Hortense Powdermaker’s Hollywood the Dream Factory (1950) is a pioneering study of the film industry. Powdermaker, a social anthropologist, spent a year in Hollywood conducting interviews with studio executives, producers, writers and actors in order ‘to understand better the nature of our movies’.2 Her work marked the first academic study of the film industry, as seen through the outlook and values of those who worked in it, rather than the more familiar biographical or autobiographical accounts that are rich in anecdote but reveal little or nothing about the actual working practices and professional ideologies of the industry. Powdermaker saw beneath the tinsel of Hollywood to identify a system of social organization where ‘most of the men who enjoy power have it simply because they got there first and were able to form the social structure of movie making as they desired’, whereas creative artists ‘fight openly to gain power, that is, to get into positions in which they can make important decisions and influence the movies’.3 In this regard little changes: Powdermaker’s account of the industry in terms of social networks and power relations is much the same picture of Hollywood as that put forward 40 years later in Robert Altman’s film The Player (1992).
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