America at the Movies (1976)

PG | 116 mins | Documentary | 27 June 1976

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HISTORY

The end credits begin with the written statement: "With appreciation to the men and women whose creativity and talent gave life to the movies." End credits also include the following written acknowledgements: "The American Film Institute is extremely grateful to the following organizations and individuals whose cooperation made this film possible. Allied Artists, Avco Embassy Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century-Fox, United Artists, Warner Bros., The Motion Picture Association of America, American Broadcasting Co., Sir Charles Chaplin, Epoch Producing Corp., Paul Killiam Collection, National Telefilm Associates, RKO Radio Pictures, Hal Roach Studios, Raymond Rohauer, Time-Life Films, American Federation of Musicians, Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America, The Library of Congress, UCLA Film Archive, The Wolper Organization."
       "America at the Movies includes the work of these artists. Directors: Woody Allen; Robert Altman; Busby Berkeley; Clarence Brown; David Butler; Edward Buzzell; Frank Capra; Charlie Chaplin; Francis Ford Coppola; John Cromwell; George Cukor; Michael Curtiz; John Ford; William Friedkin; D. W. Griffith; Henry Hathaway; Howard Hawks; Arthur Hiller; Jerry Hopper; James W. Horne; John Huston; Elia Kazan; Henry King; Stanley Kubrick; Sergio Leone; Mervyn LeRoy; Joshua Logan; Anthony Mann; George Marshall; Vincente Minnelli; Mike Nichols; Sam Peckinpah; Arthur Penn; Daniel Petrie; Anthony Quinn; Bob Rafelson; Charles Reisner; Arthur Ripley; Jerome Robbins; Robert Rossen; Mark Sandrich; Franklin J. Schaffner; John Schlesinger; George B. Seitz; George Stevens; W. S. Van Dyke; King Vidor; John Wayne; Orson Welles; William Wellman; Billy Wilder; Robert Wise; William Wyler; Fred Zinnemann.
       "Screenwriters: Felix Adler; Woody Allen; Robert Altman; Albert Band; Harry Behn; William Bowers; Irving Brecher; Harry Brown; Sidney Buchman; Robert Buckner; Edwin Burke; David ... More Less

The end credits begin with the written statement: "With appreciation to the men and women whose creativity and talent gave life to the movies." End credits also include the following written acknowledgements: "The American Film Institute is extremely grateful to the following organizations and individuals whose cooperation made this film possible. Allied Artists, Avco Embassy Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century-Fox, United Artists, Warner Bros., The Motion Picture Association of America, American Broadcasting Co., Sir Charles Chaplin, Epoch Producing Corp., Paul Killiam Collection, National Telefilm Associates, RKO Radio Pictures, Hal Roach Studios, Raymond Rohauer, Time-Life Films, American Federation of Musicians, Directors Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America, The Library of Congress, UCLA Film Archive, The Wolper Organization."
       "America at the Movies includes the work of these artists. Directors: Woody Allen; Robert Altman; Busby Berkeley; Clarence Brown; David Butler; Edward Buzzell; Frank Capra; Charlie Chaplin; Francis Ford Coppola; John Cromwell; George Cukor; Michael Curtiz; John Ford; William Friedkin; D. W. Griffith; Henry Hathaway; Howard Hawks; Arthur Hiller; Jerry Hopper; James W. Horne; John Huston; Elia Kazan; Henry King; Stanley Kubrick; Sergio Leone; Mervyn LeRoy; Joshua Logan; Anthony Mann; George Marshall; Vincente Minnelli; Mike Nichols; Sam Peckinpah; Arthur Penn; Daniel Petrie; Anthony Quinn; Bob Rafelson; Charles Reisner; Arthur Ripley; Jerome Robbins; Robert Rossen; Mark Sandrich; Franklin J. Schaffner; John Schlesinger; George B. Seitz; George Stevens; W. S. Van Dyke; King Vidor; John Wayne; Orson Welles; William Wellman; Billy Wilder; Robert Wise; William Wyler; Fred Zinnemann.
