Hollywood and the Cold War
In 1940 David O. Selznick made a picture of Daphne Du Maurier’s story, Rebecca. Alfred Hitchcock gave it masterly direction, which, coupled with beautiful performances by Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson, made it one of the important pictures of the year. Bette Davis added to her reputation as one of Hollywood’s best actresses with her performance in a screen version of W. Somerset Maugham’s play,
Switching on to Television
At the opening of the twentieth century the decisive influence of the ragtime pianists fell on white audiences tiring of the minstrel show and willing to pay to hear black performers. At the same time the American band was being heard everywhere, promoted by John Philip Sousa, the most successful musician of his time, and testifying among other things to pugnacious nationalism. Both phenomena would modulate into dance bands playing vigorous dance music.
TV Dramas and Variety Shows
On September 23, 1961, NBC introduced its new series, “Saturday Night at the Movies,” featuring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable in “How to Marry a Millionaire.” This broadcast was an astounding success and pointed to Hollywood’s growing inclination to release its post-1948 movies to television. Seven more series representing all three networks and every night of the week appeared over the next five years.
CinemaScope: Hollywood’s Response to Television
After the war the rate of change accelerated. Anti-trust suits broke up the large companies and forced them to sell their theaters. And television began to keep the public at home. The movie industry responded with attempts at expanding the medium to attract new interests: 3-D, CinemaScope, Technicolor; and it continues to experiment: quadraphonic sound, sensurround, holographic images, leaps in special effects have been tried.
Cinema’s Heroes and Families
Western Import and its representative, M. Jacques Haik, launched the Keystone comedies with Mabel, Fatty, and Charlie in Europe in 1915; other comedies of theirs not distributed by this house were suppressed. In a very few months Chaplin had replaced Linder as king of comedy, and cinemas had to book A Night at the Show weeks ahead. Western Import was even compelled to place photographs of Mabel and Charlie on sale so as to make their appearance widely familiar and to discourage imitators.
Inside the cars parents and children settle in their seats, munching hot dogs. Love-struck teenagers snuggle up; the air fills with the glow of fireflies and smell of buttered popcorn. The lights of the tiny town of Centre, a mile away, are too dim to penetrate this enchanted scene. The movie begins. It could be 1953.
Film Outside Hollywood
Each big producing firm in Italy had its own company of actors under annual contract. Actors like Emilio Ghione (who was a director as well as an actor, and has written a brief essay on the Italian film), actresses like Maria Jacobini, Gianna TerribiliGonzales of the unforgettable name, and the pre-eminent star Francesca Bertini, directors like Gabriellino d’Annunzio, Negroni, Righelli and Guazzoni all made up a picturesque and lively group.
Marilyn, The Dream Woman
In stressing the importance of sexuality in Marilyn Monroe’s image, it might seem that I am just another commentator doing to Monroe what was done to her throughout her life, treating her solely in terms of sex. Perhaps that is a danger, but I hope that I am not just reproducing this attitude toward Monroe but also trying to understand it and historicize it.