The Classical Hollywood Cinema. Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960
David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson
Time in the classical film
Our examination of exposition has shown that the narrational aspect of plot manipulates story time in specific ways. More generally, classical narration employs characteristic strategies for manipulating story order and story duration. These strategies activate the spectator in ways congruent with the overall aims of the classical cinema. We shall also have to pay some attention to how narration uses one device that is commonly associated with the Hollywood style's handling of time: crosscutting.
Temporal order: the search for meaning
After dramas supposedly without endings, here is a drama which would be without exposition or opening, and which would end clearly. Events would not follow one another and especially would not correspond exactly. The fragments of many pasts come to bury themselves in a single now. The future mixed among memories. This chronology is that of the human mind. 1
Jean Epstein, writing in 1927, thus describes his film La Glace à trois faces. Hollywood cinema, however, refuses the radical play with chronology that Epstein proposes; the classical film normally shows story events in a 1-2-3 order. Unlike Epstein, the classical filmmaker needs an opening, a threshold-that concentrated, preliminary exposition that plunges us in medias res. Events unfold successively from that. Advance notice of the future is especially forbidden, since a ftashforward would make the narration's omniscience and suppressiveness overt (see Chapter 30 on alternative cinemas' use of the flashforward). The only permissible manipulation of story order is the flashback.
Flashbacks are rarer in the classical Hollywood film than we normally think. Throughout the period 1917-60, screenwriters' manuals usually recommended not using them; as one manual put it, 'Protracted or frequent flashbacks tend to slow the dramatic progression'-a remark that reflects Hollywood's general reluctance to exploit curiosity about past story events. 2 Of the one hundred UnS films, only twenty use any flashbacks at all, and fifteen of those occur in silent films. Most of these are brief, expository flashbacks filling in information about a character's background; this device was obviously replaced by expository dialogue in the sound cinema. In the early years of .sound, when plays about trials were common film sources, flashbacks offered a way to 'open up' stagy trial scenes (e.g., The Bellamy Trial, Through Different Eyes, The Trial of Mary Dugan, Madame X, all 1929). Another vogue for flashbacks ran from the late 1930s into the 1950s. Between 1939 and 1953, four UnS films begin with a frame story and flash back to recount the bulk of the main action before returning to the frame. Yet those four flashback films still comprise less than 10 per cent of the UnS films of the period. What probably makes the period seem dominated by flashbacks is not the numerical frequency of the device but the intricate ways it was used: contradictory flashbacks in Crossfire (1947), parallel flashbacks in Letter to Three Wives (1948), open-ended flashbacks in How Green Was My Valley (1941) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943), flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks in Passage to Marseille (1944) and The Locket (1946), and a flashback narrated by a dead man in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
It is possible, of course, to present a shift in story order simply as such, with the film's narration overtly intervening to reveal the past.
In The Ghost ofRosie Taylor (1918), an expository inter-title announces that it will explain how the situation became what it is; the title motivates the flashback. The Killing (1956) uses voice-over, documentary-sty le narration to motivate 'realistically' its jumps back in time. The rarity of these overt intrusions shows that classical narration almost always motivates flashbacks by means of character memory. Several cues cooperate here: images of the character thinking, the character's voice heard 'over' the images, optical effects (dissolve, blurring focus), music, and specific references to the time period we are about to enter. If we see flashbacks as motivated by subjectivity, then the extraordinary fashion for temporal manipulations in the 1940s can be explained by the changing conception of psychological causality in the period. Flashbacks, especially convoluted or contradictory ones, can be justified by that increasing interest in vulgarized Freudian psychology which Chapter 2 has already discussed.
Classical flashbacks are motivated by character memory, but they do not function primarily to reveal character traits. Nor were Hollywood practitioners particularly interested in using the flashback to restrict point-of-view; one screenwriters' manual suggests that 'unmotivated jumping of time is likely to rattle the audience, thereby breaking their illusion that they participate in the lives of the characters.' 3 Even the contradictory flashbacks in Through Different Eyes or Crossfire serve not to reveal the teller's personality so much as they operate, within the conventions of the mystery film, as visual representations of lies. Jean Epstein's aim in La Glace à trois faces-to reflect the mixed temporality of consciousness, fragments of the past in a single now-is far removed from Hollywood's use of flashbacks as rhetorical 'dispositions' of the narrative for the sake of suspense or surprise. Nor need the classical flashback respect the literary conventions of firstperson narration. Extended flashback sequences usually include material that the remembering character could not have witnessed or known. Character memory is simply a convenient immediate motivation for a shift in chronology; once the shift is accomplished, there are no constant cues to remind us that we are supposedly in someone's mind. In flashbacks, then, the narrating character executes the same fading movement that the narrator of the entire film does: overt and self-conscious at first, then covert and intermittently apparent. Beginning with one narrator and ending with another (e.g., I Walked With a Zombie), or compelling a character to 'remember' things she never knew or will know (e.g., Ten North Frederick ), or creating a deceased narrator (e.g., Sunset Boulevard)-all these tactics show that subjectivity is an arbitrary pretext for flashbacks.
