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FILM 2700: HISTORY OF THE MOTION PICTURE PROFESSOR SHELDON SCHIFFER MAYMESTER VERSION Office hours: 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM Daily Office: 25 Park Place South.

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Presentation on theme: "FILM 2700: HISTORY OF THE MOTION PICTURE PROFESSOR SHELDON SCHIFFER MAYMESTER VERSION Office hours: 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM Daily Office: 25 Park Place South."— Presentation transcript:

1 FILM 2700: HISTORY OF THE MOTION PICTURE PROFESSOR SHELDON SCHIFFER MAYMESTER VERSION Office hours: 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM Daily Office: 25 Park Place South – Room 1023 phone:

2 [Lecture 8 Slides] Government Cinema: Hays Code, Cold War Cinema, the Paramount Decision and its Circumvention Between the wars, after WWII and at the beginning of the Cold War, the US government intervened in the domestic film industry for moral (Hays Code), political (Communist Threat) and economic (Paramount decision) reasons. The acceptance of ideological manufacturing in US entertainment and domestic film production was reinforced by WPA productions before and during WWII.

3 Historical Question 8.1 What methods of censorship was practiced in the United States? What specific categories of content were censored under the Hays Code?

4 Hays Code Establishes “Self” Censorship within Industry By the 1920s, industry marketers realized that, like in other entertainment productions, films make money that seek to titillate the sexual urges or to thrill the violent impulses of audiences.

5 Hays Code Establishes “Self” Censorship within Industry Examples of films that provoked public reaction for censorship from religious lobbyists: Violence-oriented films: Little Ceasar (1930),Scarface (1932), Sex-oriented films: She Done Him Wrong (1933) and Belle of the Nineties (1934) both with Mae West Press agents and entertainment journalists also increased subscriptions by manufacturing scandalous events to match “real” life personas with on-screen personas. Religious political lobbyists (same that passed Prohibition and blamed the cultural forces of Jazz and alcohol consumption) intervened to exercise community obscenity laws that conflict with first amendment rights.

6 Hays Code Establishes “Self” Censorship within Industry Urban secular tastes at odds with rural religious notions of obscenity Hays Code was developed by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), an industry organization (NGO), Will Hays was its principal public spokesperson and leader Hays Code sought to homogenize the standards so that exhibition across the US could remain predictable, and without local obscenity bans and censorship.

7 Hays Code Establishes “Self” Censorship within Industry Results: Adherence was mostly agreeable, with occasional breaks and challenges, until the late 1950s, when Rock and Roll, Marilyn Monroe, Civil Rights, and sexual liberation all eroded the code, and Independent film exhibitors were gradually willing to risk censorship of contracted and scheduled film screenings

8 Historical Question 8.2 What were the socio-economic ideological differences between the United States and the USSR ? How might those differences arise in the content of filmed entertainment?

9 Cold War Freezes Hollywood Left Government Surveillance, Intervention and Persecution The end of WWII brought on a tense relationship with the US ally, the USSR (Soviet Union). Despite horrific casualties that were 20 times worse than what the US suffered in the war, the USSR (like the US) also benefited from the industrialization that a state sponsored wartime economy can bring. The two nations competed in the following ways:

10 USSR v. USA – The Cold War Both sought friendly/controllable relations with developing nations to extract resources to fuel their own growth and to create customers to buy their product Both sought to create a sphere of influence of smaller states with similar political systems as buffer and ideological satellites around the globe. Both acquired nuclear weapons, and used them to threaten each other to check the encroachment of ideological and economic influence.

11 USSR v. USA – The Cold War Before WWII, during the Great Depression, many Americans in the arts, like those in France and Germany, associated with the left: socialist and communist parties as a political answer to global economic crisis, in support of working classes. After WWII, with the USSR identified as a cold enemy of the US, and as a proponent of socialist and communist political ideals that contradict goals of capitalist democracies, persons who were involved in political organizations of the left were perceived as a threat to the intellectual orientation, and even military safety of the US. These included American and foreign-born members of the film industry.

12 Historical Question 8.3 How did the HUAC operate, and what was its outcome on the industry? What past associations of film industry practitioners gave cause for blacklisting?

13 House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) Perceived Hollywood as site of great ideological influence, potential threats to move political opinion toward a communist or socialist orientation Investigated and inquired publically on one’s past and present political affiliations. Targeted the most respected and accomplished to establish that under the public eye, even the most respected, can be a traitor to the “American” ideal (implying, anyone who disagrees with capitalist democracy that depends and fuels a military industrial complex)

14 House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) Intention was to dis-employ known or suspected communists from the entertainment industry Intimidate and frighten others from involvement with left-oriented political organizations Encourage the accused and un-accused to name individuals suspected of left-wing participation

15 Results of HUAC Of the famous and accomplished that were accused, 10 people refused to name names or answer questions. These were imprisoned for 1 year for contempt of court. All accused were dis-employed to blacklist. The most successful (Dalton Trumbo) worked under a pseudonym The handful who answered and named names, some were able to successfully find work. Namely, Elia Kazan (film director, drama eg.On the Waterfront, Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden). To the present day, those who spoke evoke a rabid response of revulsion and rejection from civil libertarians on the left and the right, and many in Hollywood protested the honors given to Kazan.

