CHOOSE ONLY FIVE (5) OF THE FOLLOWING EIGHT QUESTIONS. You may use films we’ve seen in class and outside viewing.
1. Why was the Classical Hollywood Studio System so important in establishing the American motion picture as the most pervasive cultural influence in America from 1900 until at least the early 1950s? Consider such factors as the systematic organization of Hollywood Studios and how they developed 7-year contracts and took control over their employees; how they established a monopoly through Vertical Integration, meaning the control of production, distribution, and exhibition. What factors led to its decline by the late 1950s (e.g., Television’s rapid popularity; more leisure hours for sports and other activities after WWII; filmmakers wanting to break loose from a rigid system, including strong censorship they did not agree with). Consider any other factors you discover from the Chapters I asked you to read in the Peter Lev book on The Fifties, a copy of which is also on Library Reserve under my name.
2. The Pre-Code Era was shocking even by some of today’s standards. Why did the Movie Moguls and the filmmakers allow this to happen and what led to the enforcement of the Production Code? Do you feel that the strong censorship that followed for 30 years was justified?
3. The Best Years of Our Lives was the quintessential film for returning WWII veterans and its three protagonists represented a significant percentage of the real-life veterans at that time. What forces in the lives of these characters (Al, Fred, Homer) illustrated so well the problems veterans faced from 1945-1950?
4. Film Noir is a distinctive genre/style of American Cinema. Name several films that you believe are most representative of the various traits of Noir. You’ll find numerous sources to help you on BB Content under the Film Noir folder, including several Notes on Film Noir I have discussed in class during different semesters.
5. How did Hollywood’s contribution to World War II change the nature and direction of the American film after WWII. The key directors are Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, William Wyler, and George Stevens. Review the list of war films I added from YouTube to BB Content for each of these directors. We discussed in class how that Postwar period was comprised of many more social problem films regarding race, antisemitism, veterans adjusting with the help of the GI Bill, mental illness, alcoholism, and films besides The Best Years where PTSD was evident but not discussed to any great length.
6. What makes a classic film? We’ve seen Baby Face, Red-Headed Woman, Duck Soup, It Happened One Night, The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Best Years of Our Lives, Out of the Past, Crossfire, Sunset Boulevard and others while you’re working on this exam, including short clips. Describe and illustrate with scenes from the films you choose (at least two).
7. The Hollywood Ten were producers, writers, and directors who challenged the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the late 1940s and lost. They ended up in jail because they refused to cooperate and answer questions or “name names” of others they associated with who were thought to be communists. What is your impression of these men and this era that led to the notorious Blacklist.
Elia Kazan escaped the Blacklist and jail by cooperating with HUAC and naming names, thereby saving his career. On The Waterfront was his allegorical defense for what he did. Do you think he was justified and does the film provide a credible argument?
8. Chapter Six of the Corrigan text, Researching the Movies, is essential reading prior to and during the planning and writing of your final research paper this semester. How can this chapter guide you in writing an effective paper? Be sure to read the sample essays at the end of the chapter.
The following questions need to be answered with your primary source of Peter Lev, The Fifties: Transforming the Screen 1950-1959. Your only requirement in this exam is that you MUST select one of these questions and then you’re free to answer four more of your choice. You may also answer both these questions and they’ll count towards your total of 5. For these questions, I expect 2-3 pages.
9. The 1950s were years of significant decline in box office because of motion picture attendance (see the chart on p. 8) and other circumstances and conditions that led to the fall of the Hollywood Studio System by the end of the 1950s. Trace what you consider the most important factors of change in this decade. Particularly relevant are chapters 5 & 6, but elements of the chapters on Genre and Production Trends will prove valuable in any thesis you develop. Television, of course, has always been regarded as the enemy of Hollywood, but eventually they learned not only to harness it but provide much of its content through production and distribution. This question may seem like a rewording of Question #1 but your answers here will be more dependent on Lev’s book whereas in the first question you can use other factors that you also find in different sources.
10. Lev’s book is also a treatise on the social history of film during this period. His chapters 3 & 4 are particularly helpful in guiding you on the issues that most affected how Hollywood treated our social, economic, cultural, and political problems of the 1950s. Chapter 3: HUAC, the Blacklist, and the Decline of Social Cinema. Chapter 4: Censorship and Self-Regulation. However, parts of other chapters will help you with this question too.
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR THE SEMESTER EXAM:
- You may answer questions with only one page but you’ll need to be highly focused and concise. Don’t write with a limitation as your goal. Questions 9 and 10 require 2-3 pages.
- All papers must be double-spaced on only one side of the paper with pages numbered as in all academic papers.
- Be sure to cite all your sources within the text and on the Works Cited page according to MLA style (or APA, et. al. if you have already become familiar with those styles from other classes).