Standard Article

Introduction to Volume II

American Film, 1929 to 1945

2. 1929 to 1945

1. Setting the Stage

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf102

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

2011. Introduction to Volume II. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 2:1.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011


In 1941, Harcourt, Brace published Hollywood: The Movie Colony, The Movie Makers, Leo Rosten's anthropological study of the film industry. The book came with a paper jacket illustrated with a 1937 painting by Thomas Hart Benton titled Hollywood. Benton's painting takes us inside the studio, combining into one canvas the sets on which at least three movies are being shot. Populated by the curvy, long-limbed figures that were his signature, Benton's painting presents the factory system at work — camera operators, sound engineers, actors being made up, and extras sitting around. For this most American of artists, Hollywood is not a glamorous still but an active site of labor, another regional locale, like the Midwest of his murals, woven into the fabric of national life. Benton's painting was a brilliant choice for a book that would argue Hollywood was not some anomaly on the West Coast, “no more screwy,” in Rosten's words, “than other and less conspicuous parts of our society.” In fact, Rosten claimed, “a study of Hollywood can cast the profile of American society into sharper relief” (1941, 5).