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The American Film in 1928

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Laxness’s essay, ‘Kvikmyndin ameríska 1928’/‘The American Film in 1928’, was originally published in 1929 and offers a critical analysis of Hollywood and the early studio system. The author argues that the movie industry, due in part to the economic realities of film production and in part to the social dominance of capitalism in the United States, functions largely as an ideological apparatus on behalf of the corporations who own the studios, and as such promotes and protects the wider social interest of the moneyed class. The essay then seeks to identify the manner in which films communicate ideological ‘messages’ through the manipulation of narrative structures and the mise-en-scène, and particularly how ideological ‘effects’ are tailored to the working class. The essay then offers an extensive analysis of the work of Cecil B. DeMille, who is found to be exemplary of the commercialized ‘Hollywood spirit’, followed by a discussion of Charles Chaplin, practically the sole exception to the conservative political agenda of mainstream Hollywood. The essay commences with a short preface where the ramifications of Hollywood’s vast cultural reach are reflected upon.

Keywords: Cecil B. DeMille; Charles Chaplin; Halldór Laxness; Hollywood and ideology; studio system

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Translated and annotated by Björn Þór Vilhjálmsson

Publication date: June 17, 2011

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  • The Journal of Scandinavian Cinema is a new scholarly journal devoted to film in the Scandinavian countries. It aims to become the prime site for excellent research and engaging discussions on cinema in Scandinavia, both within the national context of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and as a region existing in a globalized world.
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