History/HRS 169 -- Hollywood and America: A History of American Film

California State University, Sacramento
Department of History and of Humanities/Religious Studies
College of Arts and Letter

Spring 2015





Norma Shearer (MGM) in 1930s


Catalog Description: HIST/HRS 169. Hollywood and America. Chronological survey of American films and their cultural significance from the 1890s to the present. Focus on films produced in Hollywood, the contexts in which they were created, and the impact of Hollywood as a mythical place in the development of American culture. 3 units.

Course Description: This course has no formal prerequisites, although it is useful to have taken History 17B (U.S. History Since 1865) and HRS 180 (Introduction to the Film).

The course is intended for History majors interested in film and U.S. popular culture; for Humanities majors interested in film studies; for Film Studies minors; and for students from any major in the university interested in film and seeking an upper-division General Education course in the Arts and Humanities area.

The course will give students a chronological survey of American film through about the 1970s. It will stress the technological, business and cultural contexts in which American films have been made. It will also focus on the relation between American movies and U.S. popular culture with discussion of how movies have influenced popular culture and vice versa. The course will devote considerable attention to the patterns of censorship in American film history.

Students will acquire insights about how movies are made -- what for example have been the changing roles of studios, producers, directors, writers, actors and agents.

Finally, the course will consider whether Hollywood has produced enduring works of beauty, or has it been primarily an entertainment. If the former, what is it about the system that has produced great films?

Class time is devoted to discussion of assigned reading material, and to viewing film clips from American movies. Students will view a few assigned feature films outside class.

The course requires three blue book exams, two short take-home essays, and a number of online quizzes.

Hitchcock Directing Paul Newman

Louis B. Mayer of MGM

Greta Garbo in her mysterious pose.

Class Summaries

Summary 1A
Summary 1B

Summary 2A
Summary 2B

John Casavetes
Cameron Crowe
Preston Sturges
Tarantino II
Scorsese and Cultural Context
Scorsese's Flawed Male

Disney Princesses
Mel Brooks

Study Guides

Study Guide for Vieira, 'Thalberg'
Interview of Vieira about his book
Study Guide for Ross, "Picture"


Instructions for Viewing On-Line Videos in WMV Format

Course Materials - Mandatory

Part I

"The Nickel Madness"
Mary Pickford (Wikipedia)

Douglas Fairbanks (Wikipedia)
Mack Sennett (Wikipedia)

Part II

Article: "The Sins of Hollywood"
Motion Picture Production Code -- 1930

Classic Quotes - Mae West and Marx Bros.
Silent Film Acting
Lyrics for Warners Musicals

Movie Clips for Transition to Sound

NY Times Obituary on James Cagney

Dialogue from 'Dracula' (1931)
The Cinema of Ernst Lubitsch
Deeds' Courtroom Statement

Wikipedia on "Film Noir"
"Anklet" scene from "Double Indemnity"
Wikipedia on "Double Indemnity"

Part III

Testimony of John Howard Larson to HUAC
Office Scene from Siegel's "Body Snatchers"

John Huston - 'NYTimes' obituary
Review of film 'The Red Badge of Courage'

Review of book 'Picture' by Lillian Ross

Wikipedia on the "Western"
Glenn Erickson on 'My Darling Clementine'
Review of John Ford's 'The Searchers'

Martinetti on James Dean as a Rebel Icon

Gloria Steinem on Marilyn Monroe

Dialogue from Early Scenes - 'The Graduate'

Roger Ebert on 'Bonnie and Clyde'

Wikipedia on 'The Godfather' (Coppola)

Dialogue second scene 'Pulp Fiction'

A.O. Scott's video review of 'Do the Right Thing'

Philosophical Meaning of Woody Allen's 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' 1989

Optional Course Materials

Tom Dirks on "Voyage to the Moon" (1902)
Tom Dirks on "Great Train Robbery" (1903)

The American Picture Palace

Charlie Chaplin Homepage
Buster Keaton Society
Rudolf Valentino Homepage
Greta Garbo, the Ultimate Star

Joan Mellen, 'Mae West Nobody Knows"

Identity key to "Hollywood Steps Out"

Robert Warshow, "The Westerner"

Hefner and Hopper on Marilyn's Centerfold

General Research Tools

George Craft's Film Reviews, A-D
George Craft's Film Reviews, E-L
George Craft's Film Reviews, M-R
George Craft's Film Reviews, S-Z

Movie Review Query Engine

Internet Movie Data Base
American Film Institute
Tom Dirks' Greatest Films
Turner Classic Movies homepage
Tom Dirks' 'Film History by Decade'

List of top Grossing Films by Year

Essay Questions for Exams

Exam #1

ID List for Exams

Exam #1
Exam #2

Quizzes and Assignments

Thalberg paper - due March 19
Craft Absence Assignment

Weekly Quiz Assignment
Link to SacCT

Essay assignment for Vieira book
Essay assignment for "Picture"

NYTimes review of 'Baby Face'

Sample Answers from Previous Exams

ID Sample Answers 2007
ID Sample Answers 2008

Sample Student Papers

Scorsese and Violence
Quentin Tarantino

Tim Burton

D. W. Griffith

Brian DePalma in the 1980s

Instructor: George S. Craft

 More information is available on Dr. Craft's homepage. You may contact the instructor via e-mail at gcraft@csus.edu.


Send problems, comments or suggestions to: gcraft@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento