edison to Biograph (like Griffith) working as a writer, actor and director. He
learned a lot from Griffith and began directing in 1910.
and silent film) on the principles developed by Henry Bergson in his Le Rire:
the source of a comic situation was to transform a human being into a machine,
but an imperishable machine, one that doesnt suffer pain or real harm. By
undercranking the camera, recording the action at only 12 fps. and then
projecting it at 16 fps., he speeded up the action and the effect was a series of
even more comical and frantic scenes: cars smash into each other, boats sink,
people fall down wells, fall off roofs, but nobody was hurt.
He divided the gags in two groups: the fall of dignity and the mistaken identity.
His stories seldom go anywhere; they are only a series of gags. He also had a
great taste for parodying both styles and themes of famous directors.
feature, also the first American feature-length comedy, was Tillies Punctured
Romance (1914). Artists like Chaplin, Marie Dressler, Mabel Norman, Ford
Sterling, Gloria Swanson, Ben Turpin, Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle, and many
others worked in
Charlie Chaplin / Charlot (1889-1977)
when Keystone offered him a job ($150 a week). Sennett capitalized his ability to
fall and stagger and roll and bounce off both people and the floor.
was only interested in pure motion, speed, and gags, in silly surfaces; for Sennet,
comedy was an end; for Chaplin , it was a means to examine the serious world of
human needs and societal structures. In 1914, Chaplin began directing; he
directed 19 of the 35 films he acted in at Keystone. From 1915, he also wrote and
edited most of his films.
week, plus a $10,000 bonus on signing ( His New Job, The Champion, The Tramp,
A Woman). In 1916-17, he signed a new contract with the Mutual Corporation
for $10,000 per week, plus a $150,000 bonus (The Immigrant, The Adventurer,
Easy Street). During the year 1918, he worked with First National, a firm that
only distributed and exhibited films, for a million dollars. Now, he had become a
totally independent producer and the owner of his own film studio.
a home of divorced parents; his mother suffered from a bad health and insanity
and as a result of that, Chaplin spent two years of his Dickensian childhood in a
workhouse for the poor. The fictional character he created is in many ways
himself: an outsider, a tramp, a criminal, an immigrant, a poor worker, someone
excluded from the normal life.
survive, has a kind and generous heart. Chaplin uses physical types for comic
effect, but he also adds moral, social, economic, political, romantic, and
psychological values to his comedies. He tries to examine the inherent
contradictions within the definitions of good and evil in bourgeois industrial society.
Chaplin learned many of his movements, ideas, and gags from this gifted comic actor
working for Pathé studios in France.
Stars & Studios
1914, just as the American film imagination had begun to swell, the war came
along to cripple the European film industry. By the time the war ended in 1918,
the American film had become, as it remained, the dominant cinema in the
first motion picture fan magazine appeared: Photoplay; many others followed.
This would contribute a big deal to the star machine system. Chaplin and Mary
Pickford, the first to sign a million dollars contract, helped to create the myths
around these new gods and goddesses.
another means for the film industry to package and market its product to the
public; others consider that movie stars are symptomatic of a superficial culture,
beautiful but shallow, powerful visual presences designed to promote
stereotypes; for some, movie stars are fictional characters in a fictional narrative,
and yet a real human being whose face and actions has a powerful and familiar
tramp), MARY PICKFORD (1893-1979), born in Canada, represented the woman child,
the sweet and innocent virgin; THEDA BARA was the vamp; TOM MIX (1880-1940),
was the cowboy dandy; RUDOLPH VALENTINO (1895-1926), born in Italy, was
the irresistible and exotic male; DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS (1883-1939), was the athlete,
the action man; LILLIAM GISH (1893-1993), represented the modest and moderate woman;
GLORIA SWANSON (1899-1983), was the true lady; WILLIAM S. HART (1865-1946),
was the good-bad man of the frontier; CLARA BOW was the it girl; GRETA GARBO
(1905-1990), was the Norwegian it, the mysterious woman; FATTY ARBUCKLE
was the comic fat guy; BUSTER KEATON (1895-1966), represented the crazy guy;
LON CHANEY (1883-1930), was the phantom, the guy from the darkness, and some others.
two (a two reel comedy), the news, and a cartoon. Around this same year, most
film companies had settled down to business in Los Angeles and its suburbs, in
an area called colloquially Hollywood.
response to MPPC. After some merges with smaller companies IMP became
Universal Film Company in 1912.
created by Adolph Zukor. He owned Famous Player, a distribution company; in
1916 he absorbed Feature Play Company, Picture Company, Rex Pictures, Pallas
Pictures and Morosco Pictures.
arty films), Class B (established screen artists, the popular films), and Class C
(cheaply and quickly made features). He introduced the system of block
booking: exhibitors had to buy a whole package, including C films and other
programs, in order to have the popular B films.
commercial practices, calling themselves the First National Exhibitors Circuit.
Then, they contracted with individual stars to make movies for them. This will
become one of the three great powers of the 1920s.
United Artists Corporation, a distribution company. Each would produce his /
her own movies to be distributed by their new business. he company eventually
merged with MGM in 1981.
owner Marcus Loew. In 1924, he bought Metro Picture Company and the
Goldwyn Picture Company. Loew put Louis B. Mayer, another theater owner,
in charge of the production of brand new MGM. (This company was bought by
Sony during the 1990s).
and producing them in 1913; two yeas later, he changed the name of the
company to Fox Film Corporation. In 1935, the company merged with 20th
Century Productions to become 20th Century-Fox.
nickelodeon in 1904, produced their first feature in 1917, and formed Warner
Bros. Pictures in 1923. In 1925, they bought Vitagraph and began experiencing
with sound. In 1927 the released The Jazz Singer, transforming a minor company
in a giant. In 1928, they took over First National.
would take the name of Columbia Pictures Corporation in 1924. It became
important with the help of a popular and gifted director: Frank Capra, who
began working with Columbia in 1927.
Henry Ford produced cars, movie studios also manufactured entertainment on
an assembly line.
The early nickelodeons were replaced by the Movie Palaces. The first of these
palaces was the Strand, constructed on Broadway in 1914. These theaters
accommodated over 2,000
Stan Laurel (1895-1965), the slim guy, and Oliver Hardy (1892-1957), the fat guy.
Laurel came from England with Chaplin in the same company.
Laurel and Hardy began working together in 1926 under the direction of Hal
Roach. They created their own style in the late silent period and then became the
most popular comic team of the Sound Era. They developed the principle of the
snowball: the situation began with a single problem and then multiply that
problem to infinite catastrophe. Like Senetts films, Laurel and Hardy pictures
depend on physical objects;
objects to throw, fall over, or destroy.
Buster Keaton (1895-1966)
conflict between the individual and the society; only Keaton could rival Chaplin
in making his insight both funny and serious at the same time.
bizarre machines and gadgets. He directed, co-wrote, and co-produced nearly all
of his films.
idols to be revered. Keaton was pragmatic: he stuffed his females into bags and
hauls them around like sacks of potatoes; he satirizes their fastidious
incompetence and praises their
This famous character debuted in
Steamboat Willie (1928) created by Walter Elias
Other Films and Cinemas
John Grierson, a British documentary film promoter), working around the
Hudson Bay produced Nanook of the North (1922), the first feature-length
documentary to become a huge commercial hit.
(See European Cinema)
period emphasized montage and politics. (See European Cinema)
recording sound photographically by converting the sound waves into light
patterns on a separate film strip. The first movie using this system was
premiered in Berlin in 1922.
Vitaphone system of sound synchronization (sound was on a separate disc
system). The next year was exhibited the first talking movie, The Jazz Singer
(1927), also by W.B. During the same period, Fox began to use the Movietone, a
sound-on-film system that proved to be more practical and became the basis for
the generalized introduction of sound in the early 1930s.
This unit summary was prepared using the following textbooks:
Belton, J. (1994). American cinema / American Culture. Corporation for Public Broadcasting and New York Center for Visual History, McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Cook, P. & Bernink, M. (1999). The cinema book. British Film Institute, St. Edmundsbury Press.
A Classical Narrative?
1-A work of art is usually associated with the name of the artist. Histories of the arts
are full of names (Artists and their works).
2-Some art historians prefer to study this field in terms of styles, schools, or major
movements in different periods.
3-The History of Cinema that is offered to students in introductory film courses has
traditionally been a history of names, a history of actors and directors, a history of
4-Unlike the periods of art history, such as the Gothic, Renaissance, or Baroque, in
which the overall stylistic features are quite obvious even for the untrained eye,
classical Hollywood narrative and style are supposed to be largely invisible for the
average spectator to see.
5-Classical Hollywood narrative follows an orderly pattern in which an initial state
of affairs is introduced, after which something occurs to disturb this equilibrium.
Subsequent events attempt to restore the original status quo, but this is repeatedly
frustrated, and order is recovered only at the end of the film. The plot should have
closure and the problem solution. The action moves on as a cause and effect process.
6-Classical Hollywood cinema is primarily a character-centered cinema. Characters
are stable, psychologically coherent, predictable who possess defined goals. Even in a
plot-driven or action cinema, characters stand at the center of the action.
7-Most of the movies following the classic narrative are goal-centered,
deadline-driven, or journey films.
7-Over the course of the film, characters struggle to achieve their goals or solve their
problems. They overcome those who stand in their way (such as the villains),
triumph over adverse circumstances (such as physical disability, poverty, injustice,
treason, nature, or some other) and /or transcend their own limitations (such as
fears or weaknesses).
8-Often, a deadline has to be met in order to succeed in restoring the equilibrium and
all the action revolves around that deadline; many difficulties have also to be
overcome by the characters to comply with the deadline.
9-Many stories are designed along spatial lines, with their characters moving toward
precise destinations or geographical goals: this is the journey film, which always
looks forward to getting there; and, as a result, the spectator always does, even when
the characters dont.
10-Some important rules for this narrative are that: the movie-going experience
should be the most exciting and pleasurable possible, the plot has to be easy to follow
and to understand, the duration of the movie has to correspond to the average
person attention-span (1.5-2 hrs.), the movie should transmit the right moral
messages (evil is always punished) and the right social values and roles (men have to
be brave, women belong in the home). As a rule, the good guy kills or defeats the
villains and stays with the good girl and they live happily ever after. This is what most
people want to see and making movies is an industry that must produce profits, in
this sense Hollywood works as an assembly line and movies are commodities to be
sold, instead of works of art.
11-Sometimes, we identify with onscreen characters who do what we do, who have
the same problems we have, who achieve what we want to achieve. Then, movies
become a source of clues to use in the real life (or a type of consolation), a source of
role models; models that are fictional but seem real to the common person, leading to
some types of behaviors and ways of life to be imitated (consumption) in order to be like
the characters in the movie, but also to frustration as a result of the unsatisfied
materialization of the fantasy; in the persons mind, the movie is not the one to
blame, but some deplorable circumstance or a particular person or the insufficient
consumption. In other cases, we have films that encourage audiences to forget their
own problems (Escapism) and to move to imaginary scenarios instead of thinking in
their own lives. Escapist fictions that make political analysis appear irrelevant and
unnecessary. See Bourgeois Cinema. In the examples mentioned before, Hollywood
works as a Dreams Machine.
12-In order to understand a films narrative, critics use segmentation: break the film
down into its basic narrative units (sequences & scenes) to expose the underlying
discontinuity and study the parts in detail. They identify the major unities in the
picture: space, time, and action. Sometimes they prefer to divide the film into its
locations and/or settings.
