The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History

By Lewis Jacobs | Go to book overview

XXIII
CONTEMPORARY DIRECTORS

DIRECTION today, as we have already seen, is so hampered by commercial demands and economic incumbrances--to say nothing of pressure from special interests regarding movie content--that artistically the director is sadly fettered. Many directors must do a picture they dislike so that later they will be allowed to make one they think is worth doing. Because of the appalling amount of money needed for a sound film and because of distribution problems (theatres being controlled by producers), it is practically impossible for a director to do a picture on his own. The art of moving pictures is so dependent for its livelihood on commerce that directors enjoy less freedom than artists in any other media.

Despite these disadvantages of their profession a few directors have achieved fine individuality and style. Walt Disney stands out as the most distinctive and advanced of directors since the adoption of sound. He takes a position beside his forerunners--George Melies, Edwin S. Porter, D. W. Griffith, the Germans and the Russians --as an important innovator and a great contributor to movie tradition. Though active only in the sphere of the animated cartoon, he nevertheless is more significant as a film artist than any of his contemporaries.

In the dramatic field, directors of notable distinction in approach, style, and personal interest in the medium are King Vidor, Fritz Lang, Josef von Sternberg, Rouben Mamoulian, Frank Capra, and John Ford. All command the highest commercial respect; receive the fullest resources of their studios, and are in a position to insist on certain material. At the same time, of course, their reputations and

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