American Movie and Its Influences Portrayed in Surabaya in 1950s: Based on Suparto Brata’s Experiences

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If we want to talk about American culture, we cannot ignore about the movie. Movie is a media, which is in this case, has many kinds of interpretation and meaning. Movie can also be an instrument to spread ideologies and, conscious or unconsciously, much or little, will give influence to other person although they are separated around the world. In Surabaya, for example, American movie in the early years of Indonesia’s independence has given influences to Surabaya people who watched them. Beside the fact that American movies have affected Surabaya culture, we cannot disclaim that they have brought a lot that related with movie distributions, such as movie theaters, ticketing and the style of audiences.

Movie became something like “new popular culture” in United States especially in early until middle 19th century. Started from silent and white-and-black movie, the progress of movie and broadcasting world has been developing faster and faster. New improvements in every single part of technology always been reached by all countries, including Indonesia. All kinds of development that happened in America also happened in Indonesia especially in Surabaya in 1950s. It is also occurred in movie and broadcasting world.

Gathering and gaining information about some moments that have been happened in years we have not been born yet are not as easy as reversing our palms. How did American movies look like at that time? How was the distribution of those ‘foreign’ movies? American movies might be something fresh and attracting in that era, who were the audiences and how were their reactions upon the movies? Suparto Brata who lived at that time and being eye-witness of those moments has been interviewed; therefore, all could be widely explained. Using direct interview as main source of this paper is amazingly possible because Suparto Brata has made time for it modestly.

Watching a movie is vastly different from observing an image, painting, a stage performance or even just slide show in a class. A movie presents us with images in illusory motions; a series of images must be displayed to a viewer by mechanical equipments which present each image for a very short period and insert an interval of blackness between successive images. If a series of slightly different images of the same object are displayed under these conditions, physiological and psychological processes of the viewer will create the illusions of seeing moving images.

Machines do not make movies by themselves. Movie production transforms raw materials into a product through the application of machineries and under human control. Movie production is a collective work; movie workers participate equally in the project. All parts of movie makers are being united that make one full art works. It consists of how people work in a team and how they unite their spirits in order to reach one same goal. This spirits produce not only movies but also ideologies inside the movies. In earlier aim of making movies, movie is made to entertain people who watch it. However, nowadays movie becomes a great industry and profits a lot of money.

Movie in United States of America in 1950s reached the golden era. It is because in 1950s, the most popular fun media is movie (it happened before the television era). Movie became the most interesting entertainment media that brought many kinds of spirit and ideology, from the spirit of happiness until the ideology of freedom.

According to David Borwell and Kristin Thompson in Film Art, American movies in 1950s were included in new wave movies. The most obviously revolutionary feature of the new wave movies is about their casual looks. The new wave encouraged its actors to improvise their line; even it might slow down the plot (Borwell 374). Another feature of the new wave style is that about the humor. However the humor often lies in intricate references to other movie industries. New wave movies were narrative movies, but as a group they might be the most perplexing and discontinuous narratives that viewers could have seen long time ago. Besides, the movies were lack of goal-oriented protagonist. The heroes drift aimlessly, engage in actions on spur of the moment, and often spend their time talking and drinking in a café or going to cinema. New waves narratives often introduce startling shift in tone, under viewer expectation. Its method of independent financing low-budget movie seemed to offer a good solution. The movie directors were cheaper and quicker than supreme directors were.

Choosing 1950s as the beginning is because at that era American movies were in the first golden era and most of them gave big influences to the world thoroughly as a new kind of modern entertainment. 1950s was a time when Dutch influences still dominant the daily live of Surabaya. Dutch language still being taught in schools, beside, newspaper and office language were also using it. American movies that been shown in Surabaya theaters also used Dutch language as subtitle. American movies also brought the systems included, such as ticketing, movie theaters, its technology and etc. Suparto Brata will explain all about it from his experiences and point of view as one who has given a lot of contributions to Surabaya history, therefore, can be fully trust as a main source.

Suparto Brata cannot be separated with Surabaya history, for he is one of a few good writers in Surabaya; he wrote a thousand books from 1950s, his productivity doesn’t stop although now he is more than 70 years old. He looks full of spirit when he re-tells about his adolescence: about American and Indonesian movies and stories behind the movies such as how ticketing system was, movie theaters, form of movie theater and people reactions.

