Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 24, 1995

Hollywood Studios Were Once Cinema's 'Auteurs'

By Steve Libowitz

     The way movies are made, and perhaps perceived by scholars
and critics, changed forever in the mid-1950s. That's when a
group of hot-shot young French film critics, led by Fran‡ois
Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, started insisting that movies were
the director's event. These were the writers of the New Wave, and
their premise was dubbed the "auteur theory," that directors
should use film as an artist uses a canvas--for a continuity of
personal expression of style and themes.

     This theory contradicted what had been the cinematic reality
for the two decades prior to the New Wave, a time when the
Hollywood movie studios--the dream factories themselves--were the

     That is the subject of a three-day conference sponsored by
the Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program.

     "There is a distinctive approach to the study of film
history at Hopkins that links the work and interest of students
and faculty," said Jerome Christensen, director of the program
and the conference coordinator. "As a relatively new
[departmental] minor at Hopkins, we wanted to hold a conference
at which we could engage in discussion and debate with outside
scholars regarding the importance of studying the way individual
Hollywood studios stamped their own distinctive images and styles
on films during the so-called golden era." 

     The conference convenes in 110 Gilman on Friday, April 28,
at 2 p.m. and runs through a general discussion at noon on
Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public. There will be a
free screening of the 1947 film Conspirators at 9 p.m. on Friday
in 110 Gilman.

     "The Hollywood Studio as Auteur" will bring to the Homewood
campus some of the country's most prominent scholars and critics
whose work investigates how the individual studios and their
moguls--so entrenched as the dominant system of movie production,
distribution and exhibition throughout the 1930s and 1940s--
created popular and identifiable recurring themes and cinematic
styles for a world gone mad for the movies.

     Thomas Schatz, whose book The Genius of the System is
arguably the definitive work on the subject of how the studio
system operated economically and created cinematically, will be
the first speaker at 2 p.m. on Friday, discussing "The New

     Several Hopkins graduate students, as well as professors
Christensen and Mark Crispin Miller, will make presentations
during the weekend.

     For more information, call Diane Hiebel, at 516-7650.

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