These 18 Filmmakers Changed History
These 18 Filmmakers Changed History

These 18 Filmmakers Changed History

Larry Holzwarth - August 22, 2019

These 18 Filmmakers Changed History
Alfred Hitchcock personalized his films with brief cameo appearances, often in a humorous moment to break the tension. Wikimedia

15. Alfred Hitchcock created an atmosphere and style which bears his name

The term Hitchcockian is applied to film, television presentations, literature, and real life circumstances, though it is a term which defies definition. Or at least it defies limitation. It can refer to atmosphere, and in doing so it can mean frightening, ironic, tongue-in cheek, terrifying, lightly humorous, dramatic, melodramatic, whimsical, preposterous, improbable, one can select whatever mood one wishes and the term can be made to apply. He made movies in his younger days in England, many of which became classics, after which he moved to the United States and remade several, turning them into classics again. Hitchcock created scenarios where the borderline between sanity and insanity became indistinct, others in which it couldn’t be more clear, and still others where it didn’t seem to matter.

These 18 Filmmakers Changed History
One of Hitchcock’s most Iconic films, Birds. Wikimedia.

His influence on filmmakers of later generations is immeasurable. Unlike most filmmakers, Hitchcock often chose to shoot his films by recording the scenes in the same order in which they appeared in the final edit of the movie. He was so hands-on regarding his work and its presentation that he went so far as to work with the designers creating the advertising posters for his films, his input being submitted to designers he insisted on hiring since they were among the best of the time. Hitchcock often used well-known icons as settings in his films – the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore – for example, and in the process became an icon himself, one of the world’s most recognizable figures from the late 1940s onward, including decades after his death in 1980. He is credited with creating a camera angle which bears another use of the term Hitchcockian, one in which it appears that the view of the camera is one of the audience, allowing film-viewers to become, temporarily at least, voyeurs.

These 18 Filmmakers Changed History
Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur was a World War II film warning the home front of the potential of alien espionage groups. National Archives

16. World War II propaganda films included the weekly entertainment pictures

During the Second World War two types of war propaganda films were produced by Hollywood for the consumption of American audiences, augmented with British films which also found their way into American theaters. Some became classics, such as Casablanca, and the British production Mrs. Miniver. Others were produced with a rapidity which rivalled American industrial production, and featured specific disciplines demanded by the Armed Forces, followed or preceded with a brief recruiting blurb, often featuring a major film star. Film’s such as Bombardier depicted the training and responsibilities of men required to drop bombs on Axis targets. Action in the North Atlantic starring Humphrey Bogart, portrayed the sacrifices of Allied merchant seamen during the war, an area of history which still takes a back seat to the combat operations of the war.

The films were intended to simultaneously entertain their audiences, create interest in the needs of the services in certain disciplines, encourage sacrifice on the home front, and present the enemy in a manner in which they were irredeemably evil. The evil was in direct contrast to the heroic and straightforward good American boys, joining together as brothers in arms whether they were from the Bowery or the cornfields of Iowa. Stereotypes abounded. Southerners were unrepentant supporters of Robert E. Lee, New Yorkers loved the Dodgers and the Yankees, and at least one book loving egghead appeared in every military unit. Other repeat characters included the hustler, the dreamer, the unfortunate recipient of a Dear John letter, and the incorrigible Army (or Navy) hater. At the end of the film the audience was encouraged to by bonds, on sale in the lobby.

These 18 Filmmakers Changed History
Cecil B. deMille created the biblical epic, often using dialogue taken from the King James Version of the Bible in his scripts. Wikimedia

17. Cecil B. DeMille brought the Bible to film and created the biblical epic as a film genre

Cecil B. DeMille is credited with creating the first feature film which was made entirely in Hollywood, and thus has claim to being both the founder of the American film industry and of the California community with which it is inextricably linked. During his long career he produced 70 films (from 1914 – 1958), and developed a reputation as a director of films which became known as biblical epics, many of which were silent films, including 1927’s King of Kings. His silent The Ten Commandments (1923) held the record for box office revenue attained by an American film for 25 years. His link with the Bible as a source for his films is in some ways unjust, he also directed The Greatest Show on Earth, a circus epic which won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Union Pacific, a film about the drive to complete America’s Transcontinental Railroad, among many others.

But it was the biblical epic, which he created as a film genre, in which his reputation largely lies, and it was 1956’s The Ten Commandments in which he put the capstone on his career. His presentation of the Bible on film was often controversial, always lavish in production, long in running-time, and expensive to produce. DeMille brought the stories of the Bible to the big screen, without editorial comment for the most part, and was one of the earliest filmmakers to present the stories of the Old Testament and the New as entertainment rather than as religious doctrine. In doing so he stuck to his source documents, such as presenting the tale of the Ten Commandments from the Book of Exodus in a manner which is supported by the biblical narrative, often with his actors speaking the lines as they are found in the King James Version (a Christian translation) of the Hebrew Bible. Nonetheless, The Ten Commandments is broadcast on American television every Passover and Paschal season.

These 18 Filmmakers Changed History
For many John Wayne, here with close friend and fellow actor Ward Bond, became the face and personality of America, for better or worse. Wikimedia

18. John Wayne was a producer as well as an actor

John Wayne is, beyond any doubt, an American icon instantly recognizable almost anywhere in the world where motion pictures have been shown. In his career he portrayed Western heroes who were often respectful and solicitous of American Indians, though is real life he often spoke disparagingly of them. He portrayed heroic American soldiers, sailors, aviators, and frontiersmen, though he never served in the military. Because of these disparities and other issues, such as controversial comments in interviews regarding civil rights in America, he remains a controversial figure, idolized by some, condemned by others. Few, if any, other images portray what is indisputably American than pictures of Wayne in Western garb, the costume he wore for so many of the roles he played on the silver screen. And those portrayals changed the world, creating an international image of America, for better or worse, for the rest of the world to consider.

These 18 Filmmakers Changed History
John Wayne – Medical Bag

Wayne, along with colleagues such as director John Ford and frequent costar and friend Ward Bond, created an image of an American, and thus America, as tough physically and mentally, confident and capable, unable to abide injustice whether directed at itself or at others. The image, like the majority of creations which emanated from Hollywood and the filmmakers which created an industry there, was more myth than reality, a glossy image created through art. It was instead just one person’s perception, a picture created because it was what was believed, rather than what existed. America created John Wayne, and he created on film and in the public’s mind an image which was a reflection of the America he saw. As a filmmaker, an actor, and in a life of portraying himself, John Wayne created an image which he believed was quintessentially American, and convinced most of the world to believe it was too.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“Arthur Melbourne-Cooper: Matchsitck Man of the Early Silent Era”. Silent London. Online

“Australia’s Lost Films”. Ray Edmondson & Andrew Pike. 1982

“The Search for Charlie Chaplin”. Kevin Brownlow. 2010

“Better than the book: Fritz Lang’s Interpretation of Thea von Harbou’s Metropolis”. Annette M. Magid, Spaces of Utopia. Summer, 2006

“What Universal Must Do To Sell Its Classic Monsters Universe”. Scott Mendelson, Forbes. July 13, 2016

“Scarface vs. Scarface: Old is Better”. Eddie Hayes, The Daily Beast. November 14, 2016

“Walt Disney”. Entry, Online

“That Was Entertainment: The Golden Age of the MGM Musical”. Bernard F. Dick. 2018

“Beyond Black and White: The Forgotten History of Color in Silent Movies”. Steven Heller, The Atlantic. June 25, 2015

“Leni Riefenstahl archive to throw new light on Hitler’s film-maker”. Kate Connolly, The Guardian. April 24, 2018

“Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles” (documentary). Chuck Workman. 2014

“Akira Kurosawa: Master of Cinema”. Peter Cowie. 2010

“It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock”. Charlotte Chandler. 2006

“World War II: Hollywood Goes to War”. Film Reference Encyclopedia. Online

“Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne”. Ronald L. Davis. 2001