This is the time of semester when teaching and research commitments take all of my time. But given that summer is around the corner, I've been planning my writing and research docket for the time away from the classroom. Getting the book manuscript (a history of the social problem film in Hollywood) in shape is top priority, but I also plan to embark on a project that dovetails with my research on Hollywood as a social field and will undoubtedly generate new insights.
My goal is to watch every feature film that I can get my hands on that was released by a major American studio in 1947. Only 15% of the features distributed by the 8 majors are currently available on an authorized DVD release, so my work is going to be cut out for me tracking the rest down. There about 260 titles total; I figure if I can watch half that number, I'll be excited.
Essentially, my aim is twofold. First, I want to address the sampling problem in writing film history of the period. Since so few films are available on video, and since only a small minority of those approaches anything like canonical status, I suspect that the period of the late 1940s is ripe for reexamination despite the general sense that we know Hollywood's history well. Second, while diachronic analysis is important to historical argumentation, I wanted to get a better picture - at least for myself, hopefully for incorporation into original research - of the synchronic dimension of postwar Hollywood: the whole relational universe of postwar commercial cinema, the kinds of genres made, and the true A-B distinctions.
Oh, and why 1947? Since my project is on the postwar social problem film, 1947 looms large as a key year in the cycle (Gentleman's Agreement and Crossfire). It also should allow a study of a studio system adjusting to postwar market changes and on the cusp of divorcement. Besides, I had to limit the historical scope somehow, even if arbitrarily.
I have to thank those who have already provided valuable suggestions - here at Temple Dan Friedlaender and Dan Kremer. Any input from readers on video sourcing, archival resources, etc. is most welcome.
3 days ago