16 US vs. Paramount, 1948 Anti-trust lawsuit initiated in 1938 by Justice Department of US government against the Big Five and the Little Three production/exhibition companies for violating anti-trust (oligopoly/monopoly) laws.

17 Historical Question 8.3 What business condition did U.S. v. Paramount, 1948 attempt to correct? What business behavior was the primary violation and what strategy did it reflect? What were the results of the court ruling?

18 US vs. Paramount, 1948 Violation: Block-booking – Requiring that exhibitors must contract to exhibit a specific number of films from a given production and distribution company, regardless of quality, content or budget Rationale: – Block booking provided for a greater spread of risk. – A smaller film with less sellable elements (star, auteur, genre, violence/sex, recognizable story, visual spectacle) that had a high chance of failure to earn back early the cost of advertising, exhibition and production, could borrow from big budget film whose profits were guaranteed merely from the audience who will attend from interest in one or more of the sellable elements. – Low budget films were and still are a talent development test for film artists who might eventually make high budget films. – Failure to agree to book a block of films from a particular production company (Big 5 and Little 3) would result in not showing any desirable films from that company

19 US vs. Paramount, 1948 Business Strategy: Vertical Integration – the practice of expanding or buying into (through merging or hostile takeover) of businesses that are in multiple sectors of an industry, usually in sequence of the chain of production and supply. The Big 5 and Little 3 owned both development/production entities of the industry, and they owned the distribution/exhibition entities as well.

20 US vs. Paramount, 1948 Court Ruling: The Supreme Court required found the Paramount, and therefore all the Big 5 and Little 3, guilt of monopolistic practice, and ordered that the exhibition/distribution entities had to separate from production entities so that new businesses could enter with innovative products without a barrier for entry, such as block-booking..

21 US vs. Paramount, 1948 Results: The following results occurred over a period of 30 years since the ruling (though RKO ceased operation in the 1950s):.

22 US vs. Paramount, 1948 Result 1: Big 5 and Little 3 concentrated on larger budget films hyped to the public by sellable elements. Result 2: Smaller new productions companies developed films for the low budget and “low brow’ audience. Result 3: Opened door for small distributors of foreign films (European and Asian), and hence triggering the development of interest in the “art film” and the “indie film” in the US.

23 US vs. Paramount, 1948 Result 4: The Big 5 and Little 3 created contractual relationships with new (now more independent) distributors and exhibitors where combinations of films could be selected for varying discounts depending on quantity, number of screens, performance of film(s) and duration of run. Result 5: Punitive denial of exhibition for desirable films was curtailed. Result 6: The Big 5 and Little 3 eventually created subsidiaries in exhibition where they held a minority ownership (less than 50%) and they created relationships with the new smaller production companies, often funding a slate of films from the smaller companies to produce and then distribute to the theaters where a stake of ownership wouldyield some profits back to production company.

24 Historical Question 8.4 What other forces weakened the Hollywood studios after 1948 into the 1950?

25 Other Subversions of the Studios and their Circumvention Responses Americans after WWII depopulated cities and moved to new suburbs where veterans of WWII could create families in an environment where social class tension and urban dirt and crime were minimal. Movie attendance declined.

26 Other Subversions of the Studios and their Circumvention Responses Land grant colleges and neighboring cities opened and expanded creating small enclaves of intellectually-rich small towns. (eg. Madison, Wisconsin and Boulder, Colorado and Santa Cruz, California and Ann Arbor, Michigan etc.) Independent Art Cinemas rented cheaper foreign and American art films, American genre films of B-quality

27 Other Subversions of the Studios and their Circumvention Responses Television, publically exhibited in 1948, became a prolific consumer item by the mid- 1950s, and provided entertaining programming that kept people home

28 Other Subversions of the Studios and their Circumvention Responses Hollywood Studios created television production units to provide content to networks of stations TV producers, with Studios created the Movie- of-the-Week film for television

29 Other Subversions of the Studios and their Circumvention Responses Studios created more spectacular innovations for theatrical films: color films, widescreen films, stereo films, extremely long historical epics, visual effects and high budget art direction Studios used television to license broadcast of films after theatrical release. Exhibitors created Drive-Ins to bring suburbanite car-obsessed patrons back to movie consuming


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