ISBN: 0 946488 06
- The Beginning: Dreams
- The Middle: Factories
- The End: Independence
- Guide to Further Reading
British Association for American Studies All rights reserved. No part of this pamphlet may he reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. The publication of a pamphlet by the British Association for American Studies does not necessarily imply the Association’s official approbation of the opinions expressed therein.
Hollywood film makers hake often been accused of focusing too much of their attention on the workings of Hollywood itself Friendly critics argue that such exposure reveals what is better left concealed if the magic is to he preserved; others that such introspection is the product of a lack of involvement with the “real” world and a defensive narcissism characteristic of all the popular arts. But no matter what conclusions are drawn, the facts themselves are not in dispute. From the very beginning the Hollywood studios have continued to turn out in almost equally large numbers “biopics” about their employees and musical films about the making of musicals. Occasionally these genre films have been interspersed with more realistic, serious works satirising or criticising the film industry or the mores of Hollywood society, though the structure of the industry and the distribution of power within it has generally militated against such criticism As the anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker discovered in her classic study, Hollywood the Dream Factory, the industry itself rapidly developed into an over-elaborated caricature of the American business world, but the films produced by it consistently ignored, or even attacked those same totalitarian and ruthlessly mercenary features of contemporary life.
Not surprisingly then, the most incisive and intelligent film about Hollywood and its effects upon the lives of its workers, as well as the most poignant, was not a product of Hollywood at all Nor was it even shot in America, though its director, Billy Wilder, had grown up with the studio system and had, as early as 1930 (the very year in which Powdermaker’s book was published), made one of those rare films, Sunset Boulevard, which brilliantly exposed the underlying corruption of Hollywood, even at a time when the system under attack was still all powerful.
Where Sunset Boulevard is prophetic, his later film, Fedora, is elegiac. The quarter century between 1950 and 1978 saw the rapid dismantling and virtual death of the Hollywood production system. Though a few films still spear under the famous old logos, Fedora is a fairly-typical product of the 1970s, rejected by Hollywood, financed with German tax shelter money, and produced by a company called Geria-Bavaria-Atelier. Its hero, Detweiler/Wilder is also trying to finance a film – a remake of Anna Karenina called The Snows of Yesteryear – that the studios are not interested in, and his attempts to engage the famous old star Fedora for this purpose is the springboard for the film’s plot. Detweiler’s unravelling of the mystery surrounding Fedora provides the thread for Wilder to string together his mature reflections on the world of Hollywood; a series of images and ideas expressing his love and revulsion without ever succumbing to any easy resolution of his ambivalence.
The opening sequence of the film is indicative of its complexity. The first shot on the screen is taken from the platform of a small French railway station towards a huge, whistling, steam locomotive that is approaching through the darkness. Along the platform runs a woman wearing a cowled cape. Her face is gaunt, her eyes full of despair. She turns and pauses briefly as someone calls her name “Fedora“, before hurling herself in front of the rushing engine. At this point the image freezes before a cut to a television studio in which a glossy female presenter is delivering a slick, illustrated feature on the life of the dead movie star. We learn of her famous roles as Emma Bovary, Lola Montes, and Joan of Arc; also of her self-imposed exile in her native Europe and her comeback in the 1960s. We see the long file of fans and mourners waiting to view her body as it lies in state surrounded by masses of flowers. Finally, the camera zooms in on one of these mourners, Detweiler, who will now take up the film’s narration.
Even in this brief pre-credit sequence the film has constructed a wealth of cultural reference. Even though she never played any of the parts listed, the stills of Fedora remind us inevitably of Greta Garbo. Moreover, Garbo twice played the part of Anna Karenina, in 1927 and 1935, with its famous suicide scene so like Fedora‘s. The sequence in the television studio is a subtle homage to Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and a pointer to the film’s and Hollywood’s preoccupation with images, illusions, and the manipulation of reality by the media. When this sequence is seen within the context of the entire film its allusions are broader still. By this time we know that the dead woman is not Fedora but Antonia, her daughter, who had taken on the identity of the disfigured star and had become trapped within a personality she could neither live with nor escape. The younger woman’s tragic death then comes to remind us, not so much of a fictional heroine, as that of a real film actress like Marilyn Monroe, whilst her mother in her elderly retirement seems even more like the real Greta Garbo than did the actress replaying one of her most famous roles. Monroe had worked with Wilder in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and three years before her death in Some Like It Hot (1959). It was Wilder who later referred to her ironically as Hollywood’s Joan of Arc, though in the same interview he also conceded that he had never seen anyone as fabulous on the screen, even Garbo.
The relative ease with which such a short film sequence can fully saturate its images, narrative and technique, is testimony to the power, not just of film as an art form, but also of Hollywood itself. In half a century its history and gossip, legends and myths, personalities and stars, its images and style, have thoroughly permeated the culture of the entire civilised world. To a considerable degree our view, not just of life in the USA, but of life in general, has been shaped by the activities and products of that small district of Los Angeles.
Wilder’s film takes cognizance of such potency by using some of Hollywood’s most cherished myths to flesh out his meditation on time, ageing and death. Most Hollywood films lack Fedora‘s self consciousness, of course, but this does not diminish their suggestive power. On the contrary, it is just those covert meanings, often not intended or comprehended by the film makers themselves, that are the most seductive – though at the same time the most difficult to read. Such meanings, carried by a film’s style and structure, are themselves the product of complex psychological, economic, social, and technological forces. The task of tracing these complicated interactions is both delicate and arduous and the following essay attempts only to sketch a few of the more significant ones.
The origins of the American motion picture industry have, by now, been thoroughly obscured, both by the nature of the phenomenon itself and by the attempts of different historians to locate the event in a variety of times, places, inventions, or even in the actions of particular people. For the historian of technology the struggle to perfect machines and materials in Room Five of the Edison Laboratories at West Orange, New Jersey, is crucial. The economic historian, on the other hand, might pinpoint the patent wars and the development of a cross-licensing system as the most important facts in the early years of the industry. What really matters though, and makes these events significant, is that by 1905 the ability to photograph continuous action and then project the resulting images on a screen to large audiences had created a massive, insatiable demand for films of all kinds, but particularly for fiction films. It is this, the marriage of art, technology and marketing that made Hollywood such a potent force in American society.
Many other countries have film have film industries of their own, of course, and the apparatus of film culture – writers, producers, directors, stars and technicians – is universal. European and Asian film makers have created distinctive personal or national styles, and within them great individual masterpieces. What then, it might be asked, makes Hollywood unique? The answer to that question is complex and involves the examination of a number of seemingly disparate factors.
In the first place America had, by 1905, undergone a staggering population explosion, brought about mainly by the influx of millions of immigrants during the last quarter of the nineteenth-century. These newcomers brought with them a correspondingly daunting problem of communication and the broad educational possibilities of the movies were quickly seen, both by film makers and audiences, to be far greater than those of the printed word. An early advertisement for Universal Pictures, purportedly written by its president Carl Laemmle, makes the point:
Universal Pictures speak the Universal language. Universal stories told in pictures need no translation, no interpreter. Regardless of creed, color, race or nationality, everyone in the universe understands the stories that are told by Universal Pictures
The implications of Laemmle’s claim are obvious. Given that the pictures he was proclaiming were silent with a minimum of printed titles, the stories in question had to be relatively simple and had to be told in a relatively straightforward way if they were to be understood by “everyone in the universe”. The economics of film production and distribution made it first desirable and later essential that if not everyone then at least a large proportion of the world’s population should have access to the products of Hollywood. In 1937 Gilbert Seldes estimated that in eight weeks, in seventy thousand cinemas throughout the world, the audiences for films equalled the total population of the globe. And in America alone, it has been reckoned that the average weekly attendance at cinemas during the years of the Second World War was eighty-five millions.
The need for intelligibility and simplicity was, therefore, established early, partly by the mode of production as we shall see, but more importantly by the means of marketing. Moreover, this need was enhanced by the early methods of exhibition. With the exception of a few prestigious and expensive metropolitan theatres, cinemas chose to exhibit their programmes on a continuous basis, leaving audiences free to enter or leave at any time. For this policy to be successful a film’s story and discourse had to be designed in such a way that the average viewer could make sense of it without having followed the plot from the film’s beginning. The repetition of well tried structural formulae catered to this need which was at least partly responsible for the dominance of genre films in the Hollywood canon.
There were other reasons for the development of the so-called Hollywood style, of course, and these, too, have affected the development of film in America as a mass medium. By its nature the photographic image has a specificity and an apparent lack of selectivity. It produces an impression of reality that makes it ideally suited to the reflection and propagation of ideas and pictures of life that audiences will accept as true. The need not only to communicate with, but also to assimilate and indoctrinate a vast heterogeneous audience of industrial workers, who were also consumers, led Hollywood to capitalise on the inherent realism of film as a medium. The urge to make ideals seem real and the real, ideal, is one of the major covert motives behind the Hollywood film, and the history of the art can be profitably seen as a drive to perfect the means to this end. It accounts as much for the casting of Henry Fonda as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1939) as for the special effects in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977); it lies behind Gregg Toland’s deep focus photography for Citizen Kane (1940) as well as the use of an eight track system for overlapping sound in Nashville (1975). The advent of colour and sound; panchromatic film and Mazda lighting; method acting and the star system; zoom lenses and Cinemascope, have all been easily incorporated into an art form surpassing all others in its irresistible surface realism.
In the early days, however, audiences were entranced merely by the exhibition of lifelike, moving images, and it was not until Edwin S. Porter developed the principle of editing film into a method for constructing a story that the possibilities of the new medium began to be glimpsed. Even so, his early classic, The Great Train Robbery (1903), for all its revolutionary elements, might not have had the impact it did had he not made the decision to base his story on actual, topical events. What Porter seems to have intuited is that the realism of a filmed story is not impaired by temporal or spatial gaps in the narrative. His decision to follow his shot of the fleeing train robbers with a return shot to the Telegraph office and the assaulted operator is arguably one of the most significant in the entire history of film making. In one cut he freed film narrative from the shackles that had tied it to the stage play, and gave it the flexibility necessary to its future development.
The effect of Porter’s innovations was sensational but it required a further development before the magnitude of their implications could be realised. As early as 1902 Thomas L. Tally had opened a ten cent Electric Theater in Los Angeles, and its success had spurred other businessmen to imitate his venture across the country. It was in 1905 though, that John P. Harris made the important breakthrough when he set about remodelling a store-room in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In it he provided continuous performances of twenty minute film shows from eight o’clock in the morning until midnight at a cost of five cents. It was the first Nickelodeon. Within four years it has been estimated that there were, throughout the country, some eight to ten thousand of them, clamouring for more and more material.
For years The Great Train Robbery was the most widely exhibited film in the nickelodeons, but there was an obvious limit to its continued popularity, even for very unsophisticated audiences. Demand ran far in excess of production; a situation in which the industry could easily have foundered had it not been for the energy and inventiveness of its pioneers. A related difficulty was that of distribution, and though the attempts to solve this problem constitute a fascinating episode in American business history, crammed with as much melodrama and farce as the films being fought over, it is both long and tortuous, and has, in any case, been thoroughly chronicled in a number of places.
