Classic Hollywood Cinema module (EN21003)

Learn about the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood Cinema (1920-1960)

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Module code


This module examines the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood Cinema (roughly 1920-1960), looking at the role of the studio system and the impact of relevant social, political and historical contexts on a wide range of Hollywood genres.

From screwball comedy and the western to crime, war films, and science-fiction, this module will explore a rich and lively period of film-making and the development of an apparently seamless, unambiguous mode of cinematic narrative (the Hollywood style). 

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • learn about a distinct period of cinematic history (1930-60s) which dominated Hollywood film production
  • examine issues of genre, film history, economics, technology, and style, and the relation between film and American society
  • learn about the methods employed by Hollywood films in relation to a style that aims at verisimilitude, but also employs expressionism, and is sometimes used for propaganda purposes
  • engage with films with character led plots and psychologically motivated narratives and examine the narrative and cinematic strategies employed in their development

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate the ability to employ key concepts learned from Level 1 Reading the Screen to a distinct cinematic period
  • engage with film from a political/economic/historical/social perspective
  • apply critical skills in order to recognise and analyse different forms of film aesthetic
  • demonstrate suitable research and writing skills, working to the English Programme's referencing conventions

Assignments / assessment

There are two assessments on this module:

  • sequence Analysis Exercise (2,000 words, 40%)
    • due on the Friday of Week 7
  • essay (2,500 words, 60%)
    • due on the Friday of Week 13

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • weekly lectures (1 hour)
  • participating in seminars (2 hours).

You need to attend lectures and review suggested materials in preparation for seminars.

You also need to watch two selected films each week and arrive at the seminar ready to discuss their insights on the films, having completed preparatory readings.

Seminars are distinct from lectures and include group discussions, answering questions, and analysing short film clips.

Week Topic

Introduction to Classical Hollywood

  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Sunset Blvd

The Silent Era

  • Sunrise
  • Wings

Transition to Sound & the Hays Code

  • Scarface
  • It Happened One Night

Authorship & the Studio System

  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • From Here to Eternity

Hollywood Goes to War

  • To Be or Not To Be
  • Guadacanal Diary
  • The Battle of San Pietro
6 No Classes (Reading Week)

The Red Menace

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • On the Waterfront

Style and Genre 1: Film Noir and Poverty Row

  • Detour
  • So Dark the Night
  • Cat People

Style and Genre 2: The Melodrama

  • Letter from an Unknown Woman
  • All that Heaven Allows

Style and Genre 3: The Western / the Rise of Television

  • Shane
  • The Big Country

End of the Studio System and New Hollywood

  • Petulia
  • The Wild Bunch



This module is available on following courses: