Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Looks at the Movie-Makers

By Hortense Powdermaker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
Emerging from Magic

HOLLYWOOD bustles with frenzied activity, and makes use of the most modern technology. Yet at the same time it gives the impression of being only half awake in its slow emergence from a dim prehistoric past of illusions, fears, and magical thinking. More strikingly than any other section of our society, it seems to span all the ages of mankind. In it, too, are represented all the ages of individual man, from infancy to adult.

In any human society the presence or absence of a particular body of ideas limits and affects the development of behavior as much as do technology and environment.1 Therefore to comprehend the social organization in which movies are made and to understand the behavior of people in Hollywood, it is necessary to know how they think. All peoples, whether in the South Seas or in Hollywood, try to make the world intelligible to themselves, and to exercise some control over it. The particular ideology of any society shapes its institutions and molds the behavior of its members.

Since its beginning, the human species seems to have been aware that not all phenomena are of the same order. But the division between the animate and inanimate has not always been clear. In order to make the inanimate intelligible, primitive man often ascribed human attitudes and motives to the nonhuman world. (This is called "animism.") It was easier for him to do this than to imagine different processes or to admit his ignorance. As Ruth Benedict has pointed out: "Throughout man's history it has been the mechanistic

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1
Ralph Linton, The Study of Man, Chapter IV. New York: D. AppletonCentury.

-281-

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Hollywood, the Dream Factory: An Anthropologist Looks at the Movie-Makers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction - Why an Anthropologist Studied Hollywood 3
  • Chapter I - Habitat and People, Mythical and Real 16
  • Chapter II - Mass Production of Dreams 39
  • Chapter III - Taboos 54
  • Chapter IV - Front Office 82
  • Chapter V - Men Who Play God 100
  • Chapter VI - Lesser Gods, but Colossal 111
  • Chapter VII - The Scribes 131
  • Chapter VIII - Assembling the Script 150
  • Chapter IX - The Answers 170
  • Chapter X - Directors 185
  • Chapter XI - Acting, in Hollywood 205
  • Chapter XII - Stars 228
  • Chapter XIII - Actors Are People 254
  • Chapter XIV - Emerging from Magic 281
  • Chapter XV - Hollywood and the U.S.A. 307
  • Index 333
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