12

Hollywood, 1952-1965

Much that characterized Hollywood between 1952 and 1965 can be understood as a response to anticommunist hysteria and the blacklist on the one hand and to the advent of television and economic divestiture on the other. In the name of combatting communism, films directly critical of American institutions, such as the "problem pictures" and semidocumentary melodramas so popular in the immediate postwar years, could no longer be made. Instead, Westerns, musical comedies, lengthy costume epics, and other traditional genre fare—sanitized and shorn of explicit political and social referents—became the order of the day. Such films dominated the domestic market of the era both because their subject matter was uncontroversial and because their spectacular nature was suited to the new screen formats, which the studios had embraced to combat television and, simultaneously, to make their product more attractive to their former subsidiaries, the newly independent first-run exhibitors.


THE CONVERSION TO COLOR

Television threatened Hollywood with a new technology, and Hollywood fought back in kind by isolating and exploiting the technological advantages that film possessed over television. The cinema had two such advantages in the early fifties, both of them associated with spectacle— the vast size of its images, and the capacity to produce them in color. * (Soon, the capacity for stereophonic sound would be added to the list. )

____________________
*
There was also—and still is—the question of image resolution. The television, or video, image is produced by 1) electronically breaking down the televised subject into 210,000 discrete picture elements, or "bits"; and 2) transmitting or recording these bits as 525 (U. S. standards) or 625 (European standards) successive horizontal lines, at rates consistent with persistence of vision—thirty times per second by U. S. standards, twenty-five by European. The resolution of a video image is the product of the number of horizontal lines scanned for each complete picture and the number of successive pictures produced per second. (These pictures are called "frames," as in film, although they are not individual photographic cells since they never exist as complete images at any given moment. ) When the promise of high-definition television (HDTV)—which scans more than one thousand lines per frame and has a widescreen aspect ratio—is fulfilled, virtually every advantage that film once possessed over video will be lost.

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