Attack of the Small Screens

Moguls & Movie Stars is a seven-part documentary released by Turner Classic Movies in 2010 that takes us through the history of the American film industry and tells a story of men and women who built it from the late 19th century to the end of 1960s. The documentary, narrated by Christopher Plummer, connects the invention of the first moving picture to the revolutionary, cutting-edge films. This essay focuses on Episode 6: Attack of the Small Screens giving a clear summary and the issues outlined in critical viewing.

Coming out of the 1940s with the end of the world war, cinema appeared to be a dream for Hollywood moguls, however, for the majority of owners were Jewish and it was quite fearful for their jobs, as they feared termination from the companies they had founded. Despite the threat of the war being over, many of them had the fear of being reported as communists and more often ones would find their places in the industry taken away from them.

During the 1950s, Hollywood faced one major challenge, which was television as it had begun to draw audience away from movies. In turn, Hollywood countered and decided to go on board with bigger promotion campaigns and increasingly generating new ideas such as introduction of the widescreen, drive-ins, stereophonic sound, 3D cinemas and Technicolor to lure the people back to the theaters. 3D was introduced in 1952 but lived short as many people found television more attractive. With the newfound popularity of television and stars such as Lucie Ball and Jackie Gleason, Hollywood began to produce television shows and movies.

Great Hollywood names such as Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock and James Dean are some of the stars that arrived in California in the 1950s. Walt Disney had financial difficulties when he decided to build Disneyland. With this in mind, he made a deal with ABC to broadcast “The Wonderful World of Disney”, a show on the park he was building despite it not being complete. The show was successful and Disney used television to its advantage by advertising some of their upcoming films to the public and bringing back a few of their classic films.

This success made other moguls move into television, one being Alfred Hitchcock with his show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” which was very well received. There was an attitude change for television with the perception of it as a catalyst for change and as a way to help the movie industry.

It is paramount to acknowledge that despite the widescreens and stereo sounds (just to name few ‘survival’ measures), the sale of movies to television made a significant contribution. Since television needed to provide valuable viewing, the movie industry found a new way to advertise its culture, thus leading to mutual contribution.

In conclusion, the episode ”Attack of the Small Screens” focuses on the challenge that the film industry faced the rise in television and taken measures to stay in business. Television industry grew and quickly earned viewers from across the nations. This forced the film industry to invent new things that television did not provide. In the end, competition is clear but with assured survival of Hollywood.

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