Hot off the presses

We had a previous post where we alerted readers to upcoming publications in the area of silent film, and it seemed to be quite well received, so here’s another look into the crystal ball at some of the books scheduled for 2011:

Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination looks highly welcome. It is written by Matthew Solomon, author of the excellent Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century. His new book, published by State University of New York Press, concentrates on Georges Méliès’ Trip to the Moon, the key fantastical film of the silent era (and one of the most important of all science fiction films). It places the film in the context of histories of techology, film history, the avant garde, Méliès’ own history, and more. It’s a great idea for a book and I hope to review here in due course.

Soon to be published by Anthem Press is The Diaries of Frank Hurley 1912-1941, edited by Robert Dixon and Christopher Lee. Frank Hurley was the photographer and cinematographer for the Antarctic expedition of Douglas Mawson and most famously Ernest Shackleton. He went on to be an official war cameraman on the Western Front and in the Near East, then in the 1920s directed ethnographic dramas such as Pearls and Savages. Onlt short passages of his diaries (which cover all of this period and more) have been published up to now, and this illustrated edition will cast new light on a filmmaker who images alone among the most eloquent (and most arduously achieved) of their time. In October Anthem will publish Robert Dixon’s Photography, Early Cinema and Colonial Modernity: Frank Hurley’s Synchronized Lecture Entertainments which sounds like an important recognition that artists such as Hurley did not produce films so much as multimedia entertainments, combining film, images, music and commentary.

June sees the publication by the BFI of Bryony Dixon’s 100 Silent Films. This is one of a series of BFI books in which 100 essential titles in any given genre (Westerns, Anime, Shakespeare Films, Road Movies etc) are described in pithy, accessible form. The latest is this volume by the BFI’s silent film curator, which will feature one hundred key films of the silent period from a variety of countries, genres and directors, and will doubtless generate much argument as to what should or should not have been included, while being a highly welcome first port of call for anyone discovering silent films. Again, it should be reviewed here in due course.

British Silent Cinema and the Great War will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in August. Edited by Michael Hammond and Michael Williams, it is appearing ahead of what is going to be a huge number of texts marking the centenary of the First World War, now just three years away. It covers the complex relationship between British film and the British experience of the war, and is indicative of how confident and sophisticated the discussion of British silent cinema has become in recent years – a far cry from the corner of silent film history that scarcely dared speak its name not so long ago.

The University of California Press is publishing Twilight of the Idols: Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920s America by Mark Lynn Anderson. The book looks at the position of silent films stars – particularly Wallace Reid, Rudolph Valentino, and Mabel Normand – and how they shapred ideas of personality and human conduct. As the publishers’ blurb puts it, “Anderson looks at motion picture stars who embodied various forms of deviance – narcotic addiction, criminality, sexual perversion, and racial indeterminacy. He considers how the studios profited from popularizing ideas about deviance, and how the debates generated by the early Hollywood scandals continue to affect our notions of personality, sexuality, and public morals”. So, stuff we’ve heard before, but also stuff that people are going to keep on and keep on reading.

Flickers of Desire: Movie Stars of the 1910s by Jennifer M. Bean is published by Rutgers University Press in August. The blurb states: “The conjunction of the terms “movie” and “star” was inconceivable prior to the 1910s. Flickers of Desire explores the emergence of this mass cultural phenomenon, asking how and why a cinema that did not even run screen credits developed so quickly into a venue in which performers became the American film industry’s most lucrative mode of product individuation. Contributors chart the rise of American cinema’s first galaxy of stars through a variety of archival sources – newspaper columns, popular journals, fan magazines, cartoons, dolls, postcards, scrapbooks, personal letters, limericks, and dances.” Perfomers covered include Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Pearl White, Sessue Hayakawa, Theda Bara, George Beban and G. M. Anderson.

Nina Baburina’s The Silent Film Poster 1908-1934 is published in July by Art-Rodnik. The book is a little more specific that the title might suggest, being an illustrated study of the Russian film poster. It traces the history from a 1908 poster from Stenka Razin designed by Paul Assaturov in the style of “ancient naive Russian imagery” to an advertisement for a silent movie by Yuri Pimenov from 1934, through 161 full-page repductions. The artists featured include Alexandro Rodchenko, the Stenberg Brothers, Jacob Ruklevski, Nikolai Prusakov and Alexander Naumov, and naturally enough it covers the pre-Soviet as well as the Soviet era, and both Russian/Soviet and foreign films.

If you know of more that are coming up, do add them to the comments.

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