Hollywood’s Melodramatic Imagination

Film Noir, the Western and Other Genres from the 1920s to the 1950s

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About the Book

Melodrama is the foundation of American Cinema. It is, however, a poorly understood term. While it is a pervasive and persuasive dramatic mode, it is not tied to any specific moral or ideological system. It is not a singular genre; rather, it operates as a “genre generating machine” capable of determining the aesthetic and the structure of the drama within many genres. Melodrama centers the conflict around the clash between good and evil and provides a sense of poetic justice in the end. However, the specific values embedded in notions of good and evil are determined by the culture, and they shift from nation to nation, from region to region, and from period to period.
This book explores melodrama through American film, covering the “populist” westerns of the 1930s, the propaganda films that followed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the popularity of Sax Rohmer’s master villain Fu Manchu. “Melodramas of passion” and Film Noir also offer a more problematic challenge to melodrama with its seemingly alienated protagonists and downbeat endings. Yet, with few exceptions, Hollywood was able to assimilate these genres within its melodramatic imagination.

About the Author(s)

Geoff Mayer was, until 2015, head of the School of Social Sciences at La Trobe University (Australia) and prior to that he was head of the School of Communication, Arts and Critical Enquiry. His teaching areas include film history and film genre.

Bibliographic Details

Geoff Mayer
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 150 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7477-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4307-6
Imprint: McFarland