A History of Hollywood Essay Example
A History of Hollywood Essay Example

A History of Hollywood Essay Example

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  • Published: May 3, 2017
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Of all the products of popular culture, none is more sharply etched in our collective imagination than the movies. Movies are key cultural artifacts that offer a window into American cultural and social history.

A mixture of art, business, and popular entertainment, the movies provide a host of insights into Americans' shifting ideals, fantasies, and preoccupations. Like any cultural artifact, the movies can be approached in a variety of ways.Cultural historians have treated movies as sociological documents that record the look and mood of particular historical settings; as ideological constructs that advance particular political or moral values or myths; as psychological texts that speak to individual and social anxieties and tensions; as cultural documents that present particular images of gender, ethnicity, class romance, and violence; and as visual texts that offer complex levels of meanin


g and seeing. Hollywood is a district in Los Angeles, California, United States situated west-northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Due to its fame and cultural identity as the historical center of movie studios and movie stars, the word Hollywood is often used as a metonym of American cinema. Even though much of the movie industry has dispersed into surrounding areas such as West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, significant auxiliary industries, such as editing, effects, props, post-production, and lighting companies remain in Hollywood, as does the backlot of Paramount Pictures. In spite of the area's short history, it has been filled with events driven by optimistic progress.The name Hollywood was coined by H. J.

Whitley, the "Father of Hollywood". The Hollywood Sign (formerly the "Hollywoodland" sign) is a landmark and American cultural icon located in Los Angeles, California. It i

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situated on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains. The sign overlooks the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. It was originally created as an advertisement for local real estate development in 1923, but garnered increasing recognition after the sign was left up.The sign was a frequent target of pranks and vandalism but has since undergone restoration, including the installation of a security system to deter vandalism.

The sign is protected and promoted by the Hollywood Sign Trust, a nonprofit organization. Chapter I: The birth of the movies The Pre-History of Motion Pictures For centuries, people wrestled with the problem of realistically reproducing moving images. A discovery by Ptolemy in the second century provided the first step.He noticed that there is a slight imperfection in human perception: The retina retains an image for a fraction of a second after the image has changed or disappeared.

Because of this phenomenon, known as the "persistence of vision," a person would merge a rapid succession of individual images into the illusion of continuous motion. In the 1790s, the Belgian Etienne Gaspar Robert terrified audiences with phantasmagoric exhibitions, which used magic lanterns to project images of phantoms and apparitions of the dead.By the mid-nineteenth century, illustrated lectures and dramatic readings had become common. To create the illusion of motion, magic lantern operators used multiple lanterns and mirrors to move the image. The first true moving images appeared in the 1820s, when the concept of the persistence of vision was used to create children's toys and other simple entertainments. During film's first decade from 1896 to 1905 movies were little more than a novelty, often used

as a "chaser" to signal the end of a show in a vaudeville theater.

These early films are utterly unlike anything seen today. They lasted just seven to ten minutes -too brief to tell anything more than the simplest story. They used a cast of anonymous actors for the simple reason that the camera was set back so far that it was impossible to clearly make out the actors' faces. As late as 1908, a movie actor made no more than $8 a day and received no credit on the screen. In 1905, hundreds of little movie theaters opened, called nickelodeons, since they sold admission nickel by nickel.

By 1908, there were an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 nickelodeons.Contrary to popular belief, the nickelodeon's audience was not confined to the poor, the young, or the immigrant. From the start, theaters were situated in rural areas and middle class neighborhoods as well as working-class neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the movies attracted audiences of an unprecedented size, as a result of their low admission prices, "democratic" seating arrangements, convenient time schedules (films were shown again and again), and lack of spoken dialogue, which allowed non- English speaking immigrants to enjoy films. By 1907, narrative films had begun to increase in number.

But most films still emphasized stunts and chases and real life events-like scenes of yacht races or train crashes--and were rented or sold by the foot regardless of subject matter. Exhibitors were expected to assemble scenes together to form a larger show. The formation of the movie trust ushered in a period of rationalization within the film industry. Camera and projecting equipment was standardized; film rental fees were fixed; theaters were

upgraded; and the practice of selling films outright ended, which improved the quality of movies by removing damaged prints from circulation.During the 1920s and 1930s, a small group of film companies consolidated their control.

Known as the "Big Five" - Paramount, Warner Brothers, RKO, 20th Century-Fox, and Lowe's (MGM) and the "Little Three" - Universal, Columbia, and United Artists, they formed fully integrated companies. With the exception of United Artists, which was solely a distribution company, the "majors" owned their own production facilities, ran their own worldwide distribution networks, and controlled theater chains that were committed to showing the company's products.And at the head of each major studio was a powerful mogul such giants as Adolph Zukor, Wiliam Fox, Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Carl Laemmle, Harry Cohn, Joseph Schenck, and the Warner Brothers who determined what the public was going to see. It was their vision - patriotic, sentimental, secular, and generally politically conservative which millions of Americans shared weekly at local movie theaters.