So, too, have the early histories of the film production companies, but there are still several important points to be made about the individual talents employed by them, and their contribution to early film culture. The name that dominates film history in America is that of D. W. Griffith. Historians, following Griffith’s own lead, have attributed to him almost every significant innovation in the art of film making. Griffith, like so many of the early film makers, was an enthusiastic, amateur inventor, who, in later life when he had been toppled from his position of eminence, partly as the result of his own ambitious mistakes and partly by the machinations of the threatened philistines who controlled the industry, would ruefully regret that he had not patented such devices as the “fade-out” which he wrongly- believed he had invented. In fact, as Kevin Brownlow has pointed out, every device of cinematic storytelling – the close-up, the tracking shot, the high angle, the flashback, the insert, affect lighting, masking, fades, dissolves – had been established by 1912.
Griffith’s real genius emerged in his unique talent. for using such devices to create compelling narratives that could incorporate individual stories and broad social issues, fuse disparate elements into thematic unity, and generally establish the fluidity and flexibility which are two of film’s defining characteristics. Yet even when Griffith’s masterpieces from The Birth of a Nation (1915) to Orphans of the Storm (1922) are seen under ideal conditions, projected at the correct speed, it requires an act of the historical imagination to appreciate the magnitude of his achievement. Modern audiences tend to be embarrassed or bored by other features of his work: his didacticism, racial prejudices and sentimentality. More precisely, they react against particular, dated manifestations of these characteristics. The same audiences do not appear to suffer any similar discomfort when watching The Front (1976), The Deer Hunter (1978), or On Golden Pond (1981).
Griffith once defended his technique by referring his critics to Dickens. Eisenstein in a famous essay elaborated the comparison, and it has now become almost obligatory in any discussion of Griffith’s work. The similarities go beyond those of technique, however. As prolific geniuses working in a popular art form they not only extended the possibilities of their respective media, but also moulded mass consciousness, and in a very real sense gave art back to the people.
The most moving tribute paid to Griffith at the time of his death in 1948 was written by James Agee. Agee believed that The Birth of a Nation was equal to the best art that had been produced in America and compared it to Whitman’s Civil War poems. It is when he came to catalogue the handicaps that Griffith had to overcome in order to be a great artist, though, that the Dickensian qualities – bad and good – begin to emerge:
He had no remarkable power of intellect, or delicateness of soul; no subtlety; little restraint; little if any “taste”, whether to help his work or harm it; Lord knows (and be thanked) no cleverness no fundamental capacity, once he had achieved his first astonishing development, for change or growth. He wasn’t particularly observant of people; nor do his movies suggest that he understood them at all deeply. He had noble powers of imagination, but little of the intricacy of imagination that most poets also have. His sense of comedy was pathetically crude and numb. He had an exorbitant appetite for violence, for cruelty, and for the Siamese twin of cruelty, a kind of obsessive tenderness, which at its worst was all but nauseating
This is almost a perfect blueprint for the creation of the various film genres that were to dominate American film production in the future. It gives weight to the claim that it was Griffith who really invented Hollywood.
Ironically, one of Griffith’s mistakes was his failure to recognise the importance of the Los Angeles location for the future development of the industry. His decision to return to work in the East was an important factor in his progressive isolation from the world he had done so much to create. It was during these years that the foundations of the great film empires were being laid in the complex financial deals and mergers involving directors, stars and businessmen. Whilst Sennett, Ince, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Pickford, Loew, Zukor, Fox, Selznick and Goldwyn carved up the territory, Griffith remained aloof in Mamaroneck, New York, slipping further and further into debt with every film he made.
Not so the other great creative genius of the early period, Charles Chaplin. Like Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, Chaplin fully appreciated his own commercial value and he was able to amass a fortune in the first few years of his career in films by signing only short term contracts and demanding higher fees after every few successful pictures. Unlike Griffith, who had joined with Chaplin, Fairbanks and Pickford to create United Artists and thereby obtain a greater measure of artistic freedom, the film stars remained in the position of being able to sell their talents to the highest bidder.
Some of those bids were phenomenal. Mary Pickford, for example, was already earning $10,000 a week in 1915 and was shortly to leave Zukor for First National in the reasonable hope of bettering that. Chaplin, too, was offered $1,000,000 a year to stay at Mutual, but he also signed for First National for slightly less money and more directorial freedom. He contracted to make eight films in eighteen months, and given that he had made over sixty for Keystone, Essanay and Mutual in the three preceding years, this was not a particularly demanding schedule. Nevertheless, it took him four years to complete his assignment. And in the next forty-five years he made just ten films. His later ones were, of course, longer, progressively more ambitious in scope, and infinitely costlier to make. The situation which allowed an artist like Griffith to learn his craft on nearly five hundred films between 1908 and 1913 quickly gave way to one in which the rising cost of the product inhibited experimentation and encouraged the repetition of proven skills and formulae.
The line between success and failure in conditions like these can be a narrow one. Griffith always believed that he had been forced out of the industry when on the very brink of a break-through, and in other circumstances Chaplin’s first film for United Artists, A Woman of Paris (1923), could have led him to a similar fate. He spent almost a year and nearly a million dollars on it. It opened in New York without Chaplin’s name on the Bill, and though it was a critical success, the subtle portrayal of a complex human relationship assured its failure with audiences accustomed to a cruder style of melodrama and slapstick comedy.
Chaplin made five more films for United Artists in the next twenty years, and with them a reputation as the world’s most loved and admired clown. In them he reverted to playing variations of The Tramp, a character he had created in 1914.
The Tramp’s child-like egotism makes him an outcast by choice who operates only upon society’s margins, unsuccessfully opposing his need for love and dignity to the materialistic world’s vulgar indifference, before disappearing alone in the famous final “fade out”. His efforts in The Gold Rush (1925), The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), and The Great Dictator (1941) to create, as it were, a private Utopia, give them the quality of hallucination, as Parker Tyler has pointed out. They also established Chaplin’s art within the mainstream of American culture. The Tramp’s encounters with the intractable material of his environment are as funny as anything in the comedies of Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd. But they also have an extra dimension of pathos that links them to the world of Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, for example.
During the Depression and after the Second World War the Tramp’s relations with society became progressively more strained as his individualistic eccentricities were less and less tolerated. The tone of Chaplin’s films grew sombre and the margin upon which the Tramp could clown grew smaller until it disappeared altogether in Monsieur Verdoux (1947). In this film the opposition to an uncaring, Capitalist society takes the form of murder, and Chaplin, like many other artists at this time, suffered from that society’s retaliation. The campaign against him was particularly vicious, however, and led to his eventual exile.
Throughout his career at United Artists, Chaplin’s stature and his own determination guaranteed him a measure of financial independence and artistic freedom. This was not the case with the great majority of people making films during the thirties, forties and fifties. During this period when the industry was dominated by eight major studios, individuals were more often tyrannised by the studio executives in control of them. The history of Hollywood is full of stories in which famous writers were taken off assignments, eminent directors supplanted by others, and senior actors and actresses suspended from work for minor infringements of the rules. In order to achieve maximum efficiency these large business organisations had not only to have the luck or foresight to make the right deals at the right time, but also to maintain a steady output of saleable goods with factory-like precision. In their hey-day MGM, Paramount, Universal, Columbia, Warners, Twentieth Century Fox, RKO, and United Artists were producing up to 500 feature films a year; roughly one a week at each of the companies. Such schedules demanded considerable discipline and left little room for the idiosyncrasies of individual talents.
Even United Artists, which had started out with the object of making itself into the Tiffany’s of the industry by producing just twelve films a year from its four founders, soon had to change its policy. The services of a new partner were acquired, and it was he, Joseph Schenk, who masterminded the company’s vertical integration by buying a first run theatre circuit, thus bringing it into line with the other studios. He also persuaded the other partners to take on Sam Goldwyn as a producer to provide a further three films a year. None of them welcomed this move, least of all Chaplin, but it proved to be both a financial and an artistic success. Among the films Goldwyn contributed to United Artists were Arrowsmith (1932), The Wedding Night (1935), Stella Dallas (1937), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), and The Westerner (1940). Schenck also tried to persuade his new partners to enter into an arrangement with MGM in order to develop a more efficient distribution system but this move was vetoed by Chaplin, thus losing United Artists $5,000,000 a year, according to Schenck.
In such ways the patterns that were to characterise the film industry for the next thirty years were taking shape in the twenties, but there was still a good deal of flexibility in the system and room for some manoeuvring, as is shown by the activities of Goldwyn himself. Born Samuel Goldfisch, he had taken his new name from that of his own corporation, formed in 1916 with partners called Selwyn. Goldwyn’s inability to work harmoniously with others was legendary and it was not long before his fellow board members began their attempts to get rid of him. He only survived in his own company for as long as he did – until 1922 – because he was the best producer there. When he was finally fired, it was his own protege, the film star Mabel Normand, who provided his enemies with ammunition, by her association, in the public’s mind at least, with a notorious Hollywood murder.
This scandal, coming hard on the heels of another involving the famous comedian Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle and a film starlet, Virginia Rappe, had far reaching consequences in Hollywood, but the immediate effect on Goldwyn was to precipitate his career as an independent producer.
The company he left did not survive for long without him, and in 1924 was forced to merge with Marcus Loew’s Metro Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Productions to form one of the most powerful companies in the history of Hollywood, MGM. Ironically, Goldwyn himself was never actually part of the organisation that bears his name, and the most influential creative influence at MGM was that of Irving Thalberg, who, when he joined the studio as a twenty-four year old producer, kept his name off all publicity material, saying “Credit you give yourself isn’t worth having”.
At the same time that the movie moguls were fighting tooth and claw to establish their respective empires, they were also suffering some disquiet as a result of the reputation being earned for the industry by their more unruly employees. Given that popular art succeeds by encouraging spectator identification rather than distanciation, the lurid and sometimes sordid events involving members of the film colony in the early 1920s had an inevitable effect on the images they projected from the screen. It therefore seemed logical to the author of an anonymous pamphlet published just after the Arbuckle and Normand scandals, called The Sins of Hollywood, to begin his first chapter by saying that “The Sins of Hollywood are facts – NOT FICTION” but to end it, having detailed some of those facts, by calling for action – not against the people concerned – but against the films they appeared in.
The same logic prevailed with the studio executives who, following the lead given by professional baseball after the scandal of the 1919 World Series, appointed an outsider to set its house in order. In order to forestall the introduction of State or other external censorship, they appointed Will H. Hays to be the official spokesman of the newly formed Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. Over the next twelve years, the Hays Office brought out a series of Codes which finally came into effect in 1934 after a campaign by the Catholic Legion of Decency had forced the appointment of Joseph Breen to administer the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930.
The Code was based upon a problematic distinction between entertainment which improves the race by recreating and rebuilding “human beings exhausted with the realities of life”, and entertainment which “tends to degrade human beings or to lower their standards of life and living”. Its major working principle was that evil should never be made to appear attractive, or good, unattractive. Whilst a case can be made for the view that art influences moral and social behaviour, and that it should therefore be subject to certain restraints, the real weakness of the Code lay in the inadequate notions of good and evil implied by its detailed proscriptions. Hollywood’s self-imposed censorship militated against the development of film as a mature art form by insisting that all forms of”evil” – illicit passion and irreligion as well as criminal activity – must be shown in an obvious and immediate fashion “not to pay”.
