The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

CINEMA IN THE AGE OF
TELEVISION

Television and the Film Industry

MICHELE HILMES

Cinema and television are generally thought of as distinct, whether as industrial practices or as viewing experiences. In fact the two have been quite closely interwoven, ever since television first emerged as a possible rival to cinema on an industrial scale. This was particularly true in the United States, where crossover between radio and cinema interests began in the 1920s, extending to television with the start of commercial television broadcasting in 1939. In European countries, where broadcasting was in the hands of state monopolies, they remained separate for longer, but since the 1950s there has been a growing convergence at all levels. By the 1980s, with the advent of large-screen television on the one hand and home video on the other, all the distinctions had become blurred. Electronic formats are increasingly used for cinema presentation; the same companies produce material for both cinema and television; and films made for the cinema are more often viewed on the television screen (whether broadcast or on video) than in theatres.


BEFORE TELEVISION

In the United States, broadcasting developed as a system of privately owned, commercial stations tied together by two great networks and ineffectively regulated by the federal government. Hollywood studios first proposed an alternative programming structure which would have supported broadcasting from box-office profits. Paramount and MGM attempted to initiate their own film-based radio networks in the late 1920s, using film talent under contract to provide entertainment with publicity value in promoting films. However, a combination of exhibitors' objections and inability to obtain the necessary connecting land lines from AT&T blocked these efforts, and the studios turned to station ownership and the provision of talent to the advertising agencies and sponsors who produced the bulk of radio programming in the 1930s and 1940s. Hollywood stars and properties figured large in radio's golden age. Paramount purchased an interest in CBS in 1928, which it was forced to surrender under financial pressure in 1932; Paramount, MGM, and Warner Bros. all operated radio stations in the 1920s and 1930s. By the same token, in 1929 the Radio Corporation of America, operator of the NBC network, formed its own film company, RKO, in part to market its sound-on-film system, but also as a source of radio programming.

Thus US broadcasting and film interests, though providing differentiated product, were already highly integrated in the years prior to the introduction of television. Within the highly commodified competitive environment of US mass media, there was struggle over the form and audiences appropriate to broadcasting and film. Although broadcasting, with its need to accommodate commercial advertising messages, developed a shorter, segmented, frequently disrupted discursive structure built around such broadcasting-specific forms as the situation comedy, the daytime serial, and the quiz programme, Hollywood's influence showed up particularly in movie-adaptation programmes such as the Lux Radio Theater, hour-long drama, and the musical variety show.

In return, radio stars and properties formed a significant part of Hollywood's film output in the 1930s and 1940s. Stars such as Amos and Andy ( Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll), Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby, and many other lesser lights made films based on their radio personalities. Following AT&T's federally mandated restructuring of land line rates in 1936, radio production moved to the west coast, where each of the major networks built their main studios. Despite federal regulation which consistently favoured the interests of the large radio corporations over those of the film companies -- already considered too powerful in their own field and subject to frequent anti-trust complaints -- Hollywood took a lively interest in and received considerable economic benefit from broadcasting activities, and had every reason to expect to play a role in the emerging television industry.

In contrast, European radio generally followed a public service model with broadcasting facilities and programming owned and/or controlled by the State, from which cinema interests were not only economically removed but conceptually distinct. Though the British film industry, for example, had benefited from protective legislation since the 1920s, it was a commercial industry opera-

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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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