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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $75.00
  • November 2007
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-97922-0
  • 512 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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  1. Film

American Film

A History


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Jon Lewis (Author, Oregon State University)


Written by a top scholar in the field, American Film: A History gives students a thorough understanding of the fascinating intersection of artistry and economics in Hollywood cinema from the beginning of film history to the present.

A beautiful book and a brisk read, American Film is the most enjoyable and interesting overview of the history of American filmmaking available. Focused on aspects of the film business that are of perennial interest to undergraduates, this book will engage students from beginning to end.


Themes that interest students.

The business of Hollywood is business. This theme is central both to Jon Lewis’s scholarly work and to American Film: A History. Among other topics, the text covers the relationship between content regulation and financial interest; the longstanding cultural tensions between Hollywood and American culture; the relationship between “product line” filmmaking and “auteur” or other ambitious and risky filmmaking; conflicts between labor and management in Hollywood; and the significance of the youth market since the 1960s.

A stunning art program.

Over 250 eye-catching images are included, offering an exciting visual supplement to the concepts and history discussed in the text.

A brisk and enjoyable read.

Lewis writes in an engaging and accessible manner; students are likely to enjoy reading ahead of the syllabus.

Chapter openers and closers that help students recall main points.

Each chapter of American Film begins with a stage-setting opener that lays out the main themes and provides the cultural and historical context; each chapter ends with a summing-up that of the chapter’s coverage that provides a bridge to the next chapter.

A comprehensive history that isn’t overwhelming.

American Film is organized around a chronological structure; its chapters proceed decade-by-decade through the entire arc of American film history. Combined with the accessible prose and engaging art program, this simple organization makes for a book that is appropriate for all levels of undergraduate readers.

    Chapter 1: Early Cinema (1893–1914)


    1. Photography
    2. Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne Jules Marey
    3. The Edison Manufacturing Company and America’s First Films
    4. The Lumière Brothers and Robert Paul: Filmmaking Begins in Europe
    5. April 23, 1896: Edison’s Vitascope Debuts
    6. Commercial Film Exhibition and The Birth of the Movie House

    An American Film Industry

    1. The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company
    2. The Motion Picture Patents Company Trust
    3. The Move West
    4. Movie Moguls and Movie Stars
    5. Early Film Censorship
    6. The Mutual Case: Movies and the First Amendment

    Major Filmmakers in Early American Cinema

    1. Georges Méliès and the French Invasion
    2. Edwin S. Porter
    3. D. W. Griffith
    4. Mack Sennett and Early Film Comedy
    5. Women and Early Cinema

    Chapter 2: The Silent Era (1915–1928)

    A Studio Industry Is Born

    1. Movie Stars: Mary Pickford, Theda Bara, and Rudolph Valentino
    2. Movie-Star Scandals
    3. Will Hays and the MPPDA

    Moviemaking and Moviemakers

    1. D. W. Griffith
    2. Cecil B. DeMille
    3. Erich von Stroheim
    4. Thomas H. Ince
    5. F. W. Murnau
    6. Studio Filmmaking
    7. Women behind the Scenes

    The Golden Age of Film Comedy

    1. Charlie Chaplin
    2. Buster Keaton
    3. Harold Lloyd
    4. Laurel and Hardy

    Chapter 3: Technical Innovation and Industrial Transformation (1927–1938)

    Technical Innovations: Sound and Color

    1. Warner Bros. and the Conversion to Sound
    2. Early Experiments with Sound on Film
    3. Early Silent-Sound Hybrids
    4. The Jazz Singer: Making the Transition to Sound Necessary
    5. Tinting and Painting by Hand
    6. Technicolor

    The Studio System

    1. The Contract System: A System of Contracts
    2. Studio Producers and Studio Styles
    3. Irving Thalberg, Boy Wonder
    4. Darryl Zanuck and the Warner Bros. House Style

    Censorship: Regulating Film Content

    1. 1927: The List of “Don’ts” and “Be Carefuls”
    2. 1930: The Motion Picture Production Code
    3. 1930–1934: The Studios Resist the Code
    4. 1933: The Catholic Legion of Decency
    5. 1934: The Production Code Administration

