Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America / Edition 1

Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America / Edition 1

by Steven J. Ross
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press
Select a Purchase Option (New Edition)
  • purchase options
    $40.25 $46.00 Save 12% Current price is $40.25, Original price is $46. You Save 12%.
  • purchase options
    $25.55 $46.00 Save 44% Current price is $25.55, Original price is $46. You Save 44%.
    Note: Access code and/or supplemental material are not guaranteed to be included with textbook rental or used textbook.
  • purchase options


Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America / Edition 1

This path-breaking book reveals how Hollywood became "Hollywood" and what that meant for the politics of America and American film. Working-Class Hollywood tells the story of filmmaking in the first three decades of the twentieth century, a time when going to the movies could transform lives and when the cinema was a battleground for control of American consciousness. Steven Ross documents the rise of a working-class film movement that challenged the dominant political ideas of the day. Between 1907 and 1930, worker filmmakers repeatedly clashed with censors, movie industry leaders, and federal agencies over the kinds of images and subjects audiences would be allowed to see. The outcome of these battles was critical to our own times, for the victors got to shape the meaning of class in twentieth- century America.

Surveying several hundred movies made by or about working men and women, Ross shows how filmmakers were far more concerned with class conflict during the silent era than at any subsequent time. Directors like Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and William de Mille made movies that defended working people and chastised their enemies. Worker filmmakers went a step further and produced movies from A Martyr to His Cause (1911) to The Gastonia Textile Strike (1929) that depicted a unified working class using strikes, unions, and socialism to transform a nation. J. Edgar Hoover considered these class-conscious productions so dangerous that he assigned secret agents to spy on worker filmmakers.

Liberal and radical films declined in the 1920s as an emerging Hollywood studio system, pressured by censors and Wall Street investors, pushed American film in increasingly conservative directions. Appealing to people's dreams of luxury and upward mobility, studios produced lavish fantasy films that shifted popular attention away from the problems of the workplace and toward the pleasures of the new consumer society. While worker filmmakers were trying to heighten class consciousness, Hollywood producers were suggesting that class no longer mattered. Working-Class Hollywood shows how silent films helped shape the modern belief that we are a classless nation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691024646
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 12/14/1999
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 392
Product dimensions: 6.07(w) x 9.29(h) x 0.94(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Pt. I The Rise of the Movies: Political Filmmaking and the Working Class 1

Introduction 3

1 Going to the Movies: Leisure, Class, and Danger in the Early Twentieth Century 11

2 Visualizing the Working Class: Cinema and Politics before Hollywood 34

3 The Good, the Bad, and the Violent: Class Conflict and the Labor-Capital Genre 56

4 Making a Pleasure of Agitation: The Rise of the Worker Film Movement 86

Pt. II The Rise of Hollywood: From Working Class to Middle Class 113

5 When Russia Invaded America: Hollywood, War, and the Movies 115

6 Struggles for the Screen: The Revival of the Worker Film Movement 143

7 Fantasy and Politics: Moviegoing and Movies in the 1920s 173

8 Lights Out: The Decline of Labor Filmmaking and the Triumph of Hollywood 212

Epilogue: The Movies Talk But What Do They Say? 240

Select Filmography 259

Sources and Methods for Writing Film History 263

Abbreviations 277

Notes 279

Index 353

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews