Film Histories

Film Histories: An Introduction and Reader

Paul Grainge
Mark Jancovich
Sharon Monteith
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 616
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r28dt
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  • Book Info
    Film Histories
    Book Description:

    A wide-ranging introduction to film history, this anthology covers the history of film from 1895 to the present day. The book is arranged chronologically, and each chapter contains an introduction by the editors on the key developments within the period, followed by a classic piece of historical research about that period. Various types of film history are undertaken in the articles, so that students can become familiar with different types of film historical research. For example, topics include the history of audiences; exhibition; marketing; censorship; aesthetic history; political history; and historical reception studies. The book is therefore designed to provide students with a narrative history spine while simultaneously introducing them to different approaches to the study and research of film history. Concentrating on the plurality of the ‘historical turn’ in film studies, this book demonstrates that film history is, and should be, about more than simply key films, directors and movements.Key features*Contains a preface that explains the structure and organisation of the book*Chapter introductions provide a chronological sense of international developments*Includes key articles of film history that illustrate differences in methodological approach, and which are devoted both to America and to a wide range of non-American contexts

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2894-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. viii-xii)
  4. 1 THE EMERGENCE OF CINEMA
    (pp. 3-20)

    The history of motion-pictures is not easily defined by a single invention or inaugural event. While inventors such as Thomas Edison, and early cinema pioneers such as the Lumière brothers, have become central to legends surrounding the ‘birth of cinema’, the emergence of cinema was the result of a series of technological and entrepreneurial developments that came together in the 1890s. Seeking to capitalise on new capacities of photographic development, the invention of celluloid, and the refinement of machines that could project images in sequence, a number of individuals saw commercial possibilities in projecting moving images to paying audiences. Cinema...

  5. 2 ORGANISING EARLY FILM AUDIENCES
    (pp. 21-44)

    The enthusiasm that greeted story films in the early 1900s led many studios to shift decisively towards this type of film in meeting popular demand. The five main American production companies – Edison, Biograph, Lubin, Selig and Vitagraph – all moved into fiction filmmaking, as did the major film studios of Europe. From 1905 to 1906, this included the French studios Pathé and Gaumont, the Danish production company Nordisk, as well as the principal film companies of Britain and Italy such as Hepworth and Cines.

    If cinema began to flourish in the 1900s, creating a soaring demand for new product,...

  6. 3 NATIONALISM, TRADE AND MARKET DOMINATION
    (pp. 45-66)

    While the United States had the greatest number of film theatres during the nickelodeon period, the films they played very often came from Europe. Indeed, by the start of the First World War in 1914, France and Italy were the two leading film-producing countries in the world. Although the history of popular film is often associated with Hollywood and the development of the American film industry, this ignores the international scope and status of early cinema, and the particular significance of European production companies.

    The prominence of the French film industry was based on the activity of Pathé-Frères. Not only...

  7. 4 ESTABLISHING CLASSICAL NORMS
    (pp. 67-92)

    The formation of the major Hollywood studios developed from market struggles between the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) and a group of independents spearheaded by Carl Laemmle. Running the largest American distribution firm, Laemmle was unwilling to pay licence fees to the MPPC. This meant he was restricted from purchasing films to supply his customers, unable to buy titles from Biograph, Vitagraph, Edison, Pathé, or any of the other major affiliated companies. As a result, Laemmle began his own firm, founding the Independent Moving Picture Company (or IMP as it became known) in 1909. This company produced its own films,...

  8. 5 THE AGE OF THE DREAM PALACE AND THE RISE OF THE STAR SYSTEM
    (pp. 93-119)

    By the end of the First World War, the cinema was an established cultural fact in an era of rapid social change. In America, theatres or dream palaces were crucial to the structuring of the film industry. They were the places where cinema came to the masses and the studios successfully exploited such venues as they did the movie stars under contract to them. The first movie palaces were built in 1913. The story of Loew’s Corporation in New York is representative. Building on his success and to secure his own suppliers of movies, Marcus Loew bought Metro Pictures in...

