Category Archives: Introduction – 40’s and 50’s

A short description about some characteristics of classic cinema, the star system and the main genres movies of the 40 and 50 decades.

The 40’s and 50’s

The Hollywood’s golden era lasted about 20 years, between these two landmarks: the talkies’ appearance (which left the silent film in crisis) and the television’s popularization (which worried all the film industry). This period had its peak between the 40’s and 50’s, especially in this last, when the Star System was very strong in the society through the several artists whose studios used to use in its productions. This made a lot of movies reach the maximum of popularity and success.

As mentioned before, one of the main characteristics of this period in the cinema is the movies’ subdivision in genres, each one presenting a series of constant elements which show the function and characteristics of each movie. It’s also visible that, with the movies’ subdivision in genres and the Star System’s power, the artists often stayed stuck to only one genre, what created the stereotypes as for the artists as for the movies. This practice is very common until nowadays, because it creates the identification with the public and, consequently, the consumption, what makes the studios and all the film industry keep making money.

The 40’s

With the talkies’ appearance, all the film industry had to change, adapting itself to this innovation. So, with the possibility of using the sound, why not to use the music? Then, the Musical  genre arises in the movies, with some iconic artists who keep representing this genre until today, as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. And, this genre had its peak in the 40’s, when some memorable movies were produced.

Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire

Gene Kelly & Fred Astaire

Another big genre stood out in this decade was the Film noir:


Movie’s style primarily associated to thrillers, which portrays their main characters in a cynical and antipathetic world. The Film noir is derivative from Big Depression epoch’s suspense novels and from 30’s horror movies’ visual style. The first Films noirs appeared in the beginning of 40’s decade. The “Noirs” were historically filmed in black-and-white and they were characterized by high contrast, with roots in the characteristic cinematography from German Expressionism. [WIKIPEDIA, online].


Also, one of the most known genres of the American movies is the Western, and especially in the classic period, this was a popular one. The golden age of this genre has like maximum exponent the job of the director John Ford, who boosted the John Wayne’s career.

John Wayne

John Wayne

Besides the movies of these genres, there were other important and famous movies in the beginning of 40’s decade like: “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940); “Citizen Kane” (1941); and “Casablanca” (1942).



The 50’s

Focusing on the 50’s decade this was a prosperity time for USA and the production from Hollywood because the leisure had become an important part in the American life and the cinema was an essential part in this leisure. According to Wasson (2011): “It was the 50’s and the United States apparently on vacation. […] In these postwar years, the industry of the anxiety’s relief peaked unprecedented, increasing more over the decade”. (WASSON, 2011, p. 39).

In this period, as in the 40’s, it was produced unforgettable Musical movies, some Films noirs and also some Westerns…

On the other hand, it was another genre that stood out in the 50’s decade: the Comedy, more specifically, the Romantic comedy. And, if in the 40’s decade, the actors who dominated the movie screens, in the 50’s, the actresses who commanded. It was in this decade that stood out a phenomenon called Marilyn Monroe, who is the first actress remembered by a lot of people when it is asked something about the 50’s movies. However, as mentioned before, in the classic period of American cinema, especially in the 50’s decade, there was an extreme dialectic to women. So, in the contrary side of Marilyn Monroe, appeared Audrey Hepburn, in movies where she acted in more behaved roles.

Marilyn and Audrey

Marilyn and Audrey

Another recurrent genre of the 50’s is the Drama, sometimes involving a Romance, others involving a War, but always with the drama as background.

The 50’s also was the career’s decade of two actors: Grace Kelly and James Dean.

Grace Kelly – Monaco’s Princess – considered the 13th legend of world cinema according to American Film Institute, starred 11 movies between 1951 and 1956 and received 10 nominations for the main awards in the film industry, which won 06 times. James Dean, considered a cultural icon, representing the youth of the 50’s decade. He acted in 07 movies (where in 04 of them, Dean wasn’t credited), also between 1951 and 1956. He received 02 posthumous nominations for Academy Awards (1956 / 1957).

Grace Kelly and James Dean

Grace Kelly and James Dean

– In the next posts I’ll talk write more specifically about some movies of this golden period. See you soon!


CINEMA western. Wikipedia. Available in: <;. Access in: 2014, May 25th.

FILM noir. Wikipedia. Available in: <;. Access in: 2014, May 25th.

GRACE Kelly. Wikipedia. Available in: <;. Access in: 2014, May 25th.

JAMES Dean. Wikipedia. Available in: <;. Access in: 2014, May 25th.