13-The narrative structure of some recent films violates some of the elements of the
classical Hollywood narrative, but they still possess patterns that point to the
classical paradigm. This shows that the limits of that structure are flexible and could
be expanded with the changes produced by time.
A Classical Style?
14-Basic elements of film style or the techniques used to make movies are also put at
the service of certain dramatic development.
15-Establishing shots identify the setting of the action, narrowing later the
spectators field of view using long shots and close shots, and even close-ups to show
the different elements in the introductory scene. Every detail in the scene serves a
purpose, advances the narrative, and gets used up by the conclusion of the scene.
Every prop and every feature on the set is used to speak.
16-Elements of film style are not merely ornamental; they are not the superficial
coating of the story, but the means by which narratives are realized; it provides the
formal system that enables them to be told. These elements draw attention to,
underline, and point out what it is that the audiences needs to see or hear in order to
read or understand the scene.
17-Mise-en-scene encompasses a variety of elements such as set design, costume
design, actors performance, lighting, camera movement, camera angles, camera
distances, and composition.
18-A high-angle or low-angle can be used to show the relative power or dramatic
stature of a character. Zooms may be used to designate a characters subjective
point of view or reaction to something.
19-Lighting also becomes a tool for reading the content of a scene: a low-key
lighting is associated with mystery, horror, film noirs, with something wrong that is
going to happen; star lighting singles out the chief figures in a scene by giving them
their own special lighting system.
20-Music serves to direct the audiences attention to specific characters or details, to
provide information about the time or place of the action, or to establish mood.
Characters are frequently associated or identified by specific musical motifs. The
musical score provides another level of interpretation of the drama in addition to
those built into the mise-en-scene.
21-Classical editing is designed to disguise the transitions from shot to shot, making
the film appear to be seamless flow of images. Editing provides the structure for the
film, adding to the drama, offering a particular vision.
22-One major goal of classical Hollywood style is to create reality and
invisibility. The public must believe, consciously or unconsciously, that what is
happening on the screen may occur in the real world. The techniques used by the
director, editor, etc. to provoke that effect should stay unnoticed by the audience.
23-Throughout the entire history of cinema alternative approaches to cinematic
representation have coexisted alongside the classical narrative & style. Avant-garde,
experimental cinema, Brechtian cinema, art cinema, and various counter-cinemas
have contributed to the evolution and expansion of the limits of classical cinema.
4-The American Studio System (1930-45).
1-Hollywood is described as a dream factory. It is both an art and an industry.
2-Hollywood follows all the techniques of modern mass production: centralization of
production, division of labor, increasing specialization, and the assembly line. The
industry relies upon a heavily capitalized system of production, employing precision,
state-of-the-art machinery, and thousands of skilled workers. Centralized
management, ownership or control of raw materials (including talent), mass
distribution, and marketing strategies are also part of the system.
3-Motion pictures are intangible goods, an entertainment experience that lasts for
a few hours and then vanishes into memory. They are one-of-a-kind items, never
before seen by an audience. Because of this, each film is an unproved commodity
with not guaranteed market / audience.
4-Trying to assure its sales, Hollywood created its own form of brand names: the
star system, a group of well-known directors, and some familiar story patterns and
film genres. At the same time, producers engage in monopolistic business practices,
such as blind bidding, block booking, runs, zones, and clearances to ensure that
whatever films they do make they will have a secure return on their investment.
5-The studio system is dominated by five major and three minor studios. The
majors: Paramount, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., RKO. The minors:
Universal, Columbia, and United Artists. All of the major studios owned theater
chains; the minors did not. The minors distributed their pictures, by special
arrangement, to theaters owned by the majors. The majors regularly booked one
anothers films in their theaters.
6-The studio system arose to maximize the exploitation of feature-length films and
the star system. The studios, like many other industries in those times, developed a
system of vertical integration: they owned production facilities, distribution outlets,
and theaters; they controlled every level of the marketplace from the top down, from
production to exhibition.
7-Independent theaters had to block booking and blind bidding: the rental of films in
blocks or large quantities (the good, the bad, and the ugly together) and they had to
sign contracts about movies not made yet.
8-Actors and actresses function as commodities, much as professional athletes.
Unlike the stars of the silent era who had short-term contracts, studio stars worked
under restrictive, long-term, seven-year contracts, regulating even their personal
lives and behavior, like hair style, choice of clothing, weight, and a clause of
morals. The contract requires them to act in whatever films the studios cast them,
attend studio publicity functions, promote product tie-ins, and occasionally, be
loaned out to other studios. The penalties for breach of contract may be heavy fines,
suspension without pay, judicial seizure of any salaries earned with other company,
and time added to the seven years. Actors had to work six days a week and
sometimes fourteen hours a day. For example, Clark Gable worked in 14 pictures in
1931 for MGM and Bette Davis in eight films in 1932 for WB.
A Self-Contained World
9-Everyone was under contract, including producers, directors, screenwriters, art
directors, costume designers, and other technical staff.
10-The Studios had a large pool of talent held in constant readiness for each new
project which made easier for them cast a picture and get into production.
11-The Studios were self-sufficient: they had their own police force, fire, sanitation,
water supply, electrical departments, restaurants, gymnasium, and infirmary.
12-A story department has readers whose job is to review new books, magazines and
newspapers looking for story ideas. Next to them screenwriters prepare story
synopses, write dialogues, and generate shooting scripts. the scripts are analyzed by
managers or production assistants and broken down scene to scene by assistant
directors to estimate budget and shooting time. The scripts are also sent to the art
department to design the sets and draw a storyboard or sketch for each scene.
Carpenters in the studio workshop build the sets, scenic artists paint them, set
decorators dress the sets with props. A wardrobe department execute designs for
new costumes or make alterations in existing costumes which are stored. Electricians
wire the set and install special equipment to produce effects such as wind, rain,
snow, or fog. Actors are attended by make-up artists, hairdressers, etc.
13-The permanence of the same actors, directors, screenwriters, etc. in the same
studio developed a unique stylistic and thematic personality which each studio
constructs for itself during this era. Each studio focuses upon certain kinds of genre
story types and an individual style to differentiate its product from that of the other
Fred Astaire (1899-1987)........Ava Gardner (1922-1990)
Robert Taylor (1911-1969)......Judy Garland (1922-1969)
Clark Gable (1901-1960)..........Katharine Hepburn (1907-??)
Gene Kelly (1912-1996)............Greta Garbo ((N) (1905-1990)
Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)........Joan Crawford (1904-1977)
James Stewart (1908-1997).......Elizabeth Taylor (B) (1932-??)
James Mason (B)(1909-1984)....Virginia Mayo (1920-??)
George Cukor (1899-1983)
Victor Fleming (1883-1949)
This studio promoted the values of the American middle-class family and it was a
studio with almost dictatorial central control; it was also a studio of stars.
Photographic style is carefully polished. Everything has to be shiny, respectable and
beautiful. The made classic musicals and epics too. This was the most successful film
factory in Hollywood. Some important films are Greed (1924), Ben-Hur (1926 and
1959), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939) and Singin in the Rain
(1952). Thanks to the creativity of Hanna and Barbera they had Tom and Jerry, the
Huckleberry Hound Show, and other famous cartoons.
Clara Bow (1905-1965)....................Bob Hope (B)(1903-??)
Marlene Dietrich (G)(1901-1992)...Gary Cooper (1901-1961)
Mae West (1892-1980)....................Burt Lancaster (1913-1994)
Cary Grant (B)(1904-1986)..............Kirk Douglas (1916-??)
Anthony Quinn (M)(1915-2001)......George Raft (1895-1980)
Marx Brothers: Groucho (1890-1977), Harpo (1888-1964), Chico (1886-1961),
This studio was full of European stylishness, exotic erotic fantasies. It was a much
looser (than MGM) organization, granting more freedom to directors that marked
the style of it (Ernst Lubitsch ((G)(1892-1947), Josef von Sternberg (A)(1894-1979),
Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959), and Billy Wilder (A)(1906-??)). The studio had severe
financial difficulties, resulting in the loss of many of its stars (Max Brothers) to
MGM. Some important films are Duck Soup (1933), The Ten Commandments (1956),
and Vertigo (1958).
James Cagney (1899-1986)...........................Bette Davis (1908-1989)
Edward G. Robinson (R)(1893-1973)...........Ida Lupino (B)(1914-1995)
Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957).....................Lauren Bacall (1924-??)
Errol Flynn (Au)(1909-1959).........................Olivia de Havilland (1916-??)
Paul Muni (H)(1895-1967)............................Ann Sheridan (1915-1967)
John Garfield (1913-1952)
Michael Curtiz (H)(1888-1962)....................Howard Hawks (1896-1977)
John Huston (1906-1987)
This studio earned its reputation as the working mans studio. Photography sells a
hasty and rough look and conveys gritty realism. Dialogue was sharp, fast, and
smart. They specializes in crime-gangsters films such as Little Caesar (1930) and The
Public Enemy (1931), biographies (Zola, Curie, Pasteur), womens pictures (Bette
Davis), mysteries, and in action-adventure films in which the champion always
helped and fought for the poor like in films such as Captain Blood (1935) and The
Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). They pitched its product to an urban audience who
appreciated hard-hitting film with a social conscience. They created the Looney
20th Century Fox
Gregory Peck (1916-??)........Shirley Temple (1928-??)
Henry Fonda (1905-1982)....Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)
Tyrone Power (1913-1958)...Loretta Young (1913-2000)
Rex Harrison (1908-1990).....Victor Mature (1915-1999)
Stan Laurel (B)(1890-1965) & Oliver Hardy (1892-1957)
Ernest Lubitsch (G) (1892-1947)
Elia Kazan (T)(1909-??)
John Ford (1895-1973)
This studio targeted a rural audience, mostly in the Midwest and South. This was
the only studio that was neither owned nor operated by Jews; it has a reputation as a
Christian studio. They excelled in historical movies and westerns directed by John
Ford. Some important films are The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Tobacco Road
Robert Mitchun (1917-1997)
This studio lacked the thematic and stylistic consistency enjoyed by the other
majors. They were famous for an unlikely combination of films of adventure,
musicals, drama, etc. Problems of mismanagement led to the sale and dismantlement
of the studio in 1955.
William Holden (1918-1981).......Rita Hayworth (1918-1987)
Glenn Ford (C)(1916-??).............Kim Novak (1933-??)
The Three Stooges: Moe (1897-1975), Larry (1902-1975), Curly (1903-1952).
This was the home of the comedy talent in Hollywood and the studio where Frank
Capra (I)(1897-1991)directed his populist melodramas. First they had to borrow
stars from other studios (Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Cary Grant),
but in the 40s they built their own stable of stars. Some important films are Mr
Smith goes to Washington (1939), Gilda (1946), The Lady from Shangai (1948), From
Here to Eternity (1953), and On the Waterfront (1954).
Boris Karloff (B)(1887-1969)..........Bela Lugosi (H)(1882-1956)
Rock Hudson (1925-1985)...............Claude Rains (B)(1889-1967)
Bud Abbot (1895-1974) and Lou Costello (1906-1959)
They launched a series of classic horror films such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein
(1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933).
The Great Depression Years
14-Hollywood pulled itself out of the economic crisis by offering a bargain: double
features (two pictures for the price of one) became standard, plus trailers, cartoons,
comic shorts, and a newsreel.
