Within a few years, ambitious men like Samuel Goldwyn, Carl Laemmle, Adolph Zukor, Louis B. Mayer, and the Warner Brothers had switched to the production side of the business. Soon they were the heads of a new kind of enterprise - the movie studio. The major studios were located in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California.
Over the past 15 years, for every high-tech, stunt-filled Mission Impossible, there are serious and thought-provoking films from the United States such as American Beauty and The Hours, as well as complex and sophisticated movies such as Traffic, Shakespeare in Love, Magnolia, and About Schmidt. What is therefore remarkable about contemporary American movies is their diversity, their effort to explore the social and psychological dimensions of life, and their ability to combine entertainment with artistry. Films of the past 15 years also introduced to their audiences a fresh generation of actors. Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt, John Cusack, Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Julianne Moore do not conform to the classic notion of a Hollywood star, but they have given performances as vivid and as distinctive as their predecessors. Unlike the stars of Hollywood's classic era, who always seemed to be playing themselves (Cary Grant, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor), contemporary U.S. actors disappear into their roles, playing parts that differ from one movie to the next. Movies from the U.S. have focused on human relationships and private feelings, not just on problems of a particular time and place. They tell tales about romance (High Fidelity), intrigue (L.A. Confidential), success and failure (Chicago), and moral conflicts (The Insider). This approach to filmmaking reflects, in part, the traditional U.S. faith in the importance of the individual.
Text adapted from: Film: Movies and Modern America by Richard Pells