Collage of British cinema magazines

"Cinema is not only about making people dream." - Nadine Labaki

Information at a Glance

  • Evening Class
  • Wednesdays 18:00 - 20:00
  • 10 weeks: May to July
  • 2 hours weeky online taught time
  • Tutor: Eleonora Sammartino
  • Fees from £67 to £117
  • COURSE CANCELLED
Booking link

While Norma Desmond, the once legendary silent film actress played by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, firmly believed that “the pictures got small” with the transition to sound, Classic Hollywood cinema was a prolific period of production that generated a high number of popular films. From greatly enjoyable musicals like Singin’ in the Rain (G. Kelly and S. Donen, 1952) and screwball comedies such as His Girl Friday (H. Hawks, 1940) to the dark tones of film noirs like Double Indemnity (B. Wilder, 1944) and the heartbreaks of melodramas as All That Heaven Allows (D. Sirk, 1955), many of the films made during this period are thought of as well-loved classics to this day.

This course will introduce the students to the history of the Hollywood Studio System in the period between the late 1920s and the 1950s. Through the lens of film genres, we will examine modes of production, distribution and exhibition that characterised Classic Hollywood cinema, further considering the role of stars and key personnel in studios such as MGM, Universal or RKO. Looking at a wide range of examples, we will reflect on how genres can be defined and analyse narrative, stylistic and aesthetic conventions through the use of clips from well-known as well as from less popular films. We will also discuss the relationship between cinema and the socio-historical, political, and cultural contexts in which films have been produced, distributed and consumed, with a special focus on gender, race, class.

At the end of the course, students will have a greater understanding of how film genres work and of Classic Hollywood history.

No previous knowledge of Film Studies is required.

Online Class Format and Equipment

The class will consist of a lecture by the tutor, including clips from films to be discussed in the group chat.

Slides will be made available on the day of the course with links to videos that will be used during the lecture. Students should have the videos ready on their own browser to be watched during the class. Additional reading/viewing material and optional tasks will be provided for independent study during the week.

To take part in this class you will need an internet connected computer and up-to-date Adobe Flash Player or similar to access videos online. If YouTube/Vimeo are working on your device of choice, this should be already ok.

You will also need a Microsoft Teams account. Microsoft Teams accounts are free, but you do need to register for one in advance using the same email address with which you enrol on this course. We recommend you also download the Microsoft Teams App.

It is possible to take this course "passively" without a microphone and/or webcam attached to your computer, but if you want to take part in class discussions you will need at least a microphone connected to your computer. Many computers, laptops and tablets already have these built in, but you might want to check on that first.

*** COURSE CANCELLED DUE TO INSUFFICIENT INTEREST ***

Course Information

Course Programme

Slides will be made available on the day of the course with links to videos that will be used during the lecture. Students should have the videos ready on their own browser to be watched during the class.

The class will consist of a lecture by the tutor, including clips from films to be discussed in the group chat.

Additional reading/viewing material and optional tasks will be provided for independent study during the week.

COURSE PROGRAMME

Week 1: Introduction to Classic Hollywood and Film Genres

In this session, we will introduce the course, taking a look at some of its main themes and topics. We will then focus on the emergence of the Hollywood Studio System in the late silent cinema period, considering its structure according to an integration of production, distribution and exhibition phases. We will further explore the organization of the studios in producer-led units. Finally, we will survey some of the main theories on film genres and start to outline how genres could be defined.

Week 2: Comedy

This week, we will focus on comedy. We will start by questioning whether it could be defined as a genre or if it could be categorized in any other way. We will then explore examples of slapstick comedy and screwball comedy, tracing their emergence in different periods as well as some of their main conventions. Finally, we will consider the relationship between screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby (H. Hawks, 1938) and the socio-cultural context of the 1930s.

Week 3: Western

In this session, we will explore one of the genres that is commonly considered as quintessentially American: the western. During the lecture, we will outline the history of this genre, from its connections with literature and pre-cinema forms of entertainment to its emergence in Hollywood, further questioning its “evolution”. We will explore the foundational myth of the frontier, central to western films, and some of the key conventions that characterise the genre.

Week 4: Musical

Synonymous with Classic Hollywood, the musical emerged with the transition to sound and developed through the fundamental organization of the studios in producer-led units. In this session, we will explore some musical cycles across different decades and studios, such as Warner Brothers, RKO and MGM. We will also consider the difference between “integrated” and “aggregated” musicals. This will give us the opportunity to examine the representation of gender, race, and class, and the link between socio-political contexts and an “escapist” genre such as this.

Week 5: Horror

This week, we will continue to reflect on the definition of film cycles as opposed to genres and sub-genres. We will examine various examples of horror films, such as the Universal Classic Monsters or the sci-fi features of the 1950s, tracing some of the main aesthetic and stylistic conventions that are associated with the genre. We will also consider “the monster” in more depth, from its literary origins to more recent re-interpretations, and explore the relationship between this figure and the spectatorial experience.

Week 6: Film Noir

Is film noir a genre? Emerged retrospectively as a term through the critical reception of some Hollywood films in France, film noir will allow us to once again question the definition of “genre” and to highlight the importance of different uses of generic categories by critics and audiences. Through some key examples, we will analyse formal conventions, such as lighting and mise-en-scène, tracing connections between Hollywood and European cinemas. We will further explore the relationship between film noir and the socio-cultural context of the 1940s-50s.

Week 7: Melodrama

In this session, we will continue to consider the importance of the critical reception through the case of melodrama, particularly its recuperation and redefinition by Feminist Film theorists started in the 1970s. We will outline the origins of melodrama in theatre and its emergence in cinema during the silent period, before moving to films from the Classic Hollywood period like Stella Dallas (K. Vidor, 1937). We will further consider the importance of formal elements in the creation of meanings and emotions, key to this genre.

Week 8: Documentary and Experimental Filmmaking

In a detour from the mainstream and the studio system, this week we will explore documentary and experimental filmmaking. We will try to define documentary through various theories and practices that have characterised its history, starting from the first examples in the 1920s, and we will then consider the use of documentary as propaganda. More independent forms of filmmaking will be highlighted through experimental or avant-garde films, such as those made by Maya Deren in the 1940s.

Week 9: Animation

In this session, we will focus on animation as a creative form or medium. We will consider similarities and differences in the production process between animation and live-action films, looking at the examples from some of the most successful studios during the period between 1920s-50s, such as Disney and Warner Brothers. We will also highlight the work of some key animators in cinema and other media like television and advertising.

Week 10: Historical Epic and the Blockbuster

In this last session, we will discuss the historical epic and, in particular, the Hollywood blockbusters belonging to this genre produced during the decline of the Studio System in the 1950s. This will give us the opportunity to consider the industrial context and the changes that characterised this period in terms of production, distribution and exhibition. We will also analyse some of the key formal conventions of the genre and explore the fundamental relationship between the historical epic and technology.

Equipment Required & Additional Reading

Equipment Required

To take part in this online class you will need an internet connected computer and up-to-date Adobe Flash Player or similar to access videos online. If YouTube/Vimeo are working on your device of choice, this should be already ok.

You will also need a Microsoft Teams account. Microsoft Teams accounts are free, but you do need to register for one in advance using the same email address with which you enrol on this course. We recommend you also download the Microsoft Teams App.

It is possible to take this course "passively" without a microphone and/or webcam attached to your computer, but if you want to take part in class discussions you will need at least a microphone connected to your computer. Many computers, laptops and tablets already have these built in, but you might want to check on that first.

Additional Reading

There is no requirement to undertake specific reading for this course, but if you would like to look in greater depth at the subject the following books are recommended:

  • Rick Altman. Film/Genre. London: BFI Publishing, 1999.
  • David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2010.
  • Barry Keith Grant (ed.). Film Genre Reader III. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003. 

Further optional reading material and suggestions will be provided by the tutor throughout the course.

Your Tutor

Sammartino EDr Eleonora Sammartino is an experienced teacher in Film Studies and festival organiser. In addition to Imperial College, she has taught at undergraduate level at a variety of institutions, including King’s College London, University of Reading, and University of Greenwich. She has further conveyed study days on Italian Cinema targeted to A-Level Italian students at the BFI Southbank.

Eleonora completed her PhD in Film Studies at King’s College London in 2018, with a thesis on gender and the contemporary American film musical. She has worked for film festivals in Italy and UK and is currently part of the organising committee of FILL – Festival of Italian Literature in London, for which she has hosted film screenings.

 

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
20  10  £117 £67 £90
All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.
Term dates 1

Fee Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening eveningclass@imperial.ac.uk before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • NHS staff (other than Imperial NHS Trust staff)
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • South London Botanical Institute Members
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read these before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 20  10 n/a n/a w/c 11 May - w/c 13 Jul 2020 (10 weeks)

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 March

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications are sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms payment, payment date, order number and course title
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment confirmation which is only sent later
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of March. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-onfirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Certificate of Attendance

Our adult education evening and daytime classes do not offer academic credits, but we do offer an attendance certificate to those learners who attend at least 80% of the taught sessions. Eligible learners receive their certificate by email after the end of the course.

Any Questions?

Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be sent to the course tutor, Dr Eleonora Sammartino, e.sammartino@imperial.ac.uk

If you have enjoyed this course, why not look at other arts and humanities evening class courses at Imperial College. This includes courses on the history of western art from ancient Greece to the nineteenth century, Understanding Modern and Design, the history of film and cinema and Greek and Roman mythology in art. We also run practical courses in art and photography and creative writing classes, and a growing programme of science based evening classes.