It also manifested in its actual working, different, covert assumptions about the nature of evil. In its determination to rid the screen of nudity, “excessive and lustful kissing”, “scenes of actual childbirth”, and “sex hygiene”, it clearly demonstrated a belief in the dangers and evils of sexuality itself and anything associated with it. As we shall see, it took a rather different attitude towards violence.
Molly Haskell, in her study of the treatment of woman in film, suggests that the period between 1930 and 1933 was one of the few in the history of cinema when women’s sexuality was honestly portrayed. In films like Morocco (1930), Blonde Venus (1932), Shanghai Express (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), and She Done Him Wrong (1933), women were allowed to experience and express sexual desire, even initiate sexual encounters, without necessarily being branded as monsters, prostitutes, or criminals. The films of this liberated interlude, moreover, do not portray life in terms of an amoral, orgiastic happiness. If anything, they are more pessimistic, even tragic, than the falsely Utopian productions of the late thirties. Of course, the Hays Office cannot be held solely responsible for the change in represented values on the screen. The Code itself was the product of broader social, economic and political forces that were working to shift the nation’s values and ideals, so that the substitution of the career woman in a tailored suit for the lover in a satin negligee reflected the re-emergence of a native American philosophy compounded in equal parts of Puritanism and the Success Ethic. The Depression, Roosevelt, The New Deal, political developments in Europe and Isolationism at home all played a part in changing people’s perception of women and their sexuality.
The same could be said about the treatment of violence in the period, though here the attitudes of all concerned were more ambivalent. Unlike sex, violence was not seen as inherently evil, and was not dealt with as such by the Production Code. The relevant sections concentrate entirely on violence perpetrated in the pursuit of criminal activities, and whilst the implementation of the Code brought an end to the classic gangster movie, inaugurated in the early thirties by Little Caesar (1931), Public Enemy (1931), and Scarface (1932), Hollywood attempted – vainly, as it happened – to maintain the basic genre by switching character roles and having James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson practise their brutality in defence of society as G-men and Special Agents, rather than in defiance of it. What made it difficult for audiences to identify with these later figures was not their violence but the fact that they had surrendered their former status as romantic outsiders doomed to tragic deaths at the hands of a vengeful society. Even when films of the late thirties such as Dead End (1937) or Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) did place gangsters at their centre, audiences were not likely to identify with them because they were portrayed, not as antagonists of society, but as victims of it. More care was taken in the later films to create a convincing relationship between the criminal and his background; the Environmentalist point often being reinforced by having two generations of characters within a single film, demonstrating different stages of moral decay brought about by poverty in the inner city slums.
The entry of the United States into the Second World War in 1941 temporarily diverted film makers from the problems posed by the gangster and gave them a new field in which to explore and represent violence without fear of censorship; the War film. It also gave more reflective directors a different subject, more compelling than that of the criminal in society. The examination of ideological differences between Democracies and Totalitarian regimes was begun in such films as Watch on the Rhine (1943), Mission to Moscow (1943), and Tomorrow the World (1944). It has continued to occupy the attention of Hollywood ever since, both in actual films and, notoriously, in the series of Hollywood investigations carried out in 1947 and 1951 by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Meanwhile, such gangster films that were made in the post-war years were heavily influenced by the prevailing atmosphere of fear, suspicion, pessimism and paranoia – characteristics that informed a great many other films of the period too, and created the style of film noir. This was a time when directors who had begun their careers in Austria or Germany in the twenties and thirties were just beginning to re-emerge as a force in Hollywood, bringing with them many of the stylistic qualities of the German Expressionist cinema. In the work of Lang, Siodmak, Preminger, and Wilder, public and private dread found their perfect embodiment:
… interrogation rooms filled with nervous police, the witness framed at their center under a spotlight, heels clicking along subway or elevated platforms at midnight; cars spanking along canyon roads, with agonised faces beyond the rain-splashed windscreen. . . here is a world where it is always night, always foggy or wet, filled with gunshots and sobs, where men wear turned-down brims on their hats and women loom in fur coats, guns thrust deep into pockets.
Though the iconography of films like Double Indemnity (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and The Killers (1946) may bear a family resemblance to the gangster films of the thirties, the differences represented by the style of Cagney and Jean Harlow on the one hand, and Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck on the other, are every bit as great as those between the Hippie outlaws of the sixties and the patriarchal businessmen who people Coppola’s Mafia epics of the seventies.
Similar evolutions and mutations can be traced in the development of other Hollywood genres, even when, as in the case of the Musical or the Western, contemporary social pressures bearing upon the film maker are not translated to the screen with the same immediacy.
In some respects the Musical of the 1930s is a mirror image of the Gangster film. Where the latter presents a tragic hero whose overreaching ambition and egotistical individualism leads to his death, the former gives us an Horatio Alger figure whose energy and skill are harnessed by a strong leader and combined with the talents of a team to ensure success. Both forms are ritualistic in that they are only incidentally concerned with exploring the actual conditions of contemporary life, while being centrally occupied with the myth of the American Dream. Nevertheless, films like Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade (1933) and 42nd Street (1933) do reflect very vividly the ethos of the early New Deal,just as, in a different way, the Astaire-Rogers musicals produced by RKO in the late thirties, and the famous MGM musicals of the Arthur Freed unit in the late forties and early fifties carry an implicit commentary on different ideologies, or lack of them, in their respective periods.
As one might expect, Musicals of the later 1930s incorporated many of the elements noted earlier in the changing presentation of women. Two related concepts – spontaneity and integration – came to dominate the structure of the genre, and gave it an entirely new set of values. Where the early Warner Musicals had typically involved its characters in parallel plots of personal romance and the effort to finance and stage a Broadway Musical show, later forms, even when they did use the ‘show within a show’ formula, move towards a greater degree of integration of the two stories. Far from having to sacrifice their emotional lives to their professional ones, the successful love of Astaire and Rogers is closely bound up with their success as performers. From this derives the notion of music and dance as spontaneous products of a happy, fulfilled life, not just a separated, professional spectacle.
When, as usually happens, these Musicals break through the fictional framework of their meagre plots to set up a discourse with the audience, they exhort the spectator to musicalise his own life too, as an antidote to the Depression:
Shall we give in to despair, or shall we dance with never a care? Life is short, we’re growing older, Don’t you be an also ran, You better dance little lady, dance little man. Dance whenever you can.
The film from which this number comes, Shall We Dance (1937), marks the true culmination of the Astaire-Rogers partnership. It manifests a powerful reaction against the regimentation and manipulated impersonality of Busby Berkeley’s choreography, in which human beings – especially women – are reduced to the level of decorative objects. It also exhibits the positive influence of Frank Capra’s popular success, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936).
Capra’s hero, like Astaire in Shall We Dance?, is subjected to a great deal of pressure to succumb to the demands of High Art and High Society. Longfellow Deeds is a tuba-playing “farm boy” from Ohio who is pitchforked, via a $20,000,000 inheritance, into the corrupt world of New York lawyers, cultural entrepreneurs, and society belIes. His native shrewdness and innocence enable him to resist successfully all the various attempts upon his money and his person, and to redeem the world through his “screwball” philanthropy. Astaire too has to fight to assert his true self – Pete Peters from Philadelphia, PA – against those who would confine him within his assumed identity as the European ballet dancer, the Great Petrov. His redeemer is, of course, Ginger Rogers in the role of a nightclub dancer. Her American spontaneity finally brings out the “Philadelphia” in Astaire, frees him from the repressive forces of an artificial society, and releases both his artistic and his emotional energies.
It should be stressed that the celebration of individualism in these films of the late thirties does not so much reflect a contemporary reality, as a reaction against the current preoccupation with corporate ideals, and a yearning for an imagined pre-industrial innocence. At the same time, it also needs to be said that this in no way diminishes their cultural significance. It is never very helpful to categorise works of popular art as “escapist” and leave it at that. The questions that need to be asked about them concern the quality of life that prompts the need for escape, the ideals represented by the life that is escaped to, and the imaginative energy involved in the creation of both. For instance, it has been pointed out that the Utopian sensibility behind Hollywood Musicals is a strictly limited one. Though the films treat such problems as scarcity, exhaustion, monotony, manipulation and fragmentation, and attempt to substitute a world of abundance, energy, intensity, and individual as well as communal values, there are other, more specific problems, such as race, class and sexual caste, that are denied validity by this, and indeed, by most Hollywood genres.
By common critical consent the great age of the Musical is reckoned to be more or less co-terminous with the life of the Arthur Freed production unit at MGM. Freed had worked on the MGM lot as a songwriter since 1929, but he is best remembered for the films he produced in the late forties and fifties including Easter Parade (1948), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Band Wagon (1953), Silk Stockings (1957), and Gigi (1958). The team he gathered around himself in those years developed an expertise in every aspect of the Musical that enabled the studio to produce with apparent effortlessness a world of colour, movement and music, in which Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Cyd Charisse allowed their audiences to glimpse and even share a life very different from that developing in the bleak confrontations of the Cold War abroad, or the suspicion and fear induced by the McCarthy witch hunts at home.
The structure of these films, depending upon the management of contradictions between conflicting lifestyles, had been set up with the form itself, much earlier, and it is arguable that, of the Freed Musicals, the very first example, based upon the actualities of Depression America, was the best. The Wizard of Oz (1939) was released at the end of an era at a time which in retrospect appears as the high water mark of the studio system. Within just a few months a handful of films were made – Stagecoach (1939), Gone With The Wind (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and The Grapes of Wrath (1940), which in their various ways set the standards and defined the limits of the Hollywood narrative film. Such is the accelerated history of Hollywood, though, that within another year Orson Welles had brought out his masterpiece, Citizen Kane (1940), a film which broke every existing convention, substituted self-conscious Modernist techniques for the transparent Hollywood style, and pointed the way forward to a period in which it would no longer be possible for either Hollywood or Europe to maintain a separate artistic identity.
Orson Welles had been brought to Hollywood by the President of RKO, George Schaefer, and on the strength of his reputation in radio and the theatre, given complete freedom to make any film he liked without being subjected to the normal restraints or interference. He did so, and the result convinced Schaefer that he had a film which could save RKO from the bankruptcy it was facing.
Before the film could be shown, however, Schaefer was approached by Nicholas Sehenck, an associate of Louis B. Mayer of MGM, who offered him over $800,000 in return for the destruction of the negative and all prints. It will probably never be known for certain who put up the money, but it is more than likely that it came from a consortium of the top movie moguls, all of whom were worried by the possibility of reprisals against the industry by the film’s thinly disguised subject, the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst. Schaefer reused the offer even though he was warned that the large theatre circuits owned by the other big four companies, Fox, Paramount, Warners and Loew’s, would make sure that the film could not be widely exhibited. In addition, his refusal brought down upon RKO the considerable weight of Hearst’s own wrath, expressed in a variety of ways, from straightforward attacks in his newspapers, to the blackmail of anyone prepared to help Schaefer, and political harassment of Welles and his colleagues. It was like a full dress rehearsal for the infamous Hollywood witch hunts. Eventually, when threatened with legal action, the other companies half-heartedly backed down and the film had a very limited release.
