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When did films start putting credits at the end?
February 24, 2005 5:29 PM   Subscribe

Ever notice how films from a few decades back (say, the early 70s and before) have all the credits before the film starts? And that newer films put all the credits at the end, except for maybe the title and the stars? When did that switch over start, who started it, and why? Obviously it looks better at the end cause we can all leave the theatre, but why was the decision suddenly made to switch it?
posted by about_time to Media & Arts (26 answers total)
 
I suspect that George Lucas had something to do with it, with his refusal to put the credits at the beginning of "Star Wars", which got him ejected from the Directors' Guild.
posted by interrobang at 5:34 PM on February 24, 2005


I recall similarly to interrobang that Lucas is largely to blame. He felt that it'd be distracting to have the credits at the beginning of Star Wars. After that film was a blockbuster hit, everyone was soon emulating him.
posted by kindall at 5:45 PM on February 24, 2005


Thanks for the quick answers. I searched the web, but couldn't find the answer. Searching for lucas and credits turns up a few stories. It seems iterrobang and kindall are correct.
posted by about_time at 6:10 PM on February 24, 2005


Lucas wasn't 'ejected' from the director's guild. He was fined, and then he quit.
posted by bingo at 6:12 PM on February 24, 2005


There is something to say for having the credits at the start, a kind of acknowledgement of those involved in the film. Otherwise, you're right people just walk out, don't care etc...(95% of the time I stay through the ending), just a opinion.
posted by edgeways at 6:13 PM on February 24, 2005


Citizen Kane didn't have credits at the start either. It didn't become common practice til the 70s though (based on my extensive watching of old movies), so it's probably Lucas's fault.

But he didn't invent it, just saying.
posted by SoftRain at 6:49 PM on February 24, 2005


This is why I love AskMe.
posted by caddis at 7:00 PM on February 24, 2005


It also most definitely has something to do with the rise of specialized unions. During Hollywood's "golden age," no fewer people worked on film crews than on today's films. (OK, not totally true, because there are eight billion special effects people and 45 songs on every film these days, but you get my drift.) However, fewer of them had the wherewithal to request/demand a listing in the film's credits. Not sure exactly when unions -- electricians, stagehands, drivers, etc -- acquired enough power to demand a place in the credits (late 1960s, I'd guess; I should know this), but, when they did, the number of people in the credits increased dramatically. Putting such a long list at the front end of a movie became unpleasant or unviable for moviegoers, so only the "main" credits are listed at the start, while the rest go at the end.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:12 PM on February 24, 2005


The first time I remember credits going on and on at the end of the movie (limo drivers, best boy assistant, catering by) was Superman.

Earlier movies didn't bother with so much crap information. Hairstyles were by Madame So and So (and they didn't bother listing every single assistant.) Special Effects were by Blank Studios. Gowns by Edith Head Period. Now we get the name of every single animal wrangler involved.

I guess everybody has "credit mention" listed in their contract.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:35 PM on February 24, 2005


I think that for film lovers (and I'm definitely one of them) rolling credits at the end of the movie is wonderful. While watching a movie, I often find myself thinking along the lines of "That's a terrific score, I wonder who wrote it...?" Credits at the end let me pick out the names that I thought provided something of particular interest or merit...

I think directors have the same basic rationale: credits are generally only played at the end on movies of substantial budget or artistic ambition. But when they want to stand by their work, directors might excercise a little of their clout to get them moved to the end.
posted by curtm at 7:40 PM on February 24, 2005


I just looked up Superman to find out the year of release (which was 78 so Star Wars, 1977, definitely preceded it.) But under "crazy Credits" I found this: Next Year: "Superman II"Cheerios by General Mills I don't even know what that means. Were there Cheerios in the movie? Were there Superman Cheerios on the shelves?

Under "crazy credits" for Star Wars it says this:

The film has no opening credits. Instead, the first credits seen at the end of the film are presented in the order in which they would have otherwise been shown at the start. Although by the late 1990s it was commonplace for
films to not have opening credits, in 1977 it was somewhat unusual for a major film to not have opening credits.


Note the "somewhat unusual" which means there must have been others previously.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:47 PM on February 24, 2005


Secret Life of Gravy wrote: Earlier movies didn't bother with so much crap information. Hairstyles were by Madame So and So (and they didn't bother listing every single assistant.) Special Effects were by Blank Studios. Gowns by Edith Head Period.

You raise an interesting sidenote, SL of G: In many cases, when credits read "Costumes by Edith Head," the divine Ms. H had little or nothing to do with the actual film, but received credit for it, anyway, as the head of the costume department at Paramount. She might've OK'd the final sketches that one of her underlings created, but had no actual creative input.
And, again, unions changed all of this: as you correctly say, now we see the name of every animal wrangler. (My favorite: the "cockroach wrangler" in the credits of CREEPSHOW.)
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:06 PM on February 24, 2005


Only barely off-topic, I get the sense that there are more people in California who watch all the credits of a movie (I'm one) than there are on the East Coast. I wonder if it's because they're more likely to see friends up there. (For me it's the CGI people.)
posted by Aknaton at 8:15 PM on February 24, 2005


Credit reels are archaic. When you're interested in who did what, it's better to use a movie database like IMDB.
posted by donth at 8:46 PM on February 24, 2005


donth: by that logic, recording artists should stop listing their backup musicians and producers because they're available on allmusic.com. And books needn't list their publishers or book designers because they're on amazon. Even paintings are signed; but since film is a collaborative art form, many people get to put their signatures on them.

