At the turn of the twentieth century, cinema was quickly establishing itself as a legitimate form of popular entertainment.
The essays in American Cinema 1890-1909 explore and define how the making of motion pictures flowered into an industry that would finally become the central entertainment institution of the world. Beginning with all the early types of pictures that moved, this volume tells the story of the invention and consolidation of the various processes that gave rise to what we now call "cinema." By examining the battles over patents, production, exhibition, and the reception of film, readers learn how going to the movies became a social tradition in American society.
In the course of these two decades, cinema succeeded both in establishing itself among other entertainment and instructional media and in updating various forms of spectacle.
It was during the teens that filmmaking truly came into its own. Notably, the migration of studios to the West Coast established a connection between moviemaking and the exoticism of Hollywood.
The essays in American Cinema of the 1910s explore the rapid developments of the decade that began with D. W. Griffith's unrivaled one-reelers. By mid-decade, multi-reel feature films were profoundly reshaping the industry and deluxe theaters were built to attract the broadest possible audience. Stars like Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks became vitally important and companies began writing high-profile contracts to secure them. With the outbreak of World War I, the political, economic, and industrial groundwork was laid for American cinema's global dominance. By the end of the decade, filmmaking had become a true industry, complete with vertical integration, efficient specialization and standardization of practices, and self-regulatory agencies.
During the 1920s, sound revolutionized the motion picture industry and cinema continued as one of the most significant and popular forms of mass entertainment in the world. Film studios were transformed into major corporations, hiring a host of craftsmen and technicians including cinematographers, editors, screenwriters, and set designers. The birth of the star system supported the meteoric rise and celebrity status of actors including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino while black performers (relegated to "race films") appeared infrequently in mainstream movies. The classic Hollywood film style was perfected and significant film genres were established: the melodrama, western, historical epic, and romantic comedy, along with slapstick, science fiction, and fantasy.
In ten original essays, American Cinema of the 1920s examines the film industry's continued growth and prosperity while focusing on important themes of the era.
Probably no decade saw as many changes in the Hollywood film industry and its product as the 1930s did. At the beginning of the decade, the industry was still struggling with the transition to talking pictures. Gangster films and naughty comedies starring Mae West were popular in urban areas, but aroused threats of censorship in the heartland. Whether the film business could survive the economic effects of the Crash was up in the air. By 1939, popularly called "Hollywood's Greatest Year," films like Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz used both color and sound to spectacular effect, and remain American icons today. The "mature oligopoly" that was the studio system had not only weathered the Depression and become part of mainstream culture through the establishment and enforcement of the Production Code, it was a well-oiled, vertically integrated industrial powerhouse.
The ten original essays in American Cinema of the 1930s focus on sixty diverse films of the decade, including Dracula, The Public Enemy, Trouble in Paradise, 42nd Street, King Kong, Imitation of Life, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Swing Time, Angels with Dirty Faces, Nothing Sacred, Jezebel, Mr. Smith Goes toWashington, and Stagecoach .
The 1940s was a watershed decade for American cinema and the nation. Shaking off the grim legacy of the Depression, Hollywood launched an unprecedented wave of production, generating some of its most memorable classics, including Citizen Kane, Rebecca, The Lady Eve, Sergeant York, and How Green Was My Valley. In 1942, Hollywood joined the national war effort with a vengeance, creating a series of patriotic and escapist films, such as Casablanca, Mrs. Miniver, The Road to Morocco, and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
With the end of the war, returning GIs faced a new America, in which the country had been transformed overnight. Film noir reflected a new public mood of pessimism and paranoia, in such classic films of betrayal and conflict as Kiss of Death, Force of Evil, Caught, and Apology for Murder, depicting a poisonous universe of femme fatales, crooked lawyers, and corrupt politicians.
With the threat of the atom bomb lurking in the background and the beginnings of the Hollywood Blacklist, the 1940s was a decade of crisis and change. Featuring essays by a group of respected film scholars and historians, American Cinema of the 1940s brings this dynamic and turbulent decade to life. Illustrated with many rare stills and filled with provocative insights, the volume will appeal to students, teachers, and to all those interested in cultural history and American film of the twentieth century.