       "Screenwriters: Felix Adler; Woody Allen; Robert Altman; Albert Band; Harry Behn; William Bowers; Irving Brecher; Harry Brown; Sidney Buchman; Robert Buckner; Edwin Burke; David Butler; Sidney Carroll; Harry Chandlee; Charlie Chaplin; Borden Chase; Arthur C. Clarke; Francis Ford Coppola; Helen Deutsch; Sergio Donati; Samuel G. Engel; Julius J. Epstein; Philip G. Epstein; Francis Farough; Jules Feiffer; W. C. Fields; Abem Finkel; Carl Foreman; John Gay; Peter George; William Gibson; Frances Goodrich; James Edward Grant; D. W. Griffith; Fred Guiol; A. B. Guthrie, Jr.; Albert Hackett; Lorraine Hansberry; Carl Harbaugh; Buck Henry; Robert Hopkins; John Huston; Nunnally Johnson; Edmund Joseph; Adrien Joyce; Elia Kazan; Howard Koch; Stanley Kubrick; Ring Lardner, Jr.; Jesse L. Lasky, Jr.; Arthur Laurents; Charles Lederer; Ernest Lehman; Sergio Leone; Alan J. Lerner; Sonya Levien; Anita Loos; Robert Lord; William Ludwig; Ben Maddow; Herman J. Mankiewicz; Frances Marion; Wendell Mayes; James Kevin McGuinness; Brian McKay; Winston Miller; Peter Milne; Ivan Moffat; Berenice Mosk; Edmund H. North; Frank S. Nugent; Paul Osborn; James Parrott; Sam Peckinpah; Lester Pine; Tina Pine; Robert Pirosh; Mario Puzo; Robert Riskin; Marguerite Roberts; Charles Rogers; Mickey Rose; Robert Rossen; Waldo Salt; Budd Schulberg; Arnold Schulman; Manuel Seff; William Sellers; David O. Selznick; Jack Sher; Neil Simon; Terry Southern; Donald Ogden Stewart; N. B. Stone, Jr.; Daniel Taradash; Ernest Tidyman; Lamar Trotti; Ernest Vajda; Anthony Veiller; King Vidor; Charles Marquis Warren; Frank Wead; John V. A. Weaver; James R. Webb; Orson Welles; Jessamyn West; Billy Wilder; Calder Willingham; Michael Wilson; Frank E. Woods.
       "Producers: Buddy Adler; Pandro S. Berman; Henry Blanke; Mitchell Brower; Robert Buckner; John Calley; Frank Capra; Charlie Chaplin; Fred Coe; Harry Cohn; Merian C. Cooper; Francis Ford Coppola; Jack Cummings; Philip D'Antoni; John Emerson; Samuel G. Engel; Charles K. Feldman; John Ford; David Foster; Gray Frederickson; Henry Ginsberg; Edmund Grainger; D. W. Griffith; Raymond Griffith; Howard Hawks; Leland Hayward; Harold Hecht; Jerome Hellman; Nat Holt; Arthur Hornblow, Jr.; Bernard H. Hyman; Charles H. Joffe; Nunnally Johnson; Elia Kazan; Stanley Kramer; Stanley Kubrick; Jesse L. Lasky; Stan Laurel; Ernest Lehman; Alan J. Lerner; Joseph E. Levine; Richard E. Lyons; Frank McCarthy; Stuart Millar; Fulvio Morsella; Paul Nathan; Mike Nichols; Ingo Preminger; Bob Rafelson; Gottfried Reinhardt; Hal Roach; Fred Roos; Philip Rose; Robert Rossen; Dore Schary; Bert Schneider; David O. Selznick; Mack Sennett; Bernard Smith; Sam Spiegel; George Stevens; David Susskind; Lawrence Turman; Hal Wallis; Jack L. Warner; John Wayne; Richard Wechsler; Hannah Weinstein; Orson Welles; Henry Wilcoxon; Robert Wise; Sol M. Wurtzel; William Wyler; Darryl F. Zanuck."
       No songwriting or performance credits are included in the film, and music credits are therefore not inclusive.
       Film clips are arranged into six segments. Prologue: Plymouth Adventure (1952, see entry), America America (1963, see entry) The Godfather, Part II (1974, see entry).
       The Land: True Grit (1969, see entry), Sergeant York (1941, see entry), Giant (1956, see entry), Cimarron (1960, see entry), Fort Apache (1948), Rio Grande (1950), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), Red River (1948, see entry), The Gunfighter (1950, see entry), Go West (1940, see entry), Ride the High Country (1962, see entry), Shane (1953, see entry), Jesse James (1939, see entry), High Noon (1952, see entry), Shane (1953), Once Upon a Time in the West (1969, see entry), The Searchers (1956, see entry), Pony Express (1953, see entry), How the West Was Won (1963, see entry), Paint Your Wagon (1969, see entry), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971, see entry), My Darling Clementine (1946, see entry), The Grapes of Wrath (1940, see entry).
       The Cities: West Side Story (1961, see entry), Midnight Cowboy (1969, see entry), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, see entry), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935, see entry), San Francisco (1936, see entry), Little Caesar (1931, see entry), Dinner at Eight (1934, see entry), The Hustler (1961, see entry), The Asphalt Jungle (1950, see entry), Citizen Kane (1941, see entry), A Woman Rebels (1936, see entry), The Crowd (1928, see entry), Modern Times (1936, see entry), Take the Money and Run (1969, see entry), Bumping into Broadway (1920), The Maltese Falcon (1941, see entry), On the Waterfront (1954, see entry), Five Easy Pieces (1970, see entry), The French Connection (1971, see entry), The Out-of-Towners (1970, see entry), West Side Story (1961).
       The Families: It Happened One Night (1934, see entry), Life with Father (1947, see entry), The Pharmacist (1933, see entry), Bright Eyes (1934, see entry), Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938, see entry), Carnal Knowledge (1971, see entry), East of Eden (1955, see entry), A Place in the Sun (1951, see entry), Father of the Bride (1950, see entry), Claudine (1974, see entry), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, see entry), A Raisin in the Sun (1961, see entry), It's a Wonderful Life (1947, see entry), A Streetcar Named Desire (1952, see entry), The Graduate (1967, see entry).
       The Wars: Drums Along the Mohawk (1939, see entry), Friendly Persuasion (1956, see entry), Since You Went Away (1944, see entry), Patton (1970, see entry), Sergeant York (1941, see entry), Run Silent Run Deep (1958, see entry), The Buccaneer (1959, see entry), They Were Expendable (1945, see entry), From Here to Eternity (1953, see entry), Battleground (1950, see entry), M*A*S*H (1970, see entry), Catch-22 (1970, see entry), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, see entry), The Alamo (1960, see entry), The Red Badge of Courage (1951, see entry), Giant (1956), The Birth of a Nation (1915, see entry), Battleground (1950).
       The Spirit: America America (1963), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1943, see entry), Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928, see entry), Way Out West (1937, see entry), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, see entry), The Miracle Worker (1962, see entry), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957, see entry), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, see entry), Modern Times (1936).
       According to production notes from AMPAS library files, America at the Movies was commissioned by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA), a branch of the U.S. government, in 1974. Jack Masey, ARBA director of Design and Exhibitions, explained that the country’s 200th birthday should include “a major film endeavor.” Masey chose AFI to produce the film, as it would not be of a commercial nature, and because the institute had “the best interests of American film at heart.” Masey had several meeting with AFI director George Stevens, Jr., in late 1974, during which they conceived the “general philosophy” behind the film, and made the decision to premiere the film in Washington, D.C., prior to 4 Jul 1976. A commercial release was planned for autumn 1976, to reimburse the federal government for its $660,000 investment. Use rights “in perpetuity” were obtained, and allowed for unlimited screenings, as America at the Movies was intended for educational purposes, and therefore subject to the “fair use” provision of the copyright law.
       The film took fourteen months to assemble, aided by a coding system created by associated film editor Ana Luisa Corley Perez that helped to streamline the process. Stevens and his team worked in a converted stable at the Doheny “Greystone” Mansion, AFI’s campus in Beverly Hills, CA.
