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The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color

Wesleyan University via Coursera

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Overview

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This history course explores how fundamental changes in film technology affected popular Hollywood storytelling. We will consider the transition to sound, and the introduction of color. Each change in technology brought new opportunities and challenges, but the filmmaker's basic task remained the emotional engagement of the viewer through visual means. We will survey major directors and genres from the studio era and point forward to contemporary American cinema. Our aim is to illuminate popular cinema as the intersection of business, technology, and art. Through film history, we will learn about the craft of filmmaking and how tools shape art. This online educational experience is not equivalent to a college course.

Subtitles for all video lectures available: Turkish (provided by Koc University), English

Syllabus

Here is a week-by week description of the course and the films discussed. Each lecture is followed by an ungraded multiple choice quiz. At the end of the course, students can complete a longer, 20 question multiple-choice quiz for a grade. This is an online educational experience, not intended to be equivalent to a college course.

Week One
INTRODUCTION

Lecture One: Form, Technology, and the Art of Cinema

Lecture Two: The Power of Silence: Cinema as a Visual Art.  

Watch Street Angel (Fox, 1928)
NOTE: Street Angel is Optional because the purchase price of the DVD can be prohibitive.

Lecture Three: Street Angel: Borzage's Visual Opera

Lecture Four: von Sternberg's World

Watch Docks of New York (Paramount, 1928)

Lecture Five: Docks of New York: The Seedy Side of Silence


SOUND

Week Two:

Lecture One: Sound Comes to Cinema

Watch Applause (Paramount, 1929)

Lecture Two:Applause, Mamoulian's Struggle for Style
Lecture Three: The Marx Brothers: Unbridled Talk

Watch Monkey Business (Paramount, 1931)

Lecture Four:  Monkey Business: Vaudeville Anarchy in the Sound Film

Week Three:

Lecture One: Gunfire and the City: Introduction to the Gangster Film

Watch Scarface (United Artists, 1932)

Lecture Two: Scarface: Sound and the Gangster's World

Lecture Three: Building an Atmosphere: Val Lewton’s Horror Films

Watch The Ghost Ship (RKO 1943)

Lecture Four: Ghost Ship: Horror through Sound and Light


COLOR

Week Four:

Lecture One: Harnessing the Rainbow: Introducing Technicolor 

Watch Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Paramount, 1936)

Lecture Two: Trail of the Lonesome Pine: Dramatic Restraint

Lecture Three:  The Color of Adventure

Watch Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bros. 1938)

Lecture Four: Robin Hood: Technicolor’s New Palette.

Week Five:

Lecture One: Color and Melodrama

Watch All that Heaven Allows (Universal, 1958)

Lecture Two: All that Heaven Allows: Orange, Blue, Loss and Longing

Lecture Three: Continuing the Technicolor Tradition

Watch Punch Drunk Love (New Line: 2002)

Lecture Four: Punch Drunk Love: P.T. Anderson's Palette Games

Lecture Five: Conclusions











Taught by

Scott Higgins

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Reviews for Coursera's The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color
4.3 Based on 11 reviews

  • 5 stars 64%
  • 4 stars 18%
  • 3 star 9%
  • 2 star 0%
  • 1 star 9%

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  • 1
Anonymous
5.0 5 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Delightful course - designed to be easy, one final exam (re-takeable multiple times!) is the only grade, taking all the pressure off. Excellent selection of movies for variety and showcasing development of the medium as a storytelling device. Good informative lectures.
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this review helpful
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Anonymous
5.0 5 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Scott Higgins, led a very enjoyable course dealing with some of the most important historical developments in Hollywood film industry.
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Anonymous
5.0 5 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
Had a wonderful traveling through time with the movies as they added sound and color to the storytelling.
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Anonymous
3.0 5 years ago
pssGuy completed this course.
Amiable lecturer.

Absolutely no feedback from prof or TAs
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Anastasia B
4.0 3 years ago
by Anastasia completed this course.
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Aana A
5.0 3 years ago
Aana completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
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Francisco J
5.0 2 years ago
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