STUDIO System / Star System / Gêneros [Genres]. Slideshare. 2009. Available in: <;. Access in: 2014, May 25th.

WASSON, Sam. Quinta Avenida, 5 da manhã: Audrey Hepburn, Bonequinha de luxo e o surgimento da mulher moderna [Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the dawn of the modern woman]. Translated by José Rubens Siqueira. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2011. Cap. 01.


The Star System

Hello my dears!! Today I’ll talk about the famous “Star System”. But, what is this?

The Star System was a phenomenon very important in the period of American Classic Cinema and it is very useful until today. According to Machado (2009) and Gubernikoff (2009), it was worked the stereotypes and archetypes of the artists, through the own spectator’s vision who passed to treat the movies’ actors like important people to society or like real heroes. Then the cinema worked like a mirror to the public because the spectators began to identify themselves emotionally, not only with the movies or the characters but, especially, with the actors. Wasson (2011) says that:

Since the era of first stars from Hollywood, cinema’s spectators have been devouring a constant dose of self-image. It being man or woman, boy or girl, the screen shows a mirror to the public, reflecting what is adequate or inadequate in terms of family, love, war and genre – sometimes consciously, others not (WASSON, 2011, p. 44).

Paes (2012, online) shows us that, the big first decade where the Star System stood out was in the 30’s because it was when the talkies appeared, approaching more the spectator with the sound in the movies. In the 40’s years appeared the “sex symbols” and the actresses became known by nicknames: Ginger Rogers was “the ballerina”; Bette Davis was “the rag doll”; Ingrid Bergman, “the foreign”; Ava Gardner, “the most beautiful animal of the world”; etc. Already about the actors, there were the “medium men” as Henry Fonda and James Stewart; the “adventurous” as Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart; the singers and dancers as Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, among others.

Coming in the 50’s decade, according to Gubernikoff (2009): “in 1950, a search pointed that 48% of the female public and 36% of the male public chose the movies from the cast”. (GUBERNIKOFF, 2009, p. 70).It was through the Star System that the actors created an “image” in front of the public and, until nowadays, this image is maintained strongly in the mind of people. Wasson (2011) still shows that:

Working with all the hurry, the studios of Hollywood molded its stars in the amalgamated form of cultural, political and financial factors which when they’re mixed in the right proportions they reached the time’s spirit with lucrative regularity. […] Movies’ stars are built, they don’t born ready, and their parents aren’t their mothers and fathers, but the legion of authors, directors, costumers and, above of everything, the studios’ chiefs who cared for their persona – their filmic personality – could attend the particular necessities of time and place. […] This was the formula, and since the beginning of Hollywood the stars’ machines of studio used it to produce stars, like power plants produce strengths, using x insistently until Archie Leach become Cary Grant and Norma Jean Baker become Marilyn Monroe. (WASSON, 2011, p. 42-43).

The Star System also contributed to become characters of big actresses as Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and others, in some of the bigger success of the cinema’s history. But, in general, these actresses still acted stereotyped roles, for example: Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day usually represented roles more “correct” and Marilyn Monroe, on the other hand, used to represent the bad side, in general lovers or dumb blondes. About this theme, Wasson (2011) comments that in the classic period of American cinema there was an extreme dialectic to women, especially in the 50’s decade: “in the 50’s years, if you were a woman, a lot of things were wrong and a few things were honorable. Or you were a slut or a saint.” (WASSON, 2011, p. 44).

Nowadays this phenomenon is still very used in the cinema because it became itself in the heart of the film industry. It is very common people wear similar clothes that their favorite artists, use the same accessories or make the same poses in photos because the Star System stimulates this kind of attitude, once people identify themselves with these artists. Furthermore, the Star System also has been used by advertising through the image’s appropriation of the artists that is used to sell the products for the appropriate public, with the creation of an emotional connection between the public and the campaign, provided by this use of artists.


GUBERNIKOFF, Giselle. A imagem: representação da mulher no cinema [The image: representation of woman in the cinema]. Conexão – Comunicação e Cultura [Connection – Communication and Culture], UCS, Caxias do Sul, v. 8, n. 15, Jan/Jun 2009. Available in: <;. Access in: Apr, 15th 2014.

MACHADO, Mariângela. A formação do espectador de cinema e a indústria cinematográfica norte-americana [The formation of cinema’s spectator and the North-American film industry].  Rio Grande do Sul: Sessões do Imaginário [Imaginary’s Sessions], 2009. Available in: <;. Access in: Mar, 28th 2014.

