The Classic Hollywood Film Industry


1.  Overview:  these companies produced an average of 500 films per year from 1930 to 1950:

          The Big Five
                    Warner Bros.
                    20th Century-Fox

          The Little Three
                    United Artists


2.  Growth:
          1938:  80 million admissions/wk.
          1946:  90 million admissions/wk.


3.  System of production:

          production units (Curtiz:  44 films ’30-’39; Leroy:  36 films; Ford:  26 films)

          classic film style


          studio style



Sklar, Chapts. 10 and 11:  Key Issues


1.  Why (in the early 30s) did financial control of the studios shift to the east coast?


2.  How did NRA codes affect the balance of power within and outside of the industry?


3.  What were the seeds of collective bargaining within the film industry?  What were basic reasons in this instance for collective bargaining?  against?


4.  What was the industry's response to the formation of the Legion of Decency as a means of social control?


5.  Sklar says that in 1933-1934, "spurred by the changes in national mood brought about by the New Deal and prodded by the Legion of Decency, Hollywood directed its enormous powers of persuasion to preserving the basic moral, social and economic tents of traditional American culture."  How is this evident in films we've screened?


6.  How were Thalberg, Zanuck, and Selznick forerunners of contemporary film producers?



42d Street and Footlight Parade --  A Case in

Warner Bros. Style




1.  Note similarities/differences between the two films, especially regarding:


          a.  narrative framework

                    1.  the role of economic problems in dramatic             conflicts


          b.  sparseness of mise en scene and cinematography--

                    --what are "key" locations?

                    --how is cinematography kept "functional" in                      strictly narrative sequences?


          c.  music/narrative relationship in the "dramatic"           portion of a film



          d.  Busby Berkley/musical portions of each film:

                    --size, placement, structure and function in each                case?

                    --"collectivist"/political implications of each?


Discussion:  Swingtime and Hollywood Through the 30s



1.  What are the key elements of Swingtime’s visual/narrative style?


2.  How does this musical compare to those we screened produced at Warner Bros.?  Consider narrative structure, elements of the image, and basic arguments the films present.


3.  What are Swingtime's basic commodities?  How are these relevant to audience needs?


4.  How would social reflection theory deal with this film?  How does it go beyond its original audience?




More Reading:


          Some xerox copies of Chapter 9, T. Schatz's Genius of the System (pp. 135-155) will be on reserve under my name in the Communication Resource Center.  Read this material for this unit of the course on Warner Bros.  For next week, read the material on MGM (pp. 359-380) from the same reserve files.