Gregg Bachman and Thomas J. Slater present an array of essays that reveal the incredible complexity of silent films and the era in which they were produced. Essentially, silent films conjure the names of Mary Pickford and a few white men, including Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith. These eleven essays, however, demonstrate that minorities and women other than Pickford also responded to the times through film. The contributors deal with changing American society at a crucial time, examining our hopes and fears as a nation during the silent film era.
Opening new vistas, this book introduces us to people, films, issues, and concepts that few of us have encountered. One example is screenwriter June Mathis, who wrote more than one hundred scripts, brought Rudolph Valentino to stardom, and supervised all productions at the Goldwyn Studios in 1923. Equally intriguing is Nita Naldi, whose career and tragic life speak volumes about America’s combined fascination with and fear of ethnic minorities. Other key players in the drama of silent films include John Randolph Bray (animated cartoons), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and female producer, writer, and director Nell Shipman.
Contributors are Kay Armatage, Jean Chateauvert, Maureen Furniss, Mark Langer, Anne Morey, Diane Negra, George Potamianos, Joanna Rapf, Thomas J. Slater, Sam Stoloff, and Judith Thissen.
Seventeen illustrations enliven this study of silent film.
Babel and Babylon
Miriam HANSEN Harvard University Press, 1991 Library of Congress PN1995.75.H36 1991 | Dewey Decimal 791.43097309041
Although cinema was invented in the mid-1890s, it was a decade more before the concept of a "film spectator" emerged. As the cinema began to separate itself from the commercial entertainments in whose context films initially had been shown--vaudeville, dime museums, fairgrounds--a particular concept of its spectator was developed on the level of film style, as a means of predicting the reception of films on a mass scale. In Babel and Babylon Miriam Hansen offers an original perspective on American film by tying the emergence of spectatorship to the historical transformation of the public sphere.
Hansen builds a critical framework for understanding the cultural formation of spectatorship, drawing on the Frankfurt School's debates on mass culture and the public sphere. Focusing on exemplary moments in the American silent era, she explains how the concept of the spectator evolved as a crucial part of the classical Hollywood paradigm--as one of the new industry's strategies to integrate ethnically, socially, and sexually differentiated audiences into a modern culture of consumption. In this process, Hansen argues, the cinema might also have provided the conditions of an alternative public sphere for particular social groups, such as recent immigrants and women, by furnishing an intersubjective context in which they could recognize fragments of their own experience.
After tracing the emergence of spectatorship as an institution, Hansen pursues the question of reception through detailed readings of a single film, D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916), and of the cult surrounding a single star, Rudolph Valentino. In each case the classical construction of spectatorship is complicated by factors of gender and sexuality, crystallizing around the fear and desire of the female consumer.
Babel and Babylon recasts the debate on early American cinema--and by implication on American film as a whole. It is a model study in the field of Cinema Studies, mediating the concerns of recent film theory with those of recent film history.
As indelible components of the history of the United States, race and racism have permeated nearly all aspects of life: cultural, economic, political, and social. In this first anthology on race in early cinema, fourteen scholars examine the origins, dynamics, and ramifications of racism and Eurocentrism and the resistance to both during the early years of American motion pictures. Any discussion of racial themes and practices in any arena inevitably begins with the definition of race. Is race an innate and biologically determined "essence" or is it a culturally constructed category? Is the question irrelevant? Perhaps race exists as an ever-changing historical and social formation that, regardless of any standard definition, involves exploitation, degradation, and struggle. In his introduction, Daniel Bernardi writes that "early cinema has been a clear partner in the hegemonic struggle over the meaning of race" and that it was steadfastly aligned with a Eurocentric world view at the expense of those who didn't count as white.
The contributors to this work tackle these problems and address such subjects as biological determinism, miscegenation, Manifest Destiny, assimilation, and nativism and their impact on early cinema. Analyses of The Birth of a Nation, Romona, Nanook of the North and Madame Butterfly and the directorial styles of D. W. Griffith, Oscar Micheaux, and Edwin Porter are included in the volume.
Sparked by a groundbreaking Amsterdam workshop titled ŸDisorderly Order: Colours in Silent Film,Œ scholarly and archival interest incolour as a crucial aspect of film form, technology and aesthetics has enjoyed a resurgence in the past twenty years. In the spirit of the workshop, this anthology brings together international experts to explore a diverse range of themes that they hope will inspire the next twenty years of research on colour in silent film. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the book explores archival restoration, colour film technology, colour theory, and experimental film alongside beautifully saturated images of silent cinema.
