This is an archived course. Visit the most recent syllabus.

Course Description

This course is a survey of film history from the beginnings of public film exhibition to the aftermath of World War II. We will look at industrial practices and stylistic developments, such as the development of motion picture technology, the development of narrative techniques, the establishment of national cinemas, the transition from silent to sound cinema, the dominance of Hollywood, the effects of World War II, and the ascendance of television, and the fall of studio system . While this course is primarily focused on Hollywood and American cinema, the contributions of major national cinemas are also explored.


Juan Monroy



Course Materials


Starting in 2009, required course materials qualify for a tax credit.

Reserve Readings

In addition to the textbook, required readings will be posted as PDFs on this website.

Learning Management System

You will use the Learning Management System (LMS) to take your weekly quizzes and submit written assignments, including the Final Exam.


In addition to in-class screenings, there a number of films you are required to watch outside of class.

An easy way to procure these films is to subscribe to Hulu Plus. There is a monthly $7.99 fee, and you can watch on a number of devices, such as video game players, connected televisions, smartphones, and tablets. All but one of the required outside screenings are available on Hulu Plus’s Criterion Collection channel.

You are not required to subscribe to Hulu Plus if you can otherwise watch these films.


If you don’t use it already, I highly recommend using Dropbox to exchange files with me. You can sign up for free and receive two (2) gigabytes of cloud-based storage. This is an invaluable tool for accessing all of your files anywhere without having to carry a USB flash drive. I hate those things.

Mailing List

Please sign up for the course mailing list to receive occasional announcements about the course.


This class consists of five components. You cannot satisfactorily complete this course without all five of these.


Each lecture will form the basis of the material I expect you to know for the exams. I will present on the historical and cultural context relevant to the film movement covered that particular week. I will post outlines and slides from each lecture, but believe me, those serve as poor substitutes for attending each week’s lecture.


Most weeks, there will be an in-class screening. I will lead a brief discussion after these screenings, depending on time constraints. You will also be responsible for any outside screenings. I highly recommend subscribing to Hulu Plus since most of these films are available through the service.


Please read the assigned course material before each week’s class. Consult the Course Schedule for the required reading assignments.


All assignments must be completed on time in order to receive full credit. Late assignments will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After seven calendar days, the assignment will not be accepted and you could fail this class.


Exams comprise half of your course grade and are written to reward regular attendance and diligent studying. Exams will be administered in class and must be taken at the specified date and time.



Please respect the classroom environment. You should pay attention to the lecture, take notes, and avoid distractions, such as web surfing or using your mobile phone. Studies have consistently shown that students using laptops and mobile phones perform about 11% worse than students who are not distracted by these devices. On a personal note, it’s very difficult to stay motivated as a teacher if I see students seemingly disinterested in their own education. If I find you engaging in disruptive behavior, such as watching online videos, passing notes, instant messaging, chatting, or texting, I will remove you from the classroom and have you withdraw from the class.

Community Standards

Students must adhere to all Institute-wide policies listed in the Bulletin under “Community Standards” and which include policies on attendance, academic integrity, plagiarism, computer, and network use.

Late Work and “Incomplete” Grades

Please submit your work on time. Late work will be penalized by a 10% reduction for each 24-hour period it is late. After one calendar week, the assignment will not be accepted and you will likely fail this class.

There will be no incomplete grades for this class except in the case of a documented emergency in the final weeks of the semester. If you experience such an emergency, please contact me immediately, and we will work out a schedule for you to complete the outstanding work before the beginning of the following semester.

But aside from these circumstances, no late work will be accepted and no “incomplete” grades will be granted. If you have difficulty keeping up with coursework, consider giving yourself extra time to complete assignments, reducing your overall course load, and/or taking this class at a later semester.

Academic Integrity

Absolute integrity is expected of every member of the Pratt Community in all academic matters, particularly with regard to academic honesty.

The latter includes plagiarism and cheating. In addition, the continued registration of any student is contingent upon regular attendance, the quality of work, and proper conduct. Irregular class at- tendance, neglect of work, failure to comply with Institute rules, and official notices or conduct not consistent with general good order is regarded as sufficient reasons for dismissal.

Mobile Phones

Please silence or turn off the radio in your mobile phone (power down the phone or set to “Airplane” mode). Not only do ringing phones disrupt class, most phones will also interfere with the media equipment in the room.