  9. 6 COMPETING WITH HOLLYWOOD: NATIONAL FILM INDUSTRIES OUTSIDE HOLLYWOOD
    (pp. 120-146)

    A glance around the world in the 1920s reveals a heterogeneous film history but one replete with anxieties about American cultural imperialism and the homogenising tendencies of mass culture. The German film industry competed most successfully with America in that its domestic productions outweighed foreign imports in the 1920s and Britain put up a very good fight at the box office, with 1927 its annus mirabilis. However, protectionist measures would characterise a decade in which national cinemas sought to hold their own against Hollywood’s incursions into other national cinemas. Audiences in Australia, Canada and India, for example, received a diet...

  10. 7 THE RISE OF THE STUDIOS AND THE COMING OF SOUND
    (pp. 147-164)

    American cinema’s domination of world markets coincided with the rise of the Hollywood studios. The Hollywood Studio System would properly take hold by 1930 once five companies – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, RKO, Fox (later Twentieth-Century Fox), Warner Bros. and Paramount – had emerged victorious from increasing competition and a scrimmage of mergers and takeovers of production and distribution companies. By 1930 it is estimated that there were around 24,000 cinemas in the US with the five major studios controlling at least 50 per cent of the total industry output. By 1931, D. W. Griffith had made his last film and the film...

  11. 8 REALISM, NATIONALISM AND ‘FILM CULTURE’
    (pp. 165-186)

    The coming of sound was an important phase in the bid for naturalism in the cinema and by the end of the 1920s many filmmakers across different national cinemas were in pursuit of forms of cinematic realism that would convey ‘modernity’. The cinema was one of a number of cultural, technological and political developments, or transformations, that coalesced in the larger formation of modernity. The 1920s would also see the beginnings of an intellectual tradition that read cinema as a self-reflexive medium and a distinctively public phenomenon that might translate, or at the very least comment on, modernity for a...

  12. 9 ADJUSTMENT, DEPRESSION AND REGULATION
    (pp. 187-207)

    During the early 1930s, Hollywood faced a series of problems. First, the industry was still adjusting to the introduction of sound and the period saw a series of technical developments in sound recording. Second, the Great Depression followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and this seriously affected the industry: as unemployment grew, audiences declined. Finally, opposition to the industry intensified both at home and abroad, and this led to the introduction of the notorious Hays Code in 1934 and the creation of organisations such as the British Film Institute, which were designed to counter the influence of Hollywood overseas....

  13. 10 TOTALITARIANISM, DICTATORSHIP AND PROPAGANDA
    (pp. 208-235)

    If Hollywood managed to avoid regulation by state institutions through the use of the Hays Office, and the British documentary movement relied on state institutions, it is often suggested that in the totalitarian states of the 1930s – the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and the Japanese Empire – the cinema was no more than a crude form of state propaganda. Certainly these were not liberal states and overt opposition was not tolerated, but it would be equally wrong to see the films that were produced in these countries as simply propagandist.

    Admittedly Soviet cinema had been state controlled...

  14. 11 THE COMMON PEOPLE, HISTORICAL DRAMA AND PREPARATIONS FOR WAR
    (pp. 236-255)

    It was not only the film industries associated with totalitarian governments that turned to historical subject matter in the 1930s, and nor was the concern with the common people simply a feature of socialist filmmaking. On the contrary, these preoccupations were also evident in the United States, the United Kingdom and France in the late 1930s as they responded to both the Depression and the growing threat of fascism.

    Although the Depression did not really come to an end until the United States entered the war in 1941, the film industry fared better after 1935. Most of the studios had...

  15. 12 WARTIME, UNITY AND ALIENATION
    (pp. 256-276)

    With the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, the United States entered into the Second World War. In the process, the film industry and its personnel were recruited for the war effort. Directors such as Frank Capra and John Ford were conscripted into the armed forces where they made a series of documentaries that supported US involvement. Capra, for example, made a seven-part documentary series, Why We Fight (1943), that was shown to all recruits to the armed forces. The series used existing footage produced by both the Allies and the Axis powers to establish the case...

