FINAL EXAM COMES ONLINE AT 6 PM TOMORROW, MAY 5, AND WILL STAY ONLINE UNTIL 10 PM. You should begin the exam by 9 pm to ensure that you have plenty of time to finish (there is a one-hour time limit), though it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.


Prof. M. Keith Booker

234 Kimpel Hall, 575-7248

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 5-6 pm and by appointment. Please e-mail the instructor for an appointment even during the scheduled office hour.


Textbooks Required:

On-line textbook supplied free of charge. This syllabus provides links to the relevant sections.


This course will examine some of the most important developments in the history of American cinema. In addition to viewing a number of important examples of American film from the 1930s to the present, we will also discuss the social and historical contexts in which these films arose, seeking to understand why these particular films appeared when they did and why American film has maintained such extensive cultural power over time.

Essays, exams, and other major requirements:

There will be four quizzes administered periodically during the semester. Only the three highest quiz scores will count toward the final grade for each student. Students will write one critical essay (4-5 pages, double-spaced) and have an in-class mid-term exam and an in-class final exam. Prompts for the critical essay are included at the end of this syllabus.

Reading assignments for each film are linked to the schedule below, as are a few more general assignments. Simply click on the title of each film or assignment to access the reading assignment on-line. You may, of course, choose to read the textbook section on each film before the film is shown. On the other hand, you may also wait to read the relevant materials until after we view the film, to avoid spoilers.

Grades and Grading

            Quiz Grades: 15%

            Mid-term exam: 25%

            Final exam: 25%

            Critical essay: 35%

Course Schedule:


Tuesday, January 14

***The Screwball Comedy***

Introduction to the Course. On-line support materials: Year-by-Year Chronology; Historical Overview of American Film.

Film viewing: It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934, 105 min.)

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Tuesday, January 21

***Hollywood Romance***

Film viewing: Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942, 102 min.).

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Tuesday, January 28

***The Western***

Film viewing: The Searchers (John Ford, 1956, 119 min.).

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Tuesday, February 4

Quiz 1 for all students, covering the classes through January 28.

***Dissident Voices***

Film Viewing: Film viewing: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941, 119 min.)

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Tuesday, February 11

Film viewing: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944, 107 min.).

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Special reading assignment: Introduction to Film Noir.

Tuesday, February 18

Film viewing: Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950, 110 min.).

Tuesday, February 25

Quiz 2 for all students, covering the classes of February 4 through February 18.

***Late Noir***

Film viewing: Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958, 95 min.).

Tuesday, March 3


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Film viewing: Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974, 130 min.).

Suggested reading: “Neo-Noir.”


Tuesday, March 10

Mid-term exam for undergraduate students only, covering all material through the class of March 3.

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Film viewing: Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1968, 111 min.).

Tuesday, March 17

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Film viewing: The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, 175 min.).

Tuesday, March 24—Spring break. No class.

Tuesday, March 31

Quiz 3 for all students, covering the classes of March 10 through March 31. Available on Blackboard shortly before 5 pm today.

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Film viewing: The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, 146 min.).

Click here for the introductory lecture.


Tuesday, April 7

Film viewing: Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001, 147 min.).

Click here for the introductory lecture.

Tuesday, April 14

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Film viewing: There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007, 158 min.).

Click here for the introductory lecture for this film.

Tuesday, April 21

Quiz 4 for all students, covering the classes of April 7 through April 21. Available on Blackboard from 6 pm on this date until 6 pm on April 24.

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Film viewing: Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013, 104 min.).

Click here for the introductory lecture.

Tuesday, April 28

Critical essays due for all students by midnight on this date. Essays should be submitted to the instructor by e-mail as a Word-compatible attachment.

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Film viewing: Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017, 104 min.).

Click here for the introductory lecture.

Tuesday, May 5

Final Exam, on Blackboard 6-10 pm.. Open book, multiple-choice, but limited time (one hour). Covering the material from the classes of March 3 through April 28.