    Genre And Studio Hollywood

    1. The Gangster Film
    2. Melodrama
    3. Horror Films
    4. The Musical
    5. Early Sound Comedy
    6. Romantic Comedies

    Chapter 4: Hollywood in Transition (1939–1945)

    1939–1941: The Last Best Years

    1. Gone With the Wind
    2. Citizen Kane

    A World At War

    1. WW II Hollywood
    2. Selling the War
    3. Topical Features

    Genre in Wartime Hollywood

    1. The Woman’s Picture
    2. Studio Comedies: Preston Sturges
    3. Lowbrow Comedies: Abbot and Costello, Hope and Crosby
    4. Early Film Noir

    Transcending Genre: Three Key Films

    1. Casablanca
    2. Meet Me in St. Louis
    3. The Best Years of Our Lives

    Chapter 5: Adjusting to a Postwar America (1945–1955)

    Reinventing Hollywood

    1. The Paramount Decision
    2. The Hollywood Blacklist

    Genre: Film Noir

    1. The Noir Visual Style
    2. Narrative Form and Ideology in Film Noir
    3. Noir and the Hollywood Left

    Transcending Genre, Transcending Hollywood

    1. Orson Welles
    2. Howard Hawks
    3. Billy Wilder
    4. Elia Kazan
    5. Max Ophüls, Sam Fuller, Nicholas Ray, and Douglas Sirk

    Behind the Camera, Behind the Scenes: Women in Hollywood

    1. Women Screenwriters
    2. Ida Lupino

    Chapter 6: Moving toward a New Hollywood (1955–1967)

    Industry Shakeup

    1. Movies versus Television
    2. The Big Hollywood Buyout
    3. Revisiting and Revising the Production Code
    4. Movie Censorship and the Courts


    1. The Western
    2. John Ford and John Wayne
    3. Teenagers and Teen Movies

    Transcending Genre / Transcending Hollywood

    1. Alfred Hitchcock
    2. Jerry Lewis
    3. From Marilyn Monroe to Doris Day

    Two Key Films

    1. Bonnie and Clyde
    2. The Graduate

    Chapter 7: A Hollywood Renaissance (1968–1980)

    Reinventing Hollywood

    1. The 1968 Voluntary Film Rating System
    2. The Box-Office Recovery
    3. The Astonishing Popularity of Pornography

    Major Films And Filmmakers of the Auteur Renaissance

    1. Easy Rider
    2. The Godfather, Parts I and II
    3. Chinatown
    4. Martin Scorsese
    5. Robert Altman
    6. Stanley Kubrick
    7. William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanovich, and Terrence Malick
    8. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg
    9. The End of Auteurism: Apocalypse Now and Heaven’s Gate

    American Genre Cinema

    1. The Ultraviolent Western
    2. The New American Horror Film
    3. Comedy Stars and Comedy Films
    4. Blaxploitation
    5. The New Woman’s Film

    Chapter 8: A New New Hollywood (1982–1999)

    A New Corporate Hollywood

    1. The Kerkorian Case
    2. The Screen Actors Guild Strike
    3. The Battle over the VCR
    4. The Capitol Service Case
    5. The Time Warner Merger

    Genres and Trends

    1. The Action-Adventure Film
    2. Comic-Book Adaptations
    3. Science Fiction
    4. Comedy

    Auteur Filmmakers

    1. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas
    2. Oliver Stone
    3. Spike Lee
    4. Tim Burton, David Lynch, and Adrian Lyne
    5. Quentin Tarantino

    Independents and Independence

    1. Independent Auteurs: Joel and Ethan Coen, John Sayles, and Steven Soderbergh
    2. Independent Women Making Movies

    Chapter 9: The End of Cinema As We Know It (1999–2006)

    The New New Hollywood

    1. Consolidation and Conglomeration
    2. New Marketing Strategies for a New Film Market
    3. Release Strategies
    4. New Exhibition Formats and Technologies

    Films and Filmmakers: Industry Trends

    1. Blockbusters and Box-Office Hits
    2. Twenty-First Century Auteurs
    3. Independents and Independence