Week San Francisco State University by mikesanye


									     From Eisenhower to Hitchcock
Hollywood After World War II, 1945-1960
Hollywood After World War II, 1945-1960
• Late 1940s and 1950s in U.S. often portrayed
  as era of prosperous, middle-class, suburban
  family life.
• The "Eisenhower years" (1953-61): Pres.
  Dwight D. ("Ike") Eisenhower. First
  Republican President in 20 years—since the
  Depression started.
• Movement to suburbs, growth of single-family
  homes, rise in incomes and leisure time, the
  Baby Boom occur in this period. Also, Rise of
• But the rosy view of happy 1950s is largely
  myth: the "Happy Days" myth.
        Happy Days vs. Hitchcock
• In The Trouble with Harry (& Hitchcock's
  other films of the period), can see:
• Below the tranquil, prosperous surface of
  1950s: darker issues & problems.
• Harry's dead body as representing all the
  social issues repressed in "Happy Days"
  vision of the 1950s.
• Those issues--fears of communism, racial
  segregation, repression of women’s rights--
  won't stay buried under happy surface,
  keep “coming up.”
         Happy Days vs. Hitchcock
• Hitch's films in this period deal w/ false or
  misleading appearances; innocent people who get
  involved in crime, corruption, spy rings; and esp.,
  the fascination w/ sexuality, violence, death.
• Hitch's films always explore dark issues below the
  surface of society. Nobody is entirely innocent,
  including the audience (U.S. society?) who
  participates vicariously in murder, violence, sexual
• Similarly, below the “happy” image of post-War
  Society there are deeper social issues &
 U.S. Society in the Post-War Period
• U.S. foreign policy comes to be dominated by
  anti-communism. The Cold War.
• Fear of former WWII ally, the Soviet Union.
• Mao Zedong comes to power in China in
  1949. Korean War in early 1950s. Cuban
  revolution in 1958-59.
• In late 1940s, Truman Doctrine & Marshall
  Plan send massive aid to devastated western
  Europe, largely out of fears of communists
  coming to power.
• Hollywood films seen as major propaganda
  device in war on communism, espousing
  "American" values.
                The Red Scare
• At home, right-wing, strongly anti-communist
  politicians such as Joseph McCarthy, Richard
  Nixon, and J. Parnell Thomas stir fears of
  Communist "infiltrators" and spies.
• "Better Dead than Red”: slogan of anti-communists.
• What is now known as the "Red Scare," or
  sometimes the McCarthy Era.
• McCarthy was a Senator, but similar
  “investigations” are happening in the House of
• The HUAC, House Un-American Activities
  Committee, investigates communist activities in
  U.S., and in Hollywood.
• HUAC's investigation of Hwd leads to "Hollywood
  Ten" being cited for contempt of Congress for
  refusing to answer questions & to name others.
• They and others blacklisted during 1950s. Can't
  work or must use a "front" person or false name.
• Blacklisted Hwd Ten screenwriter Dalton Trumbo
  “won” Oscars in 1953 using a “front” and in 1956
  under pseudonym.
• But also: "chills" content of Hollywood films-- any
  controversy seen as suspiciously un-American.
• Thus, "safe" films, exemplified by Biblical epics
  The Robe, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments,
  which were among most popular films of 1950s.
             Left and Right
• Hollywood Ten & anti-communism must be
  understood in historical and political context.
• In the 1930s, the Great Depression led to
  ousting Republicans, and the election of
  Dem. Franklin Roosevelt as President.
• Instituted many government programs to help
  those out-of-work (almost 1/3 of the country
  at the worst point) and struggling.
• Roosevelt's programs known as the "New
• But, for many Conservatives, these New Deal
  programs smacked of socialism/communism.
              Left and Right
• Socialist & leftist ideas were popular in the
  1930s, especially among artists, writers, and
  labor unionists, who were hopeful that socialist
  ideas could produce a better society.
• Many were also anti-fascist, and supported the
  leftists against the fascists in the Spanish Civil
  War in the 1930s.
• But, by 1950s, any association with "leftist" ideas
  or organizations could be seen as sympathetic to
  communism. Many charges based on links to
  "suspected" communist "front organizations."
• But our Bill of Rights is supposed to protect
  different political views.
       Hollywood in the Post-War
• Hollywood studios feared controversy (not just
  being seen as leftist, but any controversy,
  including civil rights, etc.)
• But they also had other reasons to make
  blockbuster & epic films with safe content.
• First, after peaking in 1946, attendance at films
  began to decline dramatically.
• Often attributed to the rise of television, but the
  decline begins several years before TV
  penetrates a significant number of homes.
• As Thompson & Bordwell note, this decline was
  not just a result of rise of TV but of larger changes
  in lifestyle and suburbanization.
       Movies, Suburbs, and TV
• More people moved to the suburbs, far from
  downtown movie theaters.
• The post-war "Baby Boom" meant that many
  families had small children, making it more
  difficult to attend movies.
• More leisure-time activities were available, and
  the income to enjoy them.
• And later, as the 1950s progressed, more people
  owned TVs: in 90 percent of homes by end of
• Public's attitude about "going to the movies"
      The Film vs. The Movies
• Before the War, people had been inclined to
  "go to the movies" regularly to see a program
  of films (e.g., newsreel, cartoon, short, 2
  features), not so much a single film.
• Well over half of US population attended
  movies weekly.
• But after peak year of 1946, people became
  more selective about what films to see (as
  discussed: suburbanization, Baby Boom, etc.)
• Attendance declines from appr. 98 million per
  week in 1946 to about 47 million in 1957.
       The Film vs. The Movies
• Thus, Hollywood made fewer films; Major studios
  made nearly 500 films a year in 1930s; by 1960s,
  averaged under 150 a year.
• But Majors felt that each film had to be more
  spectacular, more an "event," to entice viewers.
• Widescreen, color, even 3-D and Smell-O-Vision;
  roadshowing (pp. 308-09) of “big” event films.
• Increased emphasis on individual films, not a
  program of films, not just "going to the movies."
• Emphasis also a result of the Paramount
  Decision of 1948, which found Hollywood studios
  guilty of monopolistic practices.
              The Paramount Decision
               and the Individual Film
• Paramount Decision forced Studios to divest movie theater
  chains and end the block booking practices that forced other
  theater owners to accept “block” of films (sometimes for
  entire year) offered by a studio.
• After Paramount, theaters could book films individually.
• Helped independent producers to make and sell films to the
  theaters. Also, foreign films.
• Meant each film had to appeal on its own merits.
• Led to shift from traditional studio "factory" production of
  multiple films to
• the "Package-Unit Approach," in which a producer or agent
  packages talent, script, etc. for each individual film.
• Agents, Stars, Producers, come to have larger importance in
  individual films.
   Fragmentation of the Film Audience
• These changes contribute to fragmentation of pre-War film
• Major Studios produced epics and spectacular films with
  all-star casts and lavish production values . . .
• Also widescreen formats (Cinerama, CinemaScope, etc.),
  vivid color, and other attractions (3-D) to lure mass
  audience to "event" films.
• Even The Trouble with Harry, for ex, uses Paramount's
  widescreen VistaVision format as well as Technicolor.
• On other hand: independent producers sought to attract
  particular audiences. Some specialized in low-budget
  Teen, genre, and exploitation films.
• At the same time, specialized circuit for European and
  "Art" films developed, usually in cities and college towns.
   Fragmentation of the Film Audience