       The first film clip selected by Stevens was the final scene from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936, see entry), of which Chaplin had initially refused access. Stevens describes the optimism and resilience displayed in the scene as “what the movie is all about: we keep going on.” The director also had to solicit the cooperation of several other studios and producers. In addition, approvals were needed from the various guilds and unions, and releases were required for actors appearing in films made after 1960.
       As reported in the 30 Apr 1976 DV, AFI Chairman Charlton Heston asked the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to waive its requirement of signed releases from all members whose post-1960 work was selected for America at the Movies. The guild agreed, providing that all other relevant unions and guilds grant the same waiver, and that a percentage of the film’s profits be donated to the Writers Guild Foundation.
       An article in the 2 Aug 1976 LAT stated that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., would not allow Stevens access to Gone With the Wind (1939, see entry), which was standard company policy, because the picture was still in general release. Both Samuel Goldwyn Productions and Universal Pictures declined to take part in America at the Movies. A Universal spokesman explained that only ten percent of the proceeds would go to the Motion Picture and Television Relief Fund, while the rest were to be divided between AFI and ARBA. Universal held the position that the people who created the original works that comprised the compilation should derive some benefit from it.
       America at the Movies premiered on 27 Jun 1976 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. According to the 29 Jun 1976 DV and the 30 Jun 1976 LAT, the event was attended by over 150 members of Congress and the Gerald R. Ford administration, along with actors Rita Moreno, Kathy Nolan and James Whitmore, screenwriter Fay Kanin, and director Elia Kazan, among others.
       Although the initial response to the film was positive, a news item in the 30 Jun 1976 DV reported that ARBA deputy assistant Carlos Campbell called America at the Movies “an unconscionable instrument of racism.” Campbell solicited the opinions of several minority representatives and a screening of the picture for representatives that evening. He also requested that ARBA Administrator John W. Warner make changes in the film, which contains a negative portrayal of an African American family, and features no African Americans in any of the war sequences. George Stevens justified the final edit, explaining that the film was composed of “glimpses of America we saw on the screen.” He also stated that, “Hollywood’s racial awareness is of recent vintage.” However, Campbell maintained that his supporters believed the film should be changed or destroyed.
       Critical response to America at the Movies was lukewarm. An article in the 4 Oct 1976 Village Voice by Molly Haskell, who was a research consultant on the film, emphasized the conspicuous under-representation of women onscreen, noting that eighty-eight actors were credited, as compared to twenty-five actresses. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Sep 1976.
---
Box Office
4 Oct 1976.
---
Cue
2 Oct 1976.
---
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1976.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1976
p. 4.
Daily Variety
1 Jul 1976.
---
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1976
p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jun 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Aug 1976
Section IV, p. 1, 10.
New York Times
23 Sep 1976
p. 52.
New York Times
3 Oct 1976.
---
New Yorker
11 Oct 1976
pp. 138-44.
Variety
5 May 1976.
---
Variety
30 Jun 1976.
---
Variety
14 Jul 1976
p. 21.
Village Voice
4 Oct 1976
p. 123.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Cinema 5 Ltd. Presents
A Production of the American Film Institute
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Narration wrt by
ART DIRECTORS
Film des
Des consultant
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc film ed
Assoc film ed
MUSIC
Title mus arr and cond by
Mus rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Laboratory services and optical eff
Laboratory services and optical eff
Laboratory services and optical eff
Laboratory services and optical eff
Laboratory services and optical eff
Laboratory services and optical eff
Laboratory services and optical eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Historical consultant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Res consultant
Res consultant
Administrator, American Revolution Bicentennial Ad
Project dir, American Revolution Bicentennial Admi
Prod committee for the American Film Institute
Prod committee for the American Film Institute
Prod committee for the American Film Institute
Prod committee for the American Film Institute
Prod committee for the American Film Institute
Prod committee for the American Film Institute
Prod committee for the American Film Institute
SOURCES
SONGS
"America," music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
"Yankee Doodle Boy," written by George M. Cohan, performed by James Cagney
"At the Ball, That's All," written by John Leubrie Hill, performed by the Avalon Boys.