From cold war hysteria and rampant anticommunist witch hunts to the lure of suburbia, television, and the new consumerism, the 1950s was a decade of sensational commercial possibility coupled with dark nuclear fears and conformist politics. Amid this amalgamation of social, political, and cultural conditions, Hollywood was under siege: from the Justice Department, which pressed for big film companies to divest themselves of their theater holdings; from the middleclass, whose retreat to family entertainment inside the home drastically decreased the filmgoing audience; and from the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was attempting to purge the country of dissenting political views. In this difficult context, however, some of the most talented filmmakers of all time, including John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Vincente Minnelli, Nicholas Ray, and Billy Wilder produced some of their most remarkable work.
Bringing together original essays by ten respected scholars in the field, American Cinema of the 1950s explores the impact of the cultural environment of this decade on film, and the impact of film on the American cultural milieu. Contributors examine the signature films of the decade, including From Here to Eternity, Sunset Blvd., Singin' in the Rain, Shane, Rear Window, and Rebel Without a Cause, as well as lesser-known but equally compelling films, such as Dial 1119, Mystery Street, Suddenly, Summer Stock, The Last Hunt, and many others.
Provocative, engaging, and accessible to general readers as well as scholars, this volume provides a unique lens through which to view the links between film and the prevailing social and historical events of the decade.
The profound cultural and political changes of the 1960s brought the United States closer to social revolution than at any other time in the twentieth century. The country fragmented as various challenges to state power were met with increasing and violent resistance. The Cold War heated up and the Vietnam War divided Americans. Civil rights, women's liberation, and gay rights further emerged as significant social issues. Free love was celebrated even as the decade was marked by assassinations, mass murders, and social unrest.
At the same time, American cinema underwent radical change as well. The studio system crumbled, and the Production Code was replaced by a new ratings system. Among the challenges faced by the film industry was the dawning shift in theatrical exhibition from urban centers to surburban multiplexes, an increase in runaway productions, the rise of independent producers, and competition from both television and foreign art films. Hollywood movies became more cynical, violent, and sexually explicit, reflecting the changing values of the time.
In ten original essays, American Cinema of the 1960s examines a range of films that characterized the decade, including Hollywood movies, documentaries, and independent and experimental films. Among the films discussed are Elmer Gantry, The Apartment, West Side Story, The Manchurian Candidate, To Kill aMockingbird, Cape Fear, Bonnie and Clyde, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Midnight Cowboy, and Easy Rider.
A smug glance at the seventies—he so-called "Me Decade"—unveils a kaleidoscope of big hair, blaring music, and broken politics—all easy targets for satire, cynicism, and ultimately even nostalgia. American Cinema of the 1970s, however, looks beyond the strobe lights to reveal how profoundly the seventies have influenced American life and how the films of that decade represent a peak moment in cinema history.
Far from a placid era, the seventies was a decade of social upheavals. Events such as the killing of students at Kent State and Jackson State universities, the Watergate investigations, the legalization of abortion, and the end of the American involvement in Vietnam are only a few among the many landmark occurrences that challenged the foundations of American culture. The director-driven movies of this era reflect this turmoil, experimenting with narrative structures, offering a gallery of scruffy antiheroes, and revising traditional genre conventions.
Bringing together ten original essays, American Cinema of the 1970s examines the range of films that marked the decade, including Jaws, Rocky, Love Story, Shaft, Dirty Harry, The Godfather, Deliverance, The Exorcist, Shampoo, Taxi Driver, Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, Kramer vs. Kramer,and Apocalypse Now .
During the 1980s, American cinema underwent enormous transformations. Blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and The Empire Strikes Back grabbed huge revenues for the studios. At the same time, the growth of home video led to new and creative opportunities for independent film production, resulting in many of the decade's best films. Both large- and small-scale filmmakers responded to the social, political, and cultural conditions of the time. The two-term presidency of Ronald Reagan spawned a new Cold War with the Soviet Union, which Hollywood film both embraced and critiqued. Also during this time, Hollywood launched a long-awaited cycle of films about the Vietnam War, exploring its impact both at home and abroad. But science fiction remained the era's most popular genre, ranging from upbeat fantasies to dark, dystopic visions.