15-Chaplin stayed independent and kept his individuality during these years, making
no concessions to Hollywoods commercial structure. Chaplin survived the transition
to sound by making no apparent transition at all; the Tramp was a mime, a
character not made for words. He produced his own pictures ( City Lights, 1931;
Modern Times, 1936; The Great Dictator, 1940; Monsieur Verdoux, 1947) that he
released through United Artists. The Cold War and McCarthyism ended his
American career in 1952. Only after 20 years did Chaplin return briefly to America
from Switzerland, where he died in 1977.
16-Frank Capra (1897-1991), born in Sicily, Italy, was concern with morality, the
good man, usually a little guy who is naive, sincere, folksy, unintellectual, apolitical,
and against social forces (money, politics, social status). Many of his films were a
confrontation of God and Devil and it takes a terrifying long time until finally justice
and truth triumph at the end.
17-George Cukor (1899-1983), born in New York, is known as the womans
director because he directed famous Hepburn, Garbo, Garland, and many others.
He specialized in adaptations of novels. He was one of the few major directors
admitting that he was gay.
18-Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969), born in Vienna, Austria, is considered a master
in the use of light and shadows. His mise-en-scene was obsessive and intricate. The
exotic locales, symbolic details, the smoke, the shafts of light, and the audacious
sexual innuendoes marked his films.
19-John Ford (1894-1973), born in Maine, was concern with traditional values and
sentimentalism: father, mother, home, family, decency, and democracy. He was a
populist. In his westerns, Ford used the settling of the frontier as his basic myth for
the emerging American spirit: the bringing of civilization to savage wilderness. His
films, however, examine what civilization could do to people, and he took the side of
the good-hearted simple people against the evil-hearted rich people.
20-Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), born in Londres, England, is the master of
suspense. He was a product of the German style and the British studio. He worked
and learn from Murnau. The paranoia that consumes his characters and spreads to
the audience, the claustrophobic decor that confines his figures, and the implacable
sense of fate from which his characters cannot escape, are major traits of his work.
His films are rich in subtle psychology, ironic humor, and -of course- gripping
suspense. His horrible crimes take place in the most public and common places; his
plots revolve about the wildest improbabilities. He was anti-Communist and
anti-Nazi. However, he refused to put ideology in his films. His films frequently take
place in the world of the rich; they are divorced from poverty and hunger. He liked
to show the superficial placidity of American life, whose bright surfaces disguise
shocking moral, psychological, and sexual aberrations.
21-Orson Welles (1915-1985), born in Wisconsin, is famous for one film, Citizen Kane
(1941), widely considered the greatest sound film ever made. The movie has
technical innovations, structural complexity, a sophisticated narrative, controversy
as a biography, philosophical search for meaningful values, sociological study of the
American Dream and much more. This was the first and the last film he would
ever be so free to make. It is an expressionistic film, very elliptical. Three abstract
themes constantly flow through Citizen Kane: wealth, power, and love. The question
is whether the first two exclude the third and whether a life without the third is
worth living at all. This film was shocking and confusing to its audiences in 1941. In
addition to that, William Randolph Hearst, a powerful tycoon controlling the press,
saw himself in the film and did everything to undermine its success. From this point
on, Wells life and career became a struggle to make films. He was obsessed with the
themes of corruption, power, money, treachery, desire, ambition, and friendship.
The End of the Studio Era
22-The dismantling of the studio system began just before the WW II when the US
Department of Justices Anti Trust Division filed suit against the eight majors,
accusing them of monopolistic practices. In May 1948, the Supreme Court ruled
against the studios that were forced to separate production and distribution from
exhibition. They delayed the process of divorce as long as possible and the old
system remained more or less in place until 1960.
23-Other factors contributed to the demise of the studio system, like strikes against
the studios by labor unions, the beginning of The Age of TV, the rise of independent
24-Picture making today takes more time and money than ever did. In the 30s and
40s it took six weeks compared to four months today. An average movie cost
$200,000 in the 30s, 3 million in the 50s, and 30 million in the 90s.
25-Producers today face greater uncertainty when they make a film. Since the
system which guaranteed a profit disappeared, they have to build new guarantees
into the film themselves in the form of bankable stars, sequelization, and presales to
26-In the 30s, Americans went to the movies (80 million movie admissions every
week, which represented 65% of the population) to enjoy over 500 new feature films
produced every year; in the 90s, they went to a movie (25 million movie admissions
every week, which represented less than 10% of the population) to watch some
specific movie from the list of fewer than 100 films produced every year.
5-The Star System.
stars in Hollywood. From 1930 to 1950, over 500 journalists were dedicated to
cover Hollywood, generating over 100,000 words per day about the film industry,
making Hollywood the third largest source of news in the country.
Rain-1952). However, stars are carefully fabricated.
physical and psychological attributes; the public persona or game face, the one
he/she uses for personal appearances, developed as a result of the personalities of
the various characters they have played over the years and the elements of their
personal lives that have become public; and the actor/actress, representing a
particular character in each particular film.
from film to film. Some try to resist this.
stars. A star transcends the sum total of his/her performances. Stars enjoy a
supernatural existence that even transcends the media and their own death.
Actors become stars when they lose control of their images, which then take on a
life of their own.
become major stars because of: lack of a stereotype or screen persona, lack of
widespread media coverage, and their personal lives have remained private.
Astaire, Monroe, Garland) have never won an Academy Award for Best
upon a purely imaginary form of existence, but it is phenomenal: clubs,
merchandise tie-ins, total coverage in the media, comic strips, etc. He is one of
the most recognizable figures in the world, better known than any political
leader, sport figure, rock star, or any other celebrity.
indeed made, but not by the studios, press agents, or even the stars themselves.
However, once the star has been made, the studios try to use the power of
stardom and transform it into a system. The manufacture of stars achieve its
higher point during the studio era.
during a particular time for a particular type of figure; he/she has to provide
symbolic solutions for specific fears, desires, and/or dreams that haunt popular
consciousness. Audiences are aware of the machinery designed to create stars,
but they only participate in the manufacturing of some of them: during the
defiant 60s and 70s, Brando and Newman filled the need of the time. Each
generation of audiences has its own stars who address its own concerns.
Each Generation Has Had Its Own Stars
from 19th century Victorianism to the modern 20th century. During the 1910s
and 1920s, the status of women changed and American economy shifted from
rural and agricultural to urban and industrial. Pickford, Fairbanks and Chaplin
had the ability to address the anxieties of those audiences.
appeared as part of the atmosphere of sexual liberation (the first sexual
revolution in America, after the WW I, and as part of the struggle for equal
rights for women). The criterion for stardom was the possession of It (an inner
magic, an animal magnetism, a sex appeal, a rebellious life), associated with the
Jazz Age and the defiance of the Prohibition.
to be more human and accessible. Many came from the theater, vaudeville, and
radio (the Max Brothers, Mae West, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby); many represented
the urban, lower-class voices (James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson),
hard-working girls (Janet Gaynor and Joan Crawford), and the little orphan
(Shirley Temple). One of the most representative star of the 1930s was Clark
Gable, a populist hero, cynical, from the big city, advocating in favor of the lower
class; he symbolized the regular guy, the no-nonsense honesty and self-irony.
During the 30s sexuality -adultery, passion, seduction, rape- and violence
became the objects of censorship (the Production Code of 1934).
fatale, but this time she was the girl-next-door type instead of the vamp from
abroad. Female sexuality revealed its disastrous and self-destructive potential, as
in the case of Hayworth and Turner. Actors began to explore their psychological
complexities and to offer a greater realism (Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, James
Cagney, James Stewart, and John Wayne). By the mid-1950s Hollywood was
populated by a new generation of tormented, high strung young actors
(Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, and James Dean).
the role of the reluctant star or anti-star, refusing to give interviews or to give
extensive publicity for their pictures. Some of them didnt even live in
Hollywood. Some didnt even bother to pick up their Academy Awards. Among
this group we have Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Woody
Allen, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Sean
Connery, Michael Caine, Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand, and Dustin
Hoffman. Frequently, they prefer to play anti-heroes, to represent the
continued in stardoms classic mold, building consistent screen characters for
themselves by playing a fairly narrow range of character types, such as
Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Mel Gibson, and Bruce Willis.
minority actors followed the path opened before by Sidney Poitier, establishing
careers for themselves on TV and in the movies ( Diana Ross, Michael Jackson,
Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg,
Raul Julia, James Earl Jones, Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips,
Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Denzel Washington, and many more).
Stars are Commodities
they are made with a purpose: to sell films. Throughout the history of theater,
the movies, and television, stars have been rated in terms of their bankability.
performed exceedingly well at the box office, suggesting that those who are willing to
take risks can obtain greater rewards than those who hedge their bets by hiring
proven (and pricy) stars.
6-Cinema in the Age of Television (1946-65).
The postwar years were extremely unfavorable for the Factory of Dreams. First, the
decision of the Supreme Court in U.S v. Paramount Pictures in 1948, forcing the
industry to break its structure of vertical integration; more or less simultaneously,
the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings of 1947 and 1953;
then, the competition of television and the explosion of the suburbs in the 1950s;
and finally, the advent of cable TV, and the VCR and videotape in the 1980s.
Hollywood survived, but changing dramatically.
Anti-Communism & the Cold War
America responded to the Russian Revolution with the Red Scare in the 1920s,
which was triggered in 1919 by internal labor unrest, strikes, and growing
unionization of the work force. This evolved into the Witch-Hunt or McCarthyism of
1951-54. During decades, Hollywood was accused of sexual and moral excesses; now,
the distrust would shift to its political and social positions.
In 1922, the FBI opened a file on Charles Chaplin because his supposedly
subversive activities (critics like the ones made in Modern Times and Limelight)
until his reentry permit was revoked in 1952, forcing him to live in exile, in
Switzerland, until his death in 1977. He returned to the US in 1972 just to receive
an honorary Oscar.
It is true that Hollywood has never attempted to glamorize bankers, industrialists,
and stock speculators, but their villainy is always presented in terms of individual
greed and not as a consequence of class oppressionor blaming the system.
During the Great Depression (1929-39), many people blamed big businesses and
wealthy people of what was happening. The reforms introduced by President FDR to
get the country out of the crisis were seen for some people as socialism. Although
studios such as Warner Bros. openly supported much of the social reforms of FDRs
New Deal, Hollywood quickly drew a clear line when it came to more radical politics.
By the late 1930s, Hollywoods anti-fascism (there were many Jews in Hollywood)
was considered by some right-wing politicians to be Communist-inspired. In 1940,
the HUAC opened hearings to investigated the presence of Communists in
Hollywood. Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and others were named as suspected
reds. Finally, all of them were successfully cleared after giving testimony to the HUAC.
With American entry into the war (1941), anti-fascism became national policy and
the Soviet Union was an ally in the fight against Germany. However, in 1944, some
important personalities in Hollywood were concerned and they created the Motion
Pictures Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, with the objective of
purging the industry of communists, radicals, and crackpots. Among them were
Walt Disney, Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Ronald Reagan,
Clark Gable, John Wayne and many others.
During the war, commissioned by the federal government, Hollywood produced
several pro-Soviet films to familiarize Americans with our allies.
In 1947, President Truman officially declared a Cold War against the Soviet Union
and between 1947 and 1952, over 6,6 million Americans were investigated to
determine their loyalty to the American values and principles. An atmosphere of
distrust and suspicion took over America.
The postwar years were the so called Golden Years with regard to the American
Family: The government helped millions to buy their own houses in the suburbs;
millions married; the Baby Boom occurred; and all the social and political
institutions pushed for saving American moral values. These were years of
conformity: broken families, unreformed alcoholics, single mothers, feminists, gays,
radicals, jobless individuals were considered pariahs, social outcasts and were
repudiated by the society.
