Early 30s Hollywood



Social (reflection theory)

Economic (conversion to sound)

Aesthetic (studio style; narrative)


Chaplin, City Lights,  and Related Readings:



1. Chaplin's rise to prominence



a. 1914--Sennett--$150.00/wk.


b. 1915--Essanay--own writer/director--$1250/wk.


c. 1916--Mutual---$10,000/wk.


d. 1917--independent


e. 1919--co-founded United Artists




2. keys to Chaplin's success



a. relationship to audience


1. industrialized


2. urbanized


3. immigrant




b. appeals in his films:


1. treatment of the city


2. the Tramp and audience identification


3. comic strategies (the Tramp meets the Flower Girl)


4. melodramatic strategies (the Flower Girl meets the Tramp)



c. resistance to/incorporation of sound




(from Gehring: what were the pressures on Chaplin in the period before he made City Lights? From Maland: What were the basic elements of Chaplin’s “contract” with his audience? Why do both Gehring and Maland suggest that City Lights offers social criticism?)




3. Issues in Movie-Made America, Chapts. 5-9:


-- Why are Hollywood images influential off-screen?




-- What does Sklar mean by the subversive influence of film comedy? Why was Chaplin a timely/appealing film artist?





-- What motivated efforts to control film content during the 1920s? How did the film industry respond?



n     From Sklar's discussion of Zukor's rise to influence, what emerges as the source or sources of power in the film industry? Why was Zukor a survivor? Why can Sklar say that "the studio system was the house that Adolph Zukor built?" Why was Warner Bros. also a success story as the industry shifted into the 1930s?



The Classic Hollywood Studio System


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?


Warner Bros.:


Schatz, Early 30s Warner Brothers (from The Genius of the System)--pp. 135-155:



1.  Why did Warner Bros. foster an "economical" production style?  How does I Am A Fugitive fit the characteristics of this studio style?


2.  Why was Mervyn LeRoy the quintessential kind of Warner Bros. director? 


3.  What characterized the production of the early 30s Warner Bros. musicals (42d Street; Golddiggers of ’33; Footlight Parade)?


4.  Why did Zanuck leave Warners?





          --What does I Am A Fugitive show us about Warner Bros. style in the early 30s?  (contemporary/true events; pace of narrative; location shooting; journalistic elements)


          --How does Fugitive incorporate and develop the melodramatic mode?