U64003 FILM HISTORY
SHORTLIST OF TOPICS FOR IN-CLASS TEST 2 (scheduled in week 12)
1. Choose one Hollywood major studio and write a brief account of its history (e.g. typical products, strategies, organization, people, films, crises, etc.) from the “classical era” of the studio system to the advent of conglomeration.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - part of Loew’s enterprise. Loew’s owned a movie studio, a network of international distribution and a theatre chain (centred in NY). By 1924 he merged the 3 smaller firms and thus became fully integrated (production, distribution, exhibition). MGM (200 theatres) was the second largest company after Paramount (500 theatres). During the mid-20’s Wall Street invested in Hollywood studios and allowed them to produce big-budget films; MGM’s epic Ben Hur (Wallace’s adaptation) was one of the most ambitious projects; famously known for its chariots race (filmed in a huge sets, some in Italy, and a battery of cameras which covered the scene from many angles). But unlike Paramount, MGM did relatively well during 30-45 because it had a smaller theatre chain, thus less debts. MGM was managed by Nicholas Schenck 1927 until 1956 and was proud that it had more stars under contract “more than there are in heaven” (e.g. Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly, Katharine Haphburn etc.). Another of the MGM’s pioneering features was in musicals Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939); most notable for its use in Technicolor, which then continued to the 40’s musicals (Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra etc.). The end of MGM as a vertically integrated company goes hand in hand with the decline of the studio system; 1948, the Supreme Court’s decision to end the oligopoly (aka ‘Paramount decision’) - divesting theatre chains, terminating the star power (contracts) practices, and the end of block booking and finally the emerge of television in the 50’s.
2. Explain why, when and how the HUAC investigations affected Hollywood.
Though during the WWII the Soviet Union was one of American’s allies; thus, many people in the US (including Hollywood) were sympathetic to communism (activists or not). However, after the war, America moved towards an anticommunist policy (the beginning of the Cold War); hence, the sympathetic’ people and/or organisations were in a confusing position. The HUAC - House Un-American Activities Committee; a committee which was created to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of being or relating to Communism (‘witch-hunt’). In 1947, the committee investigated the Screen Writer’s Guild under the accusation that it is dominated by communists. Among the supporters of the allegation, in Hollywood, (e.g. the “friendly”) were the noted Gary Cooper, Jack Warner (known for his political involvement), Ronald Reagan (later became the 40th President of the US, but at that time he was an actor, signed by Werner Bros.) etc. During four years of investigations, actors, directors, screenwriters etc. were unable to work in Hollywood (at least not openly) - a new reality that created a wave of emigration from Hollywood and/or the USA, and a huge waste of talents.
3. Write a brief account of the history of the Production Code from the 1920s to the 1960s, including e.g. censorship, politics, policies, society, dates, “rules”, reactions of the studios, etc.
Many post war films were associated with liquor, sex, jazz and violence; and many Hollywood’s stars were involved in scandals (sex, murders, divorces, etc.). As a result, during the 20’s various social groups demanded to increase censorship. In 1922, main studios formed the Motion Picture Producers and Distributers of America (MPPDA), to mend Hollywood’s morally questionable image. MPPDA hired Hays, a Republican politician, as the head of the organization; motivated not only to manage the industry’s pubic relation, but also to negotiate...
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