Classical manipulations of story order imply specific activities for the spectator. These involve what psychologists call 'temporal integration, ' the process of fusing the perception of the present, the memory of the past, and expectations about the future. E.H. Gombrich points out that temporal integration depends upon the search for meaning, the drive to make coherent sense of the material represented. 4 The film which challenges this coherence, a film like Not Reconciled (1964), Last Year at Marienbad (1961), or India Song (1975), must make temporal integration difficult to achieve. In the classical film, however, character causality provides the basis for temporal coherence. The manipulations of story order in Not Reconciled or Marienbad are puzzling partly because we cannot determine any relevant character identities, traits, or actions which could motivate the breaks in chronology. On the other hand, one reason that classical flashbacks do not adhere to a character's viewpoint is that they must never distract from the ongoing causal chain. The causes and effects may be presented out of story order, but our search for their connections must be rewarded.
Psychological causality thus permits the classical viewer to integrate the present with the past and to form clear-cut hypotheses about future story events. To participate in the process of casting ever more narrow and exclusive hypotheses, we must have solid ground under our feet. Therefore, through repetition within the story action and a covertly narrated, 'objective' diegetic world, the film gives us clear memories of causal material; on this basis we can form expectations. At the same time, the search for meaning of which Gombrich speaks guides us toward the motifs and actions already marked as potentially meaningful. For example, motifs revealed in the credits sequence or in the early scenes accumulate
significance as our memory is amplified by the ongoing story. Kuntzel suggests that these reinscribed motifs create a vague déjà-vu that becomes gradually more meaningful: 'The entire itinerary of The Most Dangerous Game is to make its initial figure readable, to progressively reassure the subject plunged ex abrupto into the uncertainty of the figure.' 5 The classical aesthetic of 'planting' and foreshadowing, of tagging traits and objects for future use, can be seen as laying out elements to be recalled later in the cause-effect logic of the film. If temporality and causality did not cooperate in this way, the spectator could not construct a coherent story out of the narration.
Our survey of narration has shown that the viewer's successive hypotheses can be thought of as a series of questions. Hollywood cinema's reliance upon chronology triggers the fundamental query: What will happen next in the story? Each shot, wrote Loos and Emerson, 'is planned to lead the audience on to the next. At any point, the spectator is wondering how things will come out in the next scene.' 6 The forward flow of these hypotheses may be related to the irreversibility of the film-viewing experience; Thomas Elsaesser has speculated that the channeling of chronology into causality helps the viewer 'manage' the potentially disturbing nature of the film-viewing situation. 7 The relatively close correspondence between story order and narrational order in the classical film helps the spectator create an organized succession of hypotheses and a secure rhythm of question and answer.
Duration, deadlines, and dissolves
Like order, classical Hollywood duration respects very old conventions. The narration shows the important events and skips the intervals between them. The omitted intervals become codified as a set of punctuation marks: expository inter-titles ('The Next Day') and optical effects. From 1917 to 1921, fade-ins and -outs and iris-ins and -outs were the most common optical transitions between scenes. Between 1921 and 1928, the iris fell into disuse, replaced by the fade as the most common transition. In the sound era, fades and dissolves were the most common signs of temporal ellipsis. Wipes enjoyed a vogue between 1932 and 1941 and appeared occasionally thereafter. Such optical punctuation marks were often compared with theatrical or literary conventions (curtain, end of chapter). Within a scene, of course, some of the same ellipses could be used. After the late 1920s and until the early 1950s, scenes often began with a shot of a building or a sign and then dissolved to the action proper. In the same period, a wipe, either hard- or soft-edged, might follow a character moving from one sub-scene to another. (Not until the late 1950s did a few films begin to eliminate such internal punctuation and simply use the straight cut to link scenes and subscenes. 8 ) Such a clear set of cues creates an orderly flow of action; compare the disruptive effect, in the films of Eisenstein and Godard, of beginning a scene's action and then, part of the way through, interrupting the action with a title that tells us when the action is occurring.
