1920s in film
|Years in film|
The decade of the 1920s in film involved many significant films.
The 1920s saw a vast expansion of Hollywood film making and worldwide film going. Throughout the decade, film production increasingly focused on the feature film rather than the "short" or "two-reeler." This is a change that had begun with the long D.W. Griffith epics of the mid-1910s. In Hollywood, numerous small studios were taken over and made a part of larger studios, creating the Studio System that would run American film making until the 1960s. MGM (founded in the middle of the decade) and Paramount were the highest-grossing studios during the period, with Fox, Universal, United Artists, and Warner Brothers making up a large part of the remaining market.
The 1920s was also the decade of the "Picture Palaces": large urban theaters that could seat 1-2,000 guests at a time, with full orchestral accompaniment and very decorative design (often a mix of Italian, Spanish, and Baroque styles). These picture palaces were often owned by the studios and used to premier and first-run their major films.
Key genres such as the swashbuckler, horror, and modern romantic comedy flourished during the decade. Stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Ramon Novarro, Pola Negri, Nazimova, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, Lilian Gish, Francis X. Bushman, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Lon Chaney, Rudolph Valentino, John Gilbert, Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, George O'Brien, and John Barrymore created some of their most memorable roles and films during the period.
Stylistically, the influence of German Expressionism, Soviet Montage Editing, and Realism made profound aesthetic changes to film over the course of the decade. A more artistic approach to composition on the screen shifted filmmaking away from its earlier obsession with showing the world "as it is." By the mid-to-late-1920s, the silent "art film" was on the rise with some of the greatest silent film achievements, such as Josef von Sternberg's Underworld and The Last Command, King Vidor's The Crowd, and F. W. Murnau's Sunrise. Erich von Stroheim's ultra-realist films such as Greed also had a big influence.
The transition to sound-on-film technology occurred mid-decade with the talkies developed in 1926-1927, following experimental techniques begun in the late 1910s. Fox Studios and the Warner Brothers were crucial in the development and acceptance of the technology of sound in motion pictures.
With sound, the concept of the musical appeared immediately, as in The Jazz Singer of 1927, because silent films had been accompanied by music for years when projected in theaters. Sound also greatly changed the Hollywood approach to storytelling, with more dependence on dialogue and less creative use of the visual element.
Also, in 1927, the International Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was formed. Later, "International" was removed from the name. Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is most famous for its annual presentation of the Academy Awards, also known as the "Oscars".