The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

distribution, and the most extensive and prestigious theatre chain -- the very model of the integrated business through which Hollywood's power was asserted.

This Hollywood system crested in the heady days prior to the Great Depression. Hollywood as an industrial institution had come to dominate the world of popular entertainment as no institution had before. The coming of sound simply eliminated competition from the stage and vaudeville. But change was on its way, precipitated by the Depression and by the rise of the new technologies of radio and television. Hollywood at the end of the 1920s and throughout the 1930s was faced by a series of shocks -- falling audiences, the loss of some overseas markets, threats of censorship, and anti-monopoly legislation. But it adjusted and survived, thanks to the solid foundations laid by its pioneers.


Balio, Tino (ed.) ( 1985), The American Film Industry.

Bordwell, David, Staiger, Janet, and Thompson, Kristin ( 1985), The Classical Hollywood Cinema.

Gomery, Douglas ( 1986), The Hollywood Studio System.

-- ( 1992), Shared Pleasures.

Hampton, Benjamin B. ( 1931), A History of the Movies.

Jobs, Gertrude ( 1966), Motion Picture Empire.

Koszarski, Richard ( 1990), An Evening's Entertainment.

The World-Wide Spread of Cinema


The world-wide spread of cinema has been dominated by the distribution and exhibition of Hollywood movies, despite the fact that film production has taken place around the world since the turn of the century. The first means of film production and projection were developed virtually simultaneously in France, Germany, and the United States in about 1895, with the earliest films typically comprising single shots of single scenes or incidents. Many of these early movies delighted audiences with their authentic rendering of snippets of 'reality', and French innovators Auguste and Louis Lumière seized upon the commercial possibilities inherent in the documentary capacities of the new medium. They trained a team of cameramen/projectionists to demonstrate their Cinématographe internationally, recording new footage as they went. By the end of July 1896 they had carried the invention to London, Vienna, Madrid, Belgrade, New York, St Petersburg, and Bucharest, creating widespread interest with their cinematic revelations of both the exotic and the familiar. By the end of the year they had been around the world, introducing the phenomenon of cinema to Egypt, India, Japan, and Australia. In the mean time Thomas Edison's projector, the Vitascope, was also popularizing the medium in the United States and Europe.

At the turn of the century motion picture production was essentially a cottage industry, accessible to any enthusiastic entrepreneur with a modicum of capital and know-how. The world's first feature film of over an hour's duration was made not in France or America but in Australia, where The Story of the Kelly Gang was produced in 1906, the theatrical company J. & N. Tait made the film without the benefit of any industrial infrastructure whatsoever. By 1912 Australia had produced thirty features, and feature-length productions had also been made in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary (with fourteen features in 1912 alone), Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, the United States, and Yugoslavia.

Despite the energy and commitment represented by this early flurry of film-making, singular achievements in the area of production were to prove less important than innovations in business organization in determining the shape of international film commerce. Again France was the first to seize the initiative in terms of foreign distribution. By 1908 the production company Pathé-Fèrres had established a network of offices to promote its products-mainly short dramas and comic scenarios -- in areas including western and eastern Europe, Russia, India, Singapore, and the United States itself. In fact, in 1908 Pathé was the largest single supplier of films for the American market. Films by other French companies, as well as British, Italian, and Danish productions, were also circulating internationally at this time. By contrast, relatively scant foreign business was conducted by American production houses. Although the American companies Vitagraph and Edison were represented in Europe, their agents were more interested in buying European films for circulation in America than in promoting their own products abroad.


If there was little early sign of America's future dominance in the foreign field, the streamlining of the American industry's business organization in its home market


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The Oxford History of World Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Contents xi
  • Special Features xv
  • List of Colour Illustrations xvii
  • General Introduction xix
  • 1 - Silent Cinema 1895-1930 1
  • Origins and Survival 6
  • Early Cinema 13
  • Transitional Cinema 23
  • The Hollywood Studio System 43
  • The World-Wide Spread of Cinema 53
  • The First World War and the Crisis in Europe 62
  • Tricks and Animation 71
  • Comedy 78
  • Documentary 86
  • Cinema and the Avant-Garde 95
  • Serials 105
  • French Silent Cinema 112
  • Italy- Spectacle and Melodrama 123
  • British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock 130
  • Germany- The Weimar Years 136
  • The Scandinavian Style 151
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russia 159
  • The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés 162
  • Yiddish Cinema in Europe 174
  • Japan- Before the Great Kanto Earthquake 177
  • Music and the Silent Film 183
  • The Heyday of the Silents 192
  • 2 - Sound Cinema 1930-1960 205
  • The Introduction of Sound 211
  • Hollywood- The Triumph of the Studio System 220
  • Censorship and Self-Regulation 235
  • The Sound of Music 248
  • Technology and Innovation 259
  • Animation 267
  • Cinema and Genre 276
  • The Western 286
  • The Musical 294
  • Crime Movies 304
  • The Fantastic 312
  • Documentary 322
  • Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy 333
  • The Popular Art of French Cinema 344
  • Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism 353
  • Britain at the End of Empire 361
  • Germany- Nazism and after 374
  • East Central Europe before the Second World War 383
  • Soviet Film under Stalin 389
  • Indian Cinema- Origins to Independence 398
  • China before 1949 409
  • The Classical Cinema in Japan 413
  • The Emergence of Australian Film 422
  • Cinema in Latin America 427
  • After the War 436
  • Transformation of the Hollywood System 443
  • Independents and Mavericks 451
  • 3 - The Modern Cinema 1960-1995 461
  • Television and the Film Industry 466
  • The New Hollywood 475
  • New Technologies 483
  • Sex and Sensation 490
  • The Black Presence in American Cinema 497
  • Exploitation and the Mainstream 509
  • Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster 516
  • Cinéma-Vérité and the New Documentary 527
  • Avant-Garde Film- The Second Wave 537
  • Animation in the Post-Industrial Era 551
  • Modern Film Music 558
  • Art Cinema 567
  • New Directions in French Cinema 576
  • Italy- Auteurs and after 586
  • Spain after Franco 596
  • British Cinema- The Search for Identity 604
  • The New German Cinema 614
  • East Germany- The Defa Story 627
  • Changing States in East Central Europe 632
  • Russia after the Thaw 640
  • Cinema in the Soviet Republics 651
  • Turkish Cinema 656
  • The Arab World 661
  • The Cinemas of Sub-Saharan Africa 667
  • Iranian Cinema 672
  • India- Filming the Nation 678
  • Indonesian Cinema 690
  • China after the Revolution 693
  • Popular Cinema in Hong Kong 704
  • Taiwanese New Cinema 711
  • The Modernization of Japanese Film 714
  • New Australian Cinema 722
  • New Zealand Cinema 731
  • Canadian Cinema/Cinéma Canadien 731
  • New Cinemas in Latin America 740
  • New Concepts of Cinema 750
  • The Resurgence of Cinema 759
  • Index 785
  • List of Picture Sources 823


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