From the New Wave to the New Hollywood: The Life Cycles of Important Movie Directors from Godard and Truffaut to Spielberg and Eastwood

David Galenson, Joshua Kotin

NBER Working Paper No. 14150
Issued in June 2008
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Two great movie directors were both born in 1930. One of them, Jean-Luc Godard, revolutionized filmmaking during his 30s, and declined in creativity thereafter. In contrast, Clint Eastwood did not direct his first movie until he had passed the age of 40, and did not emerge as an important director until after 60. This dramatic difference in life cycles was not accidental, but was a characteristic example of a pattern that has been identified across the arts: Godard was a conceptual innovator who peaked early, whereas Eastwood was an experimental innovator who improved with experience. This paper examines the goals, methods, and creative life cycles of Godard, Eastwood, and eight other directors who were the most important filmmakers of the second half of the twentieth century. Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Stephen Spielberg, and Fran├žois Truffaut join Godard in the category of conceptual young geniuses, while Woody Allen, Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, and Martin Scorsese are classed with Eastwood as experimental old masters. In an era in which conceptual innovators have dominated a number of artistic activities, the strong representation of experimental innovators among the greatest film directors is an interesting phenomenon.

download in pdf format
   (132 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14150

Published: David W. Galenson & Joshua Kotin, 2010. "From the New Wave to the New Hollywood," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, vol 43(1), pages 29-44.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Galenson and Kotin w11486 Filming Images or Filming Reality: The Life Cycles of Movie Directors from D.W. Griffith to Federico Fellini
Galenson w15930 Innovators: Filmmakers
Galenson w15838 Late Bloomers in the Arts and Sciences: Answers and Questions
Galenson w16024 Understanding Creativity
Gil and Spiller w13253 The Organizational Implications of Creativity: The US Film Industry in Mid-XXth Century
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us