This course will present a sample of mainly narrative films from the early twentieth century that touch on two key topics of pre-war American filmmaking: the definition of a collective American identity; and the social influence of Hollywood as a creative industry. In the early part of the century, American film studios developed the “grammar” of what has come to be known as the classical Hollywood style, with increasingly seamless and artistically controlled visual narratives. Yet themes of collective instability and rupture are evident in early American filmmaking, especially in formally innovative styles such as that of early film noir, Expressionism, anarchic comedy, and early experimental filmmaking. This course will investigate highlights of the classical style and its outliers in outstanding films by directors such as Porter, Griffith, Flaherty, Sternberg and Welles. Assignments will include a film production project, a short research essay, and a final exam covering course readings.