Cinema and Community
Progressivism, Exhibition, and Film Culture in Chicago, 1907-1917
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
As befits a book that took such a long while to write and research, I owe many thanks to all those involved in the process. My dissertation advisor, Don Crafton, and my committee members, Tino Balio, Lea Jacobs, and David Hayman, helped me start the process of mapping this area of early cinema. Tino Balio first opened my eyes to the significance...
Introduction: Progressivism, Modernity, and Transitional Cinema
Caught between the seemingly protoclassical emergence of features and the older model of the short film program, the 1910s have typically posed a problem for studies of early American film. Our understanding of this cinema’s institutional and textual developments is limited, partly because we lack a coherent conceptual framework to contextualize...
1. From Crowds to Communities: Progressive Era Spectatorship Theories
One of Progressivism’s characteristic features was its fascination with studying society in the hopes of stabilizing and managing modern life, a practice seen in its inward gaze and tendency toward self-analysis. As modernity’s transformations were widely believed to have altered the very manifestations of subjectivity, quasi-scientific...
2. Progressivism and Early Feature Films: Textuality, Oversight, Uplift
Although Progressivism was a cultural and social movement, many of its features also structured film form and narrative. Warren Susman has detailed how Progressivism shaped an aesthetic and cultural climate based on transformation, abundance, and new forms of communication, but other key features shaped American film...
3. Celebrity, Self-Awareness, and the Consciousness of Self
Following the rise film of stardom and the Progressive Era’s fascination with celebrity, newspapers and fan magazines began to run contests offering readers a chance at fame. In September 1915, Photoplay announced its first ever star-search contest: “Beauty and Brains” was open to all female readers with no prior movie experience. For the next eight...
4. Private Pleasures and Public Space: Community Culture and the Dominance of Neighborhood Theaters
Often overlooked in favor of the nickelodeon and picture palaces, the community-centered neighborhood theaters constituted the most important form of exhibition between 1908 and 1917. Movies found their greatest success in these areas, repositioning cinema as a fundamentally local pleasure deeply linked to family and community...
5. Oversight and Regulation: Film Censorship, Local Government, and Social Reform
As cinema became more respectable, it made the remarkable jump from a cheap amusement, based on thrills and sensations, to a potentially powerful source of cultural influence and authority. This more reputable guise ironically posed a greater threat to traditional sources of authority, including some reformers, politicians, and press barons...
6. Citizenship and Black Cinema
One of the Progressive Era’s top priorities was to stabilize and secure national identity, something that mass immigration and modernity made more fraught as both challenged foundational American ideals. Progressive Era anxieties over definitions of national identity also testified to the lingering significance of historical events...
7. Patriotism and Patronage: Regional and National Identity in Chicago’s Theaters during World War I
Films touching on national identity and American history and culture constituted an important and prestigious production trend during the 1910s. By 1914, feature-length films dealing with the national experience had supplanted the European epics like Cabiria, Les Misérables, and Quo Vadis? that had dominated Chicago’s downtown theaters the...
Progressivism provides many insights into this period’s cinema. It points to the importance of otherwise neglected institutions like neighborhood cinemas, reveals its understanding of spectatorship as a largely collective phenomenon while highlighting important conceptual structures like oversight, self-awareness, uplift, and the reappraisal...