Miscellaneous Relevant University Policies:

Disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal antidiscrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities.  Moreover, the University of Arkansas Academic Policy Series 1520.10 requires that students with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations to ensure their equal access to course content. If you have a documented disability and require accommodations, please contact me privately at the beginning of the semester to make arrangements for necessary classroom adjustments. Please note, you must first verify your eligibility for these through the Center for Educational Access (contact 479–575–3104 or visit for more information on registration procedures).

Discrimination and Sexual Harassment: Anyone experiencing discrimination and/or sexual harassment while at the university may report it to a complaint officer appointed by the Chancellor.  The complaint officer will discuss any situation or event that the complainant considers discriminatory or constitutive of sexual harassment. Reports may be made by the person experiencing the harassment or by a third party, such as a witness to the harassment or someone who is told of the harassment.  For more information and to report allegations of discrimination and/or sexual harassment, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance, 346 N. West Avenue (West Avenue Annex), 479-575-4019 (voice) or 479-575-3646 (tdd).

Academic Integrity: “As a core part of its mission, the University of Arkansas provides students with the opportunity to further their educational goals through programs of study and research in an environment that promotes freedom of inquiry and academic responsibility. Accomplishing this mission is possible only when intellectual honesty and individual integrity prevail.  Each University of Arkansas student is required to be familiar with, and abide by, the University’s ‘Academic Integrity Policy,’ which may be found at

Students with questions about how these policies apply to a particular course or assignment should immediately contact their instructor.”

Attendance:  “Student absences resulting from illness, family crisis, University-sponsored activities involving scholarship or leadership/participation responsibilities, jury duty or subpoena for court appearance, military duty, and religious observances are excusable according to university rules. The instructor has the right to require that the student provide appropriate documentation for any absence for which the student wishes to be excused. Moreover, during the first week of the semester, students must give to the instructor a list of the religious observances that will affect their attendance.”

Emergency Procedures – Many types of emergencies can occur on campus; instructions for specific emergencies such as severe weather, active shooter, or fire can be found at  

Severe Weather (Tornado Warning):

Follow the directions of the instructor or emergency personnel

Seek shelter in the basement or interior room or hallway on the lowest floor, putting as many walls as possible between you and the outside

If you are in a multi-story building, and you cannot get to the lowest floor, pick a hallway in the center of the building

Stay in the center of the room, away from exterior walls, windows, and doors

Violence / Active Shooter (CADD):

  • CALL-  9-1-1
  • AVOID- If possible, self-evacuate to a safe area outside the building.  Follow directions of police officers.
  • DENY- Barricade the door with desk, chairs, bookcases or any items.  Move to a place inside the room where you are not visible.  Turn off the lights and remain quiet.  Remain there until told by police it’s safe.
  • DEFEND- Use chairs, desks, cell phones or whatever is immediately available to distract and/or defend yourself and others from attack.


Below are some suggested topics for your critical essays. You are not, however, limited to these topics. You may write on any topic that is relevant to the course. These topics should, however, give you an idea of the kinds of topics that I feel have a good chance of making a successful essay.

1. Choose any two films from our syllabus. Discuss the ways in which these films comment on the American society in which they were produced. (You might want to choose two films that are similar in this respect, or you might want to choose two films that are different in this respect.) Issues to consider might include such things as capitalism, routinization, alienation, individualism, class, race, and so on.
2. Choose any film from our syllabus and explain why you believe it was particularly important in the evolution of American cinema as a cultural phenomenon.
3. Compare and contrast the representation of women in any two films from our syllabus.
4. Choose any two films from our syllabus and discuss the ways in which those films make use of past films as a resource for their own construction.
5. Choose two male and two female performers from the films on our syllabus and explain why you believe their performances were particularly effective.
6. Choose any director from the films on our syllabus. Then watch at least two other films by this same director out of class. Describe, based on these three films, what you see as the most important characteristics of the films of this director.