And as expressed by such producers as Irving Thalberg, Darryl F. Zanuck, and Daivd O. Selznick, it was a powerful vision indeed. The Rise of Hollywood and the Arrival of SoundIn cinema's earliest days, the film industry was based in the nation's theatrical center, New York, and most films were made in New York or New Jersey, although a few were shot in Chicago, Florida, and elsewhere.

Beginning in 1908, however, a growing number of filmmakers located in southern California, drawn by cheap land and labor, the ready accessibility of varied scenery, and a climate ideal for year-round outdoor filming. Contrary to popular mythology, moviemakers did not move to Hollywood

to escape the film trust; the first studio to move to Hollywood, Selig, was actually a trust member.By the early 1920s, Hollywood had become the world's film capital. It produced virtually all films show in the United States and received 80 percent of the revenue from films shown abroad.

During the '20s, Hollywood bolstered its position as world leader by recruiting many of Europe's most talented actors and actresses, like Greta Garbo and Hedy Lamarr, directors like Ernst Lubitsch and Josef von Sternberg, as well as camera operators, lighting technicians, and set designers,By the end of the decade, Hollywood claimed to be the nation's fifth largest industry, attracting 83 cents out of every dollar Americans spent on amusement.Hollywood had also come to symbolize "the new morality" of the 1920s--a mixture of extravagance, glamour, hedonism, and fun. During the 1920s, movie attendance soared. By the middle of the decade, 50 million people a week went to the movies - the equivalent of half the nation's population. In Chicago, in 1929, theaters had enough seats for half the city's population to attend a movie each day. As attendance rose, the movie-going experience underwent a profound change.

During the twentieth century's first two decades, movie going tended to conform to class and ethnic divisions.Urban workers attended movie houses located in their own working class and ethnic neighborhoods, where admission was extremely inexpensive (averaging just 7 cents in the during the teens), and a movie was often accompanied by an amateur talent show or a performance by a local ethnic troupe. These working class theaters were rowdy, high-spirited centers of neighborhood sociability, where mothers brought their babies and audiences

cheered, jeered, shouted, whistled, and stamped their feet. The theaters patronized by the middle class were quite different.Late in the new century's first decade, theaters in downtown or middle class neighborhoods became increasingly luxurious.

At first many of these theaters were designed in the same styles as many other public buildings, but by the mid-teens movie houses began feature French Renaissance, Egyptian, Moorish, and other exotic decors. During the late-'20s, independent neighborhood theaters catering to a distinct working class audience were bought up by regional and national chains. As a result, the movie-going experience became more uniform, with working class and middle class theaters offering the same rograms. Especially after the introduction of the "talkies," many working-class movie houses shut down, unable to meet the cost of converting to sound. For decades, engineers had searched for a practical technology to add synchronized recorded sound to the movies.

The arrival of sound produced a sharp upsurge in movie attendance, which jumped from 50 million a week in the mid-20s to 110 million in 1929. But it also produced a number of fundamental transformations in the movies themselves. Sound made the movies more American.In addition, the talkies dramatically changed the movie-going experience, especially for the working class. Where many working class audiences had provided silent films with a spoken dialogue, movie-goers were now expected to remain quiet. As one film historian has observed: "The talking audience for silent pictures became a silent audience for talking pictures.

"Moreover, the stage shows and other forms of live entertainment that had appeared in silent movie houses increasingly disappeared, replaced by newsreels and animated shorts. Chapter II: Hollywood and World War

II Wartime HollywoodBeginning in September 1941, a Senate subcommittee launched an investigation into whether Hollywood had campaigned to bring the United States into World War II by inserting pro-British and pro-interventionist messages in its films. While Hollywood did in fact release a few anti-Nazi films, such as Confessions of a Nazi Spy, what is remarkable in retrospect is how slowly Hollywood awoke to the fascist threat. Heavily dependent on the European market for revenue, Hollywood feared offending foreign audiences. Indeed, at the Nazi's request, Hollywood actually fired "non-Aryan" employees in its German business offices.

Although the industry released a number of preparedness films (like Sergeant York), anti-fascist movies (such as The Great Dictator), and pro-British films (including A Yank in the R. A. F. ) between 1939 and 1941, it did not release a single film advocating immediate American intervention in the war on the allies' behalf before Pearl Harbor. Hollywood's greatest contribution to the war effort was morale. Many of the movies produced during the war were patriotic rallying cries that affirmed a sense of national purpose.

