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Hollywood's High Noon

, 200 pages

12 b&w illus.

November 1996


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Hollywood's High Noon

Moviemaking and Society before Television

Over the last twenty-five years, the field of cinema studies has offered a dramatic reassessment of the history of film in general and of Hollywood in particular. Writers have drawn on the methodologies of a number of disciplines—literary criticism, sociology, psychology, women's studies, and minority and gay studies—to deepen our understanding of motion pictures, the film industry, and movie theater audiences.

In Hollywood's High Noon, noted film historian Thomas Cripps offers a lively narrative history of Hollywood's classical age that brings the insights of recent scholarship to students and general readers. From its origin during the First World War to the beginning of its decline in the 1950s, Cripps writes, Hollywood operated as did other American industries: movies were created by a rational production system, regulated by both government and privately organized interests, and subject to the whims of a fickle marketplace. Yet these films did offer consumers something unique: in darkened movie palaces across the country,audiences projected themselves—their hopes and ideas—onto silver screens, profoundly mediating their reception of Hollywood's flickering images.

Beginning with turn-of-the-century moving-picture pioneer Thomas Edison, Cripps traces the invention of Hollywood and the development of the studio system. He explores the movie-going experience, the struggle for social control over the movies through censorship, the impact of sound on the style and content of films, alternatives to Hollywood's oligopoly including "race" films and documentaries, the paradoxical predictability and subversive creativity of genre pictures, and Hollywood's self-proclaimed "shining moment" during the Second World War. Cripps concludes with a discussion of the collapse of the studio system after the war, due in equal parts to suburbanization, the emergence of television, and government anti-trust action.

Thomas Cripps is University Distinguished Professor at Morgan State University. He is the author of Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 and Making Movies Black.

"In this study the author has moved from his previous work on the treatment of African-Americans in film to a broader look at Hollywood itself in its studio heyday."

"Students and general readers—and many specialists—will learn a great deal from Thomas Cripps."