I consider watching the entire credits to be a sign of respect for the filmmakers. It's also more interesting to read them right after I see the movie, as all the in-film references are fresh in my head.

Anyway: .
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:56 PM on February 24, 2005


donth: I enjoy them and prefer them after the movie.

Often I'll watch a movie and wonder where something was filmed, who performed a certain song or who the heck that 'it's on the tip of my tongue' waitress was. I'll also look for a caterers name if a location seems familiar or even a stock film credit if something is repackaged. It's fun for film buffs. It's what we do.
posted by cedar at 9:09 PM on February 24, 2005


George Lucas got fined like $250,000 for not putting the credits at the beginning (at least that's what the special DVD packaged with the Trilogy states). He paid it out of pocket to the guild and promptly quit the writers and directors guild, which is why Spielberg couldn't direct Empire. /tmi
posted by shoepal at 9:28 PM on February 24, 2005


I'm no film historian, but at least as a Kubrick fan I can point out that Dr. Strangelove (1964) had the credits at the beginning, while 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) had them at the end.
posted by llamateur at 9:58 PM on February 24, 2005


What donth said. I find it hard to read credits rolling by. IMDB has done a great deal to enhance my appreciation of such things and movies in general. The cross-referencing especially makes it meaningful.
posted by Goofyy at 10:13 PM on February 24, 2005


Notable precedents for "no opening credits" include:

Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)
West Side Story (1961)
Alfie (1966)
Head (1968)
The Godfather (1972)

The modern trend really began with Manhattan and Apocalypse Now. It should be noted that Star Wars was not the film on which Lucas and the DGA disagreed; it was The Empire Strikes Back, which Irvin Kershner directed, and whose credit is placed at the end. [academic paper; Maltin]
posted by dhartung at 10:25 PM on February 24, 2005


The opening credits for Kiss Me Deadly (1955's number one menace to American youth, according to the Kefauver Commission) are "backwards." They scroll down from the top of the screen, but read bottom-to-top.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:54 PM on February 24, 2005


This has sort of been implied in Dr. Wu's comment, but now that I think about it, the collapse of the studio system probably had a lot do with it. Until the mid to late fifties, everyone who worked on a movie was pretty much just a studio employee who showed up for work on Monday and did their job. They all had like a million assistants who didn't work on the films so much as for the studio.

Once people were being hired on a film to film basis, the terms of how much credit they got were eventually renegotiated.

(Slightly off-topic: The other big name you see in a million credits that he had nothing to do with is "Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons" who was the head of MGM's art department in the golden years. He has over a thousand credits on imdb for "Art Director" alone.)
posted by SoftRain at 2:26 AM on February 25, 2005


I for one am glad the opening credits are going away. I've sat through films where letters are still appearing on the screen 15 minutes into the production. It's obnoxious. I look at the person's name and think, "Well, aren't you vain?"
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:52 AM on February 25, 2005


I look at the person's name and think, "Well, aren't you vain?"

Do you think that about author's names on books? And don't tell me "the second assistant best boy isn't an author." Movies have no authors (other than screenwriters, who have notoriously little input into the actual movie); everyone who works on them plays a part and deserves credit (which is vital to their career).

One of my favorite credit sequences: Godard's Contempt, where the credits are spoken over the opening shot. There are no on-screen credits.
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on February 25, 2005


Credit reels are archaic. When you're interested in who did what, it's better to use a movie database like IMDB.

And where do you think most of the information in IMDB comes from? From the authoritative source of credit information -- the end of the film itself.
posted by kindall at 9:10 AM on February 25, 2005


(off-topic reply to Secret Life of Gravy)

"...under "crazy credits" I found this: Next Year: "Superman II" Cheerios by General Mills. I don't even know what that means. Were there Cheerios in the movie? Were there Superman Cheerios on the shelves?"

I don't know if there were actually Superman branded Cheerios made (seems like those kinda deals didn't come until later), but yeah, Cheerios had a cameo in Superman.

The day young Clark leaves home to head north with his shiny green crystal his mom is inside setting up the breakfast table. A big ole box of Cheerios is on the table, perfectly turned to face the camera in all it's yellow glory. It would've been a little less conspicuous if widow Kent had just jumped into the frame, arms extended and shouting "Cheerios! Yeah!".

For a fuzzy screen-cap from a somewhat frightening page, scroll about halfway down at http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/superman.htm
posted by blueberry at 11:28 AM on February 25, 2005


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