  16. 13 POSTWAR CHALLENGES: NATIONAL REGENERATION, HUAC INVESTIGATIONS, DIVESTITURE AND DECLINING AUDIENCES
    (pp. 279-304)

    It is ubiquitous to state that the United States emerged from the Second World War as the international superpower but the wider effects on film history were socio-economic. In an economy lifted out of the Depression by the war and readjusting to peace in an evolving Cold War context, the industry enjoyed the last significant boom before facing a crisis in the 1950s. To begin with, the studios continued to enjoy the boom they had had during the war with film comedy, as when Paramount’s Bob Hope saved Madeleine Carroll from Nazi spies in My Favorite Blonde (1942). In the...

  17. 14 THE POLITICS OF POLARISATION: AFFLUENCE, ANXIETY AND THE COLD WAR
    (pp. 305-339)

    The 1950s was a decade of contradictions in society as well as cinema, a decade in which ideals such as a middle-class lifestyle, the model home, and marriage and parenthood were complicated and undermined by anxieties over gender roles and cross-generational tensions. The nuclear family ideal was of particular importance in the postwar period as a site of hope and regeneration. For example, Marty starring Ernest Borgnine was originally a television play but in 1955 it was the Academy’s surprise choice for Best Picture. The story of the young man whose loyalty to his elderly mother slowly gives way to...

  18. 15 CINEMATIC SPECTACLES AND THE RISE OF THE INDEPENDENTS
    (pp. 340-370)

    The 1950s saw the breaking up of the studio system in the new age of television and a refining of the cinematic experience. Technologies that were pioneered in the 1920s, such as zoom lens and widescreen, found their niche in the cinema of the 1950s. It is not a coincidence that the 1950s is associated with a series of technological innovations in cinema. As television began to take off outside the studios’ control, audiences for theatre-based entertainment declined. Hollywood made both bold and sometimes outlandish attempts to bring them back. By the end of the 1950s, widescreen entertainment had become...

  19. 16 NEW WAVES, SPECIALIST AUDIENCES AND ADULT FILMS
    (pp. 371-391)

    An examination of art films and adult cinema reveals a changing film industry at the end of the 1950s and into the 1960s as cinema’s role as classic family entertainment was lost to television. Films diversified to attract different audiences, including young Americans for whom sci-fi, horror and titillation at the drive-in would guarantee a great evening out, and more specialist ‘art house’ screenings for American audiences for whom European imports held the intellectual high ground. The art house cinema circuit was typically the neighbourhood theatre in big cities where revivals of European classics such as Jean Renoir’s The Rules...

  20. 17 RADICALISM, REVOLUTION AND COUNTER-CINEMA
    (pp. 392-407)

    The success of the postwar art cinema reawakened an awareness of the possibilities of cinema, and created a sense of dissatisfaction with established cinematic traditions, particularly those of Hollywood. The second half of the 1960s, therefore, saw a surge in alternative filmmaking around the world. This period also witnessed the growth of left-wing radicalism as revolutionary struggles in the Third World inspired one another and motivated student radicalism in Europe and the United States.

    Stylistically, this radicalism manifested itself in two main ways. On the one hand, there was an interest in both realism and documentary, in which filmmakers sought...

  21. 18 MODERNISM, NOSTALGIA AND THE HOLLYWOOD RENAISSANCE
    (pp. 408-434)

    During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States was torn by internal conflict as divisions between young and old, black and white, and left and right became increasingly polarised. As a result, it is hardly surprising that the Hollywood cinema of this period displayed so many tensions and contradictions. While this can be seen as the period of Hollywood modernism, in which a series of films and filmmakers displayed the influence of the international art cinema, it can also been seen as one in which Hollywood cinema incorporated other cinemas, containing their threat by absorbing that which was...