PAES, Roberto. O mito e o “Star System”: Décadas de 30, 40 e 50 [The myth and the “Star System”: Decades of 30, 40 and 50]. 2012. Available in: <;. Access in: Apr, 20th 2014.

WASSON, Sam. Quinta Avenida, 5 da manhã: Audrey Hepburn, Bonequinha de luxo e o surgimento da mulher moderna [Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the dawn of the modern woman]. Translated by José Rubens Siqueira. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2011. Cap. 01.

The Narrative of the Cinema and The American Classic Movies

Well, in this first post I will talk a little about the narrative of the cinema and then, I will do just an introduction about the American Classic movies.

The cinema, like all means of communication, presents a language which is realized through the narrative, even that in the beginning, it was believed that the cinema could have a lot of functions like: being a way of record, like historical record; being a new way of journalism or a new way for teaching, among others. However, over time, the movies had like main goal to tell us stories and made us to go to cinema just to hear them. So the cinema became itself at a real “storytelling machine”. According to Metz (2007), the most probable is that the characteristic of narrative is part of the cinema, it has in its root the characteristic of storytelling and, because of this, the narrative is present until today in the movies.

Since the beginning of cinema there were a lot of different schools, with their own characteristics and specificities. However, according to Rubens (2008), “it was the called American Classic Cinema the responsible by formation of film industry.” (RUBENS, 2008, online). It is important to stand out that the cinema appeared in the 19th century, in France, differed characteristically when arrived in USA. Machado (2009) comments that in Europe the cinema public was mostly of middle class, even that the cinema concept was wide-ranging, without restrictions for any spectator. On the other hand, in USA, the working class was the big spectator of this art, where developed aspects of a popular culture. Just later the cinema began to do part of middle class’s daily life in the North-American ambient.

The American Classic Cinema, dated by some critics being the period between the decades 30’s and 60’s, appeared in the context of First World War. Rubens (2008) tell us that “the European film production was affected and, in this period, Hollywood began to show up with its big studios […] and in the final of 20th century’s first decade came to leadership of global market.” (RUBENS, 2008, online). So Hollywood created a new production system: standardized the pellicle use (35 mm) to record the movies; created the system of film genres (comedy, drama, romance, etc.), each one with its own language; brought a bigger mobility and flexibility to use the camera, with innovations in its movements. Also brought some changes in the movies narratives, approaching the character to spectator: now the narrative has beginning, middle and end; the story is centered in the main character, who always has some conflict, usually solved in the movies end.

The blog “Cinema’s Basis” (2007), of Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, tell us the ideal film in the golden period of American cinema: “present stories that are of easy understanding and fascinating for public, through the Manichaeism and verisimilitude, in a way that contribute for the recognized of cinema like art.” (CINEMA’S BASIS, 2007, online). The blog still brings a quote of authors Francis Vanoye[1] and Anne Goliot-Lété[2] about this cinema period:

We proposed the term “transparency” to designate the specific quality in this kind of movies, where everything looks like develop itself without chocks, where all the plans and sequences are linked with, apparently, all the logic, where the story looks like be told by itself. (VANOYE; GOLIOT-LÉTÉ, 1997, p. 28).

Another characteristic that is very outstanding in the classic cinema is the music, that according to Rubens (2008), it was common that the movie plot was marked by the music, which permitted that the spectator could know what character should enter in scene. Besides that, in this golden period also appeared the phenomenon denominated like “Star System”, but this will be the subject of another post…

[1] Emeritus Professor in film studies in the Paris X Nanterre University, France. [2] Professor in the Denis-Diderot University, Paris, France. Both of them authors of the book “Essays About the Filmic Analysis”, 2008.



FUNDAMENTOS de Cinema [Cinema’s Basis]. Cinema Clássico Americano [American Classic Cinema]. Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul [Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul]. 2007. Available in: <;. Access in: Mar, 28th 2014.

MACHADO, Mariângela. A formação do espectador de cinema e a indústria cinematográfica norte-americana [The formation of cinema’s spectator and the North-american film industry].  Rio Grande do Sul: Sessões do Imaginário [Imaginary’s Sessions], 2009. Available in: <;. Access in: Mar, 28th 2014.

METZ, Christian. A significação no cinema [The signification in the cinema]. Translated by Jean-Claude Bernardet. 2. ed. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2007. Chapter 3.

RUBENS. A Época de Ouro de Hollywood [The Golden Era of Hollywood]. Cinema Clássico Americano [American Classic Cinema]. São Paulo: Blogger, 2008. Available in: <;. Access in: Mar, 28th 2014.