The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

better-equipped German studios. His Decameron Nights ( 1924) was shot in Germany, co-financed by Ufa and by Graham-Wilcox, and employed English, American, and German actors. With its large, well-designed and wellexecuted sets, and story of sexual intrigue, Decameron Nights was a commercial success both in Britain and the United States. However, this success was in large part attributable to spectacle (adequately financed) and the sexual dynamic of the narrative; but Wilcox, unlike Hitchcock and some other young directors, seems to have learnt little from the encounter with German cinema, and, from the perspective of film form, Decameron Nights is a film still marked by the relatively long scale of most of its shots and a general lack of scene dissection.

Michael Balcon was an important figure in the British film industry for a number of reasons. Although he produced only a relatively small number of films in the 1920s, most of them, including The Rat ( Gainsborough, 1925), were big commercial successes. Further, Balcon's career was a clear signpost to that division of labour that came rather late in the British film industry: that is, between producing and directing. Balcon was a producer, rather than a producer-director, and it was only the separation of these roles that allowed the development of skills specifically associated with each function.

Although in the context of British culture film-making was generally. held in low esteem, a number of university graduates were to enter the film industry towards the end of this period, including Anthony Asquith, the son of the Liberal Prime Minister. Asquith had not only developed a considerable knowledge of European cinema during his university days, but his privileged background enabled him to meet many Hollywood stars and directors during his visits to the United States. The importance of these factors became evident when he began his film career. On Shooting Stars (British Instructional Films, 1928) Asquith was assistant director, but he had also written the screenplay, and was involved with the editing of the film. Shooting Stars was self-reflexive, in so far as it was a film about the film industry, film-making, and stars, although the reference was more to Hollywood than England, with Brian Aherne featuring as a Western genre hero. The lighting (by Karl Fischer), the use of a variety of camera angles, and the rapid editing of some sequences linked the film more to a German mode of expression. These elements, combined with the fact that the screenplay was not developed from a West End theatre production, unlike so many British productions in the 1920s, produced a film that was pure cinema.

By the end of the 1920s the British film industry was transformed. The shift to vertical integration established a stronger industrial base, and, despite its negative aspects, the protective legislation introduced in 1927 did also lead to an expansion of the industry. The new generation who entered the industry in the mid-1920s had a greater knowledge and understanding of developments taking place in both European cinema and Hollywood, and this was also to play its part in the transformation of the British cinema, making it better prepared to face the introduction of sound at the end of the decade.


Hepworth, Cecil ( 1951), Came the Dawn: Memories of a Film Pioneer.

Low, Rachael ( 1949), The History of the British Film, ii: 1906-1914.

--- ( 1950), The History of the British Film, iii: 1914-18.

--- ( 1971), The History of the British Film, iv: 1918-29.

--- and Manvell, Roger ( 1948), The History of the British Film, i: 1896- 1906.

Pearson, George ( 1957), Flashback: The Autobiography of a British Filmmaker.

Sadoul, Georges ( 1951), Histoire générale du cinéma, vol. iii.

Salt, Barry ( 1992), Film Style and Technology.

Germany: The Weimar Years


'German Cinema' recalls the 1920s, Expressionism, Weimar culture, and a time when Berlin was the cultural centre of Europe. For film historians, this period is sandwiched between the pioneering work of American directors like D. W. Griffith, Ralph Ince, Cecil B. DeMille, and Maurice Tourneur in the 1910s, and the Soviet montage cinema of Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Vsevolod Pudovkin in the late 1920s. The names of Ernst Lubitsch, Robert Wiene, Paul Leni, Fritz Lang, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, and Georg Wilhelm Pabst stand, in this view, for one of the 'golden ages' of world cinema, helping-between 1918 and 1928-to make motion pictures an artistic and avantgarde medium.

Arguably, such a view of film history is no longer unchallenged, yet surprisingly many of the German films from this period are part of the canon: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene, 1919), The Golem (Der Golem, wie er in die Welt karo, Paul Wegener, 1920), Destiny (Der müde Tod, Fritz Lang, 1921), Nosferatu ( F. W. Murnau , 1921), Dr Mabuse ( Lang, 1922), Waxworks (Das


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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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