On the one hand we know the 1950s in the United States as a time that invites nostalgia. Movies like Pleasantville build on this nostalgia, but even in politics certain groups want to go back beyond the Sixties rebellion to a seemingly more benign time. Of course, our image of the 1950s is largely informed by the movies – but ironically, the Fifties were a quite difficult time, a time of crisis, for the movies. Television was on the rise, audiences dwindled, the studio system broke up and the blacklist depleted Hollywood of talent. In this seminar, we will study the historical context of 1950s movie production, both institutional and political and will have a look how the film industry dealt with the crisis. We will explore how the difficult background of the 50s influenced genres as broad as Western, Film Noir, Science Fiction, Teen Movie or War Movie. Questions of gender, class, surveillance, longing and values will play a leading role.
There will be a companion website in moodle. The password will be announced in the first meeting. Students may organize film screenings if they want to.
We will read excerpts from Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America, Vintage, 1994. As a historical basis we will use: Andrew J. Dunar, America in the Fifties, Syracuse UP, 2006.
- Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard (1950)
- Joseph L. Manciewicz, All about Eve (1950)
- George Stevens, Shane (1953)
- Nicholas Ray, Rebel without a Cause (1955)
- Cecil B. DeMille, The Ten Commandments (1956)
- Don Siegel, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- David Lean/Sam Spiegel, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
- Orson Welles, Touch of Evil (1958)
- Stanley Kramer, The Defiant Ones (1958)
Students will have to give a presentation in a group of 3-4 persons („spezielle Arbeitsleistung“). As a MAP students will have a 45 min exam together with their seminar in linguistics (i.e. 22 min for each seminar).