MOVIE-MADE AMERICA: How the Movies Changed American Life by Robert Sklar

MOVIE-MADE AMERICA: How the Movies Changed American Life

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Sklar's study of the find industry is largely the story of ""the balding little men in dark double-breasted suits--Laemmle, Fox, Zukor, Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer and a few others""--the movie moguls who shaped the character of American cinema almost since the days of Thomas Edison whose ""greed and dissimulation"" set the pattern for industry monopolies. But there are other important themes not the least of which is the movie industry's early and frequent skirmishes with censors and self-styled representatives of civic and ecclesiastical morality. Films, from the days of Biograph and Keystone, were ""the creation of Jewish immigrant entrepreneurs"" and as such were suspected of being a threat to middle-class morals. The Production Code and other attempts at industry self-regulation were the natural response of parvenu producers whose lives were dominated by the ""gold-rush mentality"" and the sincere conviction that the way to make money was to offend no one. It was an industry in which power, though mighty, was evanescent, and no sooner had the studio system taken hold than there were challenges from younger men--to say nothing of independent distributors, exhibitors, and New Deal antitrust suits. Sklar makes some important statements about social class as it affected the dispersal of power and the aesthetics of American movies (Hollywood's triumphs--Westerns, musicals, detective thrillers-were overwhelmingly ""triumphs of genre"") and he suggests that ultimately movies did, as the first alarmed censors feared, democratize popular culture. An unusual film book in that Sklar is not at all auteur-oriented and artistry interests him less than economics.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1975
Publisher: Random House