The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview


After the War


The Allied troops landed in Normandy in June 1944. Behind the troops came the para-military personnel of the American Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB), bearing films, mostly documentaries but also a selection of features. Apart from a few smuggled in from Spain and other neutral countries, these were the first recent American films to be seen in occupied Europe for four years. After these first films came the negotiators, Hollywood executives, some with military rank, preparing the way for a resumption of the film trade between America and Europe, or rather from America to Europe. Political and economic objectives were inextricable. In their dealings with the former Axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan, the western Allies were concerned to eradicate traces of Fascism from their cultures, and to ensure that any resurgent film industries in those countries did not perpetuate the ideologies that had brought the world to destruction. But the Americans were also keen to ensure that when trade was resumed it would be on free-market lines, without a return to the protectionism that had marked the European response to Hollywood penetration in the 1930s.

The task of reconstructing the devastated film industries in the defeated countries was entrusted to specialist commissions, part military and part civilian. In Germany, Erich Pommer played a prominent role, while in Italy Alexander Mackendrick, then with the PWB, and Stephen Pallos, a colleague of Alexander Korda, were brought on to the film commission. But reconstruction was not the only item on the agenda. At a meeting in Rome in 1944, the chairman of the Allied Film Board, the American Admiral Stone, roundly declared that Italy, as a rural and former Fascist country, did not need a film industry and should not be allowed to have one. His fellow Americans concurred, but the British did not, seeing it as a transparent move to restore, not so much democracy, as Hollywood hegemony. And, with a five-year backlog of films (including Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane) waiting to be unloaded on the European market, this was indeed what the Americans had in mind.

It was not only the American companies, but European audiences as well, who wanted Hollywood films back on the screen. A conflict soon emerged in many European countries between the exhibitors, sensitive to public demand, and film-makers and producers, eager to establish a new cinema in the climate of cultural renewal after the war and the fall of Fascism. Governments for their part were anxious to limit imports and protect the balance of payments. But the Americans were adamant. The Motion Picture Export Association was supported by its government. As far as possible, films were to be freely traded commodities like any other and free trade in films was written into the GATT agreement and the preparations for the Marshall Plan. The Europeans, who needed American aid more than the marginal improvement to the balance of payments obtained from import restrictions, were forced to capitulate, securing only modest concessions to protect the rebirth of their industries. The scene was set for a long, long struggle.

The situation in the west was mirrored in the east. With the onset of the Cold War, the Soviet Union took steps to assert its control over the countries it had liberated in 1944-5. In the 'People's Democracies' east of the Elbe, film industries were nationalized and the Soviet-dominated regimes imposed as a model the Socialist Realist aesthetic that had been mandatory in the Soviet Union since 1934. The cinemas of eastern and central Europe entered into a phase of development distinct from their western counterparts. Cultural relations with the west were restricted, but eastern-bloc film-makers did at least get to see some of the new cinema coming out of western Europe. The 'cinema of reconstruction' in east and central Europe was thus able to avail itself of the parallel experience of Italian neorealism as well as of Soviet models.

Western European cinemas differed considerably in their response to the changed post-war situation. In Britain, Michael Balcon at Ealing Studios pursued a policy of making films 'projecting Britain and the British character' that can be seen as a continuation of Ealing's wartime patriotism. Although traditionalist in their values, the Ealing films of the 1940s and early 1950s, particularly the comedies, reflected the political mood that had brought the Labour government to power in 1945 and -- without contradiction-the rebellion against austerity that brought Churchill back in 1951. For the industry as a whole, however, it was business as usual, and a return to


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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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