Final - John Szmyd Film History 231 12/11/07 Professor...

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John Szmyd Film History 231 12/11/07 Professor Grindon Classical Hollywood Style in 39 Steps and Stagecoach In his essay “Classical Hollywood Cinema”, David Bordwell models the Classical Hollywood narrative devices down to an exact method . The narrative begins with a psychologically distinct character with a certain goal or desire, and in attempting to reach this goal, runs into other characters or obstacles, usually including a romantic interest, that add difficulty to the goal . Finally, there is a decisive victory or defeat, and the outcome of the film is revealed . Both 1930s films, 39 Steps and Stagecoach, not only follow this pattern and clearly illustrate the principles outlined by Bordwell’s model, but also are influenced by alternative approaches to filmmaking . Although Alfred Hitchcock’s 39 Steps is a British film, it was heavily influenced by Hollywood cinema . In the late 1920’s, American films dominated the British industry because of the huge American audience that funded the production of the national industry . Antonia Lant notes, “American distributors thus had the flexibility to undercut their competitors in foreign markets; even the strongest non-American circuits were unable to overcome the American business practices of price undercutting, block booking, and blind bidding” (OH 361) . However, to protect British business, the British government restricted the distribution and exhibition of American films. 1
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The 1930’s were a period of increased production in Britain due to these new laws and the synchronization of sound . Hitchcock used sound to add suspense to his thrillers. Throughout 39 Steps , the protagonist Hannay has a tune, which he whistles from time to time, stuck in his head, and it leads him to realizing the answer to the mystery . Sound is also used in the transitions between scenes . When Hannay’s landlady screams when she sees Annabella’s murdered corpse, the sounds of her screams blend into the screech of a train whistle from the next scene . Hitchcock uses this innovative alternate approach to overlap these two scenes with each other . Hannay is an isolated common man who, after being wrongly accused of murder, impersonates people while attempting to both escape the police and solve the conspiracy, driving the classical plot with his unpredictable actions . Conflict arises when his disguises are revealed, such as on the train when he pretends to be a romantic interest of Pamela, a train passenger, exclaiming, “Darling, how lovely to see you!” and kissing her while his pursuers walk past . Later on, when Hannay is woken by the crofter’s wife who says, “There’s a car coming . It’ll be the police . You’d better get going…” a time constraint is set that builds suspense . The police lights shine in and the camera cuts to a shot framed by the jail-like vertical bars of the back to a chair, symbolizing Hannay’s doom . Using deadlines is a commonality among classical Hollywood-like films, because
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course FILM 231 taught by Professor Grindon during the Fall '08 term at Middlebury.

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Final - John Szmyd Film History 231 12/11/07 Professor...

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