Film School

Yale film professor gives Dallas crash course on movies that changed America

Yale film professor educates Dallas on movies that changed America

The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman
The Graduate is one of four films discussed during "Four Films That Changed America," part of One Day University at Hyatt Regency Dallas on May 10. FilmForum.org

Calling all film buffs and Ivy League admirers: Yale University's Marc Lapadula is coming to Dallas to present a lecture titled "Four Films that Changed America." The film professor shares his knowledge of movies and pop culture during One Day University on Saturday, May 10, at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

The full-day seminar allows students-for-a-day to choose five, one-hour courses delivered by professors from big-name universities like Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Rutgers and Cornell.

Lapadula has participated in multiple One Day University sessions since the program's inception in 2006. He says that he gets as much out of the experience as the students do.

 "People will say, 'Wow, I had no idea this was really going on inside this film. I have to go back and re-watch that movie.'" — Marc Lapadula

"It’s always great to take what you do and tailor it beyond what you do in the classroom," Lapadula says. "It's rewarding for me because it makes me expand and increase my range on what my interests are."

Lapadula's course is a truncated version of ones he's done at other One Day University programs. During the Dallas course, he focuses on four films: The Jazz SingerI Am a Fugitive From a Chain GangThe Graduate and The China Syndrome.

"These are movies that aren't necessarily amazing movies as far as their artistic merits, but they are movies that were pretty daring for their time and are still quite important to look at for what their contributions were," Lapadula says.

Each film chosen had varying levels of impact on both American society and the film industry. The Jazz Singer is known as the first feature-length movie to use sound, but it also introduced jazz, which was primarily performed by black musicians at that time, to a white audience.

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, Lapadula notes, not only exposed atrocious behavior on the part of the penal system, but its influence can be seen in other similarly themed movies like Cool Hand LukeO Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Shawshank Redemption.

"This film really ushered in the idea that movies could have a social conscience and take on tough subjects," Lapadula says. "They weren’t interested in entertaining people; they wanted to shake people up."

Anyone who takes his course shouldn't worry about the relatively short one-hour time limit, as Lapadula says he can pack a lot into his lecture.

"I think for what these audiences are looking for, it's more exciting to see a cluster of films examined than to see one film examined," Lapadula says. "I can talk about a movie for 10 minutes in a way that people will say, 'Wow, I had no idea this was really going on inside this film. I have to go back and re-watch that movie.'"

Lapadula hopes that anyone who chooses to attend One Day University understands just how much it has to offer.

"It gets the best professors from their fields from all these great schools to come in to share their enthusiasm and passion, and alter them in a way to make them even more fun and more exciting," Lapadula says. "It's a memorable event. People tend to say, 'When are you coming back? I want to see your next lecture.'"