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In the midst of all this technological tumult, a new group of American directors came of age, eager to embrace the shift to color and CinemaScope. They were also bolstered by the critical cheerleading of the French journal Cahiers du Cinéma, begun in 1947 by writer and theorist André Bazin (then La Revue du Cinéma, changing its name in 1951). Co-edited by the French critic Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Cahiers du Cinéma was the first publication to promote the auteur theory, or le politique des auteurs, which held that the director was the most important person involved in the creation of a film. Today, with the high profile enjoyed by such directors as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and other mainstream filmmakers, it seems impossible to imagine an era in which the director, for the most part, was considered a minor functionary in a film’s creation, after the stars, the script, and the studio imprimatur.

He drifted over to Columbia and was soon working as an assistant director until he got his first chance as solo director on the “B” film One Mysterious Night (1944). From then on, Boetticher made a name for himself as a reliable and inventive director in a variety of genres, especially with a remarkable series of westerns with Randolph Scott, including Seven Men from Now (1956), The Tall T(1957), Ride Lonesome (1959), and Comanche Station (1960).

In the midst of this atmosphere of distrust and paranoia, the advent of television also loomed as a threat to the industry. In 1939, television was a novelty in the United States, featured as a scientific wonder at the World’s Fair in New York, but hardly a household item. The National Broadcasting Corporation began regular daily television broadcasts in 1939, but there were fewer than a million television sets in use nationwide, so it seemed that the new medium posed no serious threat to Hollywood dominance. In only ten years, however, the number of sets rose fivefold, and the studios were scrambling to lure back to the theater viewers who were staying home to watch Milton Berle for free. This meant a reversal of Hollywood’s early strategy of simply ignoring television, in which networks were forbidden to employ studios’ contract stars or to broadcast its older films. A new industry sprang up, however, providing viewers with such classic television series as I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, and Dragnet, as well as an array of variety shows and sports programming, which were cheap to produce.

Not everyone folded up their opposition to HUAC, however. In addition to the Hollywood Ten—ten writers, directors, and producers who protested the HUAC hearings—there were also hundreds of other actors, writers, directors, and producers who would be swept up in a frenzied wave of denunciations that would eventually cost them their jobs, their livelihoods, and in some cases their lives. In 1947, the Hollywood Ten—directors Herbert Biberman and Edward Dmytryk; screenwriters Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner Jr., Albert Maltz, and Samuel Ornitz; and producer Adrian Scott—were charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with HUAC and eventually served jail time as a result.

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The American mood darkened even further with the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which kicked into full gear in 1947. The results were disastrous for film as an art form, and equally grave for those caught in the net of hysteria and suspicion. The HUAC had been around since 1938, when a former Communist, James B. Matthews, named James Cagney, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Miriam Hopkins, and even Shirley Temple as actors whose work unwittingly served Communist interests.



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