In 1947, the HUAC decided to continue with the hearings. It first heard the
testimony of members of the Motion Picture Alliance and concluded that some
filmmakers were glorifying the Communist system and degrading our own
government and institutions. Ten writers, producers and directors, after refusing to
cooperate with the HUAC (answering questions about their political views) and
contending that the investigation violated their constitutional rights under the First
Amendment, were accused of contempt, convicted, and sentenced to one year in jail.
They are known as the Hollywood Ten and after failing in all their appeals, they
began to serve their sentences in 1950.
As a result of this situation and in order to prevent the creation of external
censorship, the studios adopted a policy of self-regulation and blacklisting.
Anyone who did not cooperate with the HUAC would be fired; all suspects of being
communist would be in a blacklist and denied any type of employment in Hollywood;
all movies would be reviewed for improper political content. By the mid-1950s over
200 individuals had been blacklisted by the studios. This situation remained
unchallenged until 1960.
A second round of HUAC hearings on Hollywood took place in 1951 as part of the
witch-hunt of communists launched by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who eventually
was censured by the Senate in 1954, exposed as a bully and self-serving demagogue,
who would do anything to advance his own career. But, during the hearings,
dozens of other Hollywood artists were forced to name names and many became
victims of this process.
During these years, Hollywood made many anti-Communist films, some related to
the fear of the bomb and many of which were science-fiction movies with invaders or
monsters (communists) trying to take over America and destroy its values, freedom,
and democracy: (Them!, 1954; The Incredible Shrinking Man, 1957; The Thing,
1951; Invaders from Mars, 1953). Some films, like On the Waterfront, 1954, even
presented the issue of naming names as something correct, and the ones blowing
the whistle were presented as the real heroes.
As an expression of rebellion, many blacklisted screenwriters worked during these
years using a front (another screenwriter who pretended to be the author of the
script) even without receiving screen credit for their work. Some of these artists
even won Academy Awards.
The result of the hearings, the fired and blacklisted artists, the bad publicity, the
threats of boycott against some rebellious films by right-wing organizations, all
caused an even greater weakening of the industrys already crumbling commercial
strength (see other factors affecting Hollywood in the introduction).
From todays perspective, the Cold War, the witch-hunt, the HUAC hearings, and
the blacklist look as nightmarish aberrations, as something that belongs to another
place, to another generation, but it was very real for many Americans.
A landmark Supreme Court ruling occurred in 1952, in the case Burstyn v. Wilson
(the Miracle case), with regard to the content of films. The Court declared that
movies were part of the nations press and entitled to Constitutional guarantees of
freedom of speech. This undermined the legitimacy of the Production Code of 1930s
that was finally replaced by the MPAA Rating System of 1968, still in force.
Going to Suburbia and Watching Television
After the end of the WW II, tens of thousands of veterans received loans from the
government to buy their own houses, new cars, and home appliances; also new
freeways were built with government money: that was the birth of thousands of new
neighborhoods in the suburbs, inhabited mostly by middle class people. These were
also the years of the Baby Boom, as a result of the economic prosperity and
confidence in a stable and favorable future.
Movie theaters, concentrated in the city centers, suffered big time as a result of this
New ways to spend leisure time became very popular, like attending or watching
(TV) sport events and visiting the National Parks (better roads and freeways). The
33 and 45 RPM phonograph records appeared in 1949, provoking a booming in the
music industry which also devoured former movie dollars.
The number of TV sets in American homes increased from 0,94 to 3,88 million in
1949, to 10,3 million in 1951, to 20,4 million in 1953, and to 34,9 million in 1956. By
the end of the decade, 90% of American homes had television sets.
Weekly Motion Picture Attendance in America
1929-----------95 million people
During the war years, approximately 25% of all the money spent on consumer
recreation went for tickets to the movies. By the 1980s, this percentage had fallen to
2,5%. In 1946, the American film business grossed $1,7 billion domestically; in 1958,
domestic box-office receipts had fallen to $0.9 billion, almost half of ten years ago.
The biggest, richest studios were hit the hardest. They had contracts with people
that required the studios to pay their salaries although it had no pictures for them to
make. They had to get rid of movie theaters that were empty most of the time. One
by one the great movie palaces came down, to be replaced by supermarkets,
shopping centers, and apartment buildings. Multiplex Cinemas in suburban
shopping malls would appear in the 1970s.
The quickest and cheapest solution was the Drive-ins (car movie theaters). They
grew from 554 in 1947, to 4700 in 1958.
Other type of response was to provide what television couldnt provide (size and
-Cinerama (1952), later replaced by CinemaScope (1953), Vistavision, and
During the first half of the 1950s Hollywood declared war against television: no
movies could be presented on TV and actors were forbidden to appear on TV
Finally, Hollywood capitulated to TV by deciding to work with it rather than against
it. Studios began to make shows as well as commercials for TV, to sell or lease films
for TV broadcast; new TV companies bought old film studios to make television
films; Hollywood lifted its ban against film stars appearing on TV; some studios
created their own TV companies (Fox, Disney). Over 75% of the film footage shot in
Hollywood today is for television production.
Fox, that had received an Oscar in 1954 for its development of the CinemaScope
process, to compete against TV, received another Oscar in 1962 for developing an
anti-CinemaScope process, to recompose the widescreen images to fit into the TV
screen. This was replaced later by Letterboxing.
Hollywood discovered that movies had become an elite as well as a popular art. The
cost of a movie seat increased from $0,40 in 1946, to $2 in the 1970s, to $7 in the
1990s. One of the most important groups of movie goers during the 1950s and later
were the young, for whom movies were an essential part of the socialization process.
In addition to this, the interest of the middle class for foreign films like The Bicycle
Thief (1948), Rashomon (1950), Diabolique (1955), and The Seventh Seal (1956)
became clear; some people were sensitive to intellectual and political questions, were
attracted by films treating sexual matters frankly, and with refreshing insights into
other cultures and values. All this pushed Hollywood to find and produce for this
-Otto Preminger was instrumental in vanquishing the blacklist.
-Stanley Kramer was the eras sentimental liberal, sending a loud and clear plea for
racial tolerance (Sidney Poitier).
-Elia Kazan began making social-problem films that would neither offend an
audience nor cost him his job, using the dynamic performances of actors like Marlon
Brando, James Dean, Rod Steiger, and Warren Beatty who became symbols of
-John Huston, a moralist with a taste for irony and for great literature, based his
work on literary adaptations, presenting human weaknesses. In his films, the
characters who survive are usually those who accept the limits of their humanity
and are flexible enough to modify their projects during crisis.
-The Film Noir of the 1940s began turning very dark during these years, presenting
the inevitability of crime in urban America and showing that policemen were as
diseased as the men they track down.
-Musicals, with the use of color, became lavish and spectacular (Singin in the Rain,
1952; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 1954; and West Side Story, 1961).
Katharine Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, Jack Lemmon, Ingrid Bergman, Richard
Burton, Vanessa Redgrave, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Elizabeth Taylor,
Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Kirk Douglas, Charlton
Heston, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, William Holden, Judy Garland, Sophia
Loren, and Ava Gardner are some of the most important actors during this period.
Some began their careers in the 30s and 40s, but reached the top during the 50s or
early 60s; others continued to excel during the late 60s and 70s.
After the changes that occurred during the 50s, producing films is mostly an
independent endeavor. The new producer has to concentrate on shaping and selling
a single project at a time. Now, the producer, not the studio, makes a picture. A
production company is assembled for a particular film and disbanded when it is
finished. Thats why many filmmakers complain that today they spend more time
making deals than making movies.
Hollywood is not longer the production center of American theatrical films.
Hollywood is still the name of the American movie game, but it is not longer the only
stadium where the game is played. Today, most of the original studios are part of
larger corporations involved in other businesses. Hollywood studios distribute the
films and produce some of them.
The new patterns of infrequent moviegoing could only sustain the industry thanks to
blockbusters, films that are -each of them- special events. Special effects are a key
element to achieve that. Producers are forced to make each film to pay for itself.
Thats why particular stars, some genres, and sequels of successful films are so
7-Cynicism and Rebellion (1964-76)
This summary was prepared using Belton, J. (1994), American cinema / American
culture. McGraw-Hill, Inc. and Mast, G. & Kawin, B. F. (2000). A short history of
the movies. Allyn & Bacon.
These are the years of the postwar generation, the baby boomers, disillusioned by
the hypocrisy of the Golden Years and decided to challenge the establishment.
They liked different kinds of music, dressed differently, had different moral values
-including sex-, had the pill, saw the American society in a different way, and wore
their hair differently.
These are also the years of the struggle for the Civil Rights during which African
Americans, women, Native Americans, and young people were fighting for equal
rights, against discrimination and
These are also the years of the Vietnam War, considered an unjust war by many
Americans and the years of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his
brother Robert, and black leaders Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
These are the years of Watergate and the impeachment of Pres. Nixon. These are the
years when drugs flooded American universities and ghettos, where was the heart of
Hollywood and the Struggle for Changes
Neither the womens movement nor the student movement found adequate
representation within mainstream American cinema. The controversial political
issues they both raised were transformed into the melodramatic stuff of conventional
The womens movement in the 1960s was presented as a sexual revolution and there
were few stereotyped choices for working women: motherly governesses (Mary
Poppins, 1964 and The Sound of Music, 1965) or madonnas / prostitutes (The Chase,
1966; Walk on the Wild Side, 1962 and Klute, 1971). However, during the late
1970s in films like Network (1976), The China Syndrome (1979), and Norma Rae
(1979) women are represented differently.
The student movement was reduced to confused college kids whose ideas were
half-baked and who were only interested in political activism and protests in search
of sex, drugs, and cheap thrills. There were however some films trying to present a
more fair view, like The Graduate (1967), Columbia Revolt (1968), Easy Rider
(1969), Medium Cool (1969), Strawberry Statement (1970), and Zabriskie Point
(1970). The message in many films dealing with the hippies was the futility of
student activism, that the pleasures of mental revolt can be more satisfying than
material action, and that heroes give up or die. Even the best films of this period
failed to capture the real reasons, anger and intensity of the movements that
changed America forever.
With regard to racial issues, Hollywood exposed the existence of racism but did not
show its sources; the major studios ignored the politics of racism, the causes and
goals of the struggle. For Hollywood, racism, discrimination, and segregation were
not economic or political, but just a human problem. Sidney Poitier emerged in these
years as the perfect problem solver: his skin provokes racism, but his class status
Sex, Violence and Challenging the Establishment
With Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Graduate (1967) and Bonnie and
Clyde (1967) Hollywood tested the limits of what was traditionally permissible on
the American screen. These films were economic successes and were also
antiestablishment; sex and violence were presented as part of the energy of the
youth movement and its revolt against institutional authority. In 1968, the Motion
Picture Association of America (MPAA) finally replaced the Production Code with
the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), creating the categories we
have today (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17)
While conservative, middle-aged, middle-class mainstream America went to the
movies to watch big-budget historical spectacles, lavish musicals, Disney family
pictures and James Bond spy thrillers, there was a totally different group of
moviegoers, the younger, more liberal, middle-and-lower-class audience interested
in more revolutionary films addressing their own issues.
In films like The Hustler (1961), Dr. Strangelove (1964), and Bonnie and Clyde
(1967), we began to see the offbeat antihero, a protagonist that is a social misfit that
deviates or an outlaw, the sterile society that surrounds them, a new treatment to
sexual and psychological conflicts, and the mixing of the comic and the serious. In
these movies, the villains were the legal, respectable defenders of society. The
murders, however, were charming, exciting, compassionate, and funny.
