Who Killed the Mexican Film Industry? The Decline of the Golden Age, 1946-1960

Andrew Paxman


During the Second World War, a convergence of local acting and directing talent and rising production levels gave birth to the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, a phenomenon facilitated by reduced competition from Hollywood, Argentina, and Europe. However, as of 1946, high output masked a growing malaise within Mexico’s film industry, manifest in a decline in cinematic originality and a dependence on cheaply-made genre pictures. Traditionally, the slow demise of the Golden Age has been blamed on two factors: first, the influence of William Jenkins, an expatriate U.S. investor who developed a near-monopoly of theaters that privileged Hollywood fare at upmarket screens and financed local production in a way that kept budgets low; second, the creative stagnation of Mexico’s directors, whose union admitted few new members. This article explores those allegations while also considering other key factors of the decline: the risk-averse role of producers, the populist media policies of the Mexican state, and international trends such as the resurgence of competing film industries. The article therefore offers a holistic, business-conscious history of the Golden Age fade-out.


Golden Age, Mexican cinema, Cine de Oro, William Jenkins, Hollywood, Miguel Alemán, Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, Adolfo López Mateos

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