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University of Pennsylvania

Hollywood: History, Industry, Art

University of Pennsylvania via edX


In this course you will learn about Hollywood and how it came to be the global powerhouse of today.

We will discuss the complex Hollywood industry and how business and politics translate into the art of film, TV, and new media.

This course will chronicle Hollywood’s growth and global reach since the 1920s, looking at:

  • How Hollywood has responded to new technologies such as synchronized sound, color cinematography, TV, home video, computer graphics, and the internet
  • How the global spread of Hollywood since the 1920s changed the film industry
  • The relationship between Hollywood and independent film
  • Hollywood’s responses to crises in American politics (e.g., world wars, the cold war, the 1960s counterculture, 9/11)

We will look closely at representative studios (Paramount, Disney, Fox, and others) and representative filmmakers (Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Frank Capra, George Lucas, Spike Lee, among many others).


Week 1 0. Intro
1. Before Hollywood
1.1 The Birth of the Film
1.2 Edison the Inventor
1.3 Who, What, Where, Why
1.4 The Trust and the Independents
1.5 Piracy, Copyright, and the Ben-Hur Case 2. The Studio System
2.1 The Birth of the Studio System
2.2 The Star System
2.3 The Genre System
2.4 Meet Me in St. Louis and the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
2.5 House Style: It All Comes Together Week 2
3. Sound and the Production Code
3.1 The Challenges of New Technology
3.2 Sound, Style, and King Kong
3.3 King Kong
3.4 The New Deal
3.5 The Road to the Production Code
3.6 The Production Code in Action 4. Hollywood at War
4.1 FDR and Media
4.2 Hollywood Gets Political
4.3 Warners Bros. at War
4.4 Wartime Government Agencies Week 3
5.0 The Blacklist and Cold War
5.1 HUAC in Hollywood
5.2 The Hollywood Ten and the Blacklist
5.3 Cold War Genres 6.0 The New Hollywood
6.1 Television
6.2 Hollywood Auteurs and the Counterculture
6.3 Big Media Week 4
7.0 Home Video and Indiewood
7.1 Development of Home Video
7.2 Mini-Majors
7.3 Indiewood 8.0 Digital Cinema and the Internet
8.1 Special Effects and Computer Generated Images
8.2 Hollywood’s Internet

Taught by

Peter Decherney


4.9 rating, based on 10 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Hollywood: History, Industry, Art

  • I really enjoyed this course, too bad there wasn't a grade offered. I would recommend this to everyone interested in early Hollywood.
  • A very interesting introduction to Hollywood, particular through to the 1960's. I took around 35 hours to complete the course, but, as it is self paced, that can be spread across whatever period suits. That also included listening to a number of interviews that are additional to the course rather than integral to it.

    I have yet to watch many of the referenced films, but, in many cases, will have a greater appreciation of what I'm seeing as a result of the course.
  • Anonymous
    The one star review below was written by a user that did not click "Next." What must be paid for is the certificate, tests, and additional resources. All the video lectures however are FREE. The curriculum was surprisingly entertaining for someone who has 0 knowledge regarding the history of the movie industry. I feel more cultured just from watching a few of the lectures, and already find myself sharing what I've learned.
  • Lyka Pacleb
    "Hollywood: History, Industry, Art" is a wonderful lecture-centered MOOC for understanding the very basics of the industry, and it features a lot of interesting historical information that has been buried by the industry's progress, and solidified r…
  • Anonymous
    Wonderful course! I studied film at university and I am working in the industry, but I still learned so much. It's a great look through the history of Hollywood through to today, with lots of food for thought! I particularly enjoyed the interviews at the end. Definitely recommend to anyone interested in learning more about Hollywood and the industry!
  • Anonymous
    The course was great. I learned a lot about film, it's history, the technology of movie development and influence of the film industry. While taking the course I also watched certain films that were featured with greater understanding of their importance.
  • Karoline V
    I learned a lot from the course. In the free version you cannot take the quizzes but if you take the discussion forum questions seriously you can get a lot out of the course. It really depends on how much you want to put into it. The questions really enable you to think about what you learned in the lectures.
  • Grace Xie
    Thoroughly enjoyed this course. I gained a more in-depth understanding about the history of Hollywood down to today's technological influences. I really enjoyed the interviews at the end, which offered a lot of insight into different areas of the business.
  • Anonymous
    Fabulous course. Extremely comprehensive and a wonderful walk through film history. Just wish the videos had been longer because they were so interesting. I’ve taken a lot of film courses but still learned so much!

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