Punctuation marks enable the narration to skip unimportant intervals by simple omission. The montage sequence lets the narration represent, however briefly, those intervals. The montage sequence does not omit time but compresses it. A war, a prison sentence, or a career can be summed up in a few shots. Films which cover a great length of time may make heavy weather of montage sequences, as does *High Time (1960), which employs montages of seasons and semesters to cover four years on a college campus. The montage sequence was especially important in literary adaptations, since the plots of novels tended to cover extensive periods. 9 So critical were montages to temporal construction that they were also called 'time-lapse' sequences.
The classical film creates a patterned duration not only by what it leaves out but by a specific, powerful device. The story action sets a limit to how long it must last. Sometimes this means simply a strictly confined duration, as in the familiar convention of one-night-in-a-mysterioushouse films (The Cat and the Canary , Seven Footprints to Satan , *One Frightened Night , *Sh! The Octopus ). More commonly, the story action sets stipulated deadlines for the characters.
The mildest and most frequent form of the deadline is the appointment. This is most evident in the romance line of action, wherein a suitor will invite a woman out for dinner, to a dance, etc.
If the film makes romance primary, the acceptance, rejection, or deferral of such invitations forms a significant part of the drama (e.g., *Interlude , *The King and the Chorus Girl ). The very title of *Appointment for Love (1941) conveys the same idea. Even if the film does not rely completely upon the romance line of action, many scenes include the making of appointments for later encounters. Just as motifs anticipate future actions, so appointments gear our expectations toward later scenes.
The deadline proper is the strongest way in which story duration cooperates with narrative causality. In effect, the characters set a limit to the time span necessary to the chain of cause and effect. Over three-quarters of the UnS films contained one or more clearly articulated deadlines. The deadline may be stipulated in a line of dialogue, a shot (e.g., a clock), or crosscutting; whatever device is used, it must specify the durational limit within which cause and effect can operate. Most frequently, the deadline is localized, binding together a few scenes or patterning only a single one. Scenes in *Miss Lulu Bett (1921) are structured around the repeated deadline of the family's dinner hour. A series of short episodes in *High Time (1960) are governed by the fact that the freshmen must build a bonfire by seven o'clock. The localized deadline is of course most common at the film's climax. In *Fire Down Below (1957), one of the protagonists is trapped in the hold of a ship; it is on fire and sinking, and the suspense is predicated upon the slow drainage of time until the situation becomes hopeless. *The Canterville Ghost (1944) presents the climactic scene of the ghost and young William proving their courage by towing a ticking bomb across the landscape. When William says, If it'll hold for twenty seconds more!' the Ghost starts to count the seconds off. The conventional last-minute rescue is the most evident instance of how the classical film's climax often turns upon a deadline.
A deadline may also determine the entire structure of a classical film. The protagonist's goal can be straightforwardly dependent upon a deadline, as when in *Roaring Timber (1937), Jim agrees to deliver eighty million feet of lumber in sixty days. *The Shock Punch (1925) gives the protagonist the task of finishing construction of a building by a certain date; the film's last scene occurs on the deadline day. In 1940s films, the use of the flashback can also limit the duration of the story action. For example, *No Leave, No Love (1946) begins with the protagonist rushing to a maternity ward; while he waits for news of his child's birth, he tells another husband the story of how he met his wife. By halting the action at a point of crisis and flashing back to early events, the film makes those events seem to operate under the pressure of a deadline. (See also The Big Clock  and Raw Deal .)
*Uncertain Glory (1944) offers a clear example of how appointments mix with deadlines to unify the duration of the classical Hollywood film. The film's action takes place in France under the Nazi Occupation. The first six scenes present the escape of the convict Jean and his capture by the police detective Bonet; in these portions, alternating point-of-view creates suspense. When Bonet has captured Jean, we learn that the Gestapo will shoot one hundred hostages if a partisan saboteur does not surrender in five days. This long-term deadline structures the bulk of the film, as Bonet tries to convince Jean to pose as the saboteur, help the Resistance, and save the hostages. While the deadline hovers over the action, the two men quarrel, villagers conspire against them, Jean falls in love with a village woman (entailing small-scale appointments), and Jean tries several times to escape from Bonet. Finally, in the penultimate scene, at five o'clock Jean decides to surrender himself: 'Deadline's six o'clock, isn't it?' He turns himself in.
