themes and motifs from that of the 1930s. In the 1930s it was the supply of liquor in Chicago's East Side that was at issue. In the 1950s the fate of a nation was under threat externally from the Russians, or internally from the Mafia in films whose stories were taken not from the front pages of the nation's newspapers but from the Kefauver Commission on Crime.
Meanwhile, in the American cinema generally, socially oriented films turned increasingly inwards, to courtship, marriage, the family, and domestic issues. Sexuality, too, in a variety of repressed yet explicit ways ( Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Rock Hudson) became the centre of attraction of a whole range of films. As a result of these shifts in concerns, the classic narrative strategies perfected by the gangster films of the 1930s and films noir of the 1940s no longer seemed to have an outlet. Instead, the shift to domesticity produced a new focus for the perennial interest in crime and criminality, in the form of films about teenagers and young delinquents and their relationships to authority and to their families. The underworld had found its way into the American home.
Cameron, Ian ( 1975), A Pictorial History of Crime Films.
Cook, Pam, and Johnston, Claire ( 1974), "The Place of Women in the Films of Raoul Walsh".
Denning, Michael ( 1987), Mechanic Accents.
Tyler, Parker ( 1947), Magic and Myth of the Movies.
Warshaw, Robert ( 1948), "The Gangster as Tragic Hero".
According to French director François Truffaut, the history of the cinema follows two lines of descent, one deriving from Lumière and basically realistic, and the other deriving from Méliès and involving the creation of fantasy. Though the division is historically dubious, it is nevertheless possible to draw a broad distinction between films (and film genres) which operate generally within the confines of verisimilitude -- events which happen according to natural possibilities-and those which defy or extend verisimilitude by portraying events which fall outside natural confines.
The types of film which modern audiences would most readily identify as falling into the second category are, broadly, three: horror, science fiction (SF), and fantasy adventure. These are perceived as distinct genres which have in common the fact that each imaginatively constructs alternative -- 'fantastic' -- worlds and tells stories of impossible experiences that defy rational logic and currently known empirical laws. Furthermore, by exploiting the fantastic elements of their narratives and by utilizing and foregrounding a range of cinematic practices identified as 'special effects', all three genres tend to make these worlds and experiences ostentatiously concrete and visible. All three, quite literally, 'realize' the imagination. 'Horror,' writes Tom Hutchison ( 1974), 'is the appalling idea given sudden flesh; science fiction is the improbable made possible within the confines of a technological age.' And fantasy adventure and romance is the appealing and impossible personal wish concretely and objectively fulfilled.
More radically, however, it has been argued that most, if not all, films are in some respect fantasies, in that they produce illusions based on the manipulation of an original pro-filmic event by various forms of photographic and montage effect. Fantasy genres, therefore, represent a special case of what is, and always has been, a general characteristic of cinema as a whole. Certainly much early cinema was reflexively fascinated by its own 'fantastic' subversion of the physical laws of space-time and causality to which spectators were subjected. It recognized the medium's inherent illusionism and 'trickality', first in plotless displays of cinematic magic and then in narratives that foregrounded the cinema's ability to realize alternative spatio-temporal frameworks and 'impossible' experiences. A film like Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon ( 1902) enacts the transformation of the cinema as an impossible world constituted by special effects into a cinema about impossible worlds with special properties. It was only later that the cinema's ontological trickality was displaced into fantastic narratives and commercially exploited in the genres to which the name fantasy is attached. Meanwhile in the more ordinary run of films (which often employ many of the same artificial studio techniques as their fantasy counterparts), the trick element is suppressed and artifice is concealed as nature.
It is worth asking, in this context, why certain other types of film in which non-naturalistic elements are predominant -- avant-garde films, animation, musicals, and biblical epics for example -- are not generally included in the generic category of fantasy. An answer to this question is quite revealing about the way the cinema operates,
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The Oxford History of World Cinema. Contributors: Geoffrey Nowell-Smith - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 312.