The ‘New Wave’ and ‘Old Hollywood’: The Day of the Locust (1975), ‘Movies About the Movies’ and the Generational Divide

  • Tom Symmons


A major trend in 1970s American film was studio and silent era set ‘movies about the movies’. A symptom of troubled times in Hollywood, this paradoxical genre simultaneously de-mystified and re-mystified movie glamour, celebrity and success, and satisfied cinemagoers’ schizophrenic impulses towards the questioning of America’s traditional myths and values, and their re-affirmation. Indeed, expressing both scepticism and romantic sentiment, most 1970s ‘movie movies’ attempted to play it both ways, apart from one notable exception and by far both the most ambitious and cynical of the cycle: The Day of the Locust (Schlesinger, 1975). Directed by New Wave auteur John Schlesinger and one of Paramount’s prestige historical releases, the film is significant for its uncompromising view of Hollywood’s world of illusions from the perspective of its struggling fringe players, and how it tests the ‘built-in’ contradiction of movies about the movies. This chapter provides an in-depth examination of the contextual factors that gave rise to the movie movie wave and the New Hollywood in general.


Film Industry Silent Majority Visual Metaphor American Film Paradoxical Quality 
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© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Symmons
    • 1
  1. 1.Arcadia UniversityLondonUK

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