Damsels and Divas investigates the meanings of Europeanness in Hollywood during the 1920s by charting professional trajectories of three movie stars: Pola Negri, Vilma Bánky and Jetta Goudal. It combines the investigation of American fan magazines with the analysis of studio documents, and the examination of the narratives of their films, to develop a thorough understanding of the ways in which Negri, Bánky and Goudal were understood within the realm of their contemporary American culture. This discussion places their star personae in the context of whiteness, femininity and Americanization. Every age has its heroines, and they reveal a lot about prevailing attitudes towards women in their respective eras. In the United States, where the stories of rags-to-riches were especially potent, stars could offer models of successful cultural integration.
Before the advent of television, cinema offered serialized films as a source of weekly entertainment. This book traces the history from the days of silent screen heroines to the sound era's daring adventure serials, unearthing a thriving film culture beyond the self-contained feature. Through extensive archival research, Ilka Brasch details the aesthetic appeals of film serials within their context of marketing and exhibition, looking at how they adapted the pleasures of a flourishing crime fiction culture to both serial visual culture and the affordances of the media-modernity of the early 20th century. The study furthermore traces the relationship of film serials to the broadcast models of radio and television and thereby shows how film serials introduced modes of storytelling that informedpopular culture even beyond the serial's demise.
Ernst Lubitsch, the German filmmaker who left Berlin for Hollywood in the 1920s, is best remembered today for the famous "Lubitsch touch" in such masterpieces as Ninotchka, which featured Greta Garbo's first-ever screen smile, and Heaven Can Wait. Kristin Thompson's study analyzes Lubitsch's earlier silent films of 1918 to 1927 in order to trace the mutual influences between the classical Hollywood film style as it had evolved in the 1910s and the German film industry of the same period, which had emerged from World War I second in strength only to Hollywood.
During World War I, American firms supplied theaters around the world as French and Italian films had become scarce. Ironically, the war strengthened German filmmaking due to a ban on imports that lasted until 1921. During that period of isolation, Lubitsch became the finest proponent of German filmmaking and once Hollywood films appeared in Germany again Lubitsch was quick to absorb their stylistic traits as well. He soon became the unique master of both styles as the golden ages of the American and German cinema were beginning. This innovative study utilizes Lubitsch's silent films as a means to compare two great national cinemas at a vital formative period in cinema history.
Kafka Goes to the Movies
Hanns Zischler University of Chicago Press, 2002 Library of Congress PT2621.A26Z37 2003 | Dewey Decimal 833.912
"Went to the movies. Wept. Matchless entertainment." So wrote Franz Kafka in one of his diaries, giving us but one hint of his little-known passion for the cinema. Until now, Kafka aficionados have been left to speculate about which films moved Kafka so powerfully and how those films might have influenced his writing. With Kafka Goes to the Movies, German actor and film director Hanns Zischler draws on years of detective work to provide the first account of Kafka's moviegoing life.
Since many of Kafka's visits to the cinema occurred during bachelor trips with Max Brod, Zischler's research took him not only to Kafka's native Prague but to film archives in Munich, Milan, and Paris. Matching Kafka's cinematic references to reviews and stills from daily papers, Zischler hunted down rare films in collections all across Europe. A labor of love, then, by a true man of the cinema, Kafka Goes to the Movies brims with discoveries about the pioneering years of European film. With a wealth of illustrations, including reproductions of movie posters and other rare materials, Zischler opens a fascinating window onto movies that have been long forgotten or assumed lost.
But the real highlights of the book are those about Kafka himself. Long considered one of the most enigmatic figures in literature, the Kafka that emerges in this work is strikingly human. Kafka Goes to the Movies offers an absorbing look at a witty, passionate, and indulgently curious writer, one who discovered and used the cinema as a place of enjoyment and escape, as a medium for the ambivalent encounter with modern life, and as a filter for the changing world around him.
Arguing for a sweeping new consideration of the shift from print to cinema as a governing system for organizing modern American social relations, this book uncovers an intimate connection between Hollywood romances of the silent era and the empowerment of a managerial class.
During the 1910s and 1920s, American movies told love stories through what rapidly became ubiquitous images. Again and again, silent features showed lovers separated by seeming happenstance and reunited as if by magical forces. Mark Garrett Cooper argues that this "magic" implies the expertise of the corporate movie studio with its hierarchies of professional experts. In other words, the Hollywood love story amounts to a managerial technique. Through close study of such films as Birth of a Nation, Enoch Arden, The Crowd, Why Change Your Wife? and The Jazz Singer, Love Rules shows how cinematic romance offers an object lesson in how to arrange American society-a lesson that implies that such work can be accomplished only by a managerial class.
Love Rules offers a boldly original account of how the Hollywood feature film supplanted the "imagined community" of print culture and, in doing so, played a key role in the transformation of American mass culture.
Mark Garrett Cooper is assistant professor of English at Florida State University.
