Sometimes some of the most interesting writing on early cinema isn’t found under the heading ‘cinema’. A case in point is Jon Savage’s new book, Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945. It’s a history of the invention of teenagers before there were teenagers, as it were. Most social histories explore the phenomenon post-1945 – Savage looks at how we got to that point by looking at the growing power and influence of adolescents, partiularly American, from the late Victorian period, not least through the pleasures that they pursued. So he has a lot to say about the cinema of the teens and 1920s (making good use of Kevin Brownlow’s Behind the Mask of Innocence), for which the audience was, we must remember, significanly young (up to 50% of the early cinema audience were children or adolescents, according to some estimates). He places the cinema as a particular pleasure of the teenaged within his larger thesis about America as a young society, giving early cinema a social context beyond the boundaries used found in a film studies book. Or at least that’s what I gleaned from half an hour’s read in Waterstone’s…

There’s an interesting review by Libby Purves in The Times which highlights the cinema aspects of the book. Jon Savage is of course the author of the definite book on punk, England’s Dreaming.

%d bloggers like this: