Buster Keaton

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 Letters

Spring 2016




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 Film Studies and Digital Fim/Video Production majors, History majors interested in film and U.S. popular culture; for Humanities majors interested in film studies; 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 several abbreviated 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

Greta Garbo in her mysterious pose.

Class Summaries



Sample Student Papers

Scorsese and Violence
Quentin Tarantino

Tim Burton
John Casavetes
Cameron Crowe

Preston Sturges
Tarantino II
Scorsese's Flawed Male

Disney Princesses
Mel Brooks

Study Guides

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


Craft's Recent Favorite Films

Iconic moments from films in the course

Course Materials - Mandatory

Part I

"The Nickel Madness"
Mary Pickford (Columbia Univ.)

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 "Shuffle to Buffalo", '42nd St.' 1933

Movie Clips for Transition to Sound

Lugosi Dialogue from 'Dracula' 1931

NY Times Obituary of James Cagney
NY Time Obituary of Barbara Stanwyck
"Anklet" scene from "Double Indemnity"

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

Part III

Martinetti on James Dean as a Rebel Icon

Gloria Steinem on Marilyn Monroe

Glenn Erickson on 'My Darling Clementine'

John Ford's film style

Dialogue from Early Scenes - 'The Graduate'

Roger Ebert on 'Bonnie and Clyde'

Tony Macklin on 'Chinatown'

Siskel and Ebert video review 'E.T.'

Dialogue second scene 'Pulp Fiction'

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

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

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
All-Time Top US Movies by Attendance

Lecture Outlines

Essay Questions for Exams

ID List for Exams



Quizzes and Assignments

Access to SacCT

Weekly Quiz Assignment



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