From the advent of the talkies to the emergence of the ratings system, Ten Movies at a Time covers four decades of American movies, notably the glory days of the studio system, or, as it is more glamorously tagged, the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Through reviews of 350 representative films, author John DiLeo tells an alternative, idiosyncratic history of the movies, focusing on the trends, the sub-genres, the cultural and historical shifts, offering, in the process, the parallel story of America itself.
The 1930s include the birth (and near-death) of the movie musical, the wave of anti-war films for peacetime, the pre-Production Code looseness followed by an abrupt transition to “respectability,” and depictions of Depression America both realistic and escapist.
The 1940s show Hollywood in full war-effort mode, in battle and on the home front, followed by a post-war cinema consisting of groundbreaking realism as well as a spate of fantasy films, plus the new and exciting “film noir,” not to mention portraits of Cold War panic and the domestic bliss of suburbia.
The 1950s saw longtime stars like James Stewart admirably stretching their talents, with comparable maturity and depth brought to musical biopics and westerns, just as original movie musicals peaked and subsided, while television was being challenged by wider screens and colorful remakes of ’30s classics.
The 1960s courted audiences with soapy spectacles, macho epics, titillating sex farces, and mammoth Broadway-musical adaptations, but, as black and white was fading away, and as movies were getting more bloated, Hollywood was heading toward a new permissiveness and an uncharted landscape.
As Ten Movies at a Time moves with the times, DiLeo presents a vibrant vision of just how the movies traveled from 1930 to 1970, enhanced by his lively and piercing perceptions of the 350 movies highlighted. Whether they are wonderful or terrible, beloved or forgotten, significant or routine, each one contributes something worthy to the conversation about our film legacy.