The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

soon emerged as a premier format, reserved for big-budget blockbusters, which could be shown at top prices on a roadshow basis in the largest, most exclusive theatres. It led the way for other 65/70 mm. processes, such as MGM's Camera 65 ( Ben-Hur, 1959), Ultra Panavision 70 ( Mutiny on the Bounty, 1962), and Super Technirama 70 ( Spartacus, 1960).

Although widescreen became a new standard, stereo magnetic sound quickly disappeared as a new technology. Movie palaces used it as an additional lure for audiences, but independent exhibitors refused to pay the added costs involved in equipping their theatres for stereo. At the same time, audiences accustomed to hearing dialogue emanate from a central theatre speaker resisted multitrack dialogue, which travelled from theatre speaker to theatre speaker. Five- and six-track sound, which accompanied large-format films, provided a more even distribution of dialogue, and continued to satisfy the needs of audiences for spectacle, but three- and four-track sound failed to catch on.

The various production and exhibition technologies introduced during the 1950s constituted a revolution of sorts in the nature of the movie-going experience. Audiences were initially overwhelmed by widescreen images in colour, which were projected on large, curved screens and accompanied by multi-track stereo magnetic sound. If the cinema can be said to have begun as a novelty with the peep-show Kinetoscope and with the projection of moving images on a large theatre screen for a mass audience, then the explosion of novel technologies in the 1950s almost amounts to a reinvention of the cinema. For the first time since the transition-to-sound era, movies spectacularized the motion picture medium, thrilling audiences with displays of its power to move them. The revolution that took place in the 1950s may well represent the last chapter in the cinema's attempt, as a medium, to recapture, through the novelty of its mode of presentation, its original ability to excite spectators.


Belton, John ( 1992), Widescreen Cinema.

Comolli, Jean-Louis ( 1980), ' Machines of the Visible'.

Ogle, Patrick L. ( 1972), ' Technological and Aesthetic Influences upon the Development of Deep Focus Cinematography in the United States'.

Salt, Barry ( 1992), Film Style and Technology: Histoty and Analysis.




To satisfy the international craze for Mickey Mouse (fuelled by a keen merchandizing campaign patterned after Pat Sullivan's exploitation of Otto Messmer's Felix the Cat), the Disney studios created 100 cartoons starring him in the ten years from 1928 to 1937. In the process they managed to homogenize the character-Ub Iwerks's original Mickey from Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie had wiry limbs and a wicked personality that could torture cats and ladies, while the later Mickey became rounder, milder of temperament -- and virtually exhausted his possibilities. Fortunately the Mickey cartoons spawned secondary characters Pluto, Goofy, and Donald Duck who starred in their own cartoons until the mid-1950s: in fact, the best of the later Mickey Mouse cartoons, such as the 1935 Band Concert or the 1937 Clock Cleaners, derive as much energy from Donald and Goofy as from Mickey. Equally fortunately, Ub Iwerks initiated a second parallel series of sound cartoons with his 1928 Skeleton Dance: the Silly Symphonies, which explored lyrical and whimsical themes in folklore and nature. Free from the gag formula of regular cartoons, Silly Symphonies gave the Disney staff the opportunity to experiment and expand their animation skills, and they won Academy Awards regularly: the full-colour Flowers and Trees ( 1932), Three Little Pigs ( 1933) with its diverse personality characterization for animal protagonists, The Tortoise and the Hare ( 1935), Country Cousin ( 1936), The Old Mill ( 1937) with its atmospheric multiplane depth effects, Ferdinand the Bull ( 1938), and The Ugly Duckling ( 1939).

The technical advances explored in the Silly Symphonies partly arose from a rivalry with the Fleischers, who, among all the other animation studios that survived into the sound era, consistently produced excellent cartoons in the early 1930s. Unlike the Disney product, which tended increasingly to an 'illusion of life' live-action imitation, the earlier Fleischer cartoons revelled in stylization, caricature, unrealistic transformations, elaborate repetitive cycles, direct address to the audience, and illogical developments which seem inherent, distinctive properties or potentials of animation. Disney's Alice seems mundane and leaden beside the Fleischers' Koko, whose surrealistic escapades allow him to intervene in the creative process of Modelling ( 1921), or, with his prison escape in Koko the Convict ( 1926), to bury Manhattan in a


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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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