Join Active Minds as we tell the story of Tinseltown and the people who made it into the movie capital of the world. Our journey will include a stroll along the "Hollywood Walk of Fame," a hike up to the Hollywood sign, a look at Hollywood's impact on society, and much more. Bring your favorite story to share!

Key Lecture Points

  • Hollywood has had a rich and interesting history. Starting as an agricultural area, it almost accidentally became the American hub for making movies. The history of Hollywood is, in many ways, a reflection of the history of America, with several identity crises, struggles with the demands of a growing population, dreams both fulfilled and unfulfilled, and the rise and fall of economic times.
  • The movie industry’s history also reflects that of America at large. Beginning with silent films in the early 1910’s, films drew Americans who wished to get away from the problems of war, the Depression, and their everyday lives. Technology allowed for films to grow and develop, leading to the advent of “talkie” (talking) films in the early 1930’s. Films grew in complexity, depth, and sophistication, leading to the onset of America’s fascination with movie stars and the dream of “making it big” in Hollywood.
  • The power of Hollywood almost can’t be denied, as the influence of movies and movie stars has reached almost epic proportions. While this leads to positive results, such as large amounts of money being raised and donated to worthwhile causes, as well as attention being called to global crises, some decry the ability of Hollywood to influence how many in America wish to look, dress, and act.
  • There is also a darker side to Hollywood, as only a small percentage of people who go to Hollywood will actually find success. This has led to a large rate of young runaways, as well as many living in poverty while they continue to aspire to “make it big.” There are also industries that surround Hollywood, such as the adult film industry, which many find distasteful and a sign of the negative influence of the often flamboyant lifestyle of the area.

Exploration Questions

  • Why do you think Hollywood has had such a pervasive influence on American society as a whole? Who do you think has the bigger influence – Hollywood or American society? Can one exist without the other?
  • Hollywood movies provide a wide spectrum of entertainment for the world at large – from romance to comedies to horror movies and more. What do you think keeps Americans and people around the world going to the movie theatre?
  • Movie ticket sales have slipped in recent years. Do you feel that TV and the Internet have had an influence? If so, why? Or do you feel the economy has more to do with how Americans spend their free cash?

Reflective Questions

  • Do you have any favorite movie stars of the past? Present? Why?
  • What are some of your favorite movies? Least favorite? Why?
  • Tell one of your memories of going to the movies. How old were you when you saw your first movie? Do you still enjoy watching movies?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Harris, Mark. Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. Penguin Books, 2009. 496 pages. In the mid-1960s, westerns, war movies, and blockbuster musicals like "Mary Poppins" swept the box office. The Hollywood studio system was astonishingly lucrative for the few who dominated the business. That is, until the tastes of American moviegoers radically and unexpectedly changed.
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  • Thomson, David. The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. Vintage, 2006. 416 pages. A history of Hollywood from the invention of film to the present day, by Thomson, who has established himself as one of the greatest living film critics and historians.
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