Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema: Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple

Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema: Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple

Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema: Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple

Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema: Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple

Synopsis

A critical study of the 'happy ending' in classical and contemporary Hollywood cinema. The Hollywood 'happy ending' has long been considered among the most famous and standardised features in the whole of narrative filmmaking. Yet, while ceaselessly invoked, this notorious device has received barely any detailed attention from the field of film studies.This book is thus the first in-depth examination of one of the most overused and under-analysed concepts in discussions of popular cinema. What exactly is the 'happy ending'? Is it simply a cliche, as commonly supposed? Why has it earned such an unenviable reputation? What does it, or can it, mean? Concentrating especially on conclusions featuring an ultimate romantic union - the final couple - this wide-ranging investigation probes traditional associations between the 'happy ending' and homogeneity, closure, 'unrealism', and ideological conservatism, testing widespread assumptions against the evidence offered by a range ofclassical and contemporary films.

Excerpt

Take something as obvious as Hollywood’s happy endings…

(Maltby 2003: 16)

The Hollywood ‘happy ending’ is among the most over-utilised and under-analysed concepts in discussions of popular cinema. Though it has seldom been addressed in any detail, the term is nonetheless ceaselessly employed by audiences, filmmakers, critics and scholars, and is one that evokes a whole host of assumptions about mainstream American filmmaking. This book is the first to interrogate some of the most significant and tenacious of those assumptions, and it does so by delving more deeply than is usual into one especially famous feature associated with the ‘happy ending’: concluding a film with the union of a romantic couple.

One way of describing the status of the Hollywood ‘happy ending’ would be to say that it is burdened with a considerable reputation. Indeed, as we will see, for few phenomena of popular filmmaking does the matter of reputation seem more relevant than for the ‘happy ending’. A central aim of this book is to question that reputation. As such, let us begin by outlining some of its contours.

UBIQUITY AND HOMOGENEITY

As in the popular imagination so in academic discussion – the most fundamental assumption about the ‘happy ending’ is that it is a ubiquitous feature of Hollywood cinema. It has thus become virtually traditional for scholars to precede mentions of the term ‘happy ending’ with words like ‘standard’ (Dolar 1991: 38), ‘standardised’ (Mulvey 1978: 54), ‘predetermined’ (Maltby 2003: 16), ‘predictable’ (Schatz 1991: 152), ‘typical’ (Booker 2007: 42), ‘necessary’ . . .

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