VIEWS: 1 PAGES: 18 POSTED ON: 5/12/2011
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 Television. • 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 issues. • Similarly, below the “happy” image of post-War Society there are deeper social issues & problems. 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 Representatives: • The HUAC, House Un-American Activities Committee, investigates communist activities in U.S., and in Hollywood. HUAC/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 Deal." • 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 1950s. • Public's attitude about "going to the movies" changes: 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 audience. • 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 acclaim. • 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 Neo-Realism • Will discuss European filmmaking after the War, relation to Hollywood.
Pages to are hidden for
"Week San Francisco State University"Please download to view full document