This course examines classical Hollywood cinema of the 1930s-1950s, focusing on the parallel genres of melodrama and film noir. These genres shared a production context (the Hollywood studio system at its height), an emphasis on gender (for melodrama in the form of the "weepie" or woman's film, and for film noir in its depiction of hard-boiled masculinity and the femme fatale), and an engagement with the pressing social and political issues of the era. In this course we will ask why these genres flourished during this period, how they resonated with contemporary audiences, and whether they transformed over time. We will also consider the genres' formal and stylistic attributes (narrative structure, cinematography, and mise-en-scene). Films to be screened will include All About Eve, Letter from an Unknown Woman, Mildred Pierce, Caught, The Maltese Falcon, Out of the Past, Kiss Me Deadly, and Sunset Boulevard, among others, accompanied by readings in film history, theory, and criticism. Several short essays and a longer research project will be required.