The Classical Narrative System

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The Classical Narrative System

Following the 1927 Wall street crash America entered a period of recession which continued into the 1930’s. With the advent of sound the cost of producing movies rose and so studios needed more money to make films. Investors, keen to see a return on their money, wanted films that would please audiences. This meant that films being made became generic. It was safer and more efficient for them to make a crime film or a western to a specific formula that would guarantee a good audience reaction than it was to experiment with story or format. Investors also wanted to ensure that audiences wouldn’t be offended by what they saw in a story. This gave rise to the now cliched morals or “American Family
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The star system was when actors would go under a contract to work exclusively for a particular studio and as such that studio would benefit from that actors celebrity. They would also associate a particular actor with a particular genre like John Wayne and Westerns. Casablanca is the best example of how this worked as audiences went to see it for Bogart and Bergman’s on screen romance because of their rumoured off scene one. It was this that led to the use of iconography over symbolism as it was important for studios to promote an image that audiences could immediately relate to. The coat and hat, for example, makes the character more identifiable “oh that’s Humphry Bogart he’s the hero”.

In many cases there was also a spectator character who is not necessarily the central hero. The role of the spectator character is to relate to the audience as someone who watches the film and works through the linear narrative with you, such as the reporter Thompson (William Alland) in Citizen Kane (1941 Orson Welles USA) who works throughout the film in an attempt to find out what the resolution, Rosebud, is.

Also adding to the unification of the narrative structure was that investors demanded to see that their money was being spent efficiently. This led to a very structured approach to movie making in Hollywood that would
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