It should be evident that deadlines function narrationally. Issuing from the diegetic world, they motivate the film's durational limits: the story action, not the narrator, seems to decide how long the action will take. Planning appointments makes it 'natural' for the narration to show the meeting itself; setting up deadlines makes it 'natural' for the narration to devote screen time to showing whether or not the deadline is met. Moreover, appointments and deadlines stress the forward flow of story action: the arrows of the spectator's expectations are turned toward the encounter to come, the race to the goal. When, in * Applause (1929), the sailor from Wisconsin asks April for a date, we expect to see the date; when he says he has only four days of leave, we are not surprised that he should ask her to marry him before his leave is up. Deadlines and appoint
ments thus perfectly suit classical narration's emphasis upon eliciting hypotheses about the future.
As a formal principle, the deadline is one of the most characteristic marks of Hollywood dramaturgy. Alternative styles of filmmaking can often be recognized by their refusal to set such explicit limits on the duration of story action. The alternatives vary. Ozu structures his films by repeated routines and cycles of family behavior. Jacques Tati uses a fixed duration (a week, a day or two) simply as a block of time without a deadline. Eisenstein often composes a film of separate, durationally distinct episodes (e.g., Ivan the Terrible ). The 'art cinema' of Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, or Michelangelo Antonioni is characterized partly by its refusal of deadlines, its replacement of appointments by chance encounters, and its 'open' endings that do not allow the audience to anticipate when the chain of cause and effect will be completed. A Hollywood version of L'avventura (1960) would be sure to include a scene in which someone says: 'If we don't find Sandra in three days, her supply of food will run out.'
Within the classical scene, the viewer assumes durational continuity unless signals say otherwise. The individual shot is assumed to convey a continuous time span which only editing can disrupt. Yet the classical cinema is a cinema of cutting; the single-shot sequence is very rare. Thus classical editing strategies have to signal temporal continuity. Match-on-action cutting is the most explicit cue for moment-to-moment continuity. If a character starts to stand up in one shot and continues the movement in the next shot, the classical presumption is that no time has been omitted (see figs 4.1 and 4.2). Editors are warned that if they mismatch action, audiences will be confused about temporal progression. 10 But the match-on-action cut, expensive and timeconsuming, is relatively rare; of all the shot-changes in a classical film, no more than 12 per cent are likely to be matches on action. In the absence of information to the contrary, spatial editing cues, such as eyeline-match cutting, imply durational continuity.
The adoption of synchronized sound-on-film had a very powerful effect on how the classical cinema represented story time, as Chapter 23 will show in detail. Diegetic sound created a concrete perceptual duration that could aid editing in creating a seamless temporal continuity. If two characters are talking, the sound editor could make the continuous sound conceal the cut. A British editor summarized American practice: 11
This flowing of sound over a cut is one of the most important features of the editing of sound films-in particular, of dialogue films. The completely parallel cut of sound and action should be the exception rather than the rule. … Most editors today make a practice of lapping the last one or two frames of modulation on the soundtrack of the shot they are leaving over onto the oncoming shot.
That is, the shot change precedes the dialogue change by a syllable or a word. This 'dialogue cutting point' (Barry Salt's term) became standard by 1930. 12 On other occasions, of course, the sound can lead the image; very commonly a classical film will motivate a cut by an offscreen sound. The noise of a door opening, a character starting to speak, the music of a radio from another room-these can all help sound flow over a cut.
Another way of using sound to secure durational continuity is to employ diegetic music. Of course non-diegetic music, as accompaniment, had been present in the silent cinema, but there its quality as narration made it temporally abstract. In the sound film, diegetic music could cover certain gaps at the level of the image while still projecting a sense of continuous time. For example, in Flying Fortress (1942), a couple sit down to dinner in a restaurant while a band is playing. The meal is abbreviated by means of dissolves, creating ellipses on the visual track; but the band's music continues uninterrupted. The bleeding of music over large ellipses suggests how easily the temporal vagueness of music can make sound fulfill narrative functions.
