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Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema

Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple

James MacDowell

eBook (PDF) i

A critical study of the ‘happy ending’ in classical and contemporary Hollywood cinema

The Hollywood ‘happy ending’ has long been considered among the most famous and standardised features in the whole of narrative filmmaking. Yet, while ceaselessly invoked, this notorious device has received barely any detailed attention from the field of film studies.

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Introduction: The ‘Happy Ending’: The Making of a Reputation
Chapter 1:The ‘Happy Ending’ and Homogeneity
Chapter 2: Happy Endings and Closure
Chapter 3: Happy Endings and Unrealism
Chapter 4: Happy Endings and Ideology
Conclusion: Provisions for the Future

About the Author

James MacDowell is an Associate Fellow in the Department of Film & Television Studies at the University of Warwick, and an editorial board member of Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism. His research focuses on issues of narrative, aesthetics and culture in Hollywood and American independent cinema, and he is currently writing a book on irony in film.


MacDowell quietly but brilliantly questions widespread misconceptions about Hollywood endings, and convincingly argues for their variety and complexity as well as their emotional and intellectual appeal. The book’s combination of exceptionally smart in-depth textual analysis and theoretical speculation makes it compulsory reading for scholars and students for whom the films themselves are still the main focus of our discipline. A wonderful book.  

- Celestio Deleyto, University of Zaragoza

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