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Shadows of Doubt

Negotiations of Masculinity in American Genre Films

Barry Keith Grant

Publication Year: 2010

In Shadows of Doubt: Negotiations of Masculinity in American Genre Films, Barry Keith Grant questions the idea that Hollywood movies reflect moments of crisis in the dominant image of masculinity. Arguing instead that part of the mythic function of genre movies is to offer audiences an ongoing dialogue on issues of gender, Grant explores a wide range of genre films, including comedies, musicals, horror, science fiction, westerns, teen movies, and action films. In ten chapters arranged chronologically according to the films discussed, Grant provides a series of close analyses of such disparate films such as Broken Blossoms, The Fatal Glass of Beer, Red River, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Night of the Living Dead, and The Hurt Locker to demonstrate that representations of masculinity in the movies involve a continuous process of ideological testing and negotiation. While some of the films considered offer important challenges to dominant representations of masculinity, others reveal an acceptance or capitulation to them. Always attentive to the details of individual film texts, Grant also places the genre films he discusses within their historical contexts and the broader contexts and traditions of popular culture that inform them, including literature, theater, and music. Scholars of film and television studies as well as readers interested in gender studies will appreciate Shadows of Doubt.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Several friends and colleagues have helped me shape this book. Murray Pomerance nurtured my ideas and provided much help and patience as I worked them out over several years. For providing invaluable feedback on various chapters, I am grateful to Hilary Radner, Christie Milliken, Charles Maland, Alistair Fox, Christine Holmlund, Yvonne Tasker, Christopher Sharrett, and Robert Kolker. ...

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pp. 1-11

In the plot of Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943), young Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright), a wholesome teenage girl from a small town, discovers that her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten), whom she has always admired and who has come for a rare visit, is in fact a psychopathic serial killer who marries widows and then murders them. Realizing that his niece has ...

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1 Pistols and Stamens: Gender and Genre in D. W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms

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pp. 13-29

Where better to begin this book than with the work of David Wark Griffith, often referred to in conventional histories of the cinema as “the father” of mainstream cinema? Griffith is usually cited as a major innovator of the narrative film, having “invented” such now standard techniques as the close-up, parallel editing, and expressive (“rembrandt”) lighting. His move ...

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2 Walking Small: W. C. Fields, Groucho Marx, and the Emasculation of the American Comic Tradition

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pp. 31-49

It has been observed that the rise of the gangster film in the early 1930s, after the onset of the Great Depression, revealed a general disillusionment with the American Dream, that nexus of cultural values equating happiness, material wealth, career success, and bourgeois comfort, and the claim that anyone could achieve it in America. This individualism and expansive optimism was ...

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3 Cock and Bull Story: Howard Hawks’s Red River, Professionalism, and the Western

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pp. 51-70

Epic in scope, Howard Hawks’s Red River (1948) tells the story of the first drive along the Chisholm Trail, a route used to drive cattle from Texas to Abilene, Kansas, in the 1860s through 1870s. Starring John Wayne as Tom Dunson, a westerner who establishes his own ranch on the Texas frontier in 1851, the film’s sweeping narrative spans the initial settling of the West to the ...

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4 All Shook Up: The Classic Hollywood Musical, Male Desire, and the “Problem” of Rock ’n’ Roll

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pp. 71-88

Although many discussions of the musical in the 1930s consider its communal celebration as an attempted antidote to Depression worries, rather few have gone beyond the analysis of later individual films to address the relation of the genre to subsequent cultural events. This is perhaps explained by the general consensus that by the mid-1950s the “golden age” of the musical had ...

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5 Growing Up Absurd: Shtick Meets Teenpic in The Delicate Delinquent

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pp. 89-103

Jean-Pierre Coursodon may not be entirely correct when he observes that Jerry Lewis “was the only Hollywood comedian to rise from mere performer to—in his own, quite accurate phrase—‘total film maker’ during the sound era,” but despite the more respectable auteurist imprimatur of, say, Woody Allen, Lewis’s involvement in the actual filmmaking process (he ...

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6 “Cussers Last Stan’”: Black Masculinity in The Cool World

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pp. 105-117

Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has insisted that documentary films can be as complex as good novels, and, of course, his telling description of his work as “reality fictions” emphasizes the fictional aspects of their aesthetic construction. “My real interest is in trying to make good movies,” he has stated.1 In interviews Wiseman has often spoken of his wish to make ...

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7 Of Men and Monoliths: Science Fiction, Gender, and 2001: A Space Odyssey

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pp. 119-139

The general impression that viewers tend to bring away from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is an overall feeling of “coldness,” not just of the physical cold of outer space but of the film’s sense of humanity. As has often been observed, the computer HAL seems a more complex character with greater emotional depth than any of the people in the film. ...

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8 Taking Back the Night of the Living Dead: George Romero, Feminism, and the Horror Film

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pp. 141-154

Near the beginning of George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead (1968), Barbara, one of the film’s three female characters, sinks into near-catatonic helplessness to become a burden on the other living characters. She remains this way until near the end, when she attempts to help free another woman from the clutches of the zombies, only to be dragged out the window ...

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9 Rich and Strange: Economic Performance Anxiety and the Yuppie Horror Film

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pp. 155-171

Some genre critics deny that the genre of horror is particularly flexible and adaptable. For example, Andrew Tudor claims that horror is a particularly “limited” film category because “its conventions are unidimensional and straightforward.”1 Such an assessment, however, relies in large part on how one defines the genre—the problem of definition always being a thorny one ...

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10 Man’s Favorite Sport? The Action Films of Kathryn Bigelow

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pp. 173-193

With only a few features to her credit—The Loveless (1983, codirected with Monty Montgomery), Near Dark (1987), Blue Steel (1990), Point Break (1991), and Strange Days (1995)—writer/director Kathryn Bigelow succeeded in establishing herself as the only female filmmaker specializing in action films who, at least to this point, can claim the status of auteur. Bigelow’s films employ, in the ...


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pp. 195-215


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pp. 217-220


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pp. 221-231


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pp. 233-246

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814336915
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814334577

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 32
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a
Series Title: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series