Some of the films of this period cast a cynical look back on the genre films of the old
Hollywood, suggesting that their simplistic and optimistic conclusions were not real,
like in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sudance Kid (1969),
M*A*S*H* (1970), Little Big Man (1970), Soldier Blue (1970), and A Clockwork
Many of the films from this period rip the social, moral, sexual, and political fabric
of the American life, tearing holes in the cultural myths that passed for American
truths. They were the expression of the national mood of anger, doubt, and distrust.
In some of them, the American Dream is presented as a nightmare of power, lust,
The New Cinema of Europe converted many American filmmakers during this
period. Godard, Truffaut, and Antonioni had a big influence in some members of the
young generation. These films have a visual stimulation and an elliptical
construction; they were more intellectual, they were art films, and were aimed at
the minority audience that liked such films. Many of these movies used slow motion,
grainy filmstock, jump cutting, mixtures of black and white and color, flashes both
forward and backward in time as well as into and out of a characters mind. Most
directors preferred the authenticity of shooting on location instead of inside the
studios. The character became more important than the plot and big issues were
The Film School Generation
During the early 1970s, a new generation of filmmakers who had gone to college in
the 60s appeared: Francis Ford Coppola (UCLA, 1968), George Lucas (USC, 1967),
Brian De Palma (Columbia, 1962), Steven Spielberg (California State University,
1968), and Martin Scorsese (NYU, 1964).
Hollywood looked upon these film students who studied at major film schools. They
desperately wanted to enter the industry, eager to succeed within it and appreciative
of its history. They could also be paid considerably less -at least at the beginning.
These new filmmakers were younger, but the audiences were growing even younger.
During the 1960s, the audiences of movie theaters were mostly college-age. By the
mid-1970s, almost half the movie-going public was between the ages of 12 and 20,
Film gradually became a feature of a contemporary liberal arts education, and more
and more talented young filmmakers took up the study of film and television. In
1967, 200 American colleges and universities offered around 1,500 courses in film
and TV. In 1978, over 1000 schools listed more than 10,000 such courses.
After the end of the Studios Era and like in Europe and Japan, the American
cinema became more a directors cinema, granting proven directors a higher control
over the scripting, production, and editing decisions, allowing them more freedom in
selecting their projects. The American director became one of the films stars. These
new directors also had a high academic background and were aware of Griffith,
Ford, Hitchcock, Godard, Fellini and Kurosawa.
He is the new American comic auteur. Allen resembles Chaplin as an observer and
chronicler of the contemporary American social scene. His comic persona is a single,
familiar, established being, like Charlie, who wanders across the landscape of
modern urban life. Woody is out of tune and out of step with the society that
threatens and excludes him, but that he wants to join and comically reflects. He is
casual and takes nothing as sacred. Allens movies have become increasingly
reflexive and they are painfully aware that his own affections are as transient and
undependable as he thinks everyone elses are.
His work comes in two different narrative types. The first is about the study of
people who lead bizarre lives or are possessed by their dreams. The second is the
study of a particular American institution, which he explores with haunting and
startlingly memorable images. One consistent strength in Altmans films is the
compelling spontaneous authenticity of the moments of human interaction.
Consistent with the spirit of the era, he attacks the myths of American life. During
the 80s he faced difficulties to finance projects and please audiences.
Francis Ford Coppola
Coppola is considered an all-around man of the movies; he is committed to the
cinema in every possible way. He is the single most important film figure of his
generation. He argues that no American and no American business, of whatever
ethnic extraction, can escape the conflict between business dealings and personal
values. He believes that the Mafia is not a disease within American life, but a
symptom of American life itself. For Coppola, the enemy is the system itself, capable
to produce individuals insane with power.
Scorsese brings a tense urban sensibility and a vision of spirituality charged moral
conflict to the Italian-American film. His characters are frequently involved in
explosive scenes with a flavor of improvisation and chaos. He creates carefully
textured psychological portraits of people who are entangled in their social
environments; suffering and confused people. His films are fast and violent, but they
are also intensely meditative. The great question in the majority of his films is
whether this is a world in which one can attain salvation; he doesnt believe that the
church can provide it.
Brian De Palma
Mystery, crime, and horror are the favorite themes of De Palma. His films do not
question reality so much as question our knowledge of it. How we know anything
about ourselves or each other or the network of danger within which we may be
forced to act is the natural subject of the thriller, at which De Palma excels.
De Palma makes the sexual repressions of his characters and the psychological
aggressions of movie voyeurism increasingly explicit. Some of his movies are
attacks on movie voyeurism as pornography.
He is a director of the old school that became a central figure of the new school. His
major interest is the creation of folk legends out of outsiders, rebels, and misfits.
His work is about idealistic problem movies, literary adaptations, and novels. He
is really concern with the rhythms of the city and is considered Americas
longest-lived descendant of the 1950s Neorealist tradition and its urgent
commitment to ethical responsibility. Beneath the social conflicts of Lumets best
films lies the conviction that love and reason will eventually prevail in human affairs
and law and justice will eventually be served.
Whether they are set in the wide open spaces or modern cities, his films are all
westerns. They define moral stature through the assertion of individual will and the
exercise of personal style; they pit civilians and outlaws against each other and at
the same time they examine the values of civilization. Eastwood depict a society
ungovernable by laws, lawmakers, procedures, and bureaucrats. Only a vigilant
Enforcer, tight with anger, can bring criminals to a primitive justice.
A perfectionist who decided on every detail on the film himself. With the advantage
of being his own producer, he works very slowly. The essential theme in his films is
mans love affair with death. His films consistently rip apart the hypocrisies of polite
society. His social evils are human evils; the problem is with human nature. Without
a society, men would slaughter each other individually. With society, men slaughter
each other en masse under the pretext of patriotism, military justice, potency, or
During this period we have actors playing the anti-hero, defiant figures challenging
the system, condemning hypocrisy, and denouncing the myths of the American
society. Among the most outstanding we could mention Marlon Brando, James Dean,
Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Warren Beatty,
Meryl Streep, Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino.
8-The Return of the Myths (1977-today).
This summary was prepared using Belton, J. (1994), American cinema / American
culture. McGraw-Hill, Inc. and Mast, G. & Kawin, B. F. (2000). A short history of
the movies. Allyn & Bacon.
During the late 1970s Hollywood experienced a total change: instead of reflecting
social turmoil and rebellion or attacking the myths of American life, it begins to
embrace those same myths, to promote faith and conformity, to create heroes, and to
demonstrate that the system works. The new films view American society and the
world with the hope and wonder of childhood; they set out to recapture or invent a
kind of innocence, the innocence lost during the Vietnam War and Watergate.
Anyone with determination and talent could succeed, to have it all. People are
encouraged to find their place within conventional society, to fulfill all the roles they
could, to buy more -even on credit-, and to support the system (police, military,
government, corporations). Poverty, disappointment, and suffering are
unacknowledged or the sole result of individual laziness or lack of will. Common
persons, even very poor individuals, can become celebrities, heroes, and/or very rich
Muscular and /or clever heroes in T-shirts, robots with hearts of gold, tough and brave cops,
resourceful teens, and benevolent masters rose up to vanquish purely villains.
Instead of the intellectual and emotional complexity of previous movies, the typical
film of this period was -and still is today- a blockbuster, a wide-screen, color, and
stereophonic ride, constructed for speed and thrills, with a simple, forceful,
unthreatening message. Both audiences and producers preferred what they called
feelgood movies with happy endings. Rebels, misfits, and oddballs were replaced
by more ordinary citizens, heroes, and totally clear and indisputable villains; no
shadows in between are accepted. Films that showed difficult political or
psychological material had their endings changed by executives. Fantasy movies
begin to make millions from this moment on. The fetishization of the (male) body
elevates biology to the status of destiny. Both success and survival depend more
upon physical might and super powers than social or economic right. Same ideas
prevail in politics during these days. The most powerful rules.
The sequel, the Dolby soundtrack, the videocassette, laser disc, and DVD, the
direct-to-video release, the computer, and the all-powerful talent agent, together
with the science fiction spectacles of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are some of
the major traits of this period. This is a period of technological wonders and political
retreat or conservatism, devoted utterly to entertainment but afraid of ideas and
risks. The industry developed the blockbuster mentality, preferring to make a few
big films with the potential of huge profits, than many modest films with modest
Supermen, Slashers, and Cops.
Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T.
(1982), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) are good examples of the beginning of a
new generation of myths. These films, whose phenomenal earnings led the industry
to concentrate on big movies, were directed mostly to young audiences; they were
escapist films with impressive stunts, great special effects, and attractive heroes.
Frequently, the heroes are cops or soldiers, like in the Lethal Weapon I (1987), II
(1989), III (1992), IV (1998) and the Rambo I (1982), II (1985), III (1988), or 48 Hrs.
(1982), Top Gun (1986), RoboCop (1987), and True Lies (1994). Some times the
heroes are common working-class people who dont quit not matter what and
eventually succeed like in the Rocky I (1976), II (1979), III (1982), Rocky IV (1985),
V (1990) and Flashdance (1983).
Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Sean
Connery, Christopher Reeve, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks, Richard Gere, Denzel
Washington, and Tom Cruise, are some of the more important actors of this period;
but also we have John Travolta, Patrick Swayze, Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Jackie
Chan, Jet Li, Tommy Lee Jones, Liam, Neeson, Christopher Lambert, Wesley Snipes,
Sam Neill, and many others.
During this age of myths, we also have mythical villains, as representatives of the
dark side, the counterparts of the positive figures. Good examples are the sequels of
Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th. (1980), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and
Terminator (1984). But even these monsters are also invincible and always return.
Nostalgia for the Golden Years
The 1980s saw a nostalgia craze for the 1950s in the form of revivals of 1950s
music, fashion, and lifestyles. American Graffiti (1973) is perhaps a transitional
movie that perfectly exemplifies this trend present in later films. Teenagers even
discovered certain 1960s groups, like the Beatles. Saturday Night Fever (1977),
Grease (1978), Flashdance (1983), and Dirty Dancing (1987) were the teen musicals
of the period. The theme of going back in time was present in Back to the Future
(1985) and its sequels, Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), and Terminator (1984). It is
frequent to see in this period a nostalgia for utopian communities, baby-boomer
towns, and social and moral values associated with the family. These films perform
the function of providing a return to a bygone era, to happier days, to the Golden
Years of America.
Business and Technology
During the 1980s and 90s, the American film industry was more interested in
making deals than in making movies. The major goal is to produce big hits. No
period in film history ever saw so many sequels and remakes of old successes. New
sound technologies and special effects are critical to create blockbusters, all with
open endings leading to sequels.
During the 1960s, many studios were taken over by bigger corporations,
conglomerates whose executives saw filmmaking only as a part of their businesses
and strictly as a profit making venture. Although the studios survived, they no
longer had permanent staffs of skilled artists and artisans. They emptied their
warehouses of props and costumes which saved them storage costs. Far fewer period
historical movies were made; most films are now set in the present or the future.
Filmmakers became freelancers and studios are becoming distributors. The talent
agencies are becoming very powerful and replacing the role of the studios in more
than one way.
Selling rights to the picture, even before it is shot, is becoming increasingly
important: distribute the movie in other countries, show it on cable TV, broadcast it
on network TV, reproduce it on video cassettes or/and DVDs, make clothes and toys
inspired by the characters of the movies, etc. These secondary revenues could equal
and even surpass the ones taken in at the box office. Also selling advertising space
within the movie is very profitable: actors drinking a particular brand of beer or
driving certain type of car.
