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Happy Endings in Hollywood CinemaCliché, Convention and the Final Couple$
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James MacDowell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748680177

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748680177.001.0001

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The ‘happy ending’ and homogeneity

The ‘happy ending’ and homogeneity

(p.19) Chapter 1 The ‘happy ending’ and homogeneity
Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema

James MacDowell

Edinburgh University Press

The most basic assumption about the ‘happy ending’ is that it represents a homogenous cliché that is repeated again and again across Hollywood cinema. This chapter addresses this notion by trying to construct a definition for the ‘happy ending’. Is it an ending at which characters or audience are left ‘happy’? Is it a particular narrative motif, such as the final couple? Is it a ‘morally satisfying’ outcome? Or is it created when a film seems to uphold particular values? Chapter 1 confines itself to examining endings produced in one demarcated period and one sub-genre: the romantic melodrama between 1939 and 1950. A central aim of this discussion is to cast reasonable doubt upon the existence of the ‘happy ending’, thus allowing the remainder of the book to analyse individual happy endings relatively free from suspicions about the convention's innate homogeneity. However, almost as important as the many variations unearthed are the traits that this chapter's happy endings seem to share, which prove useful as the book proceeds on to other central assumptions surrounding the convention.

Keywords:   Hollywood cinema, happy ending, homogeneity, melodrama, morality, values, production code, romantic love

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