Combat films of the war years emphasized patriotism, group effort, and the value of individual sacrifices for a larger cause.They portrayed World War II as a peoples' war, typically featuring a group of men from diverse ethnic backgrounds who are thrown together, tested on the battlefield, and molded into a dedicated fighting unit. Many wartime films featured women characters playing an active role in the war by serving as combat nurses, riveters, welders, and long-suffering mothers who kept the home fires burning. Even cartoons, like Bugs Bunny "Nips the Nips," contributed to morale. From the moment America entered

the war, Hollywood feared that the industry would be subject to heavy-handed government censorship.But the government itself wanted no repeat of World War I, when the Committee on Public Information had whipped up anti-German hysteria and oversold the war as "a Crusade not merely to re-win the tomb of Christ, but to bring back to earth the rule of right, the peace, goodwill to men and gentleness he taught.

" Less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt declared that the movie industry could make "a very useful contribution" to the war effort. But, he went on, "The motion industry must remain free... I want no censorship.

To encourage the industry to provide more acceptable films, the Bureau of Motion Pictures issued "The Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture. " This manual suggested that before producing a film, moviemakers consider the question: "Will this picture help to win the war-" It also asked the studios to inject images of "people making small sacrifices for victory-- making them voluntarily cheerfully, band because of the people's on sense of responsibility. " During its existence, the Bureau evaluated individual film scripts to assess how they depicted war aims, the American military, the enemy, the allies, and the home front.After the Bureau of Motion Pictures was abolished in the Spring of 1943, government responsibility for monitoring the film industry shifted to the Office of Censorship. This agency prohibited the export of films that showed racial discrimination; depicted Americans as single-handedly winning the war; or which painted our allies as imperialists.

Post-War Hollywood The film industry changed radically after World War II, and this change altered the style

and content of the films made in Hollywood. After experiencing boom years from 1939 to 1946, the film industry began a long period of decline.Within just seven years, attendance and box receipts fell to half their 1946 levels. Internal troubles also contributed to Hollywood's decline. Hollywood's founding generation--Harry Cohn, Samuel Goldwyn Louis B.

Mayer, Darryl Zanuck--retired or were forced out as new corporate owners, lacking movie experience, took over. The film companies had high profiles, glamour, undervalued stock, strategically located real estate, and film libraries which television networks desperately needed. In short, they were perfect targets for corporate takeovers.The studios reduced production, sold off back lots, and made an increasing number of pictures in Europe, where costs were lower. Hollywood also suffered from Congressional probes of communist influence in the film industry.

In the late 1930s, the House of Representatives established the Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to combat subversive right-wing and left-wing movements. New Directions in Post-War Film During the 1940s, a new film genre--known as film noir-- arose, which gave tangible expression to the psychic confusion of a nation that had won the largest war in history but faced even greater uncertainties in peacetime.Though film noir received its named from French film critics and was heavily influenced by German expressionist film making techniques, it stands out as one of the most original and innovative American movie genres. Chapter III: Modern Hollywood The "New" Hollywood As the 1960s began, few would have guessed that the decade would be one of the most socially conscious and stylistically innovative in Hollywood's history.

Among the most popular films at the decade's start were Doris Day romantic comedies like

That Touch of Mink (1962) and epic blockbusters like The Longest Day (1962), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Cleopatra (1963).Yet, as the decade progressed, Hollywood radically shifted focus and began to produce an increasing number of anti-establishment films, laced with social commentary, directed at the growing youth market. By the early 1960s, an estimated 80 percent of the film-going population was between the ages of 16 and 25. At first, the major studios largely ignored this audience, leaving it the hands of smaller studios like American International Pictures.

Two films released in 1967--Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate--awoke Hollywood to the size and influence of the youth audience.During the mid- and late-70s, the mood of American films shifted sharply. Unlike the highly politicized films of the early part of the decade, the most popular films of the late 1970s and early 1980s were escapist blockbusters like Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)-- featuring spectacular special effects, action, and simplistic conflicts between good and evil--inspirational tales of the indomitable human spirit, like Rocky (1976)--or nostalgia for a more innocent past--like Animal House (1978) and Grease (1978).Glamorous outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde were replaced by law and order avengers like Dirty Harry and Robocop.

Sports--long regarded as a sure box officer loser--became a major Hollywood obsession, with movies like Hoosiers, Chariots of Fire, Karate Kid, and The Mighty Ducks celebrating competitiveness and victory.Movies which offered a tragic or subversive perspectives on American society, like The Godfather or Chinatown, were replaced by more upbeat, undemanding films, and especially by comedies, featuring such actors as Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, and Bill

Murray For a century, the movie industry has been the nation's most important purveyor of culture and entertainment to the masses, playing a critical role in the shift from Victorian to distinctively modern, consumer values; from a world of words to a visual culture; from a society rooted in islands of localities and ethnic groups to a commercialized mass culture.The movies taught Americans how to conceive of gender roles, and understand their place in the world. Whether film will continue to serve as the nation's preeminent instrument of cultural expression--reflecting and also shaping values and cultural ideals--remains to be seen.

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