Topics in Film History: American Cinema of the 1950s.
Hollywood in the 1950s was an industry in decline, even while it produced some of the strongest films of its history. With the rise of independent productions, the competition of TV, and major shifts in the social fabric, American cinema was dramatically changed during this decade. In this course we will examine the social and cultural climate of the HUAC trials and the Cold War, the civil rights movement, suburbanism and popular Freudianism. We will focus on three key genres of the decade: the family melodrama, the Western, and film noir in order to examine how the changing social formation was negotiated ideologically through narrative cinema. This decade of American cinema has become a central focus of nostalgic discourses on American culture. One of the questions that will be addressed in the course concerns the relationship of film style (including performance, mise en scene and film aesthetics) to the social anxieties that are so dramatically represented during this period. In thirteen weeks we cannot comprehensively cover all the important elements of film culture of the era, although students are invited through presentations and papers to extend their research beyond the parameters of the syllabus.