Please check your official email account on a daily basis, if not more often. I will broadcast announcements and send point-to-point communiques using your official email address.

Please note that I am not allowed to discuss your grade from an account that is not your official email account.

Students with Disabilities

The mission of the Disability Resource Center, a part of the Office for the Vice President for Student Affairs, is to ensure that all students with disabilities can freely and actively participate in all facets of Pratt life. To this end the office provides and coordinates services and programs that support student development, enable students to maximize their educational and creative potential, and assist students to develop their independence to the fullest extent possible. Furthermore, the office’s goal is to increase the level of awareness among all members of the Pratt community so that students with disabilities are able to perform at a level limited only by their abilities, not their disabilities.

Students who require special accommodations for disabilities must obtain clearance from the Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the semester. They should contact Mai McDonald, Disability Services Coordinator, in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, Main Building, Lower Level: 718–636- 3711.


Weekly Quizzes

Each week, I will post a quiz consisting of review questions. The questions cover the material covered in lecture and in the assigned readings. Each quizzes is due on Monday after our class, at noon. No late quizzes will be accepted.

  • Due: Monday after our class, 12:00 PM
  • Weight: 15%

Timeline Assignment

I will provide you with thirty (30) events relevant to the history of film and global culture. Give the four digit year event took place.

  • Due: September 11 14, 5:00 PM.
  • Weight: 10%

National Cinema Paper

In the first thirty years of the cinema, between 1895 and 1925, there were inventors and innovators working on motion pictures throughout the world, often developing very unique approaches to the technical and creative aspects of the motion picture. As we have seen thus far this semester, cinema produced in one nation might be made for a different context than films produced in a different nation. And the purpose of filmmaking reflects or determines the stylistic conventions used in the making of a body of films.

Citizen Kane Paper

Citizen Kane remains one of the most revered films because of its novel use of narration to obscure and reveal narrative information from the viewer. This paper will ask you to examine an extended scene from the film, analyze its narrational techniques, and to explain its relevance in the context of the entire film. In addition to your written report, you will, as part of a group, and present the scene in class and explain its significance to the film.


Midterm Exam

The Midterm Exam consists of short-answer identifications and essay questions. The exam will include material from the first six weeks of class.

  • October 16
  • Weight: 20%

Final Exam

The Final Exam consists of short-answer identification and essay questions. The exam will include the material covered after the midterm exam.

  • December 11
  • Weight: 20%


August 28 • Introduction and Beginnings of Film


  • Answer the questions for Week 1 in the Learning Management System, due Tuesday, September 4, 5:00 PM.
  • Thompson, Kristin, and David Bordwell. Chapters 1, “The Invention and Early Years of the Cinema,” Film History: An Introduction. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2010
  • Sklar, Robert. Chapter 1, “The Birth of a Mass Medium,” Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
  • Gunning, Tom. “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde.” In Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative. London: British Film Institute, 1989.

September 4 • Early American and Early European Film Production

  • Answer the questions for Week 2 in the Learning Management System, due Friday at noon.
  • Dickson Camera Test (1891)
  • Men Boxing (1891)
  • Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1894)
  • The Kiss (1896)
  • Buffalo Dance
  • Fire Rescue Scene
  • Boxing Cats
  • Workers Leaving the Factory, Feeding the Baby, Arrival of a Train at Ciotat, Snowball Fight, Sprinkling the Sprinkler (Auguste and Louis Lumiére, 1895–96)
  • Life of an American Fireman (Edwin S. Porter, 1903)
  • The Black Imp, Vanishing Playing Cards, and Eclipse (George Méliès, 1905–7)
Outside Screenings
  • A Trip to the Moon (George Méliès, 1902)
  • Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith, 1919)

September 11 • Formation of Hollywood Studio System

  • Answer the questions for Week 3 in the Learning Management System, due Monday, Sept 17, at noon.
  • Timeline Assignment due in class.
  • Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (Edwin S. Porter and J. Searle Dawle, 1908)
  • An Unseen Enemy (D.W. Griffith, 1912)
  • The Cheat (Cecil B. DeMille, 1915)

September 18 • USSR and Soviet Montage

  • Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1925. excerpts)
  • The Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929, excerpts)
Outside Screenings
  • Strike! (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1925)

September 25 • France and the Avant-Garde

  • Answer the questions for Week 5 in the Learning Management System, due Monday, October 1, at noon.
  • Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 4, “France in the 1920s."


