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Reconstructing American Historical Cinema: From Cimarron to Citizen Kane

by J.E. Smyth

Availablepaperback$45.00x 978-0-8131-9239-0
Out of Printcloth$60.00x 978-0-8131-2406-3
464 pages  Pubdate: 08/21/2009  6.125 x 9.25 x 1.1875  photos

Reconstructing American Historical Cinema explores Hollywood's pivotal interpretations of national history during the height of the studio system. In a radical departure from traditional studies of film and history, J. E. Smyth looks at rarely discussed production records and scripts from studio archives, arguing that certain classical Hollywood filmmakers were actively engaged in a self-conscious and often critical filmic writing of national history. Her unique approach unites the study of popular and academic historical writing, historical fiction, and screenwriting, providing a rich context for the industry's commitment to American history. Reconstructing American Historical Cinema uncovers Hollywood's diverse and conflicted attitudes toward American history in narratives including nineteenth-century frontier epics, gangster biopics, and histories of silent-era Hollywood.

J.E. Smyth is a lecturer in the history department at the University of Warwick (UK). Her articles have appeared in Film and History, Rethinking History, and The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

"A scrupulously researched discusson of historical films produced by Hollywood from 1931 to 1942. In treating Westerns, gangster films, Civil War films, and various kinds of biopics, she brings to the discussion a treasure trove of production materials that show how far from thoughtless these films really are. Smyth stakes out new critical territory. Essential." --Choice

"Although Hollywood is noted for its formulaic filmmaking, Smyth argues that serious historical treatment is evident in different genres. Her endorsement of certain films as honest reflections of the American past will pique readers' interest."--Library Journal

"Smyth provides a rich context for the industry's commitment to American history by examining past production records and scripts."--Choice

“J.E. Smyth’s book is a controversial, innovative, and meticulously researched text that reconfigures time-worn conceptions of what constitutes history on and in cinema.”--American Historical Review

“…This is an excellent book. It serves as an important challenge to traditional readings of classical Hollywood, to traditional understanding of American historiography, and to those theories of ‘film and history’ that are rapidly becoming traditionalized."--Nicholas Witham, Screening the Past

“Smyth provides a fascinating history of a Hollywood when producers, more than directors, controlled the texture of American film.”--Film Quarterly

“Smyth…takes a unique approach, uniting the study of popular and academic historical writing, historical fiction, and screenwriting, to provide a rich context for the movie industry’s commitment to American history while investigating the rarely discussed production records and scripts from studio archives.” --University of Kentucky News

Winner of the 2009 Prize for a Work in Media and History given by the International Association for Media and History.