The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

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.


Bordwell, David, Staiger, Janet, and Thompson, Kristin ( 1985), The Classical Hollywood Cinema.

Gomery, Douglas ( 1986), The Hollywood Studio System.

---- ( 1992), Shared Pleasures.

Schary, Dore ( 1979), Heyday.

Schatz, Thomas ( 1988), The Genius of the System.

Independents and Mavericks


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,


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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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