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Classic HollywoodLifestyles and Film Styles of American Cinema, 1930-1960$
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Veronica Pravadelli

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038778

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038778.001.0001

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Excess, Spectacle, Sensation

Excess, Spectacle, Sensation

Family Melodrama in the 1950s

Chapter:
(p.128) 5 Excess, Spectacle, Sensation
Source:
Classic Hollywood
Author(s):

Veronica Pravadelli

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252038778.003.0006

This chapter examines 1950s cinema in terms of family melodrama. It interprets the genre in light of the convergence between the decade's new spectacular visual style and the image of the suburban family, which is the dominant lifestyle of 1950s America. By discussing in particular the discourse on masculinity, it argues that melodrama's visual style and narrative contradictions endorse the belief that sexuality is an essential component of human nature. Meanwhile, family melodrama is not a critique of the suburban ideology, as critics have often argued. Rather, it expresses the “difficulty of gender.” The genre's tendency to focus on a community rather on an individual or a couple is instrumental to the representation of competing models of identity, for men and women alike.

Keywords:   family melodrama, suburban family, masculinity, sexuality, identity, 1950s cinema

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