Video Lecture Outline

Video Lecture Outline

 

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This Week:

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

 

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

 

Readings:

Matheson, “The Matter of Blood Pollution, Combat Culture, and Cold War Hysteria in The Searchers (1956)”

Hantke “Veterans”

Neve, “Loving the Alien Science Fiction Cinema as Cold War Allegory”

 

Genre, n.

Etymology: French genre kind: see gender n.

  1. Kind; sort; style.
  2. spec. A particular style or category of works of art

“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

 

The Western

 

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)

Hollywood “Indian”

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:

Directing Westerns

Style: static long shots,

John Ford Stock Company: frequent performers

Monument Valley settings

 

John Wayne (1907 – 1979), known for:

Playing Western heroes

Conservative leanings

Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (founded 1944)

 

The Searchers:

Western protagonist’s racism, violence is central

 

Science Fiction

 

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

Very popular

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?

 

Think about:

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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