Throughout the silent-feature era, American artists and intellectuals routinely described cinema as a force of global communion, a universal language promoting mutual understanding and harmonious coexistence amongst disparate groups of people. In the early 1920s, film-industry leaders began to espouse this utopian view, in order to claim for motion pictures an essentially uplifting social function. The Movies as a World Force examines the body of writing in which this understanding of cinema emerged and explores how it shaped particular silent films and their marketing campaigns. The utopian and universalist view of cinema, the book shows, represents a synthesis of New Age spirituality and the new liberalism. It provided a framework for the first official, written histories of American cinema and persisted as an advertising trope, even after the transition to sound made movies reliant on specific national languages.
Color was used in film well before The Wizard of Oz. Thomas Edison, for example, projected two-colored films at his first public screening in New York City on April 23, 1896. These first colors of early cinema were not photographic; they were applied manually through a variety of laborious processes—most commonly by the hand-coloring and stenciling of prints frame by frame, and the tinting and toning of films in vats of chemical dyes. The results were remarkably beautiful.
Moving Color is the first book-length study of the beginnings of color cinema. Looking backward, Joshua Yumibe traces the legacy of color history from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the cinema of the early twentieth century. Looking forward, he explores the implications of this genealogy on experimental and contemporary digital cinemas in which many colors have become, once again, vividly unhinged from photographic reality. Throughout this history, Moving Color revolves around questions pertaining to the sensuousness of color: how color moves us in the cinema—visually, emotionally, and physically.
From its earliest days, the cinema has enjoyed a special kinship with the railroad, a mutual attraction based on similar ways of handling speed, visual perception, and the promise of a journey. Parallel Tracks is the first book to explore and explain this relationship in both historical and theoretical terms, blending film scholarship with railroad history. Describing the train as a mechanical double for the cinema, Lynne Kirby gives her romantic topic a compelling twist. She views the railroad/cinema romance in light of the technological and cultural instability underlying modernity and presents the railroad and cinema as complementary experiences that shaped the modern world and its subjects—the passengers and spectators who traveled through that world. In wide-ranging and provocative analyses of dozens of silent films—icons of film history like The General and The Great Train Robbery as well as many that are rarely discussed—Kirby examines how trains and rail travel embodied concepts of spectatorship and mobility grounded in imperialism and the social, sexual, and racial divisions of modern Western culture. This analysis at the same time provides a detailed and largely unexamined history of the railroad in silent filmmaking. Kirby also devotes special attention to the similar ways in which the railroad and cinema structured the roles of men and women. As she demonstrates, these representations have had profound implications for the articulation of gender in our culture, a culture in some sense based on the machine as embodied by the train and the camera/projector. Ultimately, this book reveals the profound and parallel impact that the railroad and the cinema have had on Western society and modern urban industrial culture. Parallel Tracks will be eagerly awaited by those involved in cinema studies, American studies, feminist theory, and the cultural study of modernity.
In Picturing American Modernity, Kristen Whissel investigates the relationship between early American cinema and the experience of technological modernity. She demonstrates how between the late 1890s and the eve of the First World War moving pictures helped the U.S. public understand the possibilities and perils of new forms of “traffic” produced by industrialization and urbanization. As more efficient ways to move people, goods, and information transformed work and leisure at home and contributed to the expansion of the U.S. empire abroad, silent films presented compelling visual representations of the spaces, bodies, machines, and forms of mobility that increasingly defined modern life in the United States and its new territories.
Whissel shows that by portraying key events, achievements, and anxieties, the cinema invited American audiences to participate in the rapidly changing world around them. Moving pictures provided astonishing visual dispatches from military camps prior to the outbreak of fighting in the Spanish-American War. They allowed audiences to delight in images of the Pan-American Exposition, and also to mourn the assassination of President McKinley there. One early film genre, the reenactment, presented spectators with renditions of bloody battles fought overseas during the Philippine-American War. Early features offered sensational dramatizations of the scandalous “white slave trade,” which was often linked to immigration and new forms of urban work and leisure. By bringing these frequently distant events and anxieties “near” to audiences in cities and towns across the country, the cinema helped construct an American national identity for the machine age.
Women held more positions of power in the silent film era than at any other time in American motion picture history. Marion Leonard broke from acting to cofound a feature film company. Gene Gauntier, the face of Kalem Films, also wrote the first script of Ben-Hur. Helen Holmes choreographed her own breathtaking on-camera stunt work. Yet they and the other pioneering filmmaking women vanished from memory. Using individual careers as a point of departure, Jane M. Gaines charts how women first fell out of the limelight and then out of the film history itself. A more perplexing event cemented their obscurity: the failure of 1970s feminist historiography to rediscover them. Gaines examines how it happened against a backdrop of feminist theory and her own meditation on the limits that historiography imposes on scholars. Pondering how silent era women have become absent in the abstract while present in reality, Gaines sees a need for a theory of these artists' pasts that relates their aspirations to those of contemporary women. A bold journey through history and memory, Pink-Slipped pursues the still-elusive fate of the influential women in the early years of film.