The lack of advertising and promotion ensured the film’s box office failure, in spite of excellent reviews. Though it won the New York Film Critics award, it failed to gain an Academy award in eight out of the nine categories for which it had been nominated. More significantly, the audience at the ceremony – the Hollywood community – greeted every mention of its name, or that of Welles, with loud boos and hisses. Not surprisingly, in the face of such powerful opposition, it took many years for Citizen Kane to be properly assimilated into film culture and history.
Shortly before Citizen Kane was made, a complaint was filed against the five major companies that was eventually to have far more important effects upon the entire industry than any single film could. They were charged with combining and conspiring to restrain trade unreasonably, and to monopolise the production, distribution, and exhibition of films. In addition, the three minor companies, Columbia, Universal and United Artists, were charged with conspiring with the major companies for the same purposes.
The aim of the action was to divorce exhibition from production and’ thus put an end to such restrictive practices a- the block booking of films, the fixing of film licence terms, and the control of admission prices. The legal battle dragged on through the 1940s, but the Supreme Court decision against Paramount Pictures in 1947 signalled the end of all the old empires. As if this were not enough, the studios had to face another major threat posed by the rapid spread of television throughout the country during the 1950s. Of course, the industry fought back in predictable ways, most of which were based on the belief that the smallness of the television screen could best be countered by increasing the size of films. Budgets began to expand in order to finance block busters, and the size of cinema screens and film stock followed suit in order to accommodate them. The increased cost of making and showing these films, and the recognition that the old, regular, undiscriminating audience had gone forever, had a drastic effect upon the number of films produced. Warner Brothers, for example, released sixty-seven films in 1937, but only fifteen in 1977.
Another factor that helped to determine the direction taken by the film industry at this time, was the growing influence of European film. A small but significant following for the work of Godard, Bergman and Fellini not only helped to further segment a shrinking audience, but also persuaded film makers to experiment more with subject and style. If one examines the films that now make most money, it is obvious that, though Hollywood still relies very heavily on certain formulae, the shape and the texture of modern films differ radically from those that provided a staple diet in the thirties. The big hits of 1977, for example, were a space spectacular (Star Wars), a supernatural horror film based on an earlier success (Exorcist II), a Rock Musical (Saturday Night Fever), a “Roadeo” comedy (Smokey and the Bandit), a wide screen, stereophonic, underwater adventure (The Deep), and a children’s “Fantasy-Marvel” (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The same year marked the release of four more American films which, though less successful financially, did well in the “art houses”, and won a great deal of praise from European critics. These were Fred Zinnemann’s Julia, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, Robert Altman’s Three Women, and Richard Brooks’ Looking for Mr. Goodbar.
The evolution of native American genre films in this period may be profitably explored in relation to general developments in American culture and society, though the nature of such causal connections must remain to some extent problematical, as we shall see. Perhaps the best example is the Western. By what seems like a nice historical coincidence, but is probably not, Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”, in which he argued that the existence of free lands in the West had been responsible for the creation of important American character traits, was delivered to a scholarly audience just a few months before the first cowboys made their appearance on the screen. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was photographed for the Edison Kinetoscope in 1894, and Cody himself, like many other survivors from Western history, was drawn into the business of re-enacting, or re-creating, the immediate past on film.
Cody’s own stated aim was to make an historically accurate documentary film about the Indian wars, and though the film itself has now been lost, recent scholarship suggests that it, and indeed many other films of this early period, wittingly or unwittingly captured some sense of the West’s actuality. The Western as Hollywood knows it, however, was being created, not so much in these films, or even in early masterpieces like James Cruze’s The Covered Wagon (1923), or John Ford’s The Iron Horse (1924), both of which combined fact with fiction, as in the dozen of horse operas churned out as “program” pictures by obscure little companies, many of which were still filming in New Jersey or New York. It was the simplification of the formula in these low budget one-reelers that provided the pattern for thousands of films during the next forty years. The great bulk of subsequent Westerns were made in the “B-Hive”, the name given to a group of small independent studios producing B films, or fillers, for double feature programmes throughout Hollywood’s lucrative years. The iconography, plots and characters of these movies were just as uncomplicated as those in their silent predecessors. Given that a studio like Republic was committed to two Westerns a month, each of them shot in seven days on a $50,000 budget, they had to be. At the same time, the very existence of these simple formula films and the audience’s familiarity with them, is what enabled directors such as Ford, Hawks, Mann and Boettischer, to play such subtle and interesting variations on the form far at least three decades.
Any attempt at social or psychological interpretation of the form depends to some extent upon the kind of definition one makes. To merit the name at all, a Western must surely, as John Cawelti argues, first of all take place in the West, near the Frontier, at a time in history when social order and anarchy were in tension, and its action must involve some form of pursuit. This is a very basic prescription and many other commentators and critics have elaborated on what they take to be necessary elements of setting, plot or character. In his structural analysis of narrative, for example, Will Wright lists the basic plot functions of what he calls the Classical Western as follows: (1) The hero enters a social group. (2) The hero is unknown to the society. (3) The hero is revealed to have an exceptional ability. (4) The society recognises a difference between themselves and the hero; the hero is given a special status. (5) The society does not completely accept the hero. (6) There is a conflict of interest between the villains and the society. (7) The villains are stronger than the society; the society is weak. (8) There is a strong friendship or respect between the hero and a villain. (9) The villains threaten society. (10) The hero avoids involvement in the conflict. (11) The villains endanger a friend of the hero’s. (12) The hero fights the villains. (13) The hero defeats the villains. (14) The society is safe. (15) The society accepts the hero. (16) The hero loses or gives up his special status.
Wright goes on to contrast this morphology with that of a later form, the Professional Western, and to interpret the change from one to the other in the context of the American shift, after the Second World War, from an individualist market economy to a corporate or managed one. It is a very ingenious interpretation of the Western in terms of the understanding and communication of social tensions, but it is based on data and definitions that not everyone would accept. For instance, he deliberately restricts his analysis to the sixty.four top grossing Westerns made between 1931 and 1972, on the assumption that such films correspond most exactly to the expectations of the audience, and to the meanings viewers demand from the myth. The difficulties presented by a study based on this procedure can be seen when Cat Ballou (1965) and Shane (1953) are both described in his list as Classical Westerns. Cawelti’s model, constructed more loosely but on a firmer empirical base, may not produce such a neat reading of American social tensions, but it does grant significance to other important elements in films, besides narrative functions, and it also recognises the fact that movies relate to a multitude of other relevant contexts.
In the case of the two films mentioned, differences that are not revealed by an examination of their narrative patterns become only too obvious if one attends to the crucial elements of setting or mis-en-scene. The gun fighter in Cat Ballou, Kid Shelleen, is played by Lee Marvin as an ageing drunk who has to be physically and mentally supported by the cowboy’s traditional props: whisky, women, his horse and his costume. Throughout the film, however, these iconic elements are’ subjected to gross comic exaggeration. When, for example, he is helped into his clothes before the final “showdown”, we see him being laced first into a tight corset, then enormous boots, and finally a heavy, jewel encrusted waistcoat; appurtenances which transform him completely but also make it virtually impossible for him to walk! His antagonist, Tim Strawn, is also played by Lee Marvin (in itself a parody of a traditional Western motif: the idea of hero and villain, representing the “light” and “dark” sides of personality). Like many of his villainous predecessors on the screen, Strawn’s moral ugliness is given physical embodiment, but not in his case a scar, a twisted mouth, or a drooping eyelid, but an enormous, artificial, silver nose, ludicrous in its clown-like, dehumanising effect. In these, and a hundred other ways, the film systematically parodies the codes and values of the Western by relentlessly subjecting its revered images and symbols to various forms of comic pastiche.
Shane moves in a diametrically opposite direction in order to transcend rather than subvert the genre, and to create a mood of elegiac heroism. If it were not for the fact that the world created on screen is filtered through the viewpoint of a young boy, the visual enhancement of every traditional image might make for a disabling sentimentality. As it is, we are offered – through the child’s eyes a landscape of overwhelming beauty and grandeur, in which an idyllic rural community nestles beneath snow-capped mountains, cherishing a dream of democracy and social order, but threatened by violence and lawlessness. “The Spirit of the West” Alan Ladd in fringed buckskins – descends into this arena to meet and ritualistically defeat the sinister, blackclad “Spirit of Evil”, Jack Palance, before fading away as mysteriously as he arrived. Even ii, as some critics have claimed, the crystallisation of the myth in Shane brought one tradition to an end and left room only for such versions of the anti-Western as Cat Ballou, an interpretation that refuses to take account of their basic differences of tone cannot do justice to the genre.
In the Western, no less than in Hemingway’s novels, what finally matters is not so much what is done, as how it is done; heroism becomes a function of style. It is possible to discern the same narrative pattern in a great many other films of the post-war period besides the Classical Western. It is arguable that one of the defining characteristics of popular narrative film is its rigid insistence upon the resolution of conflict by narrative closure. It follows then that attempts to treat the social or psychological problems inherent in the myth are much more likely to be made at the level of setting or character than by opening up the narrative structure.
One of the more persistent themes in post-war Hollywood cinema has been the futility of individual action, heroic or otherwise, in the context of a vast military/industrial society, It has been reflected in the Western in a multitude of images that have helped to undermine, or at least revise its traditional codes. In Lonely Are the Brave (1962), Kirk Douglas and his horse are finally taken out, not by the sixguns of a sheriff, but on a wet, dark, highway, by a huge truck carrying lavatory bowls !; the hero of Kid Blue (1973) finds himself in a factory making ash trays; Hud (1963) has traded his Colt for a Cadillac; and the shots heard by the two cowboys riding through the Western landscape at the beginning of Comes a Horseman (1978), are not what we (and they) imagine, but the rifles of a military Honour Guard at the burial of a World War II hero.
Another way of demythologising the form is by creating characters whose physical and mental attitudes are in direct contrast to those of the archetypal hero. In films like Will Penny (1967) and Monte Walsh (1970) we are given, in place of the cool, gun twirling dandy, ageing workmen whose primary aim is not that of making the West a fit place to live in by ridding it of evil, so much as surviving the rigours of bad weather and hard physical work, and saving enough money to give themselves security in old age. Alternatively, some directors, like Arthur Penn in The Left Handed Gun (1958), and Philip Kaufman in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1971), have taken well known Western prototypes like Billy the Kid and Jesse James, only to reinterpret their exploits in terms of neurotic or psychotic anti-social behaviour.
During a period in which there has been a radical revision of public and private attitudes to American minorities, some of the minor stereotyped figures essential to Hollywood genre films, have also disappeared, sometimes only to return in new guises. Little Big Man (1971) and A Man Called Horse (1970) are interesting examples of films which explore a much more ambivalent and problematic relationship between Indians and Caucasians than in the days when “the only good Injun was dead ‘un”. The terms of the modern debate are more likely to be psychological and cultural than moral and social, with the Indian representing the survival of non-rational and non-aggressive modes of perception and behaviour, pitted against the technologically supported power of White imperialism.
