American Film History                                                          Dr. Steve Lipkin

COM 3430                                                                             217 Sprau Tower

Spring 2007                                                                            387-3153                                                          TR   9-9:45;  12:30-1:30                                         



This course will survey developments over time in the production and reception of Hollywood feature films.  Major concerns will include the evolution of the studio system, the impact of technological change on film practice, and the changing relationship between Hollywood and American society. 


Course Objectives


1.         To study the historical development of the Hollywood film.


2.         To understand the development of the Hollywood unit production system and the codification of studio styles.


3.         To understand how classic and contemporary narrative films respond to the industrial, economic, and political contexts in which they are made.


4.         To study the development through time of Hollywood film genres.







Sklar, Robert.  Movie-Made America (Revised ed).  Vintage (Random House).  1994. 


Xeroxed readings (Course pack #WMSPO7-233)


(Note:  Much of the course pack assignments are from two books by Thomas Schatz:  The Genius of the System and Hollywood Genres.  I also recommend Robert Rodriguez, Rebel Without a Crew.)



Course Requirements


Two midterms and the final exam will cover assigned readings, lectures, and films.  The midterm exams are scheduled for 2/13 and 3/20.


Quizzes during the semester could cover any and all class activities.  Midterms will be worth 50 points each; quizzes will be worth 10 points.  The final exam (100 points) will be Wednesday, 4/25 from 12:30-2:30 pm. 


Each of you will also write a short (approx.  7 page) research or critical analysis paper exploring some facet of American film history.  The focus of this paper can be a film, a filmmaker, a film studio, or a film genre.  The choice of topic and development of the structure of the paper will occur in stages, to be described in an assignment you will receive shortly.  This paper will be due Tuesday, April 10, 2007 and is worth 50 points.




Since much of the work of this class is impossible to make up (e.g., film screenings, discussions) your attendance is extremely important.  After one (1) unexcused absence, your final grade will be lowered ten (10) points for each subsequent unexcused absence.


There will be a sign-in sheet on the stage in the front of the room--make sure you initial it when you come in.


Grading:  Quiz and Exam Policy


1.         The grading scale for this course (both for individual assignments and for your final grades) is based on the following percentages:


                                94-100        A                          70-75          C

                                88-  93     BA                          64-69       DC

                                82-  87        B                          58-63          D

                                76-  81     CB


2.         I will drop your lowest quiz grade in computing final grades for the course.


3.         Unannounced quizzes may not be made up.


4.         Due to the nature of exams in this course (often they involve films and slides) announced quizzes, mid-terms, and final exams must be taken on the day they are assigned.  I will only allow make-up exams in the most extreme cases, such as severe illness or a death in the family.


5.         #4 also applies for "Incomplete" course grades.




Screenings (Tentative)*:




1/11                 Broken Blossoms



1/18                 Sunrise




1/25                 City Lights



2/1                   I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang



2/8                   The Roaring Twenties


2/13                 Midterm 1


2/15                 Stagecoach



2/22                 The Best Years of Our Lives



3/1                   Notorious



3/15                 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


3/20                 Midterm 2


3/22                 The Manchurian Candidate



3/29                 Bonnie and Clyde



4/5                   Chinatown


4/10                 Research or analysis paper due



4/12                 El Mariachi



4/19                 Lone Star



*Dates and titles subject to change.