Hollywood from 1950 to 1970



Fall 2020

Steven Shaviro (shaviro@shaviro.com or shaviro@wayne.edu)


This class offers an intensive look at the history of Hollywood film, from 1950 to 1970. This is a period of change in Hollywood film. In the 1950s, the old studio system was breaking down, due to a number of social, economic, and technolgical changes. The movies were increasingly being challenged by television. The Supreme Court had outlawed the monopolistic practices that were central to the old Studio System. Anti-Communist witch hunts forced a lot of creative people out of Hollywood. At the same time, American society was changing rapidly, with the post-World War II booming economy, the growth of suburbs and the building of superhighways, and the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement. In the 1960s, things changed even further. Many of the old studios were on the verge of economic collapse. Social upheavals -- civil rights, feminism, anti-war protests -- overturned a lot that had previously been taken for granted. The old reliable film genres were no longer popular with the new younger audiences. Hollywood was looking for new forms of finance, and new ways to make movies. 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.


By the end of the course, successful students will have learned about the history of Hollywood filmmaking in the period from 1950 to 1970.

In addition, by the end of the course successful students should be able to:


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this class will not meet in person, but will be conducted entirely online. I believe that the best way to get a sense of this segment of film history is through immersion. Therefore I will ask you to watch at least two movies each week over the course of the semester, and overall to watch thirty movies from the list below. You must watch the sixteen movies I have printed in bold; one is listed for each week of the semester (though there are two weeks that have two required movies each). The other fourteen movies you watch in the course of the semester are your choice, among the titles listed. You are responsible for finding and watching the movies on your own; most of them are available for rent or purchase on the major online streaming services (Amazon, Apple, Google Pay, YouTube, etc.). A good way to find which services have which films is to use one of the streaming movie search engines, such as JustWatch. Most of the streaming movie rentals for older movies like the ones we are watching this semester come out to $3.99 or less; the cost of renting movies for the entire semester should still be less than purchasing a textbook in an ordinary class.

There will be discussion boards in Canvas for all of the movies on the syllabus. I will lead with introductory comments on each movie (in lieu of the lectures that I would give if we were meeting in a classroom). Each discussion board is then open for your responses, comments, and discussion.

Class requirements include participation in the discussion boards, keeping a film diary, and writing two research papers. The diary should include a paragraph of 300 words or so for each of the thirty movies you watch in the course of the semester. The research papers should be approximately 1500 words each; they should deal with a topic relevant to the class subject matter, but extending beyond the readings of individual films. (These papers could discuss, for instance, actors whose career stretches over a number of films; directors who seem to have an authorial signature; the development of genres like film noir, musicals, westerns, etc.; issues of race, gender, etc. that come up in many of these films; changing audiences over the course of the twenty-year span we are considering; and so on.

There will be no final exam.

The film diaries should be ongoing, over the course of the semester. I will ask to see your progress on the diaries several times during the semester. I strongly advise that you keep up to date with the diaries, rather than having to add multiple entries at the last minute.

The papers will be due on October 30 and on December 14.

September 1-12

September 14-19

September 21-26

September 28-October 3

October 5-10

October 12-17

October 19-24

October 26-31

November 2-7

November 9-14

November 16-21

November 30-December 5

December 7-15

Grade Appeals:
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences stipulates that course grade appeals must be initiated within 30 days from the time the grade is posted. The English Grade Appeal Form can be obtained at the English Main Office on the 9th Floor of 5057 Woodward or by emailing Royanne Smith at ad2073@wayne.edu. More information on this process, including the limited grounds for appeal, can be found at http://clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/Multimedia/CLAS/files/Students/Grade_Appeal_process.pdf.

Plagiarism is a very serious matter and should be recognized as such. The University has a very strict policy on plagiarism. Always refer to your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, or using the ideas ofother writers. When paraphrasing, place in quotes any phrase of four words or more that comes directly from the source being used.