Bioscope Newsreel nos. 8 and 9


In a special double issue of the all too infrequently published Bioscope Newsreel, we bring you news of some of the books on silent cinema recently published or due for publication soon (publication dates are for the UK, please note). Some of these titles I’ll be writing on in greater detail later.

United Artists 1919-1950
Tino Balio’s United Artists: 1919-1950 – The Company Built by the Stars, to be published in April, recounts the history of the studio founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith.

Shakespeare on Silent Film
At last a work to challenge Robert Hamilton Ball’s Shakespeare on Silent Film (1968), Judith Buchanan’s Shakespeare on Silent Film: An Excellent Dumb Discourse shows how the early cinema went about tackling high culture. It is published in May.

Weimar Cinema
In Weimar Cinema: An Essential Guide to Classic Films of the Era Noah Eisenberg discusses sixteen iconic German films, silent and sound, made between the two world wars.

American Cinema
The Screen Decades is a series from Rutgers University Press, designed for course use and scholarly research. The first three volumes under American Cinema are André Gaudreault, American Cinema 1890-1909: Themes and Variations (yes, it does say 1890 as a start date); Charlie Kiel and Ben Singer, American Cinema of the 1910s: Themes and Variations; and Lucy Fisher, American Cinema of the 1920s: Themes and Variations.

Ghosts on the Somme
Alistair H. Fraser, Andrew Robertshaw and Steve Roberts have produced an intensive analysis of the classic 1916 documentary, The Battle of the Somme, investigating it in unprecedented depth and with many exciting discoveries. Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916 is published in March.

The Fun Factory
Academia takes on Keystone in Rob King’s The Fun Factory: The Keystone Film Company and the Emergence of Mass Culture, described as viewing “the changing politics of early film culture through the sociology of laughter”.

Film 1900
Klaus Kreimeier and Annemone Ligensa are the editors of Film 1900: Technology, Perception, Culture, a collection of essays which look at early cinema as media history, comparing its impact to that of the current digital revolution.

Stagestruck Filmmaker
The important connection between Griffith’s film career and his stage inheritace is dealt with in David Mayer’s Stagestruck Filmmaker: D.W. Griffith and the American Theatre, which explores early cinema’s theatrical roots. Published in March.

Silent Comedy
Paul Merton, the British comedian who is dedicated to introducing classic silent comedy to new audiences, has his book Silent Comedy published in paperbackin May to coincide with his new Silent Clowns tour.

The Man Who Made Movies
Paul Spehr’s magnum opus, The Man Who Made Movies: W.K.L. Dickson, is a enjoyable biography of the man who deserves more than anyone else the accolade of the inventor of cinema, and an exceptional technological history.

Picturing American Modernity
In Picturing American Modernity: Traffic, Technology, and the Silent Cinema Kristen Whissel takes an innovative look at early cinema in the context of turn-of-the-century American culture.

The Silent Cinema in Song
Ken Wlaschin’s The Silent Cinema in Song, 1896-1929: An Illustrated History and Catalog of Songs Inspired by the Movies and Stars, with a List of Recordings brings together songs about movies and moviegoing created between 1896 and 1929, biographies of the stars with the songs that were dedicated to them, and a discography with availability information.

‘Til next time!

9 responses

  1. I have read Rob King’s “The Fun Factory” and can recommend it. I’m anxiously awaiting Brent Walker’s upcoming McFarland book, “Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory.” Different approaches to the same materials, both worthwhile.

  2. With thanks to Frank Kessler for alerting me to this new title (to be distributed by Wallflower Press in the UK):

    Jan Olsson, Los Angeles Before Hollywood: Journalism and American Film Culture, 1905 to 1915

    This study provides a meticulous account of the reception and regulation of cinema in the United States during a decade of upheaval, transition, and industrial consolidation affecting all realms of film culture. The time frame for this volume is from 1905 to 1915. Written in close dialog with contemporary journalism, the book has as its primary focus film culture in Los Angeles up to the era of Hollywood. Jan Olsson discusses exhibition practices, regulatory efforts and reforms, the burgeoning film journalism pivoted around the feature format and serial films, and not the least the critical role women played in all dimensions of film culture. His work provides an important contribution to both film history and urban studies during the Progressive Era in a city predicated on Midwestern sensibilities in spite of its eclectic mix of ethnicities.

    “Los Angeles Before Hollywood: Journalism and American Film Culture, 1905 to 1915, the long-awaited study of early cinema culture in Los Angeles, delivers even more than we expected. It has been some time since the field has seen a book on urban reception with so much original material, and no other book has given us the comparative urban perspective we find here.”

    Jane Gaines, Professor of Literature and English, Duke University

    “With wit, insight and painstaking research, Jan Olsson has rewritten the history of American cinema in its crucial transitional period from a new perspective. Just before film production shifted to the West Coast and the beginnings of Hollywood, Olsson reveals how the multi-cultural Los Angeles area prepared a new home for the movies, providing an in-depth view of the city’s unique exhibition environment, its politics and economics, and how it fits into the broader American culture that took in the movies. Using a finer meshed research agenda than most previous historians, Olsson explores the relation between the emerging film industry and the daily press, catching dramas, details, and patterns that change our sense of early film in America.”

    Tom Gunning, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

  3. And another one, published last month:

    Phil Powrie, Pierre Batcheff and Stardom in 1920s French Cinema (Edinburgh University Press).

    “This book is the first major study of a French silent cinema star. It focuses on Pierre Batcheff, a prominent popular cinema star in the 1920s, the French Valentino, best-known to modern audiences for his role as the protagonist of the avant-garde film classic Un chien andalou. Unlike other stars, he was linked to intellectual circles, especially the Surrealists. The book places Batcheff in the context of 1920s popular cinema, with specific reference to male stars of the period. It analyses the tensions he exemplifies between the ‘popular’ and the ‘intellectual’ during the 1920s, as cinema – the subject of intense intellectual interest across Europe – was racked between commercialism and ‘art’. A number of the major films are studied in detail: Le Double amour (Epstein, 1925), Feu Mathias Pascal (L’Herbier, 1925), Aeducation de prince (Diamant-Berger, 1927), Le Joueur d’echecs (Bernard, 1927), La Sirene des tropiques, Etievant and Nalpas, 1927), Les Deux timides (Clair, 1928), Un chien andalou (Bunuel, 1929), Monte-Cristo (Fescourt, 1929), and Baroud (Ingram, 1932).”

%d bloggers like this: