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Hollywood In Berlin American Cinema And Weimar Germany by Thomas J Saunders

Introduction

Before the First World War European observers prophesied that the twentieth century would be dominated by the United States. By virtue of population, resources and entrepreneurship the New World was predestined to eclipse the Old World. Although full realization of this prophecy came only after 1945, America's participation in the Great War set the stage for what was to follow. The interwar period witnessed Europe's first serious reckoning with American economic, diplomatic and cultural influence. Capital and merchandise were the visible accoutrements of American power. Behind them loomed management principles, advertising methods, labour relations, social values and moral standards. However isolationist its foreign policy, the United States exported its entrepreneurial, social and cultural norms. Europe experienced an unprecedented onslaught of what Germans dubbed Amerikanismus (Americanism) and Amerikanisierung (Americanization).[1]

This onslaught was effected by a variety of means and media, from travellers' reports and visits of American celebrities to American loans and symbols of prosperity like the Model T. But for the broad mass of Europeans the main agent of Americanization was the moving picture. Still a curiosity at the turn of the century, by 1918 the cinema was an ubiquitous and influential public medium. Parallel with America's rise to global importance, it emerged as the dominant form of popular entertainment and enlightenment. As a vehicle for exporting the American way of life and stimulating demand for American products it proved unrivaled. Hollywood became the promotional guardian of the American dream and the primary instrument for domesticating American culture in Europe.

Hollywood's monopolization of the international film market has never been a secret. Yet until very recently the profound ramifications of that monopoly have not been seriously investigated. Only with the waning of American power since the 1970s has the phenomenon of cinematic monopoly been treated as an historical "accident" which requires explaining. While film scholars are examining the consolidation of the studio system and narrative tradition which via Hollywood standardized much of global film production, cultural historians have begun to consider the meaning of Hollywood's hegemony for both American and non-American viewers. In the study of European film cultures there is growing recognition that to treat Hollywood as extrinsic to national cinemas is simply inadmissable. Be it French, German, British, Italian or even Soviet, the culture of interwar cinema was first and foremost American.

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 No. 373
 Posted on 9 June, 2006
 
 
 
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