Transforming the Screen 1950-1959

Transforming the Screen 1950-1959

by Peter Lev
     
 

ISBN-10: 0684804956

ISBN-13: 9780684804958

Pub. Date: 07/28/2003

Publisher: Gale Group

In the early 1950s, the film industry was threatened on several fronts. Competition from television, a government-mandated division of production studios from theater chains, and widespread Cold War fears, resulting in the infamous Hollywood Blacklist, all threatened to undermine the business. Cinema admissions declined by about 50 percent between 1946 and 1957, and…  See more details below

Overview

In the early 1950s, the film industry was threatened on several fronts. Competition from television, a government-mandated division of production studios from theater chains, and widespread Cold War fears, resulting in the infamous Hollywood Blacklist, all threatened to undermine the business. Cinema admissions declined by about 50 percent between 1946 and 1957, and some observers suspected that the industry did not have a future. Hollywood's response was dramatic. In the decade that followed, the cinema-going experience was transformed by new technologies, including 3-D, Cinerama, Cinema-Scope, and stereophonic sound. Bigger, visually spectacular films like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments began to appear. Above all, the decade witnessed the astonishing invasion of science fiction and horror, as monsters from space came to represent the public's growing fear of Communist infiltration and the atomic age, culminating in classics such as Them!, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Peter Lev's volume in the award-winning History of the American Cinema series considers the films of the 1950s in detail. It documents the transformation of the old Hollywood, with its familiar stars and genres, into a new, more diversified industry that was able to reach out to the newly acknowledged "teenage" generation with rock and roll films, and movies as diverse as Rebel Without a Cause and Gidget. Film content in the early 1950s was constrained by the Motion Picture Production Code, the Catholic Legion of Decency, and government pressures stemming from the Cold War. Filmmakers involved in leftist or liberal causes were likely to be blacklisted -- even Charlie Chaplin was not exempt -- and an escalating number of American artists found themselves unable to work. By the later 1950s, however, the Production Code had been loosened and Cold War anxieties had begun to recede. Controversial topics such as race relations were once again on Hollywood's agenda.

Hollywood glamour and spectacle were still important to the box office, but alternative approaches were now also possible. A New York school of filmmaking, influenced by Method Acting, Italian Neorealism, and live television drama, garnered Best Picture Academy Awards for On The Waterfront and Marty. Documentary films ranging from Disney's True-Life Adventures to This Is Cinerama and Come Back, Africa were released theatrically, and hundreds more were shown on television. Farther from the mainstream, experimental film benefited from a growing network of filmmaker organizations, exhibition opportunities, and critical outlets. This wide-ranging volume considers the breadth of 1950s production, contributing important background information on the changing structure of the industry and including separate chapters, some by guest authors, on censorship, the blacklist (by Brian Neve), genres, the impact of television on the cinema (by Janet Wasko), documentary (by Jack C. Ellis), science fiction films (by Victoria O'Donnell) and experimental film (by Greg S. Faller). The 1950s has aptly been called an era of transition; Transforming the Screen is an invaluable study of the period's challenges and changes.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684804958
Publisher:
Gale Group
Publication date:
07/28/2003
Series:
History of the American Cinema Series
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
7.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsxi
Contributorsxiii
Introduction1
1.The American Film Industry in the Early 1950s7
2.Genres and Production Trends, 1950-195433
3.HUAC, the Blacklist, and the Decline of Social Cinema65
4.Censorship and Self-Regulation87
5.Technology and Spectacle107
6.Hollywood and Television in the 1950s: The Roots of Diversification127
7.Hollywood International147
8.Science Fiction Films and Cold War Anxiety169
9.The Film Industry in the Late 1950s197
10.Genres and Production Trends, 1955-1959217
11.American Documentary in the 1950s257
12."Unquiet Years": Experimental Cinema in the 1950s279
Appendixes
Appendix 1Number of Feature Films Released by the Eight Major Distribution Companies, 1950-1960303
Appendix 2Number of Motion Picture Theaters in the United States304
Appendix 3Motion Picture Box Office Receipts in the United States304
Appendix 4Average Price of a Movie Ticket in the United States, 1950-1960305
Appendix 5Widescreen and 3-D Releases, 1952-1960305
Appendix 6Top Ten Moneymakers Poll (Actors and Actresses), 1950-1960306
Appendix 7Academy Award Nominations and Winners for Best Picture, 1950-1960307
Appendix 8Other Major Academy Awards309
Notes315
Selected Bibliography341
Picture Sources347
General Index349
Index of Films377

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