The American Film History Reader  book cover
1st Edition

The American Film History Reader

Edited By

Jon Lewis


Eric Smoodin

ISBN 9780415706889
Published December 17, 2014 by Routledge
414 Pages

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Book Description

What do we talk or write about when we talk and write about American film history? The answer is predictably complex and elusive. The American Film History Reader acknowledges and accommodates this complex task by showcasing a range of historical writing demonstrating that when we talk or write about film history we, by necessity, talk and write about a lot of different things.

The American Film History Reader provides a selective history of American cinema and offers an introduction to historiographic practice in relation to American moviemaking and moviegoing.

The Reader is composed of eighteen essays organized into six thematic sections:

  • Industrial Practice
  • Technology
  • Reception
  • Films and Filmmakers
  • Censorship and Regulation
  • Stardom

Appreciating that methods and materials change over time, this structure allows the editors to showcase a breadth of historiographic approaches and a range of research materials within each section. Each essay acts as a point of entry into a history that accounts for the essential and inherent commercial, experiential, social, and cultural aspects of the medium.

All eighteen essays are individually introduced by the editors, who provide additional context and suggestions for further reading, making it an ideal resource for students of film studies and particularly for students taking courses on film history.

Table of Contents

Introduction Jon Lewis and Eric Smoodin Part I: Industrial Practice 1. Notes on Columbia Film Corporation 1926-41 Edward Buscombe 2. Warner Bros.: Power Plays and Prestige Thomas Schatz 3. Labor and Film Narrative Danae Clark  Part II: Technology 4. CinemaScope: Before and After Charles Barr 5. Film Style and Technology in the Thirties Barry Salt 6. Tales of Upward Mobility Kristen Whissel Part III: Reception 7. The Souls of Black Folk in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Black Newspapers Criticism and the Early Cinema, 1909-1916 Anna Everett 8. Dish Night at the Movies: Exhibitor Promotions and Female Audiences during the Great Depression Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley 9. ‘This Business of America’: Fan Mail, Film Reception and Meet John Doe Eric Smoodin  Part IV: Films and Filmmakers 10. Howard Hawks Molly Haskell 11. Female Authorship Revisited Judith Mayne 12. Papering the Cracks: Fantasy and Ideology in the Reagan Era Robin Wood  Part V: Censorship and Regulation 13. The Censorship of Blonde Venus: Textual Analysis and Historical Method Lea Jacobs 14. Classical Hollywood According to Joseph Breen Thomas Doherty 15. We Do Not Ask You to Condone This: How the Blacklist Saved Hollywood Jon Lewis  Part VI: Stardom 16. A Star is Born: The Transnational Success of the Cheat and Its Race and Gender Politics Daisuke Miyao 17. Pleasure, Ambivalence, Identification: Valentino and Male Spectatorship Miriam Hansen 18. Hollywood Memories Jackie Stacey Index

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Jon Lewis is professor of Film Studies at Oregon State University and the former editor of Cinema Journal. He has published nine books, including Whom God Wishes to Destroy … Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood and Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry.

Eric Smoodin is professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Most recently, he is the author of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Regarding Frank Capra: Audience, Celebrity, and American Film Studies, 1930-1960.


"Lewis and Smoodin have assembled an absolutely essential reader for scholars and students of American film history. Structured around eighteen key essays, the book is far more than a survey of important films; it is, most importantly, a compelling reminder that any film history should reflect a spectrum of historiographic methods."

Timothy Corrigan, Director of Cinema Studies, University of Pennsylvania

"Lewis and Smoodin - the scholarly equivalent of a star-powered Hollywood double-act - have brilliantly assembled a collection of essays that enable readers to examine both the history of American film and the changing historiographic practices that address that commercial art form. I can think of no better guides, and the book they have produced will rightly become integral to the ways we teach American film history."

Lee Grieveson, Director of the Graduate Programme in Film Studies, University College London

"As editors, [Smoodin and Lewis] have distinctly articulated their reasons for each and every article and do a thorough job of situating each selection in both its framework and the larger field of media historiography... If there are individuals who cling stubbornly to the notion that an Ivory Tower still exists in academia, Eric Smoodin and Jon Lewis are certainly not among them. The publication of The American Film History Reader is a testament to their belief that there has always been more than one film history to write, and more than one method to writing it."

Regina Longo, in Film Quarterly