Learn About Genres

Unencumbered by the limitations of the flesh, the process of genre creation offers us not a single synchronic chart but an always incomplete series of superimposed generic maps. Every time our eyes concentrate on the map, we find that a new map, currently in the process of being drafted, is just coming into view. Never is the map completed, because it is the record not of the past, but of a living geography, of an ongoing process (Browne, 24).

An important approach to classic film is to be aware of the variety of genres that categorize the medium. Often enough, classic film fans are drawn to a particular genre.

For example, my classic film fandom is composed of Bette Davis melodramas and Buster Keaton silent films. I love screwball comedies and 1950’s B-movie horror flicks. I could watch all eight of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ RKO musicals in a row. I a huge fan of the propaganda-dripping wartime films like Hollywood Canteen. I could do this all day.

Each genre has a story. As genres are developing and evolving over the course of film history, they are directly impacted by the society that receives them. Film has always been a medium that provides a voice directly from one place to another. With marketing techniques and social commentary, Hollywood films become archival treasures to represent eras of American history.

Genres are not cemented apart from one another. Features of one genre can be found in another:

Melodrama seeks to drive out realism; noir inverts and excludes melodrama; the social problem film borrows from the musical; the trial film calls on melodrama; the horror film supplies a range of adaptable social references; and comedy, melodrama, and documentary draw upon the transgeneric themes of war and nature. As the product of an industrial and cultural process, genre offers a range of opportunities for historical transvaluation (Browne, xiii).

Through these pages, I have described only a fraction of the Hollywood genres that have existed in classic film. Explore the pages, browse through the lists, and branch out to the various links to find more information about Hollywood’s favorite films!



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