• Interesting fact: before the War, film popularity
  and critical acclaim often went together.
• But in the years after the War, can see a distinct
  split between box office success and critical
• Urban film viewers, film buffs, and critics begin to
  tend toward a more art-oriented or "auteurist"
  approach to films.
• On the other hand, the most popular mainstream
  films of the era are usually big-budget, safe-
  content blockbusters.
   Fragmentation of the Film Audience
• Among the mainstream box office successes of
  the 1950s were:
• Ben-Hur (1959), The Ten Commandments (1956),
  Around The World In 80 Days (1956), The Robe
  (1953), The Greatest Show On Earth (1952)
• Ben-Hur made $70 million at box office (a lot).
• By contrast, Hitchcock's Vertigo, the most critically
  acclaimed film of this period (rated No. 2 in the
  2002 Sight and Sound Critic's Poll), was box
  office disappointment, making just over $3 million.
  (The Trouble with Harry made about $3.5 million.)
• Independents & exploitation films make even less.
Italian Neo-Realism:
  Rome: Open City
          • From glossy Hollywood
            spectacles to opposite end
            of spectrum:
            Documentary-like films of
            Italian Neo-Realism
            immediately after WWII.
          • Director: Roberto
            Rossellini, 1945, 100 m.
          • Enormous influence of
          • Will discuss European
            filmmaking after the War,
            relation to Hollywood.

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