The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

make products best fitted for international consumption. For example, Hays talked about 'drawing into the American art industry the talent of other nations in order to make it more truly universal', and this explanation is not wholly fatuous. Whether or not it was the original intention behind Hollywood's voracious programme of acquisition, the fact that the studios contained many émigrés (predominantly European) probably allowed a more international sensibility to inform the production process. Whatever the reasons, Hollywood's particular achievement was to design a product that travelled well. Even considering the studios' corporate might, without this factor American movies could not have become the most powerful and pervasive cultural force in the world in the 1920s.

In addition to the explosion of film commerce that characterized the first three decades of the century, the silent period was also marked by the widespread circulation of cinematic ideas. No national cinematic style developed in isolation. Just as the Lumières' apprentices carried the fundamentals of the art around the globe within a year, new approaches to filmic expression continued to find their way abroad, whether or not they were destined for widespread commercial release. The German and French industries may not have been able to compete with the Americans abroad, but their products nevertheless circulated in Europe, Japan, China, and many other markets. The Soviets professed their admiration for Griffith even as they developed their theories of montage, while Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were held spellbound by Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin ( 1925). By the time sound arrived, cinema all around the world was already capable of speaking many languages.


Jarvie, Ian ( 1992), Hollywood's Overseas Campaign.

Thompson, Kristin ( 1985), Exporting Entertainment.

Vasey, Ruth ( 1995), Diplomatic Representations: The World According to Hollywood, 1919-1939.

The First World War and the Crisis in Europe


The summer of 1914 witnessed the opening of the Panama Canal, the start of production on D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Each of these events, in its own way, would tangibly influence the course of film history. The canal would stimulate the development of the US shipping industry, providing the film industry with an infrastructure for greater international distribution. Griffith's film would contribute to the transformation of film production practices and distribution techniques, all of which helped the US industry to triumph over its European competitors. And the Archduke's fate triggered the Great War, realigning the global political economy and helping to destroy the once internationally prominent film industries of France, England, and Italy.

The contours of international political, economic, and cultural power emerged from the war fundamentally transformed. Changes of a magnitude almost unthinkable before the war appeared on the political front in the form of a republic in Germany, a revolutionary government in Russia, and women voters in the USA and Britain. The USA grew from a pre-war parochial and introspective giant, lacking the vision and shipping resources for world trade, into an assertively international dynamo, armed with ample product and the means to deliver it. The balance of international political power, banking, trade, and finance had decisively turned in the USA's favour. The cultural upheaval created by the war was equally profound. Simply put, the war hurled Europe into the twentieth century. Social hierarchies, epistemological and ethical systems, and representational conventions all changed radically between 1914 and 1918. The very concepts of time, space, and experience, recast by the writings of Einstein and Freud, found something close to mainstream tolerance in the form of Cubism, Dada, and Expressionism. But just as significantly, the old, élite cultures of Europe gave way in many sectors to the new mass culture dominated by the United States.

The motion picture industry came out of the war as both emblem and instrument of the cultural and economic realignment that would characterize the remainder of the century.

In broad terms, the pre- 1914 domination of international production and distribution by the French, Italians, and English gave way by 1918 to the expansionist interests of the US studios and a very different vision of the cinema. The war not only disrupted the trade patterns so crucial to the traditional European powers, it also exacted a heavy price in terms of the lives, material, and ongoing experimentation so vital to film production. And, in very different ways, it assisted in the successful


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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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