Genre Theory & The ‘Auteur’

Christine Gledhill’s ‘The Cinema Book’, notes that it wasn’t until the 1940s and 1950s that articles and academic papers were beginning to be written on individual Hollywood genres. Gledhill also says that it were two main reasons that genre suddenly appeared and became of interest to critics and academics. “One was a desire to engage in a serious and positive way with popular cinema in general and with Hollywood in particular.” (Neale, 2000: 10). Suddenly, people started becoming interested in Film Studies as an academic discipline, and wanted to discover why certain films were put into certain categories. Most popularly, it is thought that these categories arose due to people’s increasing like for film material which focussed around what was culturally popular at the time. American culture in particular, was considered to be very influential towards the film industries and the reasons for wanting to change the way film categories were organised.

This also allowed film directors and writers to focus on creating films which had their own individual traits and qualities; and thus making them an ‘individual’ film of that genre. Directors no longer wanted to be known to create work which was stereotypically expected from their audience; or follow the “ostensibly collective and impersonal nature of film production” (Neale, 2000: 10).


French filmmaker, François Truffaut (1932-1984) noticed this and, in his journal ‘Cahiers du Cinéma’, called it “la politique des auteurs’ (Neale, 2000: 10). An idea which US film critic, Andrew Sarris later called “Auteur Theory” in 1968, to which it is still known as in Britain and the US.

This idea explains that “auteurism was founded on three basic premises” (Neale, 2000: 10), explaining that one; film makers were suddenly opened up to a world of art and personal expression in film. Two; the director of a film could be considered to be the equivalent counter-part of a literary author. And three; was that ‘Auteurs’ could be found within all different types of cinema, ranging from international to Hollywood (Hillier, 1985b: 7).


‘Auteur Theory’ allowed Hollywood in particular, to expand into the realms of making films which were all very different from each other. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Anderson, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick, are all considered to be examples of ‘Auteurs’ by Andrew Sarris, due to their individual natures and methods of film making ( Wes Anderson, for example, is known for having the unique yet simple, trait of using the same font within his films.

One ‘Auteur’ in particular whom Andrew Sarris mentions; is John Ford (1894-1973), the director of ‘Stagecoach’ (1939).

In my next blog, I plan to look more at the John Ford’s appearance as an ‘Auteur’ in Hollywood, and how he created such a wide fan base for films of the Western Genre; and why this was.


Printed References

Neale, S. (2000) ‘Genre and Hollywood’. Sight Lines/Routledge: London and New York

Online References

‘Auteur Theory’. Accessed: April 2010. Available from:

‘Cahiers du Cinéma’. Accessed: April 2010. Available from:

Sarris, A. ‘Andrew Sarris’. Accessed: April 2010. Available from:

Truffaut. F. ‘François Truffaut’. Accessed: April 2010. Available from:


Stagecoach (1939) Directed by John Ford. United States: United Artists.

    • flameicem
    • May 19th, 2010

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv

    • Thank you very much, Christian.
      It’s great to know that people are reading what I write, and I’m happy that people are enjoying it!


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