Classic Hollywood 1930-1950



Fall 2019
Monday and Wednesday, 230 pm am - 5:00 pm
Manoogian 166

Web address for this page:

Steven Shaviro ( or

5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: Tuesday 10 am - 12 noon, and by appointment

LEARNING OUTCOMES: This class offers an intensive look at the history of Hollywood film, from the introduction of sound in the late 1920s through 1950. This is the period of classic Hollywood film, when the Studio System was in full effect. We will look at important and representative films of this period in social and historical context, with attention to important directors and stars, to prominent genres, and to the major and minor studios. Students will become familiar with major trends in American filmmaking during this period.

REQUIREMENTS: Each class session will include the screening of a feature film, followed by mixed lecture and discussion. I have not ordered a textbook for this class; instead of outside reading, students will be required to engage in outside filmviewing. You will be asked to watch at least two additional films from the period for each two weeks of class, and to hand in film diaries documenting your in-class and out-of-class viewing every two weeks (seven times in the course of the semester). A list of additional films will be provided. Class requirements include regular attendance, participation in discussions, the film diaries, and one final paper (5-6 pages). Points will be deducted for non-attendance and for assignments handed in late. Points will be added for positive participation in class discussions.

August 28
The coming of sound. The Great Depression. Early musicals, Busby Berkeley.
Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley, Gold Diggers of 1933 (Warner Brothers, 1933)

September 4
Universal. The horror film in the 1930s.
James Whale, Bride of Frankenstein (Universal, 1935)

September 9
Warner Brothers. The pre-code gangster film.
William Wellman, The Public Enemy (Warner Bros, 1932)

September 11
Warner Brothers. The Great Depression. the pre-code social problem film.
Mervyn LeRoy, I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (Warner Bros, 1932)

September 16
Pre-code sexuality. Barbara Stanwyck.
Alfred E. Green, Baby Face (Warner Brothers, 1933)

September 18
Paramount. More pre-code sexuality. Comedy. Ernst Lubitsch.
Ernst Lubitsch, Trouble in Paradise (Paramount, 1932)

September 23
Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich.
Josef von Sternberg, The Devil Is A Woman (Paramount, 1935)

September 25
The Studio System. MGM.
Edmond Goulding, Grand Hotel (1932)

September 30

October 2
Fritz Lang in Hollywood.
Fritz Lang, Fury (MGM, 1936)

October 7
The Musical. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Mark Sandrich, Swing Time (RKO, 1936)

October 9
Columbia. Frank Capra. James Stewart.
Frank Capra, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Columbia, 1939)

October 14
Screwball Comedy. Howard Hawks, Cary Grant (1).
Howard Hawks, Bringing Up Baby (RKO, 1938)

October 16
Howard Hawks, Cary Grant (2).
Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings (Columbia, 1939)

October 21
John Ford (1).
John Ford, The Grapes of Wrath (Fox, 1940)

October 23
John Ford (2). The Western. John Wayne.
John Ford, Stagecoach (United Artists, 1939)

October 28
Melodrama. The “women’s picture.”
King Vidor, Stella Dallas (Goldwyn/United Artists, 1937)

October 30
Into the 1940s. Preston Sturges. Art and entertainment in the Depression.
Preston Sturges, Sullivan’s Travels (Paramount, 1941)

November 4
The Film Industry and World War II (1).
Frank Borzage, The Mortal Storm (MGM, 1940)

November 6 The Film Industry and World War II (2).
Ernst Lubitsch, To Be Or Not To Be (United Artists, 1942).

November 11
The Film Industry and World War II (3).
Michael Curtiz, Casablanca (1942)

November 13
Orson Welles and the new film stylistics.
Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (RKO, 1941)

November 18
Alfred Hitchcock.
Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious (RKO, 1946).

November 20 Horror in the 1940s: Val Lewton.
Jacques Tourneur, Cat People (RKO, 1942)

November 25 Film noir (1).
Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity (Paramount, 1944) FILM DIARIES DUE

December 2
Film noir (2).
Robert Siodmak, The Killers (Universal, 1946).

December 4
Film noir (3).
Jacques Tourneur, Out of the Past (RKO, 1947).

December 9 Film noir (4).
Joseph H. Lewis, Gun Crazy (United Artists, 1950).

December 16 (NO CLASS)