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American Cinema’s Transitional Era

Audiences, Institutions, Practices

Charles Keil (Editor), Shelley Stamp (Editor)


Paperback, 381 pages
ISBN: 9780520240278
July 2004
$33.95, £23.95
The years between 1908 and 1917 witnessed what may have been the most significant transformation in American film history. During this "transitional era," widespread changes affected film form and film genres, filmmaking practices and industry structure, exhibition sites, and audience demographics. By the end of the period, cinema had moved toward the shape it would assume for decades under the studio system. This collection of new essays by prominent film scholars traces these myriad changes, presenting the most detailed and comprehensive portrait yet of this pivotal stage in cinema's development.

Topics under discussion include debates about cinema's place in American culture; the influence of an evolving feature format; the role of state censorship; emerging genres and audiences; onscreen depictions of gender, race, and nationality; changing exhibition practices and theater locales; and the emergence of Hollywood as the nation's film capital.

Contributors: Richard Abel, Constance Balides, Ben Brewster, Scott Curtis, Lee Grieveson, Tom Gunning, Charlie Keil, J. A. Lindstrom, Roberta E. Pearson, Jennifer Lynn Peterson, Lauren Rabinovitz, Ben Singer, Shelley Stamp, Jacqueline Stewart
List of Illustrations and Tables

1. Systematizing the Electric Message: Narrative Form, Gender, and Modernity in The Lonedale Operator
Tom Gunning
2. "To Here from Modernity": Style, Historiography, and Transitional Cinema
Charlie Keil
3. Periodization of Early Cinema
Ben Brewster
4. Feature Films, Variety Programs, and the Crisis of the Small Exhibitor
Ben Singer

5. What Happened in the Transition? Reading Race, Gender, and Labor between the Shots
Jacqueline Stewart
6. The "Imagined Community" of the Western, 1910–1913
Richard Abel
7. The Coney Island Comedies: Bodies and Slapstick at the Amusement Park and the Movies
Lauren Rabinovitz
8. Travelogues and Early Nonfiction Film: Education in the School of Dreams
Jennifer Lynn Peterson

9. Where Development Has Just Begun: Nickelodeon Location, Moving Picture Audiences, and Neighborhood Development in Chicago
J. A. Lindstrom
10. A House Divided: The MPPC in Transition
Scott Curtis
11. Not Harmless Entertainment: State Censorship and Cinema in the Transitional Era
Lee Grieveson
12. Cinema under the Sign of Money: Commercialized Leisure, Economies of Abundance, and Pecuniary Madness, 1905–1915
Constance Balides
13. The Menace of the Movies: Cinema’s Challenge to the Theater in the Transitional Period
Roberta E. Pearson
14. "It’s a Long Way to Filmland": Starlets, Screen Hopefuls, and Extras in Early Hollywood
Shelley Stamp

List of Contributors
Charlie Keil is Associate Professor of History and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto and author of Early American Cinema in Transition: Story, Style, and Filmmaking, 1907-1913 (2001). Shelley Stamp is Associate Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Movie-Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture after the Nickelodeon (2000).
"An excellent collection that takes a broad and inclusive view of a remarkably interesting era. Bringing together an impressive line-up of film historians, Keil and Stamp's collection is a significant contribution to our understanding of early American cinema."—Gregory Waller, author of Main Street Amusements and Moviegoing in America

"This anthology refines our understanding of pre-classical American film and presents new research on the transitional era. The essays reveal an illuminating discussion of this important period in North American film. The scholarship is superior, and the organization of material exemplary. The volume is a timely and important contribution to the historiography of pre-classical cinema in the U.S."—John Fullerton, Stockholm University, co-editor of Nordic Explorations: Film Before 1930

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