English 4950 Special Topics in Literature: American Film in the 1930s
F. GRADY SPRING 2012
455 LUCAS [Sec. 001, #14218]
516-5592 MW 11:00-12:30
email@example.com JC PENNEY 63
MW 1:00-4:00 and by appointment
In 1990 the U.S. Post Office issued commemorative stamps honoring four classic American films: Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, and Beau Geste. It was hardly a coincidence that all four films had originally been released in 1939, for that year has widely been regarded as "Hollywood's greatest year," during which the major film studios finally shook off the effects of the Great Depression, reaching new heights in employment and drawing in 40 to 50 million patrons a week to see what most students of American film consider to be some of the best movies ever made in Hollywood.
Of course, some of this is just standard entertainment industry hoopla,
about Hollywood's artistic triumphs in 1939. And if that year marked a
pinnacle of one sort, it was also the beginning of the end for the studio
system that had dominated the film industry for a generation: the
European markets which had traditionally provided Hollywood with a
quarter of its income were about to be lost to World War II, and
soon after the war the studios finally lost the fierce battle against antitrust
legislation that they had waged for two decades. Even the most successful
film of 1939 (indeed, the most successful film ever, to that point),
Gone with the Wind, can be seen as the precursor of the blockbuster
event-movie that dominates the cinema industry of our day, an industry
very different in organization from the system that governed American
filmmaking in the 1930s.
In this course we'll try to see what the excitement was all about by studying several films from that great year. Along the way we'll also learn something about the entertainment industry and the studio system, 1930s American cultural history, film language and technology, film stars and genres, and film theory and criticism. We'll be "taking Hollywood seriously," as one of your textbooks puts it, as a site of artistic, cultural, social, economic, and imaginary importance, both then and now.
· midterm exam, 15%
· final exam, 20%
· two 500-word film reviews, 5% each (follow link for details)
· weekly film quizzes, 10%
· class grade (including attendance, participation, occasional writing assignments, and posting on the class discussion board according to a schedule we’ll establish), 10%
· two 5-6 page essays, 15% & 20% each (due dates as below). You will have three chances to write the two papers, and I will distribute suggested topics in advance of each due date (though you will not be limited to those topics). Plagiarism on papers, electronic or the old-fashioned kind, will mean an instant F for the assignment, my undying disapprobation, and possible disciplinary action by the university; please refer to this site for further details, and please please please ask me if you have any questions.
• Edward Buscombe, Stagecoach. British Film Institute, 1992
• Tino Balio, Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. History of
the American Cinema, vol. 5. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993. (hence GD)
• Richard Maltby, Hollywood Cinema. 2nd ed. Blackwell, 2003. (hence HC)
• Salman Rushdie, The Wizard of Oz. British Film Institute, 1992
• Additional essays available through MyGateway.
· Required films will be available for streaming via MyGateway and should be watched carefully before the class date for which they are assigned. A high-speed connection is recommended.
· Supplementary films (for film reviews) are typically available via a rental service (e.g. Netflix) or the public library; I can lend some of the rarer ones.
· Though most relevant documents (e.g., essay topics and supplementary readings) will be posted on MyGateway, the main course page will be at http://www.umsl.edu/~gradyf/4950syllsp12.htm, which can also be reached through my home page (www.umsl.edu/~gradyf). Bookmark it: frequent updates are likely.
· A reserve list of relevant texts will be maintained in the TJ library.
