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Unit information: Hollywood Cinema History in 2014/15

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Unit name Hollywood Cinema History
Unit code DRAM23126
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Pete Falconer
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Film and Television
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit provides an introduction to the history of Hollywood cinema in the 20th Century. Students will study a range of Hollywood movies, including established “classics”, genre cinema and work on the borders between mainstream and independent production. Key genres will be covered, including film noir, the musical, screwball comedy, horror and westerns. Students will discuss the films’ historical contexts, relating to both Hollywood itself and to aspects of American social and political history. The films will also be considered in terms of the aesthetic, industrial and ideological debates that surround them.


  • To introduce students to the complexity and diversity of Hollywood filmmaking in different periods.
  • To enable students to make relevant distinctions between different types and eras of Hollywood filmmaking.
  • To situate commercial filmmaking in a range of historical contexts.
  • To equip students to engage with critical and theoretical debates about Hollywood cinema.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. identify and analyse key practices and conventions from the history of Hollywood filmmaking in the 20th Century.
  2. make relevant distinctions between different modes and periods of Hollywood cinema.
  3. make comparisons between Hollywood films from different eras, informed by an awareness of changing contexts.
  4. situate films in relation to a range of relevant historical contexts, both within Hollywood and connecting to wider trends in American culture and society.
  5. respond to, and participate in, debates concerning the aesthetic, industrial and ideological significance of Hollywood movies.
  6. produce work within a group, showing abilities to listen, contribute and lead effectively.

Teaching details

Weekly 2-hour seminar, weekly 3-hour screening with 15-minute introduction.

Assessment Details

20-minute group presentation (40%) ILO 1-4, 6

3000 word essay (60%) ILO 1-5

Presentations will take place in seminar sessions. Group presentations will be awarded a single grade.

Reading and References

  • Rudy Behlmer (ed.), Memo from David O. Selznick (New York: Avon, 1973)
  • Ian Cameron (ed.), The Movie Book of Film Noir (London: Studio Vista, 1992)
  • Carol J. Clover, Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (London: BFI, 1992)
  • Leonard J. Leff and Jerold L. Simmons, The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship and the Production Code from the 1920s to the 1960s (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1990)
  • Richard Maltby, Hollywood Cinema (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003)
  • Steve Neale, Genre and Hollywood (London: Routledge, 2000)
  • Andrew Sarris, ‘The Myth of Old Movies’, Harper’s 251:1504 (1972), pp. 38-42