The image of Woman in the Western has also undergone a transformation. The traditional dichotomy of Eastern schoolteacher and Western whore is denied once and for all by such characters as that played by Julie Christie in Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). Like her blonde predecessors she is associated with social progress, but the means by which she attains it in the embryonic community of Presbyterian Church is by taking over Warren Beatty’s inefficient brothel and setting it up as a profitable business venture. Like her dark haired sisters in earlier films she is also a sensualist who is not above exploiting men’s sexual appetites, but her own are best served, not in bed but in the opium den. McCabe and Mrs. Miller is an excellent example of a film which, like many of Altman’s, radically subverts the convention of a genre whilst maintaining the basic narrative structure.
It would be wrong to infer from all this, however, that the growing sophistication of a Hollywood genre like the Western is indicative of a similar growth in the sensibilities of the mass audience for popular art. Most of that audience was, by 1960, firmly entrenched in front of television screens, and the major networks took advantage by filling their schedules with material that had hitherto only been accessible in the cinemas: Westerns, Gangsters, and Soap Operas. TV took over and surpassed – in quantity at least – the output of the studios producing B features and Serials, leaving Hollywood to search desperately for new formulae with which to win back its mass audience.
One of the ways in which Hollywood prepared itself to fight the threat of television was by relaxing the stringency of its own censorship laws. In 1968 a new set of Code Objectives was published by the Motion Picture Association of America, designed in its own words “to keep in close harmony with the mores, culture, the moral sense and change in our society”. The new Code still railed against detailed or protracted acts of violence and illicit or intimate scenes of sexuality, and also issued grave warnings about the possible spread of license. But these rhetorical flourishes failed to obscure the real point of the document, which was to introduce a rating system for films whereby these sensitive areas could be treated in “X” rated films for safe exhibition to adult audiences.
Whilst this was an effective counter to the blandness of television at the time, and helped to ensure audiences for such excellent films as Last Tango in Paris (1972) as well as for a multitude of sexploitation” films that flooded the market in the 1970s, there was also some truth in the Association’s claim that in changing its Code it was responding to actual shifts in society’s values. Throughout the 19505 and 19605 American psychologists and sociologists had been publishing the results of research that seemed to suggest a growing dichotomy between public and private attitudes to moral issues. These changes had already begun to be reflected in mainstream films. As early as 1959 Robert Brustein was commenting on a new sexual “realism” that was beginning to pervade Hollywood, and this was given further impetus in the 19605 by the growth and spread of independent film making completely outside the control of the conservative industry. Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1963), Andy Warhol’s The Chelsea Girls (1966), Paul Morrissey’s Flesh (1968), and Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1964), which was at the centre of a famous Los Angeles court case, were all fairly widely seen during the decade and even more widely talked about. Directly reflecting a different though important aspect of the ethos of the 19605, they had an inevitable influence on the content of Hollywood films.
It is also likely that the small scale success of these film makers, and of Jonas Mekas’s Film Makers’ Cooperative which encouraged independent artists throughout the decade, his Film Distribution Center, the Film Makers’ Cinematheque in New York City, and Mekas’s tireless written support of “Underground” cinema in the magazine Film Culture which he founded, and in The Village Voice, had some effect on the way other young film makers thought about the structure of their careers in relation to Hollywood.
More important still, though, was Hollywood’s own changing attitude to film production. After the crisis of 1969-71, when the attempts of the major studios to combat television by investing in expensive “superproductions” had led them to the brink of disaster, there followed a period of readjustment and retrenchment. In 1972, for example, out of 296 films produced, no fewer than 170 were classified by Variety, the trade magazine, as “Independents”, and though many of these were actually financed by the major companies, the salient fact is that the studios had begun to relinquish the kind of artistic control that had created and sustained the “Hollywood style” and, within it, various studio styles, for half a century.
Of course, there were still directors, Hitchcock for example, who continued to work quite happily within the studio system, though in his particular case the developed style was so powerful that he could move quite comfortably between MGM, Universal, Paramount, Warners, and even Pinewood, without any major disruption to his work. But younger directors like Scorsese, Milius, Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola, who began their careers in this more fluid situation, necessarily developed in different ways, often experiencing from film to film both the risks and rewards – artistic and financial – of their semi-independent status. Of these, the one whose career to date is perhaps the most instructive, is Francis Coppola.
Unlike most of the older, established directors who ended up working in Hollywood, Coppola actually planned his career as a film maker, and to facilitate it enrolled in the Film School of the University of California at Los Angeles. By 1963 he had already made a few short “exploitation” films and a longer one for the legendary Roger Corman Productions, Dementia 13 (1962). His aim at this stage was to get as much experience as he possibly could in every aspect of the business, so that when he was offered a job as a writer for Seven Arts, he took it and began a long association that enabled him to work towards the artistic and financial independence he so wanted. Seven Arts itself was a company quite unlike the older, more orthodox Hollywood studios From small beginnings selling television movie rights, it had moved into the business of “packaging” films for other companies to produce and finance. Under their aegis Coppola soon graduated from writing to directing, and in addition to working on stich strictly commercial projects as the musical Finian’s Rainbow (1968), was also able to invest his energy and money into more personal projects such as You’re a Big Boy Now (1966) and The Rain People (1969).
These latter films, though different in style and content from normal studio products, were certainly not intended to be “uncommercial”, and are not “personal” in the same sense that Warhol’s are. Coppola has indicated his own goal by declaring that “The way to come to power, is not always merely to challenge the Establishment, but first make a place in it, and then challenge and double-cross the Establishment”. His aim has always been to make fictional, narrative films, but to do so in his own way, free from the interference of financiers and bureaucrats. It was for this reason that he decided in 1969, with the help of George Lucas and other friends who had travelled and worked with him during the shooting of The Rain People, to set up an independent studio hundreds of miles away from Hollywood, to be called American Zoetrope.
Here in San Francisco, with financial backing from Warners Coppola was able to set up a number of schemes dear to his heart. George Lucas began work on his science fiction film, THX 1138 (1971), John Milius started writing Apocalypse Now (1979), and the first discussions about American Graffiti (1973) took place. If American Zoetrope was modelled on Roger Corman’s company, it also sounds – in George Lucas’s description – very similar to the blueprint for United Artists half a century earlier: “The real concept was that it would be an independent, free production company that would make seven or eight films a year in varying degrees of safeness. We might do a couple of films that seemed fairly safe and reasonable, and then do some really off-the-wall productions. The theory was that it would all balance itself out and the operation would make money”. Coppola was also involved in another short lived venture, the Directors’ Company, which only produced two films, The Conversation (1974), and Paper Moon (1973).
Coppola’s film The Conversation, like Bogdanovich’s, Paper Moon, did not make much money, but it was a great critical success, winning the Grand Prix for the best film at the Cannes Festival. Its story revolves around a professional eavesdropper who is trying, with the help of very sophisticated technology, to piece together details of a possible murder plot, but who finds his own privacy violated by similar means. The film reflects not only Coppola’s own fascination with technology, but a sensitive response to the social and psychological implications of such contemporary incidents as Watergate. Like Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966) which bears a similar relation to President Kennedy’s assassination, it also hints at a concern with the moral issues involved in the restructuring of reality in the act of film making itself. For all the praise that has deservedly been heaped upon The Godfather, Coppola proved, in The Conversation, his ability to create, without the massive resources of Hollywood, a film that is every bit as good.
More significantly, the scale of The Conversation suggested to some observers that Coppola had managed to avoid the “syndrome of escalating giganticism” so pervasive in the modern industry, but his subsequent work has done little to confirm this. The money he earned from The Godfather was used to buy up the old Hollywood General Studios in 1979 and to bring back to life his dream of controlling his own artistic output, and of helping like-minded film makers. Sadly, his first film for the newly christened Zoetrope Studios, the ambitious, Conradian exploration of”the horror, the madness, the sensuousness, and the moral dilemma of the Vietnam War”, Apocalypse Now (1979), only plunged him back into the same difficulties he has always had in maintaining his independence. As Michael Dempsey pointed out, “in spite of his genuine artistic goals, he got caught up in the same wheeler-dealer’s recklessness – pyramiding a top-heavy, complex, multi-million dollar set of interlocking deals and schedules on to the quicksand of a fuzzy, unshaped screenplay – which the crassest hacks in the international film industry, coldassed businessmen who feel nothing but contempt for artists, continually get involved in.”
Though Coppola survived the experience, an even worse fate was to befall his more recent personal” film, One From the Heart (1982); a disaster of such proportions that it has forced him to sell his entire studio. At about the same time, Columbia Pictures, the company that had finally stepped in to distribute it only to withdraw it again after a disastrous seven weeks, was taken over by The Coca Cola Company. Unlike his earlier personal films, this one has proved to be as unpopular with the critics as it was with the public, one of them even going so far as to discover in it a revelation of”the schizoid d,ream of Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios”, “an old-style Hollywood studio stacked with all the latest video technology” and a film that “lacks the style to unite its human and technological elements”.
Coppola himself seems undaunted by the experience, according to Lillian Ross who wrote a long essay about the making of the film. He believes that One From the Heart, in which he was trying to create an entirely new film vocabulary, will eventually secure an important place in film history. It is a large claim to make, reminiscent of earlier ones by his iconoclastic predecessors, Welles and Griffith.
Nevertheless, his judgement is more likely to be proved right than that of his critics or his public. One From The Heart is one of the most startlingly original films to be made since Citizen Kane or The Wizard of Oz, which it closely resembles. It gives the lie to Detweiler’s complaint in Fedora about “the kids with beards” who have taken over Hollywood. “They don’t need scripts” he remarks bitterly, just give them a hand-held camera with a zoom lens”. In fact it is doubtful whether any film in history has been more rigorously planned than this one. In the pre-visualisation stage Coppola made more than a thousand video tapes and as many stills. He created hundreds of storyboards and sketches, and even made a filmed walkthrough of the story in the real Las Vegas before shooting no less than two hundred thousand feet of film on the elaborate set created in the Zoetrope studios. None of this is any guarantee of quality, of course, but the finished film does triumphantly justify the painstaking care that was lavished upon it. Coppola has taken hold of the most inflexible of film genres, the Musical; and vastly extended the possibilities of both its structure and texture to create a metaphoric discourse on the American Dream that makes every film produced before it suddenly look very old fashioned.
Moreover, he has made good his claim that financial disappointments will not be allowed to quench his creative spirit by making-two more films in quick succession, The Outsiders (1983), and Rumblefish (1983). He has shown that it is possible to go on making excellent films with or without the help of the established studios; and his emphatically reiterated belief that “you can’t be an artist and be safe” demonstrates a determination and a maturity that augur well for his own future, and, if his example is followed, for that of Hollywood.
Despite the proliferation of literature on every aspect of film, there are very few books that adequately cover the subject of this pamphlet. The nearest approaches are in The Classical Hollywood Cinema, by David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson (London: Routledge, 1984); A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-80, by Robert B. Ray (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985) and in the seven volumes devoted to Hollywood in the International Film Guide series.
