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The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color

This Film History course explores how fundamental changes in film technology affected popular Hollywood storytelling. We will consider the transition to sound, and the introduction of color. This online educational experience is not equivalent to a college course.

Sessions

Course at a Glance

About the Course

This history course explores how fundamental changes in film technology affected popular Hollywood storytelling. We will consider the transition to sound, and the introduction of color. Each change in technology brought new opportunities and challenges, but the filmmaker's basic task remained the emotional engagement of the viewer through visual means. We will survey major directors and genres from the studio era and point forward to contemporary American cinema. Our aim is to illuminate popular cinema as the intersection of business, technology, and art. Through film history, we will learn about the craft of filmmaking and how tools shape art. This online educational experience is not equivalent to a college course.

Subtitles for all video lectures available: Turkish (provided by Koc University), English

Course Syllabus

Here is a week-by week description of the course and the films discussed. Each lecture is followed by an ungraded multiple choice quiz. At the end of the course, students can complete a longer, 20 question multiple-choice quiz for a grade. This is an online educational experience, not intended to be equivalent to a college course.

Week One
INTRODUCTION

Lecture One: Form, Technology, and the Art of Cinema

Lecture Two: The Power of Silence: Cinema as a Visual Art.  

Watch Street Angel (Fox, 1928)
NOTE: Street Angel is Optional because the purchase price of the DVD can be prohibitive.

Lecture Three: Street Angel: Borzage's Visual Opera

Lecture Four: von Sternberg's World

Watch Docks of New York (Paramount, 1928)

Lecture Five: Docks of New York: The Seedy Side of Silence


SOUND

Week Two:

Lecture One: Sound Comes to Cinema

Watch Applause (Paramount, 1929)

Lecture Two:Applause, Mamoulian's Struggle for Style
Lecture Three: The Marx Brothers: Unbridled Talk

Watch Monkey Business (Paramount, 1931)

Lecture Four:  Monkey Business: Vaudeville Anarchy in the Sound Film

Week Three:

Lecture One: Gunfire and the City: Introduction to the Gangster Film

Watch Scarface (United Artists, 1932)

Lecture Two: Scarface: Sound and the Gangster's World

Lecture Three: Building an Atmosphere: Val Lewton’s Horror Films

Watch The Ghost Ship (RKO 1943)

Lecture Four: Ghost Ship: Horror through Sound and Light


COLOR

Week Four:

Lecture One: Harnessing the Rainbow: Introducing Technicolor 

Watch Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Paramount, 1936)

Lecture Two: Trail of the Lonesome Pine: Dramatic Restraint

Lecture Three:  The Color of Adventure

Watch Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bros. 1938)

Lecture Four: Robin Hood: Technicolor’s New Palette.

Week Five:

Lecture One: Color and Melodrama

Watch All that Heaven Allows (Universal, 1958)

Lecture Two: All that Heaven Allows: Orange, Blue, Loss and Longing

Lecture Three: Continuing the Technicolor Tradition

Watch Punch Drunk Love (New Line: 2002)

Lecture Four: Punch Drunk Love: P.T. Anderson's Palette Games

Lecture Five: Conclusions











Recommended Background

No background required. All are welcome.

Suggested Readings

The lectures are designed to be self contained. However, the following books offer helpful background in Film History and Analysis.

Bordwell and Thompson, FILM ART: AN INTRODUCTION any edition.

Higgins, HARNESSING THE TECHNICOLOR RAINBOW

Neale, THE CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD READER

Course Format

This class will consist of video lectures of around 15 - 30 minutes in length. There are four such lectures each week. Students are required to see the films on their own, outside of class. They are readily available on DVD and available at your local library or for RENTAL via NETFLIX or a similar service. Some of them are available streaming on the internet. All are available for purchase from AMAZON or another vendor. Students are responsible for locating/obtaining the films and viewing them each week.

Short Quizzes of 3 multiple-choice questions follow each lecture. These are ungraded.
Students can take a longer, cumulative quiz to obtain a grade at the end of the course.

FAQ

  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

    Yes.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    For this course, you will need copies of the films discussed and the time to give them a proper, undistracted, viewing before each lecture. All are available on DVD, some may also be available as downloads or streaming from sites like Amazon and Netflix.