Hollywood Directors of the 1950s
The 1950s was a decade of profound transformation in both Hollywood and the U.S., setting the stage for major films by directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, Ida Lupino, and Billy Wilder. Cinema studies has long been invested in directors from this late period of the classical studio system. This course seeks to understand why, and what their legendary films, careers, and reputations still have to teach us about the history of American cinema more broadly. Beginning with “the auteur theory” in its French and Anglophone conceptions, we will think about the signature style and interior meaning of a director’s work in relation to aesthetics and textual politics. We will then build from these formal issues to look at midcentury-U.S. contexts of film authorship, including ideologies of consumer culture and popular art, (sub)urban modernity, and social constructions of the middle-class family after World War II. Finally, we will consider the practical conditions of film production itself, such as making films at independent companies, the rise of television and the star-director, international location shooting, and the decline of censorship regulations.