W JAN 18 Introduction; coming attractions; studying movies; some film technique and vocabulary
M JAN 23 Taking Hollywood seriously; America during the Great Depression
Reading: "Taking Hollywood Seriously," HC 6-32 (also on MyGateway)
Levine, “American Culture and the Great Depression” (MyGateway)
Rauchway, “Americans in the Great Depression” (MyGateway)
Optional: Leuchtenburg, “Smashup” (MyGateway)
W JAN 25 The Studio System
Reading: "Industry 1: to 1948," HC 113-58
"Introduction," GD 1-12
"Surviving the Great Depression," GD 13-36
"Feeding the Maw of Exhibition," GD 73-108
M JAN 30 Dodge City (1939; 105m); Hollywood style;
Reading: "Entertainment 1 &2," HC 33-73
"Technological Change and Classical Film Style," GD 109-42
Reading: "Genre," HC 74-110
Altman, “A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre” (MyGateway)
Optional: Bazin, “The Western: or The American Film Par Excellence” (MyGateway)
M FEB 6 Stagecoach (1939; 96m); Ford and the idea of the auteur
Reading: Buscombe, Stagecoach
W FEB 8 Jesse James (1939; 105m)
Reading: Robin Wood, "Ideology, Genre, Auteur" (MyGateway)
Altman, “Where do genres come from?” (MyGateway)
Optional: Neale, “Questions of Genre” (MyGateway)
Reading: "Prestige Pictures," GD 179-211
“Narrative 1," HC 452-70
W FEB 15 GWTW, cont.
“Gone with the Wind: The Making of a Legend” (MyGateway)
Reading: “Space 1 & 2,” HC 312-67
M FEB 20 Judge Priest (1934; 71m); Hollywood and race; the publicity industry
Reading: “Selling Stars,” GD 143-78
“Performance 1,” HC 369-92
W FEB 22 Writing about film; essay workshop
Reading: Excerpts from Corrigan, A Short Guide to Writing About Film (MyGateway)
Reading: Taves, "The B Film: Hollywood's Other Half," GD 313-50
Lepore, “Chan, the Man” (MyGateway)
Optional: Kim, “Images of Asians in Anglo-American Literature” (MyGateway)
W FEB 29 The Production Code
Reading: "The Production Code and the Hays Office," GD 37-72
“Narrative 2,” HC 471-90
Forman, from Our Movie Made Children (MyGateway)
“The Production Code of 1930” (MyGateway)
Optional: Inglis, “Self-Regulation in Operation” (MyGateway)
F MAR 2 First essay due date
Reading: Dyer, “Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society” (MyGateway)
Holmes, “The Hollywood Star System and . . . 1916-1934” (MyGateway)
W MAR 7 Gender and spectatorship
Reading: Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (MyGateway)
Browne, “The Spectator-in-the-Text: The Rhetoric of ‘Stagecoach’" (MyGateway)
Reading: "The Woman's Film," GD 235-55
Klaprat, “The Star as Market Strategy: Bette Davis in Another Light” (MyGateway)
W MAR 14 Melodrama as mode
Reading: Williams, “Melodrama Revised” (MyGateway)
Mulvey, “Afterthoughts…” (MyGateway)
Optional: Gledhill, “Rethinking Genre” (MyGateway)
M MAR 19 Online review; no campus meeting
W MAR 21 MIDTERM
M MAR 26 & 28 SPRING BREAK
Reading: "Criticism," HC 493-525
W APR 4 Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938; 92m);
Reading: "Comedy," GD 256-80
Reading: "Time," HC 413-51
W APR 11 Oz, cont.
Reading: Rushdie, The Wizard of Oz
F APR 13 Second Essay Due Date
Reading: "Politics," HC 268-303
W APR 18 Mr. Smith, cont.
Reading: Levine, “Hollywood’s Washington” (MyGateway)
Capra, from The Name Above the Title (MyGateway)
Optional: Rogin and Moran, “Mr. Capra Goes to Washington” (MyGateway)
Reading: HC 436-48, “History as a Production Value”
W APR 25 Film Theory and Studio Production
Reading:“Theories,” HC 526-56
"John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, a Collective Text by the Editors of
Cahiers du Cinema" (MyGateway)
Optional: Andrew, “The ‘Three Ages"’ of Cinema Studies and the Age to Come” (MyGateway)
Reading: "Social Problem Films," GD 280-98
W MAY 2 Conclusions?
M MAY 7 Final Exam 10:00-12:00
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS: Students with disabilities of any sort who believe that they may need special accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact the Disability Access Services Office in 144 Millennium Student Center at 516-6554 as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are arranged in a timely fashion.