Bringing together original essays by ten respected scholars in the field, American Cinema of the 1980s examines the films that marked the decade, including Ordinary People, Body Heat, Blade Runner, Zelig, Platoon, Top Gun, Aliens, Blue Velvet, Robocop, Fatal Attraction, Die Hard, Batman, and sex, lies & videotape.
With the U.S. economy booming under President Bill Clinton and the cold war finally over, many Americans experienced peace and prosperity in the nineties. Digital technologies gained popularity, with nearly one billion people online by the end of the decade. The film industry wondered what the effect on cinema would be.
The essays in American Cinema of the 1990s examine the big-budget blockbusters and critically acclaimed independent films that defined the decade. The 1990s' most popular genre, action, channeled anxieties about global threats such as AIDS and foreign terrorist attacks into escapist entertainment movies. Horror films and thrillers were on the rise, but family-friendly pictures and feel-good romances netted big audiences too. Meanwhile, independent films captured hearts, engaged minds, and invaded Hollywood: by decade's end every studio boasted its own "art film" affiliate.
The decade from 2000 to 2009 is framed, at one end, by the traumatic catastrophe of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and, at the other, by the election of the first African American president of the United States. In between, the United States and the world witnessed the rapid expansion of new media and the Internet, such natural disasters as Hurricane Katrina, political uprisings around the world, and a massive meltdown of world economies.
Amid these crises and revolutions, American films responded in multiple ways, sometimes directly reflecting these turbulent times, and sometimes indirectly couching history in traditional genres and stories. In American Cinema of the 2000s, essays from ten top film scholars examine such popular series as the groundbreaking Matrix films and the gripping adventures of former CIA covert operative Jason Bourne; new, offbeat films like Juno; and the resurgence of documentaries like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Each essay demonstrates the complex ways in which American culture and American cinema are bound together in subtle and challenging ways.
Artists, writers, and filmmakers from Andy Warhol and J. G. Ballard to Alejandro González Iñárritu and Ousmane Sembène have repeatedly used representations of immobilized and crashed cars to wrestle with the conundrums of modernity. In Crash, Karen Beckman argues that representations of the crash parallel the encounter of film with other media, and that these collisions between media offer useful ways to think about alterity, politics, and desire. Examining the significance of automobile collisions in film genres including the “cinema of attractions,” slapstick comedies, and industrial-safety movies, Beckman reveals how the car crash gives visual form to fantasies and anxieties regarding speed and stasis, risk and safety, immunity and contamination, and impermeability and penetration. Her reflections on the crash as the traumatic, uncertain moment of inertia that comes in the wake of speed and confidence challenge the tendency in cinema studies to privilege movement above film’s other qualities. Ultimately, Beckman suggests that film studies is a hybrid field that cannot apprehend its object of study without acknowledging the ways that cinema’s technology binds it to capitalism’s industrial systems and other media, technologies, and disciplines.
Fictions Inc. explores how depictions of the corporation in American literature, film, and popular culture have changed over time. Beginning with perhaps the most famous depiction of a corporation—Frank Norris’s The Octopus—Ralph Clare traces this figure as it shifts from monster to man, from force to “individual,” and from American industry to multinational “Other.” Clare examines a variety of texts that span the second half of the twentieth century and beyond, including novels by Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, Richard Powers, and Joshua Ferris; films such as Network, Ghostbusters, Gung Ho, Office Space, and Michael Clayton; and assorted artifacts of contemporary media such as television’s The Office and the comic strips Life Is Hell and Dilbert.
Paying particular attention to the rise of neoliberalism, the emergence of biopolitics, and the legal status of “corporate bodies,” Fictions Inc. shows that representations of corporations have come to serve, whether directly or indirectly, as symbols for larger economic concerns often too vast or complex to comprehend. Whether demonized or lionized, the corporation embodies American anxieties about these current conditions and ongoing fears about the viability of a capitalist system.
Many contemporary television series from Modern Family to How to Get Away with Murder open an episode or season with a conflict and then go back in time to show how that conflict came to be. In Figures of Time Toni Pape examines these narratives, showing how these leaps in time create aesthetic experiences of time that attune their audiences to the political doctrine of preemption—a logic that justifies preemptive action to nullify a perceived future threat. Examining questions of temporality in Life on Mars, the political ramifications of living under the auspices of a catastrophic future in FlashForward, and how Damages disrupts the logic of preemption, Pape shows how television helps shift political culture away from a model of rational deliberation and representation toward a politics of preemption and conformity. Exposing the mechanisms through which television supports a fear-based politics, Pape contends, will allow for the rechanneling of television's affective force into building a more productive and positive politics.
