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  • “The Spice of the Program”: Educational Pictures and the Small-Town Audience

    Rob King

    Chapter from the book: King, R. 2017. Hokum!: The Early Sound Slapstick Short and Depression-Era Mass Culture.


    This chapter explores the history of Educational Pictures from the transition to sound to the company’s decline in the late 1930s. Established in 1915, Educational had, by the end of the silent era, become the industry leader in short comedy distribution, serving over thirteen thousand exhibitors nationwide. Yet, within five years of the transition to sound, the company’s reputation had sunk precipitously, its shorts notorious as a bargain-basement home for ageing comedians. In assessing the implications of that decline, the chapter examines how industry developments squeezed the company’s output out of major urban markets, leading the studio to adapt its product to the tastes of hinterland publics. As such, Educational’s fate exemplifies the operations of what Pierre Bourdieu terms “banalization” as a mode of the social ageing of cultural forms – that is, the way in which certain cultural practices become outmoded through a process of change in their audience.

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    King, R. 2017. “The Spice of the Program”: Educational Pictures and the Small-Town Audience. In: King, R, Hokum!. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.28.d

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    Published on April 7, 2017