Philadelphia Experience

All Majors & Minors

Philly on Film

From The Philadelphia Story (1940) to Young Philadelphians (1959) to Rocky (1976) to Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

FS-253 Philly on Film

This course will examine the representation of the city of Philadelphia in the cinema and the effects of the cinema on the organization of the city. Each city has a cultural mythology, a set of qualities associated with it that are historically limited and that to some extent determine the kinds of stories that get told within its borders. In films from The Philadelphia Story (1940) to Young Philadelphians (1959) to Rocky (1976) to Silver Linings Playbook (2012), the city of Philadelphia offers filmgoers a particular myth associated with two big ideas: 1. The value of American history and 2. The rigidity of social class. That these two ideas cannot be resolved through the traditional American success story is precisely what makes Philadelphia films peculiar. How did Philadelphia come to stand for these two broad ideas and how have they been useful to Hollywood? How precisely do Philadelphia films articulate beliefs about American identity, individualism, masculinity, or class mobility? How have these same beliefs been altered by theater openings and movigoing habits in the city itself?

Explore Philly’s filmgoing past

Film history will be used to explore Philadelphia’s filmgoing past. Where were the movies first shown in the city? How did theater openings change exhibition patterns? Where were theaters located and what kinds of films did they project? The first project in the class will be an exhibition history paper in which each student will be assigned a decade and given access to newspapers and archival materials that will allow them to map and analyze the kinds of decisions theater managers made about what to show and why. Part of the legwork for this project will require students to visit and view a film in some of the (remaining) theaters and compare that experience to those about which they are reading.

The final product for this class will be a collaborative video essay in which each student in the class contributes a piece of audiovisual material analyzing the representation of Philadelphia on film. We will prepare for this project throughout the semester by tracking themes and issues explored in the films we screen.

Fulfill the “Humanities” requirement

This course satisfies the core curriculum’s Humanities requirement.

Get more information

For more information about this course, contact Prof. Jennifer Fleeger.