Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

The Magic of Hollywood Technology

on September 28, 2021
Photo: New York Daily News

Every new technological invention seems like “magic” at the time, whether it’s the invention of moving pictures, sound technology, radio, color film, widescreen viewing, television, digital recording, or the latest computer-generated imagery software.

The crude stop-motion special effects used in the original King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933) were considered phenomenal at the time. The innovative makeup used in Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) and The Mummy (Karl Freund, 1932) amazed audiences in the 1930s. The color film technology used in The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) seems as brilliant and fresh today as it did back in 1939. The movie scores written for Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965) and The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) have become classics. The cinematography in John Ford’s classic westerns has inspired future generations of young filmmakers.

When Orson Welles produced Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941), he introduced a whole new way of designing sets, filming the action, mixing sound, and narrating a story. His innovations influenced future directors (Lewis 158-161; Barsam and Monahan, 397-401).

John Ford’s The Searchers combined Technicolor with VistaVision widescreen technology to produce a visually stunning movie. Widescreen technology forced theater owners to upgrade their screens, just like the invention of sound technology forced them to upgrade their sound systems (Lewis 249-250; Barsam and Monahan 216-217; Widescreen Museum, 1).

The noir genre used chiaroscuro lighting and key lights to create a dark, brooding atmosphere. Movies such as The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) explored the dark side of human nature and became popular for their grittiness and realism. When night-time film was developed, cinematographers were able to film at night (Lewis 183, 203; Barsam and Monahan, 96).

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) paved the way for new special effects technology, especially animatronics and computer-generated imagery. The editing techniques produced a flawless, seamless action film that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy (Lewis 373-374; Barsam and Monahan, 58-59).

As new ways of looking at cinema emerged, directors such as Jean-Luc Godard experimented with discontinuity editing, juxtaposition, and freestyle filming of movies. Dennis Hopper used some of these techniques in his movie, Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969), which brought the 1960s counterculture to the big screen. The extreme editing of the movie pared the story down to its bare bones and forces viewers to draw their own conclusions (Lewis 289-291).

Advanced technology, combined with the vision and creativity of directors, cinematographers, screenwriters, and other members of the crew, will continue to enthrall audiences around the world—as long as they can produce a solid story to go with the overwhelming technological effects.

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

Ford, John, Dir. The Searchers. Perf. John Wayne. Warner Bros., 1956.

Hopper, Dennis, Dir. Easy Rider. Perf. Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper. Columbia, 1969.

Huston, John, Dir. The Maltese Falcon. Perf. Humphrey Bogart. Warner Bros., 1941.

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

Ryder, Loren L. “The Story of VistaVision.” The American WideScreen Museum. 2006.


Spielberg, Steven, Dir. Jurassic Park. Perf. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard

       Attenborough. Universal, 1993.

Welles, Orson, Dir. Citizen Kane. Perf. Orson Welles. Warner Bros., 1941.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

February 6, 2018

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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