According to Suparto Brata, ticketing system of movie theaters in Surabaya in 1950s was similar with what happen in nowadays. The differentiation lies in the viewer’s age limitation. In 1950s, ticket guard would not count if the viewer was under age. Now, everyone above 3 years old has to pay full ticket. Almost all movie theaters had the same forms. There are 3 different classes in the movie theater: first class or the best class costed 3 rupiahs and had seats the farest from the screen, the second class costed 2 rupiahs and had seats in the middle and the last class was the third class that costed 1 rupiah and had seats nearest to the screen. There were 3 movie performances in a day: first time was around 4 until 6 pm, the second was from 6 until 8 pm and the last time start from 8 until 10 pm. There was one theater which different from the others, named Bioskop Kranggan that took place in Bubutan. Kranggan had also 3 kinds of seat but it had little amount of wall so that the audiences could sit outside and enjoyed the movie.

Suparto Brata explained, enthusiasm of Surabaya people in appreciating American movies were different one from other. The differentiation occurred because of the different educational backgrounds. Suparto Brata said that all subtitles until 1958s were in Dutch language. If they wanted to know about the story, “uneducated” people would ask their friends who understood the language. Most “uneducated” people liked action movies which needed no efforts to interpret the story. They would shout aloud when the movie showed about kissing or the uncovered artist’s body. The cowboy movies were the most favorite movies for “uneducated” one, because they contained more actions and less talk. Newspaper was one of promotion media that informed what movie would perform in a day. There was newspaper titled Nieuw Surabaija Handelblad, a very old newspaper that born about more than a century ago and used Dutch language.

Suparto Brata said that movies in 1950s were divided into 3 different classifications. First was amusing movie, the second was about character movie and the last was about history movie. Amusing movie was a funny or entertaining movie that would make movie viewer stay longer until the end of the movie. Examples of amusing movie were cowboy, humor and war movies. Suparto Brata said that character movie was a dramatically movie such as love and family movies or others. And the last, history movie was a movie that showed history. It was similar with documentary video. But there were only a few history movies that have been produced because many people preferred to watch amusing or character movies.

There was censorship office in 1950s. The function of censorship office was to limit improper scenes that not appropriate with Indonesian culture. Kissing scene was being cut but hug scene was allowed at that era. Kissing scene means kissing mouth to mouth, meanwhile kissing mouth to cheeks was allowed.

Suparto Brata and his friends had interesting behavior. They liked to list down all artists they admired to. He liked Dorisday very much, not only because of her talent; she could sing and act well, but also because of her background history. Dorisday was an artist who was very poor in her childhood. She was born in a poor family but she could survive because she sang beautifully and many people liked her very much.

According to his memory, there was no Indonesian movie produced at that era until 1956s. Indonesian movies that showed up in a movie theater before 1956s were old movies that have been produced in 1930-1940s that told about Javanese legends such as Sangkuriang. But in 1956s, Usmar Ismail produced 3 Dara as a pioneer of a modern Indonesian movies although it still in black and white. Citra Dewi, Mieke Wijaya and Indriyati Iskhak are actresses who became the main characters in 3 Dara. The story was about three girls that have three different life stories. Citra Dewi and Mieke Wijaya played as rich people and Indriyati Iskhak played as a poor one. After 3 Dara, many directors participated in producing films, such as Gadis Sepatu Roda, Asmara Dara and so on.

We can conclude that American movies development give influences all over the world. The movies are not just giving entertainment but also bring many American cultures inside and can change the lifestyle, influence the way people interact with each other and the way people see others. It also works for Surabaya people. Most of Surabaya people are influenced with something happen in the movie although it is not only bad behavior but also good behavior. Suparto Brata said that he got many things from American movies; he only took the good influences from American movies into his daily life. When he said that he was inspired with family happiness that showed in American movie, he applied the way happiness being shared in the movie into his family so that he could make them happy.


Bordwell, David and Thompson Kristin. Movie Art: An Introduction Second Edition. United States of America: Newbery Award Records, Inc. 1986

Dokumentasi Kliping Tentang Tanggapan Masyarakat Atas Movie Nasional. Jakarta: Centre for Strategic and International Studies. 1981

Stasheff, Edward and Bretz,Rudy. The Television Program “Its Direction and Production”. New York: Hill and Wang. 1976.

Wurtzel, Alan and Acker, Stephen R. Television Production Third Edition .United States of America McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1979

The most influential source is based on “the direct interview with Suparto Brata”

Posted by admin on Wednesday, September 29th, 2010. Filed under Essay. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “American Movie and Its Influences Portrayed in Surabaya in 1950s: Based on Suparto Brata’s Experiences”

  1. terima kasih pak sudah dimuat,jadi semangat nulis nulis lagi.

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