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 June 1976
Premiere Information:
The Kennedy Center, Washington, DC: 27 June 1976
New York opening: 22 September 1976
Production Date:
1974--1976
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Black and White
Prints
Metrocolor
Duration(in mins):
116
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

The Mayflower sets sail for North America in the seventeenth century, and a group of immigrants arrive at Ellis Island, New York, in the early twentieth century. American film does not always represent the true history of the nation, but rather how the “American Dream” took shape, capturing the hopes and hardships of people who settled the land, such as an ambitious farm boy intent on acquiring some bottomland, or homesteaders competing in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Native Americans, once thought of as a savage enemy, were later recognized as “exiles in their own land.” As the American West was settled, the cowboy legend took shape, and films of that genre often culminated in a showdown. The rule of law in the West made the land safe for farmers and ranchers, while others continued to look for new frontiers. However, when the land is destroyed by drought in the 1930s, families are forced to abandon their farms in hope of finding employment. American cities are places of endless possibilities, although they often bring about a rapid loss of innocence. Examples include a rural transplant shocked by the callousness of his New York City neighbors, a gangster who dreams of being a dancer and his comrade, who lusts for power, a gambler speaking wistfully of a bet that almost paid off, and a publisher who can afford to lose $1 million per year. The plight of downtrodden city dwellers is often addressed in comedy, such as a man driven insane by an assembly line, or a couple who barely survive their first day in New York City. In a musical production, ... +


The Mayflower sets sail for North America in the seventeenth century, and a group of immigrants arrive at Ellis Island, New York, in the early twentieth century. American film does not always represent the true history of the nation, but rather how the “American Dream” took shape, capturing the hopes and hardships of people who settled the land, such as an ambitious farm boy intent on acquiring some bottomland, or homesteaders competing in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Native Americans, once thought of as a savage enemy, were later recognized as “exiles in their own land.” As the American West was settled, the cowboy legend took shape, and films of that genre often culminated in a showdown. The rule of law in the West made the land safe for farmers and ranchers, while others continued to look for new frontiers. However, when the land is destroyed by drought in the 1930s, families are forced to abandon their farms in hope of finding employment. American cities are places of endless possibilities, although they often bring about a rapid loss of innocence. Examples include a rural transplant shocked by the callousness of his New York City neighbors, a gangster who dreams of being a dancer and his comrade, who lusts for power, a gambler speaking wistfully of a bet that almost paid off, and a publisher who can afford to lose $1 million per year. The plight of downtrodden city dwellers is often addressed in comedy, such as a man driven insane by an assembly line, or a couple who barely survive their first day in New York City. In a musical production, Puerto Rican immigrants argue the pros and cons of their new country. Images of the American family on film explore relationships between parents and children, such as when a father advises his daughter to run out on her elaborate wedding, or when an authoritarian father and a rebellious son argue over the merits of oatmeal. As children grow into adulthood, their approaches to romance can range from innocence to lechery. The trials of parenthood are also explored, exemplified by a single mother whose first date with a new suitor is derailed by her six willful children, or a father’s violent outburst in the presence of his family over the collapse of his business. Another marriage paradigm is challenged as a bride defiantly deserts her wedding with another man, though her face betrays her conflicted emotions. While American wars are often portrayed in a positive light, the ugly realities are sometimes revealed. In many, there is the “goodbye” moment: A husband joins his regiment during the American Revolution, a farm boy leaves to fight in the Civil War, and a young wife runs alongside her husband’s troop train, fearing that he will never return. A general gives a motivational speech to his troops, contrasted with the heartbreak of a new recruit who kills his first enemy soldier. Following the horror, the glory, and the absurdities of warfare, there are the homecomings. American cinema celebrates the nation’s “spirit,” exemplified by themes such as hope, optimism, resilience, and courage: An immigrant kisses the ground as he sets foot on Ellis Island; a musical star praises his homeland in a song; as a weary prospector is about to give up, his comrade discovers gold at their feet; a deaf and blind girl learns how to speak; an aviator makes the first solo trans-Atlantic flight; a manmade satellite hovers between the earth and the moon. The American Dream embodied in these films may contain more truth than mere facts, a point that is emphasized by Charlie Chaplin saying, “Buck up—never say die. We’ll get along!” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.