Classic Hollywood



Fall 2013
Monday and Wednesday, 9:35 am - 12:35 pm
Manoogian 518

Web address for this page:

Steven Shaviro ( or )

5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: Tuesday 10 am - 12 noon, and by appointment

LEARNING OUTCOME: This class offers an intensive look at the history of Hollywood film, from the introduction of sound in the late 1920s through the decline of the old studios in the early 1960s. This is the period of classic Hollywood film, when the Studio System was in full effect. We will look at important and representative films of this period in social and historical context, with attention to important directors and stars, to prominent genres, and to the major and minor studios. Students will become familiar with major trends in filmmaking during this period.

REQUIREMENTS: Each class session will include the screening of a feature film, followed by mixed lecture and discussion. I have not ordered a textbook for this class; instead of outside reading, students will be required to engage in outside filmviewing. You will be asked to watch at least three additional films from the period for each two weeks of class, and to hand in film diaries documenting your in-class and out-of-class viewing every two weeks (seven times in the course of the semester). A list of additional films will be provided. Class requirements include regular attendance, participation in discussions, the film diaries, and one final paper (5-6 pages). Points will be deducted for non-attendance and for assignments handed in late. Points will be added for positive participation in class discussions.

August 28
The coming of sound. The Great Depression. Early musicals, Busby Berkeley.
Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley, Gold Diggers of 1933 (Warner Brothers, 1933)

September 4
Warner Brothers. The gangster film.
William Wellman, The Public Enemy (Warner Bros, 1932)

September 9
Universal. The horror film in the 1930s. The studio system.
James Whale, Bride of Frankenstein (Universal, 1935)

September 11
Paramount. The Hays Code.
Ernst Lubitsch, Design for Living (Paramount, 1933)

September 16
Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich.
Josef von Sternberg, The Devil Is A Woman (Paramount, 1935)

September 18
Fritz Lang in Hollywood.
Fritz Lang, Fury (MGM, 1936)

September 23
RKO and other studios. The Musical. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Mark Sandrich, Top Hat (RKO, 1935)

September 25
Columbia. Frank Capra. James Stewart.
Frank Capra, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Columbia, 1939)

September 30
Screwball Comedy.
Leo McCarey, The Awful Truth (Columbia, 1937)

October 2
Howard Hawks.
Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings (Columbia, 1939)

October 7 Low-budget genre films.
Jacques Tourneur, Cat People (RKO, 1942)
Edgar Ulmer, Detour (PRC, 1945)

October 9
More low-budget genres. "Race films." Science fiction.
Spencer Williams, The Blood of Jesus (Amegro Films, 1941)
Don Siegel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Allied Artists, 1956)

October 14
Melodrama. The "women's picture."
King Vidor, Stella Dallas (Goldwyn/United Artists, 1937)

October 16
Twentieth Century Fox. The earlier John Ford.
John Ford, The Grapes of Wrath (Fox, 1940)

October 21
Into the 1940s. Preston Sturges. Art and entertainment in the Depression.
Preston Sturges, Sullivan's Travels (Paramount, 1941)

October 23
The Film Industry and World War II.
Michael Curtiz, Casablanca (1942)

October 28
Orson Welles and new film stylistics.
Orson Welles, The Lady from Shanghai (Columbia, 1947)

October 30
John Ford and the Western. John Wayne.
John Ford, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (Argosy, 1949)

November 4
Film Noir.
Jacques Tourneur, Out of the Past (1947)

November 6
MGM musicals. Film versus television.
Vincente Minnelli, The Band Wagon (MGM, 1953)

November 11
Social problem films. Method acting, Marlon Brando. McCarthyism and the Red Scare.
Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront (Columbia, 1954)

November 13
Late film noir. Decline of the studios, rise of independent production.
Robert Aldrich, Kiss Me Deadly (United Artists, 1955)

November 18
Mixed genres. Independent auteurs.
Nicholas Ray, Bigger Than Life (Fox, 1956)

November 20
Comedy in the 1950s. Billy Wilder. Marilyn Monroe.
Billy Wilder, Some Like It Hot (United Artists, 1959)

November 25: NO CLASS

December 2
Alfred Hitchcock.
Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest (MGM, 1959).

December 4
Melodrama. Race in 1950s Hollywood. Douglas Sirk.
Douglas Sirk, Imitation of Life (Universal, 1959).

December 9
The end of classical film style?
Samuel Fuller, Shock Corridor (Allied Artists, 1963)

December 16 (exam week)