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Marriage and the Movies: A History

Wesleyan University via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


From the beginning of motion picture history, marriage has been a topic for popular story-telling, but Hollywood struggled with a subject that presented problems an audience already knew and perhaps did not want to see as entertainment.

How the film-making business crafted tales that were simultaneously an "I do!" of happiness and an "I don't!" of disappointment is a fascinating reflection of America's history, changing social attitudes, shifting morals and gender roles. Hollywood found ways both to reflect reality and deflect misery as decade after decade, movies adjusted a basic formula to audience needs.

Film clips and still photographs will illustrate how films defined marriage in the movies, identified a core seven problems, and varied its three narrative components -- a couple, their problems, their situation -- from decade to decade from the silent to the modern era.


5 weeks, 10 films, 22 lectures

Lecture 1: An Overview on Marriage and the Movies
Lecture 2: Hollywood and Marriage
Lecture 3: The Silent Era
Lecture 4: The Silent Era part II
Film 1: WILD ORCHIDS (Franklin, 1929) (Warner Archive / Amazon)

Lecture 5: Defining the Marriage Movie
Film 2: MADE FOR EACH OTHER (Cromwell, 1939) (Amazon)

Lecture 6: The "I Do" and "I Don't" versions
Film 3: THE MARRYING KIND (Cukor, 1952) (Amazon)
Lecture 7: Variations and Vignettes

Lecture 8: The Couple
Lecture 9: The Couple part II
Film 4: ADAM'S RIB (Cukor, 1949) (Amazon)

Lecture 10: The Seven Recurring Problems
Lecture 11: Money and Infidelity
Film 5: BRIEF ENCOUNTER (Lean, 1945) (Amazon)
Lecture 12: The Infidelity Story Over Time

Lecture 13: In-laws/Kids and Class/Incompatibility
Lecture 14: Incompatibility continued
Film 6: VIVACIOUS LADY (Stevens, 1938) (Warner Archive / Amazon)

Lecture 15: Addiction/Murder
Film 7: SUSPICION (Hitchcock, 1941) (Amazon)

Lecture 16: The Situation
Lecture 17: WWII Marriage Movies
Film 8: SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (Cromwell, 1944) (Amazon)

Lecture 18: Post-WWII, TV
Lecture 19: Post-war continued
Lecture 20: "The Modern Era" 
Film 9: HEARTBURN (Nichols, 1986) (Amazon)

Lecture 21: State of the Marriage Movie - "Nuclear" Marriages, Social Change
Film 10: THE WAR OF THE ROSES (DeVito, 1989) (Amazon)
Lecture 22: Conclusions

Multiple-choice quizzes during/after each lecture (ungraded)
Longer cumulative multiple-choice quiz at the end (graded)
Online discussion opportunities

Taught by

Jeanine Basinger



4.3 rating, based on 7 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Marriage and the Movies: A History

  • Karla Cabrera completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    This course was splendid! The professor submerged the student(s) into the different eras of movies, since the silent era until nowadays. The explanations she gave according of each movie and/or in relationship with what it was considered marriage and all its implications such as what it was right and wrong in it; and of course its problems in it were clear and precise. Another remarkable thing about the course is the participation of the people in the discussion forum, I really enjoyed reading and replying to all the movie lovers!
  • Phyllis Levy

    Phyllis Levy completed this course, spending 1 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Interesting class using classic films regarding the role of marriage and love in the movies. The professor knew her subject and was a good lecturer.
  • Aana

    Aana completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

  • Amrita Banerjee is taking this course right now.


    PABLO SCHEJTMAN completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

  • Anastasia Blita

    Anastasia Blita completed this course.

  • Susan Lehr

    Susan Lehr is taking this course right now.

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