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Classic Hollywood

Classic Hollywood: Lifestyles and Film Styles of American Cinema, 1930-1960

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Classic Hollywood
    Book Description:

    Studies of "Classic Hollywood" typically treat Hollywood films released from 1930 to 1960 as a single interpretive mass. Veronica Pravadelli complicates this idea. Focusing on dominant tendencies in box office hits and Oscar-recognized classics, she breaks down the so-called classic period into six distinct phases that follow Hollywood's amazingly diverse offerings from the emancipated females of the "Transition Era" and the traditional men and women of the conservative 1930s that replaced it to the fantastical Fifties movie musicals that arose after anti-classic genres like film noir and women's films. Pravadelli sets her analysis apart by paying particular attention to the gendered desires and identities exemplified in the films. Availing herself of the significant advances in film theory and modernity studies that have taken place since similar surveys first saw publication, she views Hollywood through strategies as varied as close textural analysis, feminism, psychoanalysis, film style and study of cinematic imagery, revealing the inconsistencies and antithetical traits lurking beneath Classic Hollywood's supposed transparency.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09673-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Film Studies
    (pp. 1-20)

    Classic Hollywoodanalyzes American cinema from 1930 to 1960 in terms of the convergence between representations of lifestyles on the one hand and film styles and narrative modes on the other. It argues that within the so-called classical period there are distinct cultural moments or social phases, each marked by a convergence with specific formal elements. As such, one of my general aims is to complicate the expression “classical Hollywood cinema” by showing that American film went through such formidable changes that no single descriptive phrase has sufficient interpretative strength.

    The expressionclassical Hollywood cinemarefers to a seemingly welldefined,...

  5. 1 THE EARLY THIRTIES: Modernity, New Women, and the Aesthetic of Attractions
    (pp. 21-42)

    American cinema of the 1930s presents two modes of representation, each marked by a convergence between a specific film style and a peculiar cinematic imaginary. The first is more radical and arises with the advent of sound and ebbs around 1933–1934. The second returns to a more classic mode and develops in the years immediately following and continues to the end of the decade. It must be underscored that such delineation marks the rise and fall ofdominant trends, which almost certainly overlapped, rather than precise chronological divisions. Nevertheless, one has to account for an increasing preference for the...

  6. 2 NORMATIVE DESIRES AND VISUAL SOBRIETY: Apogee of the Classical Model
    (pp. 43-71)

    Hollywood’s classical mode of representation coalesced during the mid-1930s and dominated as such until the end of the decade. For us, classical cinema properly defined is limited to this brief period. As mentioned earlier, the classical period should not be defined in terms of modes of production, so much as representational parameters. Hollywood classicism must be understood as a narrative form in harmony with Aristotelian poetics, such that narrative model itself is based on “the fable or plot.” For Aristotle, the fable is “the combination of the incidents, or things done in the story; whereas character is what makes us...

    (pp. 72-98)

    While affirming its value and originality, critical literature onThe Classical Hollywood Cinemastresses the fact that Bordwell’s discussion of film noir (and 1950s melodrama) unwittingly reveals the limits of his theory of classical cinema. Bordwell rejects the notion that noir is a subversive cinema when compared to that of the 1930s, claiming that it can be perfectly integrated into his classical paradigm. He argues that noir’s innovations were motivated by the genre’s historical relationship with detective fiction or “new forms of realism.” But these purely formal criteria are of little use in defining noir’s subversiveness, for as Douglas Pye...

    (pp. 99-127)

    After the Second World War, female desire took on simultaneously innovative and problematic traits. In the name of national interest, during the war women had been asked to make personal sacrifices at home just as men had been abroad. Indeed, compared to the socially regressive years of the Great Depression, the war was in some ways analogous to the period spanning from the end of the nineteenth century up to the late 1920s, when women left the domestic sphere for the working world in droves. Now women were compelled to inhabit typically male roles. But this time their movement was...

  9. 5 EXCESS, SPECTACLE, SENSATION: Family Melodrama in the 1950s
    (pp. 128-152)

    In the Introduction chapter, we analyzed the function of melodrama in the theoretical debates concerning Hollywood cinema. Melodrama, or the melodramatic mode, is not simply another Hollywood film genre, but represents an alternative to the classical mode of representation. Melodrama is replete with its own aesthetic strategies that privilege the image’s emotional and spectacular components and also undermines causal narrative logic based on motivated action. In this study we argue that the evolution of the filmic form in American cinema during its “classical” sound period can be understood in light of the shifting relationships between classic and melodramatic modes. While...

    (pp. 153-180)

    The most innovative 1950s cinema deals explicitly in the visionary and spectacular. In family melodrama, these characteristics stem from the convergence of new forms of subjectivity, technological innovation, and melodramatic tradition. The cinematic image’s spectacularity, however, may also be a vehicle for a different kind of reflection. Near the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age, American cinema had a tendency to combine spectacle, particularly in the musical, with theoretical reflection on the image and its capacity to represent the relation between fiction and reality. Not simply a question of films about the cinema, however, some films dramatized the philosophical status of...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 181-200)
    (pp. 201-218)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 219-226)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-230)