Main Street Movies
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Through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Indiana University Press is pleased to make this monograph freely available as an Open Access monograph. To read or download, visit

"See yourself in the movies!"
Prior to the advent of the home movie camera and the ubiquitousness of the camera phone, there was the local film. This cultural phenomenon, produced across the country from the 1890s to the 1950s, gave ordinary people a chance to be on the silver screen without leaving their hometowns. Through these movies, residents could see themselves in the same theaters where they saw major Hollywood motion pictures. Traveling filmmakers plied their trade in small towns and cities, where these films were received by locals as being part of the larger cinema experience. With access to the rare film clips under discussion, Main Street Movies documents the diversity and longevity of local film production and examines how itinerant filmmakers responded to industry changes to keep sponsors and audiences satisfied. From town pride films in the 1910s to Hollywood knockoffs in the 1930s, local films captured not just images of local people and places but also ideas about the function and meaning of cinema that continue to resonate today.

Accessing Moving Images
Introduction: Defining the Local Film
1. The Silent Pageant: Municipal Booster Films
2. The Home Talent Film and the Origins of Itinerancy
3. "How Movies Are Made": Hollywood and the Local Film
4. Itinerants Adopt a Baby: The Local Hollywood Film and the Operational Aesthetic
5. Kidnapping the Movie Queen: Amateur Aesthetics as Cultural Critique
6. The Cameraman Has Visited Your Town: The Local Film and the Politics of Recognition
7. Every Town has its Main Street: The Banal Localism of the Civic Film
8. Reclaiming the Local Film: Artifacts, Archives, and Audiences
Conclusion: See Your Town Disappear: The Historicity of the Local Film



Publié par
Date de parution 23 janvier 2018
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780253032546
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Kathryn H. Fuller Seeley, editor
Martin L. Johnson
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2018 by Martin L. Johnson
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Cataloging information is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 978-0-253-03252-2 (cloth)
ISBN 978-0-253-03253-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-253-03254-6 (ebook)
1 2 3 4 5 23 22 21 20 19 18
For my parents, whose support is unwavering
This afternoon the populace of the city paraded in procession before that wonderful instrument, the moving picture machine. A momentary glimpse of the town s life on the streets was caught and fixed in preservation. The images of the scene, moving in the sunlight of a day that will be gone tomorrow, living and breathing, on the instant, was snatched from the grasp of time and sealed beyond the power of change, a silent fadeless pageant of what we were.
Now the crowds have scattered, and the people have returned to their homes and from the canvas of memory the transitory scene has already begun to fade.
The same grouping will not again occur. The same people can never assemble again. They themselves have changed in the short time. The school children have passed a little further on to adult life. The boys and girls are older and the aged have stepped nearer the grave. Those moving pictures of civic life which daily fill our streets and the streets themselves are changing. New houses will be built and others torn down; new children will come and the grim reaper will bind the ripened grain, but the picture on the reel which was made today will never change. It will come back and march in silent pageant, the horses prancing, the throng gesticulating, laughing, talking, cheering silently like the ghost of time.
These will be the real ghosts of the coon hunt. There will be no ghosts caught at the camp grounds as marvelous as these ghosts of ourselves. We will sit in the picture show hereafter and see ourselves living in the past, the resurrection of the past, and live again this day. And soon there will be some on the picture screen whom we once knew but know no more. The panorama of the world is passing. All creation is a moving picture. Beings on the far off worlds toward which the light is traveling from this one will see in ages yet to come our pictures when we have passed away, and perhaps when our spirits have winged their way to those celestial homes, flying swifter by angel flight than sunbeams go, we may arrive in time to see the pictures of our whole past life unroll before us like this reel today. If so, make the pictures now the way you want to see them.
- The Pictures of Today, Moberly (Mo.) Weekly Monitor , November 7, 1913
Accessing Moving Images
Introduction: Defining the Local Film
The Silent Pageant: Municipal Booster Films
The Home Talent Film and the Origins of Itinerancy
How Movies Are Made : Hollywood and the Local Film
Itinerants Adopt a Baby : The Local Hollywood Film and the Operational Aesthetic
Kidnapping the Movie Queen : Amateur Aesthetics as Cultural Critique
The Cameraman Has Visited Your Town: The Local Film and the Politics of Recognition
Every Town Has Its Main Street: The Banal Localism of the Civic Film
Reclaiming the Local Film: Artifacts, Archives, and Audiences
Conclusion: See Your Town Disappear-The Historicity of the Local Film
Audiovisual materials are available for this volume. In the enhanced ebook these materials are embedded and can be viewed or listened to by clicking the play button. For readers of the print book, the collected materials are available for viewing online at . Information and links for each individual entry follow.
Moving Image 1.1. Excerpt from Present and Past in the Cradle of Dixie (1914). Directed by O. W. Lamb. Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery
Moving Image 4.1. Excerpt from Wellston s Hero (1932). Directed by Don Newland. Courtesy of the Wellston Historical Association, Wellston, Ohio
Moving Image 5.1. Excerpt from Lincoln, Maine, Movie Queen (1935). Directed by Margaret Cram. Courtesy of Northeast Historic Film, Bucksport, Maine
Moving Image 6.1. Excerpt from Henderson, North Carolina, Movies of Local People (1938). Directed by H. Lee Waters. Courtesy of the H. Lee Waters Film Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Moving Image 7.1. Excerpt from Mooresville, North Carolina, My Home Town (1946). Directed by Don G. Parisher and George S. Gullett. Courtesy of the Mooresville Public Library
Moving Image 8.1. Excerpt from Aliquippa in 1937 (1997). Produced by the Center for Industrial Heritage of Beaver County. Courtesy of Donald Inman
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ARE GENEALOGICAL BY NATURE , interlocked intellectual and social histories of the author. Writing itself is a lonely endeavor, but one draws solace from the richness of scholarly engagement in classrooms and conferences, the warmth of family and friendship, and the joy of scaffolding new knowledge. While I have made every effort to thank people by name for their role in making this book possible, I also want to note that every person I have discussed local films with over the past decade has contributed to what you have in your hands today.
My undergraduate training in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University helped me realize the value of