The dissolve, the most common indication of duration, affords us an instructive example of how classical narration does its temporal work. Visually, the dissolve is simply a variant of the fade-a fade-out overlapped with a fade-in-but it is a fade during which the screen is never blank. 'To the layman or the average theatregoer, a lap dissolve passes unobtrusively by on the screen without his being aware that it had happened. A
lap dissolve serves the purpose of smoothly advancing the story.' 13 The dissolve was quickly restricted to indicating a short, often indefinite interval, if only a few seconds (e.g., a dissolve from a detail to a full shot). This makes the dissolve a superb way to soften spatial, graphic, and even temporal discontinuities. The dissolve could blend newsreel footage with studio shots, cover mismatched figure positions or screen direction, or blend an extreme-long shot with a close-up (see figs 4.3 through 4.5). Filmmakers of the 1920s in Europe and Russia showed that the dissolve opens up a realm of sheerly graphic possibilities, but Hollywood severely curtailed these: apart from a few exceptions (such as Josef Von Sternberg's work), the Hollywood dissolve became, as Tamar Lane puts it, 'a link…. It bridges over from one situation to another without a jarring break of action and without need for explanatory matter.' 14
After 1928, the dissolve on the image track was accompanied by a sound transition as well. At first, the procedures of sound editing and the uncertainties of sound perspective made technicians puzzled. Imagine switching abruptly from the blast of a jazz orchestra to a flash of a whispered conversation, then to the rush of a train and back to the silken vampire sleeping peacefully in her boudoir. Such a rush of conflicting sound ought to leave an audience as nervous as a doe at a waterhole.' 15 Sound dissolves were declared distracting; while a closeup of a face could dissolve to a long shot of a crowd, to mix even briefly the character's speech with the crowd's babble would result in cacophony. Instead, the character would complete the dialogue and pause; the crowd noise would then be sneaked in over the dissolve. Like the offscreen sound that motivates the cut to a new space, the sound bridge here may sometimes very slightly anticipate the next image. Both image and sound dissolving procedures show how, once a transition became codified, it could provide a continuous and unself-conscious narration.
Like our experience of story order, the viewer's experience of story duration depends upon a search for meaning. Gombrich writes: 'We cannot judge the distance of an object in space before we have identified it and estimated its size. We cannot estimate the passage of time in a picture without interpreting the event represented.' 16 In the classical cinema, the narration's emphasis upon the future gears our expectations toward the resolution of suspense. It is this that determines what periods the narration will eliminate or compress. When this does not happen, when the narration dwells upon 'dramatically meaningless intervals, ' duration comes forward as a system in the film and vies with causality for prominence. (See the various critiques 17 of Hitchcock's use of the long take in Rope .) Time in the classical film is a vehicle for causality, not a process to be investigated on its own. Hence the stricture that a walk without dialogue is 'dead' or wasted time. (Compare the durational importance of the silent walk in Dreyer, in Antonioni, and, from a different culture, in the Navajo films described by Sol Worth and John Adair. 18 )
More generally, classical narration's insistence upon closure rewards the search for meaning and makes the time span we experience seem a complete unit. Even from shot to shot, our expectation of causally significant completion controls how we respond. 'We hardly realize that we look at two different shots if the first one shows the beginning of an action and the next one its continuation.' 19 The match-on-action cut, the bleeding of sound over a cut, the use of dissolves and diegetic music all confirm our expectation of completion. The viewer's ability to test hypotheses against a film's unfolding cause and effect means that duration again becomes secondary to a search for narrative meaning.
Hollywood has also exploited our search for temporal meaning by shaping the felt duration of our experience. Narrative 'rhythm' can be thought of as a way in which narration focuses and controls successive hypotheses. Camera movement, especially if it is independent of the figures and closely timed to music, can create a moment-by-moment arc of expectation. 20 Editing was the earliest rhythmic realm which the classical cinema systematically exploited; by 1920, scenarists were recommending using short shots to increase excitement. 21 Rhythmic editing is still far from clearly understood theoretically, but certainly the time needed to grasp a new shot depends partly upon expectation. It appears that if the viewer is prepared and if the shot is graphically comprehensible, the viewer requires between half a second and three seconds to adjust to the cut. 22 Slowly paced editing leaves a
comfortable margin, so that the new shot is on the screen quite long enough for the viewer to assimilate it. But in Hollywood's use of accelerated editing, the viewer is primed to expect a very narrow range of alternative outcomes and the shots then flash on the screen so quickly that the viewer can 'read' them only in gross terms: do they confirm or disconfirm the immediate hypothesis? This process is evident in the last-minute rescue, when all the viewer wants to know is whether the rescuers will arrive in time, so the accelerating editing builds excitement by confining each shot to posing, retarding, and eventually answering this question. The ability of rapid editing to funnel the spectator's hypotheses into very narrow channels is confirmed by Robert Parrish's claim that fast pace can cover story problems. Asserting that The Roaring Twenties (1939) works like 'one big ninety-minute montage, ' Parrish notes: 'The audience never gets a chance to relax and think about the story holes. They're into the next scene before they have time to think about the last one.' 23
Strictly speaking, crosscutting can be considered a category of alternating editing, the intercalation of two or more different series of images. If temporal simultaneity is not pertinent to the series, the cutting may be called parallel editing; if the series are to be taken as temporally simultaneous, then we have crosscutting. For example, if the film alternates images of wealth and poverty with no temporal relation to one another, we have parallel editing; but if the rich man is sitting down to dinner while the beggar stands outside, we have crosscutting. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) uses both types: parallel editing makes abstract analogies among the four epochs, while crosscutting within each epoch depicts simultaneous actions. In the classical Hollywood cinema, parallel editing is a distinctly unlikely alternative, since it emphasizes logical relations rather than causality and chronology.