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are the master mythmakers of the era; they are
also the most powerful creative figures in the contemporary American film industry.
As a producer who controls a vast, multifaceted creative enterprise and whose
cinematic fantasies have had an immense influence on more than a generation of
children, Lucas has become the new Disney. As the director of the worlds most
popular spectacles, Spielberg has been called the new DeMille. Spielbergs Raiders
of the Lost Ark (1981) deserves to be ranked with the greatest films ever made in the
genre of action-adventure. It is Spielberg who established the movie as a ride full of
thrills. Like Lucas Spielberg is also a producer: first it was Amblin Entertainment,
later Dream Works.
Sydney Pollack is a director of two periods. During the rebellion years he produced
several films in partnership with Robert Redford; later he has worked with
Harrison Ford and other great actors of the Myth period. Some critics consider that
he decided to compromise and change with the times. However, most of his films do
not follow the trends of this period because he continues to address social / political
issues or human complexities / passions.
Robert Zemeckiss nonstop comedies are intricately plotted, full of zingy jokes and
impressive, dramatically relevant special effects. He has done a great job in science
fiction movies like Back to the Future (1985, 1989, 1990), in dramas like in Forrest
Gump (1994) and Cast Away (2000), and in suspense movies, like in What Lies
Beneath (2000). Spielberg has produced some of his films.
Oliver Stone accurately portrayed the experience of the American foot soldier in
Vietnam. Many of his films are centered on a man who faces the darkness in himself
and in the world around him. He has positioned himself as a vigorous rhetorician,
whether he is acting as a critic of the American culture or as a political moralist. Of
course, he is not part of the mainstream either.
In the genre of Horror we need to mention Wes Craven, Joe Dante, John Carpenter
and George Romero. Some believe that sex and violence on the screen went too far
with these guys
Other important directors in this period are Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Warren
Beatty, James Cameron, Barry Sonnenfeld, Paul Verhoeven and Ridley Scott.
Movies in the Age of Video
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, video has played an important role in the
production, consumption, and destruction of feature films. Sony invented the
videocassette recorder in 1974; it was called Betamax. The first portable VCR went
on the American market in 1976. Then, JVC introduced the VHS format and RCA
joined JVC in developing VHS VCRs and tapes, which became available in 1977
and eventually became the prevailing format. From 1979 to 1984, Sony was in court,
accused -primarily by Disney- of encouraging copyright infringement on a massive
scale. The Supreme Court finally ruled that home taping was legal as long as the
tapes were only for personal or educational use.
In the 1970s, it was cable TV: typically, studios and independents licensed their new
features to be shown first on cable and then on network TV. In the 1980s it was
video and in the late 1990s the DVD; then, it was typical for a new film to be
released first to domestic theaters, then to foreign theaters, then to video / DVD
manufactures, and then to cable and finally to network TV. In some cases, video
distribution became as important to the studio as the theatrical exhibition. Film
companies make their money not when video / DVD copies are rented but when they
are sold to rental outlets and to individuals.
As VCRs were improved, allowing to locate images rapidly, record and play back in
stereo, and display single frames for several minutes, they became very useful tools
for the study of motion pictures. With the appearance of DVDs and DVD players
these possibilities were expanded even further.
Furthermore, the practice of releasing on video the directors cut and/or unrated
versions of the films, allows the video viewer to see more of the real movie than the
theater goer. On the set, most of what is shot on film is simultaneously recorded on
video; some directors watch the monitor rather than the actors to evaluate how the
action works within the frame.
On the other hand, a CinemaScope film that is not letterboxed suffers the usual loss
of perimeter when presented on video. For the companies, the worst thing about
video is the ease with which movies can be pirated.
Enter the Computer
Computers have found their way into practically every aspect of filmmaking:
writers use the to format, revise, and reformat scripts; casting agencies use
computers to match actors with preferred roles, directors, etc.; computers have
made digital nonlinear editing a common practice, allowing the editor to compare
several versions of a sequence without having to unsplice each of them first; the
information superhighway should allow two-way communication between homes,
schools, businesses, and infinitive users and providers of information, entertainment,
services, and products; studios continue to experiment with transmitting movies
-digitally- directly to theaters equipped with high-definition video projectors, to
escape the expensive process of shipping film in cans; any image can be seamlessly
added to the film using computers without any phantom or blue-screen leaking out
at the seams; computer generated images (CGI) to create amazing special effects.
More recently, it is possible to sit down at a keyboard and create a whole movie. Toy
Story (1995) and Antz (1998) are examples of this. Living and dead people who
never met have already been shown playing a scene together, like in Forest Gump
The Look of the Future
Looking back, it is clear that cinema was the crucial art of the 20th century. As a
result of using computers, cinema as the art of projected films may end with its first
century. We should not expect the return of the myths to abate; it is more likely to intensify
along with social anxiety and the desire to find heroes who cut through chaos. The
genre film should flourish even more than it has. One more trend is the interest in
restoring classic movies.
9-European Cinema (German, Soviet, Italian, French, and British)
This summary was prepared using the following books:
-Mast, G. & Kawin, B.F. (2000). A short history of the movies. Allyn and Bacon,
Needham Heights, MA.
-Nowell-Smith, G. (1997). The Oxford history of world cinema. The definitive
history of cinema worldwide. Oxford University Press.
In general, while the Hollywood film has traditionally been the film of action and
clear-cut values, the commercial film easy to understand, created for the taste of the
masses, for an international market and usually with happy endings, the European
film has been a film of character and moral ambiguities, more subtle, more serious,
more existential, more adult, more psychological, realistic, and concerned with
social, political, and philosophical issues, with a stronger sexual component, with
more emphasis on the mise-en-scéne, more concern with the form, more aesthetic
and intellectual, more complex, usually made for a domestic market .
The European film industry created several festivals to provide international
promotion for its films. The most important are Cannes (France), Venice (Italy),
Berlin (Germany), Locarno (Switzerland), San Sebastian (Spain), and Karlovy Vary
1.1-In 1917, the government created a film company that grew very fast a eventually
became Universum-Film AG, best known as Ufa, whose goal was to boost the
German spirit and sell German points of view and interests abroad.
1.2-The German Golden Age covered the years 1919 (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) to
1933 (Hitlers absorption of the German film industry). This was a period of great
artistic activity and the birth of a new spirit of intellectual and creative freedom that
brought forward all the arts, but especially the cinema.
1.3-German films emphasized mise-en-scéne and psychology, preferred to shot in
studios -they didnt like outdoors- and moved the camera freely. They believed that
the camera could become a window into the mind, could mirror the perceptions,
thoughts, and feelings of a character experiencing an event.
1.4-The boundary between subjective and objective perceptions becomes indefinite.
The external world can take the shape, color, and texture of the characters
essential inner being.
1.5-Like Hollywood, they centralized their talent, but instead of the competing
studios in Hollywood, they had a single one.
1.6- Among the best German actors of the period were Emil Jannings, Werner
Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Fritz Kortner, Lil Dagover, Brigitte Helm, Asta Nielsen, Lya
de Putti, and Pola Negri.
1.7-Among the most important directors were Max Reinhardt, F.W. Murnau, Lotte
Reiniger, Ernst Lubitsch, and Fritz Lang.
1.8-The German films of this period could be classified into two groups: fantastic
and mystical or realistic and psychological.
1.9-Hitler caused the exodus of much of German film talent to Hollywood, France
and other places. Between 1927 and 1933, actors such as Marlene Dietrich and Peter
Lorre, and directors such as William Dieterle, Otto Preminger, Paul Leni, Robert
Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Max Reinhardt, and Fritz Lang all headed for
The Nazi Period and the Adenauer Era
2.1-Hitler and Goebbels were aware of films ability to mobilize emotions and
immobilize minds, to create powerful illusions and captive audiences. Films became
a weapon to make minds reel and sentiments to surrender. In this period the
German film industry flourished.
2.2-During these years many films were made about Teutonic martyrs,
larger-than-life German heroes (played by Emil Jannings and Werner Krauss),
and great German politicians, artists, and scientists.
2.3-Nazi cinema developed an extensive gallery of enemies of the fatherland: vicious
communists, British imperialists, foreign saboteurs and spies who threaten the Reich
from within, and filthy and inferior, less than human Jews.
2.4-If Hitler expected sacrifice and devotion, it also offered amenities: almost 50% of
the periods films were comedies and musicals.
2.5-After the Nazi surrender in May 1945, American (West) and Soviet (East)
hegemony over the country led to the demise of German cinema. The films of this
period were sentimental homeland films with images of fields, forests, and villages
untouched by devastation and also some literary adaptations. Most of the production
of the post-war yeas is considered provincial, mediocre, and uninteresting.
The New German Cinema (1960s-90s)
3.1-For 35 years, from 1932 to 1967, Germany produced very few films of
international significance. In the late 1960s and early 1970s appeared the first
feature films of three young German filmmakers: Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner
Fassbinder, and Wim Wenders. All of them were supported by government subsidy
(West Germany). They all achieved international recognition.
3.2-Realizing the cultural benefits of a strong national cinema, the government
created a central funding agency (Kuratorium Junger Deutscher Film). Because
most of the films did not generated enough profits to pay for new productions, the
number of films the New German Cinema produced was determined by the amount
of subsidy available.The audience in Germany showed shockingly little interest in
the New German Cinema.
3.3-These new films were colder, hard edged, more ironic, and less charming than
the films of the Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave. They paid tribute to
the American cinema and to their native German film tradition.
3.4-Herzogs films have slow rhythms, lengthy shots of frozen figures and
mesmerizing landscapes, mysterious and untamed, the repetitive use of intense
silence, and haunting colors, evoke the dreamlike mysteries of the Expressionist
world. His characters follow a single-minded determination to an ironic and
irreversible end, driven by destiny or inner compulsions. He is considered a
3.5-Fassbinder was the most prolific of the new German directors. His work is
consciously theatrical, Brechtian. There are three primary Fassbinder visual and
social settings: the suffocating and cheap world of the working and middle-class, the
hard and shiny world of the rich and famous, and the detached elegance of the world
of the past. Visually, linking these social realms, he shows hardness, coldness, lack of
comfort and human charm. Both private homes and public places become
unhabitable. His films are set in the land of the dead, in rooms in which his
characters suffer claustrophobia. He represented the rage of a young generation
because of what his elders had left behind: the destruction of German identity.
3.6-Wenders is the most apparently realist of these three directors. His films are
austere and rigorous, long and loose, and are about American themes, showing the
almighty force of American culture in former West Germany. His characters drink
Jack Daniels whiskey, listening American rock, love American names, and try to
live according the lifestyles and values of characters in American films.
3.7-During the 1970s, many films were produced addressing sexual issues,
feminism, and homosexuality. Many tried to subvert the conventional portrayal of
women as the passive object of the male desires.
3.8-During the 1980s, a more conservative political climate prevailed in West
Germany and the government refused to continue to finance the elitist and immoral
films. Many filmmakers began to work outside Germany on international
co-productions; many decided to relocate to Hollywood.
4.1-The Soviets created the German Democratic Republic in 1949. Very soon they
set up the Deutsche Film AG (DEFA), a direct descendant of UFA. This was the
biggest and most powerful film organization Germany ever saw and for nearly 45
years; it was the only film-producing entity in East Germany. DEFA used the
traditional studio structure modeled on UFA or the Hollywood of the 1930s.
