Hollywood in Berlin

The latest addition to the Bioscope Library is a welcome example of a modern film scholarship text made freely available online. Thomas J. Saunders’ study, Hollywood in Berlin: American Cinema and Weimar Germany, looks at the American film in Germany during the Weimar period. German films of the 1920s have been much championed and studied, in part as alternatives to American films of the period, but the focus here is on the considerable impact American comedies, serials, society dramas and historical epics had in Germany, and the debates they occasioned on the influence of cinema and the perils of Americanisation. Films covered include The Ten Comandments, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ben Hur and Greed, and the image and impact of Jackie Coogan, Mary Pickford, Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino, Chaplin, Keaton and ‘slapstick’ in general. The book therefore looks at cultural and industrial relations between Germany and America in 1920s, through the prism of popular cinema, bringing together economic history, reception studies, film studies and social history.

The book has been published online in chapterised, word-searchable, web form as one of the California Digital Library’s eScholarship Editions, a welcome initiative to make sample scholarly text freely available online to demonstrate its range of publications. Another example from the same source, already in the Library, is Charles Musser’s Before the Nickelodeon. Academic publishers, where they are rich enough to do so, are increasingly experimenting with multi-platform strategies, making texts available in print, online by subscription or to a restricted group (many of the eScholarship Editions are available only to University of California staff and students), and a few titles (or sample chapters) available free to the public. It breaks down barriers, demonstrates the flexibility of text, encourages discovery. More such forward-thinking initiatives, please.

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