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Hollywood's New Deal

Hollywood's New Deal

Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Hollywood's New Deal
    Book Description:

    Despite the economic hardship of the thirties, people flocked to the movies in unprecedented numbers. At the same time, the Roosevelt Administration was trying to implement the New Deal and increase the influence and power of the federal government. Weaving together film and political history, Giuliana Muscio traces the connections between Depression Era Hollywood and the popularity of FDR, asserting that politics transformed its public into spectators while the movie industry transformed its spectators into a public.Hollywood's New Dealreveals the ways in which this reciprocal relationship between politics and film evolved into a strategic effort to stabilize a nation in the clutches of economic unrest by creating a unified American consciousness through national cinema.

    Muscio analyzes such regulatory practices as the Hays Code, and the government's scrutinizing of monopolistic practices such as block booking and major studio ownership of movie theaters.Hollywood's New Deal,focusing on the management and structure of the film industry, delves deep into the Paramount case, detailing the behind-the-scenes negotiations and the public statements that ended with film industry leaders agreeing to self regulate and to eliminate monopolistic practices.

    Hollywood's acquiescence and the government's retreat from antitrust action show that they had found a mutually beneficial way of preserving their own spheres of power and influence. This book is indispensable for understanding the growth of the film industry and the increasing political importance of mass media.

    In the seriesCulture and the Moving Image, edited by Robert Sklar.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0482-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    The interaction (or, more precisely, the reciprocal attraction) between politics and communication in the 1930s is at the core of this work.¹ In the thirties, the function and methodology of politics were modified by their contact with modern systems of communication. Politics transformed its “public” into “spectators” at the same time cinema transformed its spectators into a public—especially through the implementation of the self-censorship guidelines of the Hays Code. The mechanical description of the phenomenon, however, does not imply a mechanistic historical interpretation. On the contrary, in re-articulating the analysis of the decade, I stress the temporal processes: there...

  5. 1 The New Deal and the Media
    (pp. 16-35)

    “The words, ceremonies, theories, and principles and other symbols which man uses make him believe in the reality of his dreams and thus give purpose to his life,” wrote Thurman Arnold in 1935, expressing the urgency of revitalizing the American dream, in the wake of the Depression.¹ A key figure in the history of American though t in the 1930s, Arnold observed and described the pathology of the sociopolitical system, diagnosing in it the cause of the gap created between society and the world of production. He emphasized the need for political institutions to create new “symbols of government” and...

  6. 2 Hollywood and Washington
    (pp. 36-64)

    Within the vast and complex world where communications and politics interacted in the 1930s, the network of personal contacts between the Roosevelts, some members of the administration, and the film industry supply us with a detailed map of the relationship between the New Deal and Hollywood cinema.¹ In this relationship Franklin Delano Roosevelt occupies the central position in the flow of images and messages and in the system of interpersonal relations. He knew many people in the media and had many contacts in Hollywood. Filmmaking know-how played an important role in his contact with public opinion: two of his collaborators,...

  7. 3 Cinema and the New Deal
    (pp. 65-104)

    American cinema of the 1930s (traditionally defined as classical Hollywood cinema) played an important ideological and emotional role during the Depression and shared critical functions with the New Deal.¹ That is, both worked toward stabilizing the society and articulating a new Americanism. Through the elaboration of the Hays Code and the consequent adaptation of cinema’s narrative and expressive system to its rules, Hollywood publicly assumed its ideological responsibility, proposing a “universal” vision of the world.

    According to a widely accredited hypothesis, elaborated by Margaret Thorp, 1930s cinema elected the middle class as its preferred audience because in those years people...

  8. 4 The Film Industry in the Thirties
    (pp. 105-142)

    The history of the New Deal and the film industry in this period consists of myriad contacts or encounters with the government, from the National Recovery Administration (NRA) codes to the Temporary National Emergency Committee (TNEC), and concluding with theParamountcase.¹

    Beginning in 1922, the nucleus of the film industry’s institutional activities was the Motion Picture Producer Distributor Association (MPPDA), or Hays Office. This trade association dealt with all the problems concerning the industry: the administration of the self-censorship system (the function for which it was most famous), the rapport between producers and exhibitors, or among the companies, relations...

  9. 5 The Paramount Case
    (pp. 143-196)

    TheParamountcase, the antitrust suit filed in 1938 by the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department against eight film companies (Paramount, Loew-MGM, RKO, Warner Bros., Twentieth Century–Fox, Columbia, Universal, and United Artists) ended in 1948 with the Supreme Court decision that separated production and distribution from exhibition, when restraining trade.¹ Until now, scholars have concentrated on this conclusion and its implications, rather than on the development of the case as aprocess, a complex interplay of different factors, subject to different tensions.

    Studying theParamountcase as a process allows us to clarify how the Supreme Court decision...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 197-200)

    By the end of 1941 the relationship of communications to politics, that is, of Hollywood to Washington, became a synergic effort, Hollywood plus Washington. Producers, directors, and actors wore their uniforms and fought the war—on the front, at home, in the studios.¹ They participated in the war effort, not only as individuals, but as members of an industry, offering entertainment and propaganda messages, for the troops and for the American audiences. Because their involvement and performance were so outstanding, the government never asked the film industry to sacrifice its production rhythm. Supported by this privileged condition and relieved of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 201-248)
  12. Index
    (pp. 249-260)