Destry Rides Again, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and the Fall of the Hollywood Studio System

Destry Rides Again, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and the Fall of the Hollywood Studio System

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Destry Rides Again, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and the Fall of the Hollywood Studio System


Thomas Schatz cites the 1950’s as the inevitable end of the Hollywood film studio system, with the signs appearing as early as the height of the second World War (472). However, the seeds of discontent and disintegration within the system were apparent as soon as the late 1930’s, exemplified in such films as Destry Rides Again (1939, George Marshall) and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939, Frank Capra). The production of these two films and the paths down which they led their star (James Stewart), directors (at least Frank Capra), and studios (Universal and Columbia, respectively) are evidence of the decline of the studio system. The haphazard production of Destry Rides Again and its subsequent success (financially, but not as an enduring classic film) are indicative of a system eating itself alive: so intent on the production of film after film made with almost the same crews and casts that lasting meaning had been all but completely forgotten in favor of financial success and power within the system. This also demonstrates the decline of the fascist executive order of the studios in favor of the hard work and devotion of those directly involved on the film set as well as the increasingly important role of the talent agent as the intermediary between the talent and the studios. Frank Capra’s eventually freelance auteurship, in the wake of David O. Selznick and his “independent” film productions, particularly evident in the production of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, was a notable indicator of the studios’ impending loss of power (Schatz 407). These and other independent and freelance artists (such as Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang)...


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...gton, 11 October 1939”. Variety: A Sixteen Volume Set. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1983

Nachbar, Jack (ed). Focus on the Western. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1974: 132

Newman, Kim. Wild West Movies or How the West was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. London: Bloomsbury. 1990: 135

Nugent, Frank S. “Destry Rides Again, 2 December 1939”. The New York Times Film Reviews. New York: The New York Times and Arno Press. 1970

Nugent, Frank S. “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, 20 October 1939”. The New York Times Film Reviews. New York: The New York Times and Arno Press. 1970

Schatz, Thomas. The Genius of the System. New York: Metropolitan Books. 1988: 235-251

Wright, William. Six Guns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. 1975: 48

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