4.2-Some of the most important stars in these early years were Manfred Krug, Jutta
Hoffmann, and Erwin Geschonneck.
4.3-In 1965, DEFAs whole production of films was indicted by the Communist
Party; top executives were removed and many filmmakers were blacklisted.
4.4-In 1971, Erick Honecker took over the government, renewing hope for more
liberal cultural policies. However, when directors tried to deal openly and critically
with contemporary issues, the Party immediately reacted with a discussion,
demanding a more positive view of the advantages of socialist society. Then, the
safe themes were anti-Fascism, adaptation of literary classics, and biographies of
4.5-The greatest talent graduated from Postdam-Babelsberg Film School during the
70s was Ulrich Weiss, who received furious criticism from the authorities.
4.6-During the 1980s, a growing number of entertainment films were imported from
the west and DEFAs films were limited to art houses and youth clubs.
4.7-Germany reunification in 1989 had minimal effect on German film production.
The DEFA studios were bought by a French corporation.
5.1-The Soviet film was born with the Russian Revolution. The Soviet cinema in this
period emphasized montage and politics. Soviets shot on location and rarely move
the camera. The shortage of raw stock determined that shots had to be planned
carefully and were necessarily brief. Many Russian filmmakers defined that the
foundation of film art is editing.
5.2-Lenin considered cinema the most influential of all the arts. Movies not only
entertained but, in the process, molded and reinforced values. The film should be a
great teacher, a means to emphasize the virtues of the new type of government.
5.3-Lev Kuleshov (The Kuleshov Workshop about editing); Dziga Vertov (Kino-Eye
(1924), Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Three Songs of Lenin (1934)); Vsevolod
Pudovking (Mother (1926), The End of St. Petersburg (1927), Storm Over Asia (1928));
Aleksandr Dovzhenko (Zvenigora (1928), Arsenal (1929), Earth (1930)); Boris Barnet
(Girl with the Hatbox (1927)); Aleksandr Medvedkin (Happiness (1934)); and Sergei
M. Eisenstein ((1898-1948), the greatest master of montage, were the most important
Soviet figures during the Silent Era..
5.4-Eisensteins montage increases the sense of movement and tension as the
individual shots collide, crash, explode into each other. He formally studied
engineering and architecture. After the Civil War he was attracted to the theater.
His first feature was Strike (1924), made when he was only 27 years old. Battleship
Potemkin (1925) was next, and October (1928) followed. He was accused of
formalism, of paying too much attention to the formal beauty and structure of the
work and not enough to its narrative content and political clarity, of wasting time
and resources, of being demanding and inconsiderate of budgets and schedules, of
being a perfectionist.
5.5-Pudovkin and Eisenstein were friendly opponents. While Eisensteins theory of
montage was one of collision, Pudovkins was one of linkage. For Pudovskin, the
shots of the film combine to build the whole movie, as bricks to make a wall. He,
unlike Einsenstein, depended heavily on the performances of individual players.
5.6-Dovzhenko was totally different. He came from Ukraine; his films are saturated
in customs, the folk-legend spirit, and the poetry of the country. Dovzhenkos movies
are not structured as narrative but as lyric, as visual poetry, where you can find
metaphors within metaphors. He was the most elliptical Soviet director. Not
surprisingly, his work ran into stiff Soviet criticism.
5.7-Vertov (1896-1954) was a pioneer in combining documentary footage with
political commitment. He is considered the father of newsreels or cinéma vérité;
his work brings to life the ordinary, laborious tasks of building a nation, the vitality
of machines and the powerful potential of the union of people and machines. He was
also victim of repression during Stalin rule, because he tried to say the truth and he
didnt praise Stalin enough.
5.8-Barnet and Medvedkin were the masters of the Soviet comedy.
The Stalinist Years
6.1-After the end of the 1920s Soviet film enjoyed a well-deserved world-wide
6.2-From 1928 to 1932 the Soviet Union experienced a massive transformation:
forcibly collectivization of the land, liquidation of the kulaks, industrialization of the
country in the shortest possible time, and the destruction of the moderate pluralism
that had existed in the 20s. Soviet film studios were incorporated into a single state
6.3-The government wanted artistically worthwhile, commercially successful, and
politically correct films. Socialist Realism was declared the official artistic policy of
the Communist Party in 1934. Cinema became more than ever a political and
ideological tool for mass indoctrination and a medium of mass entertainment.
6.4-During the 1930s film-going became part of the life of the average citizen.
Between 1928 and 1940 the number of installations quadrupled and the number of
tickets sold tripled.
6.5-Socialist novels and films followed a master plot: the hero, under the tutelage of
a nice and smart Party leader, overcomes obstacles, unmasks the villain -someone
against the socialist society-, and in the process acquires a superior consciousness.
This replacement of genuine realism with an appearance of realism impeded an
authentic analysis of the human condition, the environment in which the people was
living, and all the social and psychological issues involved, excluding irony,
ambiguity, and criticism. Soviet society was presented as a successful experiment
with no flaws. The regime destroyed the talent of mane great artists.
6.6-Between 1933 and 1940, Soviet studios made 308 films. Historical spectacles and
films dealing with the Revolution and the Civil War were the favorites of the
government. Considering that this was a period of denunciations, phony trials, and
uncovering of unbelievable plots, many films were made about saboteurs and
6.7-From the late 1930s until his death in 1953, Stalin became the supreme censor,
who personally saw and approved every film released. During the war, cinema was
also mobilized and the films produced were propaganda films. The most memorable
were about the home front and partisan warfare in German-occupied territories.
Many showed the courage and suffering of women.
6.8-After the war, during the period of 1946-1953, Soviet studios produced 124
feature films, most of them unwatchable today (documentaries, propaganda films, or
7.1-With Stalins death and the profound changes in the political order, the revival
of Soviet cinema came quickly. In the mid-1950s many of the old restrictions were
lifted. Output grew impressively. Old directors took advantage of the new
opportunities and returned to experimentation and new directors were able to
emerge. Cinema became heterogeneous. A number of cinematically fresh and
emotionally engaging movies won critical acclaim at home and abroad during the
late 50s and the 1960s. From 1956 to the early 60s, Soviet films won major awards
at international film festivals.
7.2-The most important directors during this Soviet Renaissance were Mikhail
Kalatozov, Sergei Gerasimov, Grigori Chukhrai, Andrei Konchalovsky, Sergei
Bondarchuk, and Grigori Kozintsev.
7.3-The Moscow International Film Festival was founded in 1959 in order to provide
a showcase for Soviet films and re-establish the contact with western cinema. Some
films during these years were not approved and others were entered in festivals but
rarely shown in Moscow or other big cities. These new films reconsidered Soviet
history, focusing on human beings and downplaying the virtues of the monolithic
Communist system. The major themes were youth coming of age and the human cost
of the war (WW II).
7.4-The Soviet film industry continued to increase output to 140-50 features per year
in the 1970s and 80s, the vast majority produced in the studios of Moscow and
Leningrad. This is considered the period of stagnation because censure and
repression returned again.
7.5-During the 1970s and 1980s, Vladimir Menshov, Sergei Parajanov, Andrei
Tarkovsky, Nikita Mikhalkov, and Elem Klimov were the most outstanding figures
in Soviet cinema.
7.6-Mikhail Gorbachev began his policies of perestroika and glasnost in 1985.
Restrictions on Soviet art were virtually eliminated and studio productions were
expected to help pay for themselves. Subsidies dropped, co-productions, especially
with foreign companies, increased. The early 80s witnessed a number of attempts to
produce films critical of the corruption and the loss of Communist ideals in the
period of stagnation. Also many banned films were recovered.
7.7-Mosfilm, the industrys largest studio, suffered so drastically from the loss of
government backing that by 1993 its output had dropped from 45 to 7 pictures a
year. The post-Soviet Russian movie business is not place to make money. Tickets
are cheap, but very few people go. The changes opened the door to free enterprise,
but also to inflation, food shortages, organized crime, and many social problems.
Companies have decided that is more economic to import American films than to
make Russian productions.
7.8-Some filmmakers and critics are re-evaluating the role of the old Goskino, the
government agency that run the whole Soviet cinema industry. They dont want the
control over creativity from above, the coercion of artists, the censorship and
punishment of original thinking, the paternalism and bureaucracy. But they want to
recover the creation of a multinational cinema power-house ranked in the top five in
the world, with its generous subsidies. The International Film Festival in Moscow is
being replaced by a private festival: The Cinetaur held in Sochi.
French Surrealism and other movements. Poetic Realism.
8.1-Paris of the 1920s was the avant-garde capital of the world in art, literature,
music, and the drama. Paris was the city of many modern isms: Surrealism,
Cubism, Dadaism. Colonies of artists would gather at parties or salons to share their
works with other artists. They condemned social institutions and praised the
freedom of the human spirit.
8.2-The French films of the 20s could be grouped in these categories: films of pure
visual form, with no meaning other than the chaos of forms (Dada films);
Surrealistic fantasies in which directors played with time and form to create a
symbolic dreamlike / nightmare, irrational universe; Naturalistic studies of human
passion and sensations; and cinematic Impressionism, with its slow-motion effects,
out-of-focus lenses, multiple exposure, contrasts of light and shadow, distortion, and more.
8.3-Among the most important directors of this period were the partnership of
Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, Jean Epstein, Abel Gance, René Clair, and Jean Renoir.
8.4-France developed a strong Russian community during the 20s and layers of
German and central European émigrés during the 30s.
8.5-The coming of sound put an end to the avant-garde. New stars came from the
theater and music halls: Raimu, Harry Baur, Jean Gabin, Arletty, Fernandel, Jules
Berry, Louis Jouvet, Michel Simon, and Francoise Rosay. Sound prompted musicals
and filmed theater.
8.6-The 1930s are especially associated with Poetic Realism. Based on realistic
literature and usually set in a working-class environment, Poetic Realism films
featured pessimistic narratives, night-time settings, and a dark, contrasted, visual
style, similar in a way to the American Film Noir. The doomed universe of Poetic
Realism reflected the economic and moral crisis of the pre-war years.
8.7-The Cinémathéque Francaise was founded in 1936. The Centre National de la
Cinématographie (CNC), founded in 1946, laid the modern foundation of French cinema.
8.8-As a result of the German occupation of France, some film-makers and actors
(Renoir and Gabin) emigrated to the U.S.
8.9-Post-Liberation French cinema initially dealt with the trauma of war. The
Resistance was a key theme.
8.10-From the late 1940s to the late 1950s, French cinema reached its period of
greatest stability and popularity; film production reached an average of 100-120
films yearly; audiences peaked in 1957, with 400 million spectators. Television was
not a significant rival until the 1960s.
8.11-During the 40s and 50s the crime thriller, costume dramas, and comedies were
the most popular genres. Jean Gabin, Gérard Philipe, and Jacques Tati were the
more representative actors of these genres respectively. In the mid-1950s Brigitte
Bardot would become the sex symbol of French cinema. Max Ophuls, Robert
Bresson, and Jacques Tati are important directors that worked in France in the
post-war period. Jean Marais began his career as a leading actor during the 40s.
The French Nouvelle Vague or New Wave
9.1-From 1960 to 1993 France was Europess leading film-making country, both
quantitatively and qualitatively. A state-inspired industrial structure that assisted
film production at every stage, led by its governing body: the Centre National de la
Cinématographie (CNC), was an important element in this result.
