The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

side their younger colleagues, among them André Previn, Alex North, Leonard Rosenman, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini, all of whom began their careers during this decade.

To crown these lists, it is both chronologically fitting and aesthetically crucial to remember the collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, which began with The Man who Knew Too Much in 1955 and ended eleven years later amid the ruins of the rejected score for Torn Curtain. In between, from 1958 to 1960, came the peaks of achievement for director and composer, in Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho. Here were three symphonic scores unmistakably by Herrmann, but stylistically worlds apart. In succession they offer an intensely Romantic tragedy reminiscent of Wagner's Tristan, exuberantly comic dance music with fantastic rhythmic drive, and a disturbingly complex and modernistic score for string orchestra alone. All three continue to fascinate because they begin with dazzling 'overtures' to Saul Bass titles, because the music develops continuously through the films in fascinating structures, and because the scores provide psychological depth and passion as a balance to Hitchcock's tendency toward voyeuristic detachment. The balance is a delicate one indeed, of a sort rare in film music's history, and ought to remind us of Herrmann's remark (which he in turn attributes to Cocteau) that in a good film score 'one is not aware whether the music is making the film go forward or whether the film is pushing the music forward'. This maxim may well serve to guide us as we push forward into film music's future.


Copland, Aaron ( 1941), Our New Music.

Eisenstein, Sergei ( 1992), Towards a Theory of Montage.

Gorbman, Claudia ( 1987), Unheard Melodies.

Kalinak, Kathryn ( 1992), Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Film.

Karlin, Fred ( 1994), Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music.

Palmer, Christopher ( 1990), The Composer in Hollywood.

Prendergast, Roy M. ( 1992), Film Music, a Neglected Art: A Critical Study of Music in Films.

Thomas, Tony ( 1991), Film Score: The Art and Craft of Movie Music.

Thomson, Virgil ( 1932), "A Little about Movie Music".

Technology and Innovation


The transition to sound at the end of the 1920s initiated a transformation in basic motion picture technology that extended beyond the unique innovation of sound itself. The sound revolution set in motion a series of other experiments in the area of motion picture presentation. These experiments would ultimately lead to a second major technological revolution in the 1950s, to the introduction of widescreen movies, filmed in colour and recorded in stereophonic, magnetic sound. Of course, colour had been in more or less continuous use for filming spectacles throughout the 1930s and 1940s. However, the number of colour films made during this period remained quite small, and it was not until the 1950s that colour was extensively used by the entire film industry.

Indeed, what remains so fascinating about this 'second' technological revolution is how long it took to occur. Given that its origins lay in the late 1920s, why was its full realization delayed until the 1950s? The transition to sound took place in less than four years, but the shift to widescreen and colour, as new standards for production and exhibition, did not occur for over twenty years. All three inventions had been adequately innovated by the early to mid-1930s to permit their adoption by the motion picture industry, but the first widescreen revolution had already failed by the end of 1930 and colour film-making, which found use in only a handful of films each year, emerged during the 1930s and 1940s as a minor variation on the norm of black and white.

The 1930-60 period also witnessed a number of other major technological developments, such as the innovation of deep focus cinematography and the shift from nitrate-based to acetate-based film stock, as well as several minor ones, such as the advent of the zoom lens and 3-D. Ironically, all of these techniques and technologies also trace their origins back to the 1920s and early 1930s, though only the zoom and 3-D exploit a similar principle of novelty to that which drove the development of sound, colour, and widescreen.


Since their inception in the 1890s, motion pictures have routinely been part of a larger entertainment programme which featured other attractions, such as live stage shows. In the late 1910s and 1920s, movie palaces included live prologues, comedy acts, dancers, and singers. Films were accompanied by orchestras or organists, which also performed separately in individually billed 'concerts.' Early sound films, especially Warner Bros.' Vitaphone shorts,


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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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