1944 editorial in the industry magazine Televiser questioned
whether a motion picture director could approach a new medium like
television without "cynicism." The article warned that film people
have been overtly critical of television production without any
appreciation the technique and aesthetics of the small screen. The
tension between film and television has been a constant for over
fifty years, but both art forms have been enriched by the often
Motion picture executives were acutely aware of the economic threat
posed by an entertainment medium in the home and drew up strategies
to challenge this incursion by the broadcast industry. Paramount
first considered owning a chain of television stations and then
tested a system of pay television. Twentieth Century-Fox and Warner
Brothers collaborated on plans to develop theater television in
the early fifties. In 1949 Columbia, under the leadership of Ralph
Cohn, a former B movie producer, organized Screen Gems to produce
television commercials. All the while, moguls tried to make movie-going
a spectacular experience, exploiting widescreen and stereophonic
technologies. But it was the "eager and imaginative minds" of television
who would create a dramatic form and then have a major impact on
the motion pictures.
first defined its identity with the production of live dramas on
such anthology series as Studio One, Kraft Television
Theatre, and Playhouse 90. Critics felt that the immediacy
of television brought forth a special relationship between the spectator
and the play. The productions were orchestrated by a generation
of young directors with some training in theater and film, who wedded
the character studies of writers such as Paddy Chayefsky and Rod
Serling, to the inward method-trained acting styles of Paul Newman,
Kim Hunter, James Dean and the many other disciples of Stanislavski.
When Marty received the Academy Award in 1955, it was the
first time a script that originated on television was adapted by
the large screen; in both instances, the partnership of Chayevsky
and director Delbert Mann brought the material to life. Television
talent was now welcome with open arms in Hollywood, and such TV-originated
productions as The Miracle Worker and Days of Wine and
Roses became award-winning films. The most prominent of the
television directors journeyed to film, bringing the same psychological
realism to the large screen. Among the key directors (with their
signature movies in parentheses) whose work defined the new maturity
of 1960s Hollywood were John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate,
Seven Days in May; George Roy Hill (The World of Henry Orient
, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid); Sidney Lumet (The
Pawnbroker, Long Day's Journey into Night); Robert Mulligan
(To Kill a Mockingbird; Baby, the Rain Must Fall); Arthur
Penn (The Miracle Worker, which he also directed on television;
Bonnie and Clyde); and Franklin Schaffner (The Best Man,
Patton). These directors, once again melding text and performance
but with a larger budget, constituted the first wave of new talent
that rejuvenated American cinema after the studio system had broken
live television received critical legitimacy on the East Coast,
independent companies on the West, including Jerry Fairbanks Productions,
the Hal Roach Studios, and Ziv Television Programs, produced films
for television, reels that could be cycled from one local station
to another in the earliest version of "syndicated" TV. These budget-conscious
producers often employed forgotten Hollywood veterans to give luster
to their equivalent of the B movie. Fairbanks, a freelance cameraman
and producer of an Academy Award-winning short, hired an established
Hollywood name, Edmund Lowe, the suave silent film star of What
Price Glory for his DuMont series Front Page Detective.
Hal Roach, Jr., a former Laurel and Hardy director, asked Charles
Barton, the Universal director of Abbott and Costello comedies,
to oversee the translation of Amos 'n' Andy to a visual medium.
For television's biggest hit of the 1950s, I Love Lucy, producers
Desi Arnaz and Jess Oppenheimer requested Fritz Lang's cinematographer,
Karl Freund, to devise a technique for filming with three cameras
before a live audience.
Film studios and guilds took immediate notice of the employment
possibilities of television. Members of the Directors Guild of America
received their name in the title for the 1955 series Screen Directors
Playhouse. Many Hollywood legends, including John Ford, Leo
McCarey, and George Stevens, made half hour dramas for the Playhouse.
Newly appointed president of ABC, Leonard Goldenson, former head
of the United Paramount Theaters, and executives at Warner Brothers
determined how to financially recycle popular film genres each week
on television and employed unsung directors to oversee production.
Richard Bare, who had directed such forgettable movies as Smart
Girls Don't Talk and Flaxy Martin was in part responsible
for the resurgence of the Western on television with the success
of his Cheyenne. By the mid-1950s more that 40% of Hollywood's
directors, actors, editors, and cameraman worked on television projects.
Even cult directors, including Ida Lupino, Phil Karlson, and Jacques
Tourneur, brought their offbeat sensiblilities to television.
became genuinely respectable for the film industry when the most
recognizable director of all time, Alfred Hitchcock, hosted an anthology
series for ten years, beginning in 1955. Hitchcock's agent, Lew
Wasserman, who would later run Universal, masterminded Alfred
Hitchcock Presents, which featured a droll introduction by the
"Master of Suspense" and then a macabre tale evocative of the director's
dark spirit. Hitchcock directed eighteen episodes for Presents
and two programs for other series. Working three days with an efficient
supporting team, Hitchcock was able to explore his familiar themes
of duplicity and murder and employed most of his TV crew to produce
his cinema masterpiece, Psycho.
series, produced by Hollywood studios, afforded young talent the
means to helm their own productions and, occasionally, develop personal
themes. Robert Altman directed for a variety of genres for television,
including westerns (Bonanza), detective (Hawaiian Eye),
and war (Combat). Later, he would subvert the formulaic rules
he learned in these respective genres when he made the following
films in the seventies: McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye,
and M*A*S*H. Other well-known directors who learned generic
conventions that would come in handy in their film careers include
Sam Peckinpah, who directed episodes Route 66 as well as
of the westerns Have Gun, Will Travel; Gunsmoke, and The
Westerner, which he also created; Blake Edwards, who created
the pilots for Richard Diamond and Peter Gunn, which
he later brought to the large screen; and Michael Ritchie, whose
quirky adventures for Run for Your Life and The Outsider
laid a groundwork for The Candidate and Smile.
the mid-1960s the studios worked with the networks to develop movies
made especially for television. The first proposed television movie,
The Killers, was directed by Don Siegel and starred Ronald Reagan
and Angie Dickinson, but was deemed too violent for television and
was first released theatrically. Two network executives, Barry Diller
and Michael Eisner refined the scope and concerns of the television
movie, and later became two of the most powerful moguls in Hollywood.
Directors were able to impart a distinctive vision on the TV movie,
which often yielded assignments to the large screen. Steven Spielberg,
who had directed episodes of Columbo and Owen Marshall,
received acclaim for the visual audacity of Duel. Michael Mann,
after stints as a writer on Police Story and Vega$,
first attracted notice as writer and director of the prison drama
The Jericho Mile, which led to his 1983 feature Thief. Many
directors have shuttled back and forth between movies and television
and have delivered their most personal work on the small screen,
including Buzz Kulik (Brian's Song); John Korty (The Autobiography
of Miss Jane Pitman), Joseph Sargent (Amber Waves) and,
most especially, Lamont Johnson (That Certain Summer, The Execution
of Private Slovik, and Off the Minnesota Strip).
man most responsible for adult comedy on television, Norman Lear,
had left television in the late 1950s to become a film director.
His film work, including Come Blow Your Horn, The Night They
Raided Minsky's, and Cold Turkey, never matched his satirical
temperament, which found its perfect outlet in the comedy All
in the Family. Lear did not return to film, but two influential
comedy producers, James Brooks and Garry Marshall, have found creative
success in both media. The same mixture of drama and comedy that
Brooks brought to The Mary Tyler Moore Show was evident in
his films Starting Over, Terms of Endearment, and Broadcast
News. The mismatched pairs of Marshall exemplified by Felix
and Oscar in The Odd Couple and Ritchie and the Fonz in Happy
Days has been explored in such films as Nothing in Common
and Pretty Woman. Lear and Marshall also mentored other directorial
careers. Their comic rhythms have also been brought to the screen
by their leading actors, Rob Reiner of All in the Family,
Ron Howard of Happy Days, and Penny Marshall of Laverne
film directors have had a presence in other TV genres. Several of
television's most exemplary musical programs were crafted by directors
who afterwards rarely ventured into that genre again. Jack Smight,
known for his mysteries Harper and No Way to Treat a Lady,
directed two of the definitive jazz programs, the smoky The Sound
of Jazz with Billie Holiday and the very cool The Sound of
Miles Davis. Norman Jewison, who began his career in British
and Canadian television, directed Judy Garland's only duet with
Barbra Streisand. Fred De Cordova, who earlier had directed Bedtime
for Bonzo with Ronald Reagan and then TV series for George Burns
and Jack Benny, produced the most popular talk show of all time
for twenty years, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
live television affected Hollywood in the 1950s, so too did MTV
in the 1980s. The music video disrupted the linear narrative and
put a primacy on the visual, making the video creator a new hero
in Hollywood. British director Julien Temple journeyed from videos
for Culture Club and the Rolling Stones to his first feature Absolute
Beginners. David Fincher used Fritz Lang's film Metropolis as
the source of inspiration for his Madonna's video "Express Yourself,"
and later reworked the noir genre in his textured Seven. Videos
have borne the established director's imprint as well, including
John Landis and Martin Scorcese's extended narratives for Michael
Jackson's "Thriller" and "Bad"; John Sayles and Brian De Palma's
different deconstructions of the Bruce Springsteen phenomenon, as
working class hero and lumbering icon respectively; and Spike Lee's
energetic "Hip Hop Hooray" video for Naughty By Nature. Quick cuts
and eye-grabbing visuals have also been the domain of the TV commercials,
and three graduates of British advertising--Ridley Scott, Alan Parker,
and Adrian Lyne--have invigorated the look of popular film.
Steven Spielberg, directing Joan Crawford
1984 Michael Mann returned to television and brought the MTV synthesis
of image and music to series television in his stylishly innovative
Miami Vice. During the rest of the 1980s a niche was reserved
for "designer television," usually series originated by film auteurs.
Spielberg produced his own series, Amazing Stories, and enlisted
Martin Scorcese, Robert Zemeckis, and Paul Bartel to contribute
supernatural tales. Robert Altman also returned, this time to cable
television, and satirized American politics with Garry Trudeau in
Tanner '88, a project that was conceived in video to match the look
of network news. Network executives also went to cult directors
for ideas to entice a mainstream audience beginning to turn to cable.
John Sayles, a leader in the independent film movement, created
a Shannon's Deal, a series focussing on imperfect lawyer
who dropped out of corporate practice. The avant-garde David Lynch
of Blue Velvet fame unleashed some of the most surreal and
unsettling images ever seen on network television in his video noir
Twin Peaks. Some of the direction went the other way as quality
TV producers strove to make it among cineastes. Ed Zwick, who brought
suburban angst to the prime time with thirtysomething and
My So-Called Life, directed three epic adventures: Glory,
Legends of the Fall, and Courage Under Fire. Gregory
Hoblit, who was the directorial eye behind many Steven Bochco productions,
was successful with his 1996 urban thriller Primal Fear,
no doubt leading the way for other directors of such visually compelling
series as ER and NYPD Blue. And in still another move
from film toward television, self-proclaimed cultist Quentin Tarrantino
directed the 1994 season finale of the mainstream medical melodrama,
Many foreign directors have used television to explore alternative
forms of storytelling. Ingmar Bergman of Sweden has been interested
in television's ability to weave a narrative over time and in one
of his most celebrated works, Scenes from a Marriage, chronicles
the emotional upheavals of an ostensibly perfect union over six
episodes. Rainer Werner Fassibinder created two works that also
utilized television's expansive narrative: a Marxist soap opera,
Eight Hours Are Not A Day and his fifteen-hour epic of the
Weimar years, Berlin Alexanderplatz, based on Alfred Doblin's
novel. One of the fathers of the new wave, Jean Luc-Godard, has
created a series of mediative essays on the history of cinema for
French television. Roberto Rossellini, one of the pioneers of Italian
neo-realism, used television to create a series of stylized historical
portraits from Socrates to Louis XIV. Ken Russell produced a series
of wildly expressionistic dramatized biographies on such artists
as Elgar, Isadora Duncan, and Delius for the BBC in Great Britain
that served as a template for his even more more flamboyant films,
including The Music Lovers and Lisztomania.
the last two decades the lines between television and film have
been blurred structurally and aesthetically. Most film studios now
own some type of television network, and talent flows freely two
the two media. Barry Levinson can extend the tapestry of his cinematic
Baltimore trilogy (Diner, Tin Men, and Avalon)to television
with the equally visual Homicide: Life on the Street. No
longer is film the arena for spectacle, and television the home
of the close-up. In fact, films screens have been shrinking in the
multiplexes and the television monitor dominates a home's entertainment
room. Director John Frankenheimer, who mastered live television
in the 1950s, feature film during the 1960s through the 1980s, and
the television movie, with the 1990s success of Against the Wall
and Andersonville, has proven that both art forms offer the
opportunity for creative expression.
Christopher. Hollywood TV: The Studio System in the Fifties.
Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1994.
Balio, Tino, editor. Hollywood in the Age of Television. Boston:
Unwin Hyman, 1990.
William. Fifties Television The Industry and Its Critics.
Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990.
John, with Charles Champlin. John Frankeneimer: A Conversation
with Charles Champlin. Burbank, California: Riverwood, 1995.
Michele. Hollywood and Broadcasting. Champaign, Illinois:
University of Illinois Press, 1990.
William. "Television Film and Hollywood: The Beginnings." In, The
Museum of Broadcasting's Catalogue: Columbia Pictures Television:
The Studio and the Creative Process. New York: The Museum of
David, and Robert Thompson. Prime Time Prime Movers. Boston:
Little, Brown, 1992.
John, and Brian Kelleher. Alfred Hitchcock Presents. New
York: St. Martin's, 1985.
Patrick. Robert Altman Jumping Off the Cliff. New York: St.
Robert. Television's Second Golden Age. New York: Continuum,
Christopher, and Tise Vahimagi. The American Vein Directors and
Directions in Television. New York: Dutton, 1979.
James L.; Chayefsky,
Age of Television;
Johnson, Lamont; Kureshei,
Norman; Mann, Delbert;
Marshall, Garry; Reagan,