Classical Hollywood Cinema

Classic Hollywood Cinema is a term used in film history which designate both a visual and sound style for making motion pictures and a mode of production used in the American film industry between 1927 and 1963. This period is often referred to as the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ while the films were prolifically issued by the Hollywood studios. The start of the Golden Age was arguably when The Jazz Singer was released in 1927 and increased box-office profits for films as sound was introduced to feature films. Most Hollywood pictures adhered closely to a genre—Westerns, screwball comedies, musicals, animated cartoons, biopics, melodramas (weepies), monster movies and war pictures — while strictly following a classic Hollywood narrative form which was conventionally structured with a beginning, middle and end. Generally there was always a distinct resolution at the end of the stories and the same creative teams often worked on films made by the same studio. The Hollywood studio system was controlled by the ‘Big Eight’ studios; however, the Big Five fully integrated studios were the most powerful. These five studios were MGM, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, and RKO. The ‘Little Three’ studios (Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, and United Artists) were also full-fledged film factories but they lacked the financial resources of the Big Five. These eight major studios kept thousands of people on salary—actors, producers, directors, writers, stunt men, craftspersons and technicians. They owned hundreds of theater chains in cities and towns across America and would often distribute, while theaters in need of fresh material would show their films. In 1930, MPDDA President Will Hays also founded the Hays Production Code, which followed strict censorship guidelines. It was enforced in 1934, after the new Catholic Church organization The Legion of Decency threatened a boycott of motion pictures if it did not go into effect. MGM dominated the film industry, had the top stars in Hollywood, and was also credited for creating the Hollywood star system altogether. Such legendary stars include: Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, Henry Fonda, Rita Hayworth, Charles Laughton, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, Jack Lemmon, Ava Gardner, Olivia de Havilland, James Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Grace Kelly, Gene Kelly, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, James Cagney, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman, James Dean, Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Cary Grant, Sidney Poitier, Audrey Hepburn, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Kirk Douglas. Film historians have remarked upon the many great works of cinema that emerged from this Classical Hollywood period. One reason this was possible was because strong-willed directors like Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Billy Wilder and Orson Welles battled the studios in order to achieve their artistic visions, while believing “the greatest year in the history of the Hollywood studio system” may have been the year 1939, which saw the release of such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.