Individual titles are Early American Cinema, by Anthony Slide; Hollywood in the Twenties, by David Robinson; Hollywood in the Thirties by John Baxter; Hollywood in the Forties, by Charles Higham and Joel Greenberg; Hollywood in the Fifties, by Gordon Gow; Hollywood in the Sixties, by John Baxter; and Hollywood in the Seventies, by Les Keyser; (The Tantivy Press, London; Zwemmer, New York: Barnes, 1968-1981). There are, in addition, two single volume histories which allocate large proportions of their texts to American film. These are Eric Rhodes’ A History of the Cinema from its Origins to 1970 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978), and A Short History of the Movies, by Gerald Mast (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976). These can be supplemented by David Thomson’s opinionated but fascinating Biographical Dictionary of the Cinema (London: Secker and Warburg, 1975. Rev. ed., 1980). Richard Roud’s two volume compilation of essays on Cinema: A Critical Dictionary (London: Nationwide Book Services 1980) is invaluable, as is Richard Koszarski’s collection of essays by film makers, Hollywood Directors 1914-1940 and Hollywood Directors 1941-1976 (New York: OUP, 1976) Charles Higham deals with most of these directors in his detailed survey The Art of the American Film: 1900-1971 (New York: Doubleday, 1974).
The standard history of American film from its beginning until 1938 is Lewis Jacobs’s The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939). Reissued in the series “Studies in Culture and Communication”, by the Teachers College Press, 1968) Jacobs focuses primarily upon films and film makers, though he has much to say about the development of the industry too. The opposite is the case in Benjamin Hampton’s History of the American Film Industry which.was originally published in 1931 and only deals with the silent era. The same is true of Terry Ramsaye’s A Million and One Nights which deals with an even shorter period but which is full of detailed information about the early years of Hollywood. For a more concise treatment of a longer period see The Celluloid Empire, by Robert Stanley (New York: Hastings House, 1978). The two subjects – the industry and its products – are brought together, and the relationship between them analysed, in Harmless Entertainment: Hollywood and the Ideology of Consensus, by Richard Maltby. Hortense Powdermaker occasionally attempts to do the same in Hollywood the Dream Factory (Boston: Little, Brown, 1950), though her approach is that of an anthropologist. Tino Balio has collected several excellent essays together in The American Film Industry (University of Wisconsin Press, 1976) and this is complemented by the documents collected by Gerald Mast in The Movies in Our Midst. Two other excellent books on the films of the silent period are Kevin Brownlow’s The Parade’s Gone By and William K. Everson’s American Silent Film (New York: OUP, 1978).
A series of useful studio histories is in process of being published, each of which details every film made by a particular studio in chronological order with credits and synopses. Already available are The MGM Story, by John Douglas Eames, The Warner Bros. Story, by Clive Hirschorn, and The RAO Story, by Richard B. Jewell with Vernon Harbin (London: Octopus, 1977, 1979, 1982). A general study of the major studios is Roy Pickard’s The Hollywood Studios (London: Muller, 1978).
For those whose primary interest is in America rather than films, there are three very different but equally rewarding books that use film to illustrate a variety of aspects of American society. Larry May’s Screening Out the Past (New York: OUP, 1980) shows how the movies both reflected and helped to effect the transformation of American values from Victorian to modern; Michael Wood in America in the Movies (New York: Delta, 1975), explores a system of assumptions and beliefs that found expression in American films of the 1940s and 1950s, and David Thomson in America in the Dark (London: Hutchinson, 1978) takes some of these myths and shows how Hollywood, in its dependence upon them, necessarily fails to treat the real world.
As one might expect, a great deal more has been written about the so-called “Golden Age” of Hollywood, from the introduction of sound until the decline of the studio system in the late 1950s. Film production in this period was so intensive that most scholars have tended to specialise, but there is one book on the 1930s which purports to deal with all 5,000 films. Roger Dooley’s From Scarface to Scarlett (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981) is not notable for its critical rigour but it does serve as a valuable reference book. For social and political reasons more attention has been paid to Warner Bros. than any other studio in the 30s. Nick Roddick’s A New Deal in Entertainment: Warner Brothers in the 1930s (London, BFI, 1983) is ‘the obvious example, but to a lesser extent the same is true of Andrew Bergman’s We’re in the Money (New York: Harper and Row, 1973) and The Hollywood Social Problem Film, by Peter Roffman and Jim Purdy (Indiana UP, 1981). Robert Sklar’s cultural history of American film, Movie-Made America (New York: Chappell, 1975) is broader in its scope, but particularly good on Frank Capra and Walt Disney.
Studies of classic American genres have been particularly popular in the last few years, and the following represents only a very small selection. On the Western the major works of scholarship are Kevin Brownlow’s The War, the West and the Wilderness, and John Tuska’s The Filming of the West (New York: Doubleday, 1976, London: Robert Hale, 1978). These should be read with John Cawelti’s The Six-Gun Mystique, Jim Kitses’s Horizons West (London: BFI/Thames and Hudson, 1969), and The Western: From Silents to the Seventies, by George N. Fenin and William K. Everson (New York: Orion Press, 1962. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977).
Eugene Roscow’s Born to Lose (New York: OUP, 1978) is the definitive study of the Gangster movie, but Colin McArthur’s Underworld US.A. (London: BFI/Secker and Warburg, 1972) and Jack Shadoian’s Dreams and Dead Ends (MIT Press, 1979) are both excellent studies of the genre. The Musical has spawned more picture books than serious analyses, but Jane Feuer’s The Hollywood Musical and the essays in Genre: The Musical: A Reader are outstanding exceptions. In addition to these, Hugh Fordin’s history of the Freed unit at MGM, The World of Entertainment: Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals (New York: Avon Books, 1975) is essential reading.
Studies of themes in genre films have also produced some excellent criticism in books such as Stanley Cavell’s Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Harvard UP, 1981), and Charles Affron’s Cinema and Sentiment (University of Chicago Press, 1982). The classic study of women in the movies is Molly Haskell’s From Reverence to Rape, but this is an area of escalating scholarship and more specialised works continue to be produced, such as Brandon French’s On the Verge of Revolt: Women in American Films of the Fifties (New York: Ungar, 1978), Women in Film Noir, edited by E. Ann Kaplan (London: BFI, 1978) or Women and their Sexuality in the New Film, by Joan Mellen (London: Davis-Poynter, 1974). The same author has also studied the subject of masculinity in American films in Big Bad Wolves (London: Elm Tree Books, 1978), as has Donald Spoto in Camerado: Hollywood and the American Man (New York: New American Library, 1978). Blacks in American film have also been extensively studied, and Thomas Cripps includes an excellent bibliography in his own book, Black Film and Genre, (Indiana UP, 1979).
James Monaco has produced an excellent guide to American Film Now (New York: New American Library, 1979). It treats, in the words of its sub-title, the people, the power, the money, and the movies. So too does Michael Pye in his long introductory essay on the modern industry in The Movie Brats (London: Faber and Faber, 1979). Pye and co-author, Lynda Myles, then go on to examine the work of Coppola, Lucas, De Palma, Scorsese, and Spielberg. Robert Kolker also deals with Coppola and Scorsese in his excellent book, A Cinema of Loneliness (OUP, 1980), and adds to these studies of Penn, Kubrick, and Altman.
Restrictions of space make it impossible to mention here the many line studies of individual directors, actors or films, though it is worth noting that there are several series specialising in this work, such as the International Film Guide series, Studio Vista’s Movie Paperbacks, the BFI’s Cinema One series, and Spectrum’s Film Focus series. Mention should also be made here of the excellent series of screenplays published in the Wisconsin/Warner Bros. screenplay series.
Finally, there are several journals, in England and America, which either specialise in American film, or devote generous amounts of space to it. These include Sight and Sound, Movie, Framework, The Velvet Light Trap, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Monthly Film Bulletin, and Variety.
