The Commercial Mob Amusement Racket: Eugene O'Neill and Hollywood Cinema.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

It is well known that virtually every significant American dramatist in the decades after the end of the First World War worked for a period in Hollywood. Most often the period spent with the studios has been seen as having an entirely negative impact on the writing lives of those involved: Hollywood has often been seen as having a destructive effect on modern American drama, as drawing the most talented artists from the stage, corrupting them with financial rewards, and—in some cases—returning them to Broadway artistically spent and hopelessly frustrated. Clifford Odets’s case is most often quoted: his career, that began so promisingly for many with Waiting for Lefty (1935), a radical, raw, left-wing play, culminated in him writing a film for Elvis Presley and developing unproduced television shows. My current research challenges this orthodoxy. It takes the case of Tennessee Williams—the foremost post-War American playwright, who was recruited by MGM in the early 1940s and worked in Hollywood for about six months—and argues that playwrights learned much from the film industry—in terms of technique but also in terms of commercialising their art and developing formulae likely to attract audiences. The research thus offers a new perspective on the relationship between Hollywood and the theatre, commerce and art, popular and High culture, as well as a new way of looking at the work of this particular playwright.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Irish Reader: Essays for John Devitt
PublisherOtior
Pages39-47
ISBN (Print)978095550251
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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