  • Cinema Europe: The Music of Light (1991, 58 mins.)
  • La Roue (Abel Gance, France, 1922, excerpt)
  • Symphonie Diagonale (Viking Eggland, Germany, 1924, 7 mins.)
  • Anemic Cinema (Marcel Duchamp, France, 1926, 7 mins.)
  • Ballet Méchanique (Fernand Léger, 1924, France, 12 mins.)
  • Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, France, 1928)

October 2 • Germany in the 1920s

  • Answer the questions for Week 6 in the Learning Management System, due Monday, October 8, at noon.

  • Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 5, “Germany in the 1920s,” and Chapter 8, “International Trends of the 1920s.”
  • Allen, Robert and Douglas Gomery. “Case Study: The Background of Sunrise.” 91–105. Film History: Theory and Practice. New York: Knopf, 1985.
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, Germany, 1920, 78 min.)
  • The Last Laugh (F.W. Murnau, Germany, 1924, excerpt)
  • Metropolis (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1926, excerpt)
Outside Screening
  • Metropolis (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1926)

October 9 • Hollywood in the 1920s and the Coming of Sound

  • Answer the questions for Week 7 in the Learning Management System, due Monday, October 15, at noon.
  • National Cinema Paper in class.
  • Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 7, “The Late Silent Era in Hollywood, 1920– 1928,” and Chapter 9, “The Introduction of Sound.”
  • Sklar, Chapter 6, “The Silent Film and the Passionate Life,” Chapter 7, “ Chaos Magic, and Physical Genius,” Chapter 8, “Movie-Made Children,” and Chapter 9, “The House that Adolph Zukor Built.”
  • Dickson Sound Experiment (W.K.L. Dickson, USA, 1894, 20 sec.)
  • Phonofilm shorts
  • Vitaphone shorts
  • Don Juan (Alan Crossland, USA, 1926, excerpt)
  • The Jazz Singer (Mervyn LeRoy, USA, 1927, excerpt)
  • Sunrise: A Song of Two Hearts (F. W. Murnau, USA, 1927, 94 mins.)

October 16 • Midterm Exam

Readings for Citizen Kane

October 23 • France and Poetic Realism

  • Answer the questions for Week 9 in the Learning Management System, due Tuesday, November 6, at 5:00 PM.
  • Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 13, “France: Poetic Realism, the Popular Front, and the Occupation.”
  • Pepe Le Moko (Julien Duviver, France, 1937, 94 min) in class.
Outside Screening
  • Zero de Conduite (Jean Vigo, France, 1933)
  • Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, France, 1939)
  • Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

October 30 • Class Cancelled

Class cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy.

November 6 • Midterm Break

U.S. Citizens: remember to vote today. New York City residents: should know your polling places.

November 13 • Hollywood in the 1930s

  • Answer the questions for Week 10 in the Learning Management System, due Monday, November 12, at noon.
  • Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 10, “The Hollywood Studio System, 1930–1945.”
  • Sklar, Chapter 10, “The Moguls at Bay and the Censors Triumph,” Chapter 11, “The Golden Age of Turbulence and the Golden Age of Order.”
  • Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931)

November 20 • Italian Neorealism

  • Answer the questions for Week 13 in the Learning Management System, due Monday, November 26, at noon.
  • Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 16, “Postwar European Cinema: Neorealism and its Context.”
  • Gottlieb, Sidney. “Rossellini, Open City, and Neorealism.” In Roberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City, 31–41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio de Sica, Italy, 1948)
Outside Screening
  • Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1945)

November 27 • Citizen Kane Presentations

  • Group presentations on Citizen Kane.
  • Citizen Kane Paper due in class.
  • Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, USA, 1944), time permitting

December 4 • Fall of the US Studio System

  • Answer the questions for Week 14 in the Learning Management System, due Monday, December 10, at noon.
  • Thompson and Bordwell, Chapter 15, “American Cinema in the Postwar Era, 1945–1960.”
  • Sklar, Chapter 16, “The Disappearing Audience and the Television Crisis,” and Chapter 17, “Hollywood’s Collapse.”

December 11 • Final Exam