In a nuanced exploration of how Western cinema has represented East Asia as a space of radical indecipherability, Homay King traces the long-standing association of the Orient with the enigmatic. The fantasy of an inscrutable East, she argues, is not merely a side note to film history, but rather a kernel of otherness that has shaped Hollywood cinema at its core. Through close readings of The Lady from Shanghai, Chinatown, Blade Runner, Lost in Translation, and other films, she develops a theory of the “Shanghai gesture,” a trope whereby orientalist curios and décor become saturated with mystery. These objects and signs come to bear the burden of explanation for riddles that escape the Western protagonist or cannot be otherwise resolved by the plot. Turning to visual texts from outside Hollywood which actively grapple with the association of the East and the unintelligible—such as Michelangelo Antonioni’s Chung Kuo: Cina, Wim Wenders’s Notebook on Cities and Clothes, and Sophie Calle’s Exquisite Pain—King suggests alternatives to the paranoid logic of the Shanghai gesture. She argues for the development of a process of cultural “de-translation” aimed at both untangling the psychic enigmas prompting the initial desire to separate the familiar from the foreign, and heightening attentiveness to the internal alterities underlying Western subjectivity.
In the 1940s, American movies changed. Flashbacks began to be used in outrageous, unpredictable ways. Soundtracks flaunted voice-over commentary, and characters might pivot from a scene to address the viewer. Incidents were replayed from different characters’ viewpoints, and sometimes those versions proved to be false. Films now plunged viewers into characters’ memories, dreams, and hallucinations. Some films didn’t have protagonists, while others centered on anti-heroes or psychopaths. Women might be on the verge of madness, and neurotic heroes lurched into violent confrontations. Combining many of these ingredients, a new genre emerged—the psychological thriller, populated by women in peril and innocent bystanders targeted for death.
If this sounds like today’s cinema, that’s because it is. In Reinventing Hollywood, David Bordwell examines the full range and depth of trends that crystallized into traditions. He shows how the Christopher Nolans and Quentin Tarantinos of today owe an immense debt to the dynamic, occasionally delirious narrative experiments of the Forties. Through in-depth analyses of films both famous and virtually unknown, from Our Town and All About Eve to Swell Guy and The Guilt of Janet Ames, Bordwell assesses the era’s unique achievements and its legacy for future filmmakers. Reinventing Hollywood is a groundbreaking study of how Hollywood storytelling became a more complex art and essential reading for lovers of popular cinema.
In 1991, French public television held an amateur screenwriting contest. When Sabine Chalvon-Demersay, a French sociologist, examined the roughly 1,000 entries, she had hoped to analyze their differences. What she found, however, surprised her. Although the entrants covered nearly every social demographic, their screenplays presented similar characters in similar situations confronting similar problems.
The time of crisis presented by the amateur writers was not one of war, famine, or disease—it was the millennial dilemma of representation. In a world plagued by alienation, individualization, and a lack of mobility, how can members of a society combat their declining senses of self?
Although the contestants wrote about life in France, their concerns and struggles have a distinctly universal ring. A lucid, witty writer, Chalvon-Demersay offers a clear, if still developing, photograph of the contemporary imagination.
In this groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, Loftis examines the artists who put a human face on the farmworkers’ plight in California during the Great Depression, focusing on writer John Steinbeck, photographer Dorothea Lange, sociologist and author Paul Taylor, and journalist Carey McWilliams. Loftis probes the interplay between journalism and art in the 1930s, when both academics and artists felt an urgent need to be relevant in the face of enormous misery. The power of their work grew out of their personal involvement in both the labor struggles and the hardships endured by workers and their families. Steinbeck, Lange, and the other artists and intellectuals in their circles created the public images of their times. Works such as The Grapes of Wrath or Lange’s Migrant Mother actually helped mold public opinion and form government policies. Even today these works remain icons in our shared perception of that era. Loftis helps us understand why this art still seems the truest representation of those desperate times, three-quarters of a century later.