Video Lecture Outline
1950s Genre Film and Cold War Era Anxieties
In this Video:
What is genre?
What is a Western? What is science fiction?
Set up for screenings
The Searchers. Dir. John Ford. (1956; WB). 119 mins.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Dir. Don Siegel. Prod. Walter Wanger (1956; Allied Artists Pictures) 80 mins
Matheson, “The Matter of Blood Pollution, Combat Culture, and Cold War Hysteria in The Searchers (1956)”
Neve, “Loving the Alien Science Fiction Cinema as Cold War Allegory”
Etymology: French genre kind: see gender n.
“genre, n.”. OED Online
Genre and Classical Hollywood
The studios were economically motivated to make genre films
-The studios specialized in genres
-Vertical integration, contract system facilitated making genre films.
The Attraction of Genre Films
Sense of ritual, community
Cultural myths: provide explanation for the way things are
Western genre predates cinema
Literature: James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales series (1827 – 1841)
Painting: George Catlin (19th Century)
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West (1887 – 1906)
The Classical Hollywood Western
Set: 1850s – end of 19th C., west of MS river
Cultural myths about the settlement of the West and the American national character
Stock characters, consistent iconography (horses, Stetson hats, spurs, gunfights)
Hero: defends civilization but is too violent to live in it
1950: 34% of films produced in the US are Westerns
John Ford (1894 – 1973), known for:
Style: static long shots,
John Ford Stock Company: frequent performers
Monument Valley settings
John Wayne (1907 – 1979), known for:
Playing Western heroes
Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (founded 1944)
Western protagonist’s racism, violence is central
What is Science Fiction?
Often set in future or alt universe, but not necessarily
Imagines scientific advances or environmental changes
Iconography: space ships, robots, extraterrestrial beings
Science Fiction before the 1950s
Literature mostly aimed at boys, young men
1930s: sci-fi serials, B films
1950s Science Fiction
Cultural crisis: nuclear weapons, arms race
1945: US nuclear bomb test in NM
1946 – 1958: nuclear tests at the Bikini Atoll
The Rise of the Teenage Audience
-Low-budget sci-fi played at drive-ins
-Sci-fi: speaks to teenage alienation?
What are these films saying about life in the 1950s?
How are the villains/antagonists represented? The heroes/protagonists?
Social critique of 1950s society?
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