A Short History of Film

Rutgers University Press
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The history of international cinema is now available in a concise, conveniently sized, and affordable volume. Succinct yet comprehensive, A Short History of Film provides an accessible overview of the major movements, directors, studios, and genres from the 1880s to the present. More than 250 rare stills and illustrations accompany the text, bringing readers face to face with many of the key players and films that have marked the industry.

Beginning with precursors of what we call moving pictures, Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster lead a fast-paced tour through the invention of the kinetoscope, the introduction of sound and color between the two world wars, and ultimately the computer generated imagery of the present day. They detail significant periods in world cinema, including the early major industries in Europe, the dominance of the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s and 1940s, and the French New Wave of the 1960s. Special attention is also given to small independent efforts in developing nations and the corresponding more personal independent film movement that briefly flourished in the United States, the significant filmmakers of all nations, censorship and regulation and how they have affected production everywhere, and a wide range of studios and genres. Along the way, the authors take great care to incorporate the stories of women and other minority filmmakers who have often been overlooked in other texts.

Compact and easily readable, this is the best one-stop source for the history of world film available to students, teachers, and general audiences alike.
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About the author

Wheeler Winston Dixon is the James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Film Talk: Directors at Work (Rutgers University Press).

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster is a professor in the department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is the author of Class-Passing: Social Mobility in Film and Popular Culture and the co-editor (with Wheeler Winston Dixon) of Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Rutgers University Press
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Published on
Mar 1, 2008
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Pages
492
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ISBN
9780813544755
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Performing Arts / Film / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Film stocks are vanishing, but the iconic images of the silver screen remain -- albeit in new, sleeker formats. Today, viewers can instantly stream movies on televisions, computers, and smartphones. Gone are the days when films could only be seen in theaters or rented at video stores: movies are now accessible at the click of a button, and there are no reels, tapes, or discs to store. Any film or show worth keeping may be collected in the virtual cloud and accessed at will through services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant.

The movies have changed, and we are changing with them. The ways we communicate, receive information, travel, and socialize have all been revolutionized. In Streaming, Wheeler Winston Dixon reveals the positive and negative consequences of the transition to digital formatting and distribution, exploring the ways in which digital cinema has altered contemporary filmmaking and our culture. Many industry professionals and audience members feel that the new format fundamentally alters the art, while others laud the liberation of the moving image from the "imperfect" medium of film, asserting that it is both inevitable and desirable. Dixon argues that the change is neither good nor bad; it's simply a fact.

Hollywood has embraced digital production and distribution because it is easier, faster, and cheaper, but the displacement of older technology will not come without controversy. This groundbreaking book illuminates the challenges of preserving media in the digital age and explores what stands to be lost, from the rich hues of traditional film stocks to the classic movies that are not profitable enough to offer in streaming formats. Dixon also investigates the financial challenges of the new distribution model, the incorporation of new content such as webisodes, and the issue of ownership in an age when companies have the power to pull purchased items from consumer devices at their own discretion. Streaming touches on every aspect of the shift to digital production and distribution. It explains not only how the new technology is affecting movies, music, books, and games, but also how instant access is permanently changing the habits of viewers and influencing our culture.

Death of the Moguls is a detailed assessment of the last days of the “rulers of film.” Wheeler Winston Dixon examines the careers of such moguls as  Harry Cohn at Columbia, Louis B. Mayer at MGM, Jack L. Warner at Warner Brothers, Adolph Zukor at Paramount, and Herbert J. Yates at Republic in the dying days of their once-mighty empires. He asserts that the sheer force of personality and business acumen displayed by these moguls made the studios successful; their deaths or departures hastened the studios’ collapse. Almost none had a plan for leadership succession; they simply couldn't imagine a world in which they didn’t reign supreme.

Covering 20th Century-Fox, Selznick International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Republic Pictures, Monogram Pictures and Columbia Pictures, Dixon briefly introduces the studios and their respective bosses in the late 1940s, just before the collapse, then chronicles the last productions from the studios and their eventual demise in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He details such game-changing factors as the de Havilland decision, which made actors free agents; the Consent Decree, which forced the studios to get rid of their theaters; how the moguls dealt with their collapsing empires in the television era; and the end of the conventional studio assembly line, where producers had rosters of directors, writers, and actors under their command.

Complemented by rare, behind-the-scenes stills, Death of the Moguls is a compelling narrative of the end of the studio system at each of the Hollywood majors as television, the de Havilland decision, and the Consent Decree forced studios to slash payrolls, make the shift to color, 3D, and CinemaScope in desperate last-ditch efforts to save their kingdoms. The aftermath for some was the final switch to television production and, in some cases, the distribution of independent film.

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