9.2-The New Wave was a term coined in France to describe the sudden appearance
of brilliant films by new directors that may be put into two groups: the Cashiers
(critics turned directors: Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Eric
Rohmer, and Francois Truffaut) and the Left Bank (more professionally experience
filmmakers taking literature, philosophy and politics more seriously: Chris Marker,
Alain Resnais, and Agnés Varda. The 400 Blows (1959) is considered the crest of the
New Wave. The New Wave was a reaction against the mainstream quality
tradition of the 50s, condemned for being formulaic and studio-bound. The movies
made as part of this movement showed the way in low-budget filmmaking.
9.3-Truffaut built his early films on the artistic idea of freedom, both in human
relationships and in film technique. His films are full of intensity, spontaneity, and
freshness and his two recurrent themes are education and art. Truffauts early
protagonists are rebels, loners, or misfits who feel suffocated by the conventional
9.4-Godard films are consistent in their inconsistency; they are full of eclecticism,
mixing many different kinds of ideas and cinematic principles. He finds human
experience irrational and inexplicable and gives and unsentimental treatment even
to death. Godard is fond of allegorical and metaphorical parables. His primary
strength is his ability to catch flashing, elusive moments of passion, joy, or pain. He
uses prostitution as a metaphor for the relationships of people under capitalism and
his slogan was making films politically, attacking mainstream cinema of the Right
(Hollywood) and of the Left (Mosfilm). He took ideas from Latin American cinema,
supporting the concept of imperfect cinema developed by Cuban filmmaker Julio
9.5-One of the key themes of Resnais is the effect of time, the interrelation of past,
present, and future, and memory. His narrative is frequently elliptical with jump
cutting in time and space.
9.6-Chabrol was the most prolific of the New Wave directors. One of his major traits
is his cynical disgust with the petty bourgeoisie.
9.7-Some of the directors of the Left Bank often worked together, making films
about time, politics, and the nature of truth.
9.8-Among the most important stars of the period 1960-90s were Alain Delon,
Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jeanne Moreau, Simone Signoret, Maurice Ronet, Yves
Montand, Charles Aznavour, Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale,
Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funés, and Gérard Depardieu. Jean Marais and Jean
Gabin continued making great movies until they died.
9.9-Philippe de Broca was another prolific director who moved away from the New
Wave and specialized in light and amiable comedies with fast-moving action and a
dash of exoticism. Another important figure of French comedy during the 60 and
70s was actor Louis de Funés. The 70s and 80as were mostly years of commercial
movies and international co-productions. The 1980s also saw the emergence of a
new phenomenon: Cinema Beur (films made by and focusing on the lives of
second-generation North-African in France, talking about racism and showing the
life of the working-class in the suburbs of Paris).
Italy from 1920-45
10.1-The Italian films produced between 1919 and 1930 were internationally
irrelevant. Mussolinis Fascist movement came to power in 1922. In 1933, the
government required that at least one Italian film had to be shown for three foreign films.
10.2-In 1935, the film school Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia was set up. In
1937, the Cinecittá studios were created.
10.3-Many of the films produced between 1930 and 1943 were about Fascist
propaganda: patriotic/military films; Italys African campaign; historical films;
anti-Bolshevik/anti-Soviet films. These movies aspired to be virile, heroic,
revolutionary, and celebratory like in most other totalitarian regimes.
10.4-The most important directors of the 1930s were Mario Camerini and
Alessandro Blasetti. Among the star actors were Vittorio De Sica, Assia Noris, Elsa
Merlini, Maria Denis, Isa Miranda, Amedeo Nazzari, Alida Valli, Oswaldo Valenti,
Luisa Ferida, Fosco Giachetti, Clara Calamai, and Doris Duranti.
11.1-With Roma cittá aperta (1945), by Rossellini, Italy became the center of
European cinema and a new way of making movies was born: Neorealism. The films
created during this period of post-war were looking at and representing the reality
of war-torn Italy, were distinguished by its head-on confrontation with the collective
problems affecting the lowest levels of the society and by the impulse to suggest a
positive solution to those problems. The heart of this movement was the desire for a
profound renewal of people and society, based upon humanistic values.
11.2-Among the major traits of the movement are the use of non professional actors,
realistic dialogues, emphasis on the everyday struggles of common people for food,
shelter, work, love, family, sex, and honor, characters are shown in relation to their
real social environments and political and economic conditions, shooting on locations
instead of studios. Neorealism was essentially opposed to Expressionism and the
11.3-The most original director of Neorealism was Roberto Rossellini, but the
movement had different forms, approaches, and outstanding directors: Giuseppe De
Santis, social polemic; Luigi Zampa, moralistic polemic; Renato Castellani, comic
proletarian sketches; Pietro Germi, novelesque naturalism; Vitorio De Sica and
Cesare Zavattini , populist fable; and Alberto Lattuada, literary eclecticism. Anna
Magnani and Ingrid Bergman were two outstanding stars of this period.
11.4-Neorealism ended with Umberto D (1952). It is considered that it fall into
irreversible crisis for several reasons. It was just a product of the problems created
by the war and the transition from dictatorship to democracy. The 1950s were
marked by immobilism, clericalism, and by a divided Italy The avalanche of
American films, usually 4-5 years old, flooded the market at the end of the war.
11.5-A new era of sex goddesses came in the 50s: Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana
Mangano, Sophia Loren, and Silvana Pampanini. In comedy, Totó and Alberto Sordi
emerged as key figures. During the 50s Cinecittá became known as the Hollywood
on the Tiber.
Italian Art Cinema
12.1-During the 50s Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni
replaced Rossellini and De Sica. These new directors were more concern with the
analysis of bourgeois psychology. They confronted the themes of neuroses, the
neo-capitalist society, couples, emotional crisis, loneliness, and existential alienation.
Sometimes they used satirical irony and got into an inner dream-world. Sensuality
and spirituality, orgiastic parties, corruption, excesses, hypocrisy, and the Church
are other ideas or topics they wanted to show as the realities of the new times.
12.2-Marcello Mastroianni, Giulietta Masina, Monica Vitti, and Gabriele Ferzetti
are among the most important stars of this period.
12.3-The two most influential figures of Italian cinema of the 60s were Pier Paolo
Pasolini and Bernardo Bertolucci. Pietro Germi was an outstanding satirist during
the period and Sergio Leone was the father of the Italian spaghetti westerns.
12.4-Comedy was strong in the Italian cinema of the 60s and 70s, mostly mocking
the Catholic Church, the old and obsolete social traditions, customs, and moral
values of the Italian society. Alberto Sordi, Nino Manfredi, Ugo Tognazzi, and
Marcello Mastronianni were among the most significant actors during these years.
This was a male genre and often a chauvinist one. Another genres that achieved
economic success in the 60s and 70s were the historical-mythological and the
British Cinema (1920s-90s)
13.1-The common language made GB such a Hollywood colony that in 1927 the
British government passed quota laws to protect the native cinema in the era of the
talkies. That year, between 80 and 90 per cent of feature films shown in GB were
American. American film industry cover production costs at home, which make
possible that the exhibitions and sales of American films abroad are very economic
-almost 100% profits-, allowing to undercut the competitors in all foreign markets.
13.2-During the 30s, British cinema experienced an expansion thanks to the
middle-class suburbs; working-class audiences preferred American films, because
they found British ones too slow in pace and with too much talking.
13.3-Among the British stars who emerged in the 1930s were Gracie Fields, Frank Randle,
Sid Field, Tommy Trinder. The suspense cinema of Alfred Hitchcock and
the epic film of empire or historical pageant of Alexander Kordas London Films
also started in this period.
13.4-In British films, the Empire is justified in the apparent moral superiority of the
British, who followed the code of gentlemanly conduct, had a better system of law
and justice and a superior culture than the people in the colonies (Kiplings White
13.5-The British Film Institute was set up in 1933. During the 1930s and 40s
British films were concerned with social and educational issues. During the war the
production decreased from 108 in 1940 to 60 per year until the end of the war.
13.6-The main beneficiary of the wartime film industry was J. Arthur Rank, who by
1943 had amassed assets equivalent to those of an American major, buying several
13.7-The most influential voice during the war, asking for a new school of realist
cinema in Britain was Michael Balcon. Another outstanding filmmakers in this
period were Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who established a remarkable
collaboration, creating their own production company: The Archers, and operating
as independents. Many of their films refer or evoke the myths, fables, and
13.8-The end of the 1940s brought a crisis to the British cinema, that affected even
the largest studios, and from which many never recovered. In 1949, only 7 of the 26
British studios were in operation and only 7 films were produced.
13.9-Many directors and stars have left GB and gone to Hollywood along the years.
First, Charles Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Laughton, Cary
Grant, Laurence Olivier, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Deborah Kerr, Boris
Karloff, and Leslie Howard. Later, Richard Burton, James Mason, David Niven,
Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Dirk Bogarde, Maggie Smith, Julie Andrews,
Anthony Hopkins, Julie Christie, Peter Sellers, Glenda Jackson, Alec Guinness,
Michael Caine, Peter OToole, Ben Kingsley, Peter Cushing, Daniel Day-Lewis,
John Cleese, Kate Winslet, and Emma Thompson.
13.10-David Lean and Carol Reed are perhaps the greatest British directors of all
times; they began their careers in the 40s. Some of their best movies are adaptations
of literary classics and/or epics.
13.11-The new British films of 1959 began a new wave, heavily influenced by the
Italian Neorealism. These movies emphasized the poverty of the worker, the misery
of working-class life, the difficulty of keeping a home and keeping ones self-respect
at the same time, the social assumptions that sentence a person with no education to
a lifetime of bare survival. Room at the Top (1959) was the first of these British films
to be an international success. None of the social-realist films was shot in color.
Color was antithetical to the smoke and fog of working-class Britain as it was to the
poverty of postwar Italy.
13.12-During the 1960s, Tony Richardson left the bitterness of social-outcast
laborers to make ironic comedies. American blacklisted director Joseph Losey, who
emigrated to Britain, made paradoxical studies of upper-middle-class characters
who suffer from sexual doubts, moral dilemmas, and ambiguous power struggles.
Peter Sellers became one of Britains best comedians. Also during the 60s, a new
type of musicals appeared: The Beatles.
13.13-Economically and internationally, Britains biggest hit was the James Bond
Series, based on the spy novels of Ian Fleming (007) and starring Sean Connery first,
Roger Moore later, and Pierce Brosnan today. Hammer Films produced a whole
string of bloody horror movies that attracted loyal audiences worldwide.
13.14-Screen comedy in the 60s was dominated by the Carry on cycle of films
that tend to revolve around British institutions such as hospitals,, schools, and the
police. These series, full of slapstick, farce, and insinuations, ended in 1978.
13.15-In 1969, 90% of the investment in British cinema came from America.
13.16-Some people thought that the international success of Chariots of Fire (1981)
and Gandhi (1982) was a sign of a renaissance in British cinema. However, by the
early 1990s it was possible to argue that the British cinema, as an entity rooted in a
particular industrial infra-structure, producing a certain relevant mass of films for
exhibition in domestic theaters, no longer existed. British films are predominately
made with American money and/or for the American market. The British government
did little either incentive to assist revival or to prevent collapse.
General Decline of the European Cinema (1980s-90s)
Disaster for Everyone was the title give to a survey of the European industry
published in 1979 by Le Monde. It noted a growing and irreversible drop in
attendance all over Europe. In the 1980s Hollywood products dominated the
market, taking up to 70-75% of box-office receipts.
10-Hispanic Cinema (Spanish, Mexican, Argentinean, and Cuban)
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