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This engaging, deeply researched study provides the richest and most nuanced picture we have to date of cinema—both movies and movie-going—in the early 1910s. At the same time, it makes clear the profound relationship between early cinema and the construction of a national identity in this important transitional period in the United States. Richard Abel looks closely at sensational melodramas, including westerns (cowboy, cowboy-girl, and Indian pictures), Civil War films (especially girl-spy films), detective films, and animal pictures—all popular genres of the day that have received little critical attention. He simultaneously analyzes film distribution and exhibition practices in order to reconstruct a context for understanding moviegoing at a time when American cities were coming to grips with new groups of immigrants and women working outside the home. Drawing from a wealth of research in archive prints, the trade press, fan magazines, newspaper advertising, reviews, and syndicated columns—the latter of which highlight the importance of the emerging star system—Abel sheds new light on the history of the film industry, on working-class and immigrant culture at the turn of the century, and on the process of imaging a national community.
Richard Abel is the Robert Altman Collegiate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, The Red Rooster Scare: Making Cinema American (UC Press), and The Ciné Goes to Town (UC Press), among other books.
“An especially notable achievement.”—Gregory A. Waller Film Quarterly
“A wealth of exceptional information.”—Film International
“[Conveys] a sense of the excitement that fans of the era experienced.”—Journal Of The Gilded Age And Progressive Era
“Valuable.”—Paul S. Moore Nineteenth Century Theatre & Film
“This is a book every scholar of early American (and other) cinema should want: it is not a grand overview of the subject, but thanks to Abel’s depth of knowledge and historical ability it is a volume that will have a substantial influence.”—Stephen Bottomore Early Popular Visual Culture
“Provides rare insight into the often ephemeral world of moviegoing audiences.”—J. Andrew Ross, Univ. of Western Ontario Enterprise & Society
"Like all of Richard Abel's previous works, this book is characterized by careful marshalling of data and the exploration of new sources. There is a wealth of extremely important, instructive information, and the book provides an encyclopedic treatment of film exhibition in the early 1910s and the key film genres of the period. This will be an important book for film studies."—Lea Jacobs, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Finalist, Theatre Library Association Award, Theatre Library Association