  22. 19 FROM MOVIE BRATS TO MOVIE BLOCKBUSTERS
    (pp. 435-456)

    If the late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed a fascination with the art cinema within the Hollywood mainstream, the late 1970s is often seen as a ruthless reassertion of the supposed conservatism of commercialism and entertainment. However, it was the new generation of largely college-educated ‘movie brats’ who had been central to the modernist Hollywood of the previous period who were central to the shift from the modernist art cinema to blockbuster fantasies. Furthermore, while this moment is often associated with a nostalgic reference to the Hollywood past, as has already been pointed out, the modernist moment was itself ironically...

  23. 20 THE EXHIBITORS STRIKE BACK: MULTIPLEXES, VIDEO AND THE RISE OF HOME CINEMA
    (pp. 457-482)

    After over a quarter of a century of declining audiences, the cinema of the 1980s saw not only the stabilisation of audience numbers, but also the creation of new audiences. One of the main reasons for this was the emergence of new forms of film exhibition. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the emergence of home video as a new form of domestic technology. One use of the video was to time-shift the viewing of television programming by taping its transmission and playing it back at another point. It also allowed the distribution of films on video that could...

  24. 21 POSTMODERNISM, HIGH CONCEPT AND EIGHTIES EXCESS
    (pp. 483-503)

    The 1980s are often thought of as a period defined by excesses of style and consumption, a ‘postmodern’ moment where the aesthetics of consumer culture – typified by the promotional flow of music video on television channels such as MTV – came to the fore. It is in this period that Hollywood film assumed a particular style that movie executives would label ‘high concept’. Responding to key industrial developments in the 1980s, such as the widespread adoption of marketing research and the growth of ancillary markets (such as music soundtracks), high concept movies were often based on pre-sold elements such...

  25. 22 CULTS, INDEPENDENTS AND ‘GUERRILLA’ FILMMAKING
    (pp. 504-528)

    Despite Hollywood’s consolidation of power, and the centrality of the mass-audience blockbuster to the economics and aesthetics of contemporary filmmaking, there remained enough flexibility in the film industry for alternative models of cinema to exist, and in some cases flourish, beyond the exclusive control of the major studios. This was related in no small part to occasional funding sources and specialised forms of institutional support that emerged for independent film. The video market, in particular, became a crucial source of funding through cassette presales. Similarly, broadcast industries in Europe, such as Channel 4 in Britain and ZDF in Germany, were...

  26. 23 FROM CINEMAS TO THEME PARKS: CONGLOMERATION, SYNERGY AND MULTIMEDIA
    (pp. 529-549)

    During the 1980s, nearly all the Hollywood majors became subsidiary divisions within giant corporations seeking to diversify their investments. While some film studios remained untouched by this emerging corporate pattern, a new burst of takeovers and buyouts in the mid- to late 1980s saw the remaining studios acquired, often by non-US buyers. In 1985, the News Corporation, owned by Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch, purchased Twentieth-Century Fox; in 1989, the Japanese electronics company Sony bought Columbia Pictures from Coca-Cola; and in 1990, Universal was acquired by Japan’s Matsushita Electronic Industrial Company. Only Disney remained autonomous in corporate terms. Amidst this business...

  27. 24 GLOBALISATION AND THE NEW MILLENNIUM
    (pp. 550-573)

    In the 1980s and 1990s, the overseas market counted for half of the majors’ theatrical income and generated an even greater percentage of revenue through home video and television. The development and exploitation of world markets, specifically the rich and densely populated regions of Europe and Asia, led to strategic concerns with the global dimensions of film. This not only included questions about cinematic form, but also had significant implications for production, financing and labour practice.

    In terms of the physical labour involved in the production of movies, Hollywood sought increasingly to exploit cheap labour markets during the 1990s. Similar...

  28. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 574-584)
  29. COPYRIGHT ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. 585-587)
  30. INDEX
    (pp. 588-612)