Crosscutting is a narrational process: two or more lines of action in different locales are woven together. Our hero gets up in the morning; cut to the boss looking at the clock; cut to our hero eating breakfast; cut to the boss pacing. Christian Metz has pointed out that such a sequence manipulates both order and duration. 24 Within each line of action, the events are consecutive; but between the lines of action taken as wholes, the temporal relations are simultaneous. The hero gets up somewhat before the boss looks at the clock, but across the whole sequence, we understand that while the hero gets up and comes to work the boss waits for him. There is yet another factor involved, which Metz does not mention: usually, crosscutting creates ellipses. If we cut from hero waking up to boss to hero leaving, the shot of the boss covers all the time it takes our hero to dress, wash, etc. Crosscutting almost always skips over intervals in exactly this way. Crosscutting, then, creates a unique set of temporal relations-order, ellipsis, simultaneity-which function for specific narrational ends.
Alternation of narrational point-of-view has a long history in literature and other arts, but crosscutting is often linked to specifically nineteenth-century theatrical and literary sources. Nicholas Vardac found 'cross-cut' scenes in nineteenth-century drama, which used dual box sets and area lighting to switch between lines of action. 25 Eisenstein traced Griffith's parallel montage through theatrical melodrama back to Dickens's novels. 26 The analogies with other arts emphasize the brevity of the scenes alternated and the simultaneity of the actions represented. Chapter 16 will show that both these aspects of crosscutting were common in American filmmaking long before 1917. But such analogies with other arts do not specify all the features of classical crosscutting.
Classical crosscutting traces out personal cause and effect, creates deadlines, and frees narration from restricting itself to a single character's point-of-view. We most commonly think of crosscutting as supporting a deadline-supremely, the last-minute rescue situation. But a silent film might employ crosscutting in a great many scenes-as exposition, as a reminder of characters' whereabouts, and especially as a way in which narration could control the viewer's hypothesis-framing. Crosscutting thus reveals narration to be omniscient (the narration knows that something important is happening in another line of action), but this omniscience, true to classical precept, is rendered as omnipresence.
In 1920, Loos and Emerson advised the screen-
writer that two crosscut lines of action would help keep the audience interested. 27 Of the UnS silent films, 84 per cent use extensive passages of crosscutting. With the coming of sound, however, crosscutting became far less frequent. Of the UnS sound films, only 49 per cent use any crosscutting at all, and only 16 per cent use it as extensively as did silent films. The reasons are evident. Dialogue would not be cut as quickly as silent action, and crosscutting lines of dialogue (done in Europe by René Clair and Fritz Lang) probably seemed too narrationally intrusive for Hollywood film-making. 28 The abandonment of crosscutting thus became consonant with a greater reticence on the part of sound-film narration.
None the less, the principle behind crosscutting remained important for the sound film. As Chapter 23 will show, the rhythm of silent film editing found a functional equivalent in the sound film's rapid shifts from scene to scene. In *The Whole Town's Talking (1935), our hero's boss notices that he is late and begins to interrogate other employees. The scene switches to Jones at home, asleep; he wakes up, notices the time, and rushes off. We then see Jones arrive at work. Such shifts in locale could be motivated by sound links as well (music, radio or television broadcasts, phone conversations, etc.). In such ways, a rapid alternation of distinct scenes could stimulate crosscutting's characteristic play with time-consecutive order, ellipsis, and an overall sense of simultaneity. A discreet narration oversees time, making it subordinate to causality, while the spectator follows the causal thread.