- The advertisement from which this is taken is reproduced by William K. Everson in his book American Silent Film (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1978), p.25. Back
- Gilbert Seldes, Movies for the Millions (London: Batsford, 1937), p. 12. Back
- The best history of the film industry considered as a business enterprise is Benjamin P. Hampton’s A History of the Movies (N.Y.: Covici, Friede, 1931) It was later republished under a new title History of the American Film Industry from its Beginnings to 1931 (N.Y.: Dover, 1970). My account is based on Chapter Two of this book. Back
- In addition to Hampton, one should consult Lewis Jacobs’s The Rise of the American Film (N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, 1939) republished with additional material including his essay, “Experimental Cinema in America 1921-1947” (N.Y.: Teachers college Press, 1968). For a contemporary account’ see Terry Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1926). Back
- Roy Pickard deals briefly with each of the major companies in The Hollywood Studios (London: Muller, 1978) but there are also good individual histories as well; for example, Tino Balio’s United Artists: the Company Built by the Stars (University of Wisconsin Press, 1976). Back
- Kevin Brownlow, The Parade ‘s Gone By (N.Y.: Ballentine Books, 1968), p.30. Back
- Most of the modern controversy surrounding Griffith has concentrated on the portrayal of Blacks in The Birth of a Nation. Griffith was a Southern conservative with aristocratic pretensions, and not surprisingly his social and moral philosophy reflects that background. His racism was very mild indeed though, compared to that of Thomas Dixon, whose novel The Clans man formed the basis for the film, or to that of contemporary films portraying Blacks such as Lubin’s Coon Town Suffragettes or Turner’s In Slavery Days. Back
- Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form (trans. Jay Leyda) (N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1949). Back
- James Agee, Agee on Film (London: Peter Owen, 1963), pp.316-17. Back
- Parker Tyler’s analysis of the character in Chaplin, Last of the Clowns (N.Y.: Horizon Press, 1972) is primarily psychological in orientation, but the study also contains many insights into the cultural and social implications of Chaplin’s art. Back
- Quoted in Samuel Marx’s Mayer and Thalberg: the Make Believe Saints (N.Y.: Random House, 1975), p.49. Details of Goldwyn’s career can also be found in Arthur Marx’s Goldwyn: a Biography of the Man Behind the Myth (N.Y.: Norton & Co., 1976). The scandals that accompanied these deals are graphically described by Kenneth Anger in Hollywood Babylon (N.Y.: Delta, 1975). Back
- Part of this pamphlet, along with many more important documents from every period, is reprinted in The Movies in Our Midst, edited by Gerald Mast (University of Chicago Press, 1982). Back
- Molly Haskell, From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies (N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1974), p.91. Back
- Several accounts of HUAC and Hollywood have been published including The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community 1930-1960 by Larry Ceplair and Stephen England (N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday, 1980), Hollywood on Trial: The Story of the Ten Who Were Indicted, by Gordon Kaln (N.Y.: Boni and Gaer, 1948). However, the best treatment of this, and other political and social issues, in terms of the effect on films produced in Hollywood, is Richard Maltby’s Harmless Entertainment: Hollywood and the Ideology of Consensus (Metuchen, NJ. and London: The Scarecrow Press, 1983). Back
- Hollywood in the Forties, by Charles Higham and Joseph Greenburg (London: Tantivy Press, 1968), p.20. Back
- These ideas are elaborated in respect of the two genres in essays by Robert Warshow, “The Gangster as Tragic Hero”, in his book, The Immediate Experience (N.Y.: Atheneum, 1974), pp.127-133, and Mark Roth, “Some Warners Musicals and the Spirit of the New Deal” in Genre: The Musical: A Reader, edited by Rick Altman (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), pp.41-56. Back
- Jane Feuer’s essay, “The Self-reflective Musical and the Myth of Entertainment” (in Genre: The Musical) deals specifically with the concepts of spontaneity and integration, whilst her book The Hollywood Musical (London: BFI, 1982) extends the analysis considerably. Back
- See Richard Dyer, “Entertainment and Utopia” (in Genre: The Musical), pp. 175-189. Back
- The full history of Citizen Kane‘s remarkable career has been told by Pauline Kael in her long essay “Raising Kane”, first published in The New Yorker in 1971, and re-printed in The Citizen Kane Book (St. Albans: Paladin, 1974), pp.1-71. Back
- For details of the Supreme Court opinion and extracts from Michael Conant’s book, Anti-trust in the Motion Picture Industry, see The Movies in Our Midst, pp. 594-604. Back
- See especially Kevin Brownlow’s The War, The West and The Wilderness (London: Secker and Warburg, 1979). Back
- John G. Cawelti, The Six-Gun Mystique (Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1975), p.31. Back
- Will Wright, Six-Guns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western (University of California Press, 1975), pp.48-9. Back
- The best description of the Western hero is Robert Warshow’s “Movie Chronicle: The Westerner”. It is printed in The Immediate Experience and can be profitably read as a companion piece to “The Gangster as Tragic Hero”. Back
- For further discussion of this topic see Leslie A. Fiedler, The Return of the Vanishing American (N.Y.: Stein and Day, 1968). Back
- The most thorough examination of this aspect of Altman’s work has been undertaken by John H. Quinn in an unpublished M.A. dissertation, The Films of Robert Altman (University of Exeter, 1975). Back
- Details of the official Code Objectives (1968) can be found in The Movies in Our Midst, pp.704-707. In another article in the same volume “The Movie Rating Game”, pp.707-715, Stephen Farber writes interestingly about the administration of the new Code. Back
- Robert Brustein, “The New Hollywood: Myth and Anti-Myth” in Film Quarterly, 1959. Back
- These figures are taken from David Gordon’s essay, “Why the Movie Majors are Major” Sight and Sound, 42 (Autumn, 1973), pp. 194-96. Back
- Quoted in The Movie Brats, by Michael Pye and Lynda Myles (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), p.83. Back
- Ibid., p.86. Back
- Michael Dempsey, “Apocalypse Now”, Sight and Sound, 49, Winter 1979/80, pp.7-8. Back
- Lillian Ross, “Onward and Upward With the Arts: Some Figures on a Fantasy”, The New Yorker, November 8th, 1982. Back
American Graffiti: (1973 Lucas film/Coppola Co./Universal). Directed by George Lucas, produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz, photographed by Ron Eveslage and Jan D’Alquen, with Richard Dreyfuss, Ronny Howard, Paul Le Mat. (110 mins.)
American in Paris, An: (1951, M.G.M.). Directed by Vincente Minelli, produced by Arthur Freed, written by Alan Jay Lerner, music by George and Ira Gershwin, choreography by Gene Kelly, with Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant. (113 mins.)
Angels with Dirty Faces: (1938, Warner Bros.). Directed by Michael Curtiz, produced by Sam Bischoff, written by John Waxley and Warren Duff, photographed by Sol Polito, with James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, George Bancroft. (94 mins.)
Annie Hall: (1977, United Artists). Directed and written by Woody Allen, produced by Charles H. Joffe, photographed by Gordon Willis, with Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane. (93 mins.)
Apocalypse Now: (1979, Omni Zoetrnpe/Columbia E. M. I.-Warner). Directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, written by Coppola and John Milius, photographed by Vittorio Storaro, with Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen. (153 mins.)
Arrowsmith: (1931, United Artists). Directed by John Ford, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, written by Sidney Howard from the novel by Sinclair Lewis, photographed by Ray June, with Ronald Colman, Helen Hayes, Richard Bennett, Beulah Bondi, Myrna Loy. (108 mins.)
Band Wagon, The: (1953, M.G.M.). Directed by Vincente Minelli, produced by Arthur Freed, choreographed by Michael Kidd, with Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse. (112mins.)
Big Sleep, The: (1946, Warner Bros.). Directed and produced by Howard Hawks, written by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman from the novel by Raymond Chandler, photographed by Sidney Hickox, with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone. (114 mins.)
Birth of a Nation, The: (1915, Epoch). Directed by D. W. Griffith, written by Griffith and Frank Woods from The Clansman by Thomas Dixon, photographed by Billy Bitzer, with Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Robert Harron. (12 reels)
Blonde Venus: (1932, Paramount). Directed by Josef von Sternberg, written by Jules Furthman and S. K. Lauren, photographed by Bert Glennon, with Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant. (80 mins.)
Blow Up: (1966, M.G.M.). Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, photographed by Di Palma, with David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave. (111 mins.)
Cat Ballou: (1965, Columbia). Directed by Elliot Silverstein, produced by Harold Hecht, with Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin. (96 mins.) Chelsea Girls, The: (1966). Directed by Andy Warhol. (195 mins.)
Circus, The: (1928, United Artists). Written, directed, and produced by Charles Chaplin, photographed by Rollie H. Totheroh, with Chaplin, Allen Garcia, Merna Kentiedy, Betty Mossissey. (7 reels)
Citizen Kane: (1941, Mercury/R.K.O.). Directed and produced by Orson Welles, written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles, photographed by Greg Toland, with Welles, Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warwick, Ray Collins, Agnes Moorehead. (119 mins.)
City Lights: (1931, United Artists). Written, directed, and produced by Charles Chaplin, photographed by Rollie H. Totheroh, with Chaplin, Virginia Chervill, Florence Lee, Harry Mayers. (87 mins.)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: (1977, Columbia/E.M.I.). Directed by Stephen Spielberg, produced by Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips, written by Spielberg, photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond, with Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr. (130 mins.)
Comes a Horseman: (1978, United Artists). Directed by Alan J. Pakula, produced by Gene Kirkwood and Dan Paulson, written by Dennis Lynton Clark, photographed by Gordon Willis, with James Caan, Jane Fonda, Jason Robards. (118 mins.)
Conversation, The: (1974, Paramount). Directed and written by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Coppola and Fred Roos, photographed by Bill Butler, with Gene Hackman,John Cazale, A1len Garfield, Frederic Forrest. (113 mins.)
Covered Wagon: (1923, Famous Players-Lasky). Directed and produced by James Cruze, from a story by Emerson Hough, photographed by Karl Brown, edited by Dorothy Arzner, with J. Warren Kessigan, Lois Wilson. (6 reels, originally 10 reels)
Dead End: (1937, United Artists). Directed by William Wyler, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, written by Lillian Hellman, from the play by Sidney Kingsley, photographed by Gregg Toland, with Humphrey Bogart, Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sidney, Claire Trevor. (93 mins.)
Deep, The: (1977, Columbia-E.M.I.). Directed by Peter Yates, produced by Peter Guber, written by Peter Benchley and Tracy Keenan Wynn from the novel by Benchley, photographed by Christopher Challis, with Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Robert Shaw. (124 mins.)
Dementia 13: (1962, Fi1mgroup Inc./American International). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Roger Corman, photographed by Charles Hannawalt, with William Campbell, Luana Anders. (81 mins.)
Dinner at Eight: (1933, M.G.M.). Directed by George Cukor, produced by David O. Selznick, written by Herman Mankiewicz, from the play by Edna Ferber, photographed by William H. Daniels, with John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery. (108 mins.)
Double Indemnity: (1944, Paramount). Directed by Billy Wilder, produced by Joseph Sistrom, written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler from the story by.James M. Cain, photographed by John F. Seitz, with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson. (107 mins.)
Easter Parade: (1948, M.G.M.). Directed by Charles Walters, produced by Arthur Freed, music by Irving Berlin, photographed by Harry Stradling, with Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Peter Lawford, Ann Miller. (113 mins.)
Exorcist II (1977, Warner Bros.). Directed by John Boorman, produced by Boorman and Richard Lederer, written by William Good heart, photographed by William A. Fraker, with Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max Von Sydow, Paul Henreid. (102 mins.)
Fedora: (1978, Geria-Bavaria-Atelier). Directed and produced by Billy Wilder, written by I. A. L. Diamond and Wilder from a story in the book Crowned Heads by Thomas Tryon, photographed by Gerry Fisher, with William Holden, Marthe Keller, Hildegard Knel, Jose Ferrer. (113 mins.)
Finian’s Rainbow: (1968, Warner Bros./Seven Arts). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Joseph Landon, choreography by Hermes Pan, photography by Philip Lathrop, with Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele. (144 mins.)
Flaming Creatures: (1963). Directed by Jack Smith.
Flesh: (1968). Directed by Paul Morrissey, produced by Andy Warhol. (105 mins.)
42nd Street: (1933, Warner Bros.). Directed by Lloyd Bacon, photography by Sol Polito, choreography by Busby Berkeley, with Warner Baxter, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers. (85 mins.)
Gigi: (1958, M.G.M.). Directed by Vincente Minelli, produced by Arthur Freed, music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe from the novel by Colette, with Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, LouisJourdan. (116 mins.)
Godfather, The: (1972, Paramount). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Albert S. Ruddy, written by Coppola and Mario Puzo from the novel by Puzo, photography by Gordon Willis, with Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, (175 mins.)
Godfather, Part II The: (1974, Paramount). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Jonathan T. Taplin, written by Coppola and Puzo from the novel by Puzo, photography by Gordon Willis, with Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro. (200 mins.)
Gold Diggers of 1933: (1933, Warner Bros.). Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, produced by Hal Wallis, photography by Sol Polito, choreography by Busby Berkeley, with Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers. (96 mins.)
Gold Rush, The: (1925, United Artists). Directed and produced by Charles Chaplin, with Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Georgia Hale. (9 reels)
Gone with the Wind: (1939, M.G.M.). Directed by Victor Fleming, produced by David O. Selznick, written by Sidney Howard from the novel by Margaret Mitchell, photography by Raymond Rennahan and Ernest Haller, with Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland. (220 mins.)
Grapes of Wrath, The: (1940, Twentieth Century-Fox). Directed by John Ford, produced by Darryl F. Zannuck, written by Nunnally Johnson from the novel by John Steinbeck, photography by Gregg Toland, with Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, Russell Simpson, John Carradine. (128 mins.)
Great Dictator, The: (1940, United Artists). Directed and produced by Charles Chaplin, photography by Rollie H. Totheroh, with Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Billy Gilbert. (126 mins.)
Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, The: (1971, Universal). Directed and written by Philip Kaufman, photography by Bruce Surtees, with Cliff Robertson, Robert Duvall. (90 mins.)
Hud: (1963, Paramount). Directed by Martin Ritt, photography by James Wong Howe, with Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal. (112mins.)
Iron Horse, The: (1924, Fox). Directed by John Ford, photography by George Scheidermann, with George O’Brien. (119 mins.)
Julia: (1977, Twentieth Century-Fox). Directed by Fred Zinnermann, produced by Richard Roth, written by Alvin Sargent from a story by Lillian Hellman, photography by Douglas Slocombe, with Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Maximilian Schell. (117 mins.)
Kid Blue: (1973, Twentieth Century-Fox). Directed by James Frawley, with Dennis Hopper, Warren Oates. (100 mins.)
Killers, The: (1946, Universal). Directed by Robert Siodmak, produced by Mark Hellinger, written by John Huston (uncredited) from the story by Ernest Hemingway, with Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmund O’Brien. (102 mins.)
Last Tango in Paris: (1972, United Artists). Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, produced by Alberto Grimaldi,. photographed by Vittorio Storaro, with Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider. (129 mins.)
Left Handed Gun, The: (1958, Warner Bros.). Directed by Arthur Penn, produced by Fred Coe, written by Leslie Stevens from a play by Gore Vidal, photographed by J. Peverell Marley, with Paul Newman, Lita Milan, John Dehner. (102 mins.)
Little Caesar: (1930, First National). Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, produced by Hal Wallis, written by Francis Faragon from the novel by W. R. Burnett, photographed by Tony Gaudio, with Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenda Farrell. (80 mins.)
Little Big Man: (1970, Cinema Center Films/National General Pictures). Directed by Arthur Penn, produced by Stuart Millar, written by Calder Willingham from the novel by Thomas Berger, photographed by Harry Stradling Jr., with Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Chief Dan George. (150 mins.)
Lonely are the Brave: (1962, Universal). Directed by David Miller, written by Dalton Trumbo, photographed by Philip H. Lathrop, with Kirk Douglas, Walter Mathau. (107 mins.)
Looking for Mr. Goodbar: (1977, Paramount). Directed by Richard Brooks, – produced by Freddie Fields, written by Brooks from the novel by Judith Rossner, photographed by William A. Fraker, with Diane Keaton, Tuesday Weld, William Atherton, Richard Gere. (136 mins.)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller: (1971, Warner Bros.). Directed by Robert Altman, produced by David Foster, written by Altman and Brian McKay from the novel McCabe by Edmund Naughton, photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond, with Warren Beatty, Julie Christie. (109 mins.)
Mission to Moscow: (1943, Warner Bros.). Directed by Michael Curtiz, written by Howard Koch, photographed by Bert Glennon, with Walter Huston, Cyd Charisse. (123 mins.)
Modern Times: (1936, United Artists). Directed, produced and written by Charles Chaplin, photographed by Rollie H. Totheroh, with Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Chester Conklin. (85 mins.)
Monsieur Verdoux: (1947, United Artists). Directed, produced, and written-by Charles Chaplin, photographed by Rollie H. Totheroh, with Chaplin, Mady Correll, Allison Roddan, Robert Lewis, Audrey Betz, Martha Raye.(122 mins.)
Monte Walsh: (1970). Directed by William A. Fraker, produced by Hal Landers and Bobby Roberts, written by Lukas Heller and David Z. Goodman from the novel by Jack Schaefer, photographed by David M. Walsh, with Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Palance. (99 mins.)
Morocco: (1930, Paramount). Directed by Josef von Sternberg, produced by Hector Turnbull, written by Jules Furthman, photographed by Lee Garmes, with Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Adolphe Menjou. (90 mins.)
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: (1936, Columbia). Directed and produced by Frank Capra, written by Robert Riskin, photographed by Joseph Walker, with Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft. (115 mins.)
Nashville: (1975, A.B.C. Entertainment/Paramount). Directed and produced by Robert Altman, written by Joan Tewkesbury, photographed by Paul Lohmann, with David Arken, Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Shelley Duvall, Henry Gibson, Keenan Wynn. (161 mins.)
On Golden Pond: (1981, I.T.C./I.P.C.), Directed by Mark Rydell, produced by Bruce Gilbert, written by Ernest Thompson from his play, photographed by Billy Williams, with Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda. (109 mins)
On the Town: (1949, M.G.M,). Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, produced by Arthur Freed, music by Leonard Bernstein, photographed by Harold Rosson, with Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen. (98 mins.)
One From the Heart: (1982, Zoetrope Studios). Directed by Francis Coppola, produced by Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos, photographed by Vittorio Storaro, music by Tom Waits, with Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia. (107 mins.)
Orphans of the Storm: (1921, United Artists). Directed and produced by D. W. Griffith, with Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish,Joseph Schildkraut, Frank Losee. (12 reels)
Outsiders, The: (1983, Pony Boy Inc./Zoetrope). Directed by Francis Coppola, produced by Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos, written by Kathleen Knutsen Rowell from the novel by S. E. Hinton, photographed by Stephen H. Burnam, with C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, (91 mins.)
Public Enemy: (1931, Warner Bros.). Directed by William A. Wellman, written by Kubec Glasmon and John Bright from Bright’s story “Beer and Blood”, photographed by Dev Jennings, with James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Joan Blondell. (74 mins.)
Rain People, The: (1969, Warner Bros./Seven Arts). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Bart Patton and Ronald Colby, written by Coppola, photographed by Wilmer Butler, with James Caan, Shirley Knight, Robert Duvall. (101 mins.)
Rumble Fish: (1983, Hot Weather Films/Zoetrope). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Fred Roos and Doug Claybourne, written by S. E. Hinton and Coppola, from the novel by Hinton, photographed by Stephen H. Burnum, with Matt Dillon, Dennis Hopper, Mickey Rourke. (94 mins.)
Saturday Night Fever: (1977, Paramount). Directed by John Badham, produced by Robert Stigwood, written by Norman Wexler, choreography by Lester Wilson, with John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller. (119 mins.)
Scarface, Shame of a Nation: (1932, United Artists). Directed by Howard Hawks, produced by Howard Hughes, written by Ben Hecht, W. R. Burnett, et al., from the novel by Armitage Trail, photographed by Lee Garmes, with Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, George Raft. (90 mins.)
Scorpio Rising: (1964). Directed by Kenneth Anger.
Seven Year Itch, The: (1955, Twentieth Century-Fox). Directed by Billy Wilder, produced by Wilder and Charles K. Feldman, written by Wilder and George Axlerod, from Axelrod’s play, photographed by Milton Krasner, with Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts. (105 mins.)
Shall We Dance: (1937, R.K.O.). Directed by Mark Sandrich, produced by Pandro S. Berman, music by George and Ira Gershwin, choreography by Hermes Pan, with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers. (106 mins.)
Shane: (1953, Paramount). Directed and produced by George Stevens, written by A. B. Guthrie Jr., from the novel by Jack Schaefer, photographed by Loyal Griggs, with Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance, Van Heflin, Brandon de Wilde. (118 mins.)
Shanghai Express: (1932, Paramount). Directed by Josef von Sternberg, written by Jules Furthman, photographed by Lee Garmes, with Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong. (82 mins.)
She Done Him Wrong: (1933, Paramount). Directed by Lowell Sherman, written by Mae West from the play DiamondLil, photographed by Charles B. Lang Jr., with West, Cary Grant. (66 mins.)
Silk Stockings: (1957, M.G.M.). Directed by Rouben Mamoulian, produced by Arthur Freed, music by Cole Porter and Andre Previn, with Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Peter Lorre. (118 mins.)
Singin’ in the Rain: (1952, M.G.M.). Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, produced by Arthur Freed, music by Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, with Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Cyd Charisse. (103 mins.)
Smokey and the Bandit: (1977, Universal). Directed by Hal Needham, produced by Mort Engelberg, photographed by Bobby Byrne, with Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason. (97 mins.)
Some Like It Hot: (1959, Mirisch). Directed and produced by Billy Wilder, written by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond, photographed by Charles Lang Jr., with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee. (121 mins.)
Stagecoach: (1939, United Artists). Directed and produced by John Ford, written by Dudley Nichols, photographed by Bert Glennon, with John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine. (97 mins.)
Star Wars: (1977, Lucadilm/Twentieth Century-Fox). Directed and written by George Lucas, produced by Garry Kurtz, photographed by Gilbert Taylor, with Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness. (121 mins.)
Stella Dallas: (1937, United Artists). Directed by King Vidor, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, photographed by Rudolph Mate, with Barbara Stanwych, John Bowles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O’Neil. (104 mins.)
Sunset Boulevard: (1950, Paramount). Directed by Billy Wilder, produced by Charles Brackett, written by Brackett, Wilder and D. M. Marshman, Jr., photographed by John F. Saitz, with Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Nancy Olson, Erich von Stroheim. (111 mins.)
Three Women: (1977, Lion’s Gate/Twentieth Century-Fox). Directed, produced and written by Robert Altman, photographed by Charles Rosher, with Shelley Duva1l, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule. (213 mins.)
THX 1138: (1971, Columbia-Warner). Directed by George Lucas, produced by Francis Ford Coppola, with Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance, Maggie McOmie.
Tomorrow the World: (1944, United Artists). Directed by Leslie Fenton, produced by Lester Cowan, written by Ring Lardner and Leopold Atlas from the play Deep are the Roots by James Gow and Arnaud D’Usseau, with Frederic March, Agnes Moorehead, Skip Homeier.
Watch on the Rhine: (1943, Warner Bros.). Directed by Herman Shumlin, produced by Hal Wallis, written by Dashiell Hammett from the play by Lillian Hellman, photographed by Hal Mohr, with Bette Davis. (114 mins)
Wedding Night, The: (1935, United Artists). Directed by King Vidor, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, photographed by Gregg Toland, with Gary Cooper, Anna Sten, Walter Brennan. (82 mins.)
Westerner, The: (1940, United Artists). Directed by William Wyler, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, written by Jo Swerling and Niven Busch, photographed by Gregg Toland, with Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan. (100 mins.)
Will Penny: (1967). Directed and written by Tom Gries, produced by Fred Engel and Walter Seltzer, photographed by Lucien Ballard, with Charlton Heston, Lee Majors, Ben Johnson, Bruce Dern, Slim Pickens. (108 mins.)
Wizard of Oz, The: (1939, M.O.M.). Directed by Victor Fleming, produced by Mervyn LeRoy, music by Harold Arlen, photographed by Harold Rosson, with Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley. (101 mins.)
Woman of Paris, A: (1923, United Artists). Directed, produced and written by Charles Chaplin, photographed by Rollie H. Totheroh, with Chaplin, Adolphe Menjou, Edna Purviance. (8 reels)
Wuthering Heights: (1939, United Artists). Directed by William Wyler, produced by Samuel Goldwyn, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, photographed by Gregg Toland, with Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Donald Crisp. (103 rnins.)
You’re a Big Boy Now: (1967, Warner-Pathe). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Phil Feldman, written by Coppola from the novel by David Benedictus, photographed by Andy Laszlo, with Peter Kastner, Elizabeth Hartman, Geraldine Page, Julie Harris. (97 mins.)