Up until the 70’s or so movie credits were at the first part of the movie and when it was over it just said “The End”. At some point the credits got put at the end. When did this happen and why was it changed?
My WAG would be it was about five minutes after everyone who walked past the set ended up with their names in the credits. No one wants to sit through 15 minutes of scrolling names of best boy gaffers and clapper loaders and caterers before the movie starts.
It certainly wasn’t as late as the 1970’s. It was more like the 1950’s. The movies of the 1940’s usually had separate front credit sequences, not overlaid on the opening sequences. One common way of doing them was as if a book was being flipped through. Closing credits were short or nonexistent. By the 1950’s closing credit sequences became common. Front credit sequences in the 1950’s and 1960’s were often “artistically” designed.
One reason that longer credits began in the 1950’s may be that this was the time when the movie studios began to break up. Before then, everyone employed in nearly all films was just a studio employee. Nobody cared about credits because everybody working on the film was just a studio employee. Which films you happened to work on wasn’t your determination. You got assigned by the studio to your work. From the 1950’s on though, most crew members on films were hired just to work on a particular film. It became important to know your credits so that you could tell them to the people hiring you for an upcoming film.
There were end credits dati8ng back to the 1930s, if you count a listing of who played what – the original Frankenstein has such a cast list, saying “A Good Cast is Worth Repeating” (and giving credit to Boris Karloff, who wasn’t named in the cast list at the astart of the film. It listed “The Monster” as bein g played by “?”)
Such second listings at the end were common. They usually didn’t give any other credits at the end. Sometime in the 1970s, though, they started running really long credits at the end (in addition to the credits that ran at the start of the film). Look at James Bond Films, which came out, for a long time, ever other year. Diamonds are Forever in 1971, like the preceding ones, only has a cast list. But **The Spy Who Loved Me, in 1977, has the full-blown orchestral score several minutes long Everybody and his Brother Who Worked on the Film list. So did Star Wars, also out in 1977. But Young Frankenstein, in 1975, only had a cast list at the end. I don’t recall about the 1975 Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, but I’ll bet it was pretty short. That seems to set the start of the era of long closing credits with their own orchestral score around 1976
Can I butt in and ask, further to this question, how did they decide on the apparently uniform order of the credits. Whenever I want to check the credits it is for a piece of music and they are always last. Why?
Contracts and guild rules. The director’s credit, for instance, must appear just before the beginning of the film if there are opening credits, or be the first credit after the film ends (The first modern film where the director’s credit was after the movie ended was The Empire Strikes Back and Lucas had to pay a fine for doing so, which probably reduced his pocket change for several days).
Actors, producers, and writers credits are also regulated by contract and guild rules.
In the end credits, people who actually did work on the film get credited before other things. Song credits are last probably because there are a lot of them.
I think that Star Wars was the first movie to have directors name at the end of the movie, but Lucas got special permission for that instance. He was fined after doing it again with ESB, and was fined. He quite the directors guild because of it, AFAIK.