of production from Europe added another dimension to Hollywood film-making, at least on the margin; Hollywood learnt, absorbed, and adapted European art cinemas, and so altered the look of American narrative cinema. There was a looser, more tenuous linkage of narrative events for which absolute closure was not necessary. Stories were located in real settings and dealt with the contemporary (often psychological) problems of confused, ambivalent, and alienated characters. Whereas characters in the classical Hollywood cinema had to be well rounded, operating with clear-cut motives and characteristics, the European influence allowed for the possibility of confused characters, without obvious goals. At the same time strict rules on continuity editing were relaxed and jump cuts gave a new look to comedies and sequences of violence.
However, the Hollywood institutional structure would not permit film-makers to fashion a style totally removed from the tenets of the classic Hollywood text. Continuity of time and space remained in force, with any radical departures encompassed within genre conventions, primarily of comedy. The European cinema may have provided alternatives which gave Hollywood a new faqade, but it never seriously shook the foundations of the classical Hollywood form.
The television age proved to be an era of transition; the old studio system was supplanted by a more flexible means of independent production, and the last of the veterans from the silent era were replaced. The old-style studio moguls, who had guided the great Hollywood companies for decades, proved unable to adapt to the necessities of the new era. However, a number of great film-making talents, with long experience in the industry, led Hollywood through the changes. Indeed, John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Alfred Hitchcock, among others, produced some of their best work during the early years of the television era.
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Gomery, Douglas ( 1986), The Hollywood Studio System.
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Schary, Dore ( 1979), Heyday.
Schatz, Thomas ( 1988), The Genius of the System.
The Hollywood studio system in its heyday was much admired abroad both for efficiency and quality of product and for its ability to match supply and demand. Other national industries did their best to copy it, hoping to gain strength and competitiveness from its tight industrial organization and forms of market control. From the late 1940s onwards, however, the complex structure developed in the 1920s and 1930s was beginning to fall apart. This was a world-wide phenomenon, though the causes were not everywhere the same. In Germany and Italy, for example, it was an effect of the dismantling of the statecontrolled structures of the Fascist period. In India it came about as one of the many consequences of Independence and the arrival of a new entrepreneurial class. In America itself the causes were complex. One pillar of the system, the vertical integration of production, distribution, and exhibition, which provided a crucial linkage between supply and demand, had been knocked out by anti-trust legislation confirmed by the Paramount case in 1948. On the demand side, audiences were falling, while on the supply side the smooth mechanisms for harnessing creative talent to audience-oriented production were showing severe signs of strain as artists at all levels rebelled against being made cogs in the studio machine.
Even if the causes were different, the results were the same: a change in the pattern of production and a greater independence of film-makers from, or within, the system which both nurtured and confined them. This was apparent not only in much quoted cases like Italy, with the pullulation of neo-realism and its offshoots, but even in Britain, where J. Arthur Rank had taken the bold step of devolving production to independent units, and in Hollywood itself.
Contested and much derided though it was, the classic Hollywood production system, with its minute division of labour, had in the 1930s produced impressive results on the creative as well as the industrial side. Individual creativity sometimes appeared to be suppressed, but it could also be fostered, as the careers of many great artists showed. Comedy flourished especially well under the studio system-and indeed not only in Hollywood but in other countries as well.
It was always recognized by the studios that comedy could not be produced to order. But comedy also thrives on formula, and finding and sustaining a successful formula was exactly what the studios were best at. In the early sound years Paramount in particular had a whole stable of comedy stars brought in from theatre and vaudeville,