The most famous stage actress of the nineteenth century, Sarah Bernhardt enjoyed a surprising renaissance when the 1912 multi-reel film Queen Elizabeth vaulted her to international acclaim. The triumph capped her already lengthy involvement with cinema while enabling the indefatigable actress to reinvent herself in an era of technological and generational change. Placing Bernhardt at the center of the industry's first two decades, Victoria Duckett challenges the perception of her as an anachronism unable to appreciate film's qualities. Instead, cinema's substitution of translated title cards for her melodic French deciphered Bernhardt for Anglo-American audiences. It also allowed the aging actress to appear in the kinds of longer dramas she could no longer physically sustain onstage. As Duckett shows, Bernhardt contributed far more than star quality. Her theatrical practice on film influenced how the young medium changed the visual and performing arts. Her promoting of experimentation, meanwhile, shaped the ways audiences looked at and understood early cinema. A leading-edge reappraisal of a watershed era, Seeing Sarah Bernhardt tells the story of an icon who bridged two centuries--and changed the very act of watching film.
Academics have generally dismissed Hollywood's cowboy and Indian movies - one of its defining successful genres - as specious, one-dimensional, and crassly commercial. In Shooting Cowboys and Indians, Andrew Brodie Smith challenges this simplistic characterization of the genre, illustrating the complex and sometimes contentious process by which business interests commercialized images of the West.
Tracing the western from its hazy silent-picture origins in the 1890s to the advent of talking pictures in the 1920s, Smith examines the ways in which silent westerns contributed to the overall development of the film industry.
Focusing on such early important production companies as Selig Polyscope, New York Motion Picture, and Essanay, Smith revises current thinking about the birth of Hollywood and the establishment of Los Angeles as the nexus of filmmaking in the United States. Smith also reveals the role silent westerns played in the creation of the white male screen hero that dominated American popular culture in the twentieth century.
Illustrated with dozens of historic photos and movie stills, this engaging and substantive story will appeal to scholars interested in Western history, film history, and film studies as well as general readers hoping to learn more about this little-known chapter in popular filmmaking.
Able, Richard Rutgers University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PN1995.75.S55 1996 | Dewey Decimal 791.4309041
Silent Film offers some of the best recent essays on silent cinema, essays that cross disciplinary boundaries and break new ground in a variety of ways. Some focus on the "materiality" of early cinema: the color processes used in printing nitrate film stocks, the choreographic styles of film acting, and the wide range of sound accompaniment. Others focus on questions of periodicity and nationality: on the shift from a "cinema of attractions" to a "classical narrative cinema," on the relationship between changes in production and those in exhibition, and on the historical specificity of national cinemas. Still others focus on early cinema's intertextual relations with various forms of mass culture (from magazine stories or sensational melodramas in the United States to the tango craze in Russia), and on reception in silent cinema (from black audiences in Chicago to women's fan magazines of the 1920s). Taken together, the contributors to this volume suggest provocative parallels between silent cinema at the turn of the last century and "postmodern" cinema at the end of our own. This book is an important contribution to the study of silent film and a key addition to this new series.
Slapstick comedy landed like a pie in the face of twentieth-century culture. Pratfalls percolated alongside literary modernism throughout the 1920s and 1930s before slapstick found explosive expression in postwar literature, experimental film, and popular music. William Solomon charts the origins and evolution of what he calls slapstick modernism --a merging of artistic experimentation with the socially disruptive lunacy made by the likes of Charlie Chaplin. Romping through texts, films, and theory, Solomon embarks on an intellectual odyssey from the high modernism of Dos Passos and Williams to the late modernism of the Beats and Burroughs before a head-on crash into the raw power of punk rock. Throughout, he shows the links between the experimental writers and silent screen performers of the early century, and explores the potent cultural undertaking that drew inspiration from anarchical comedy after World War II.
This magisterial book offers comprehensive accounts of the professional itineraries of three women in the silent film in the Netherlands, France and North America. Annette Förster presents a careful assessment of the long career of Dutch stage and film actress Adriënne Solser; an exploration of the stage and screen careers of French actress and filmmaker Musidora and Canadian-born actress and filmmaker Nell Shipman; an analysis of the interaction between the popular stage and the silent cinema from the perspective of women at work in both realms; fresh insights into Dutch stage and screen comedy, the French revue and the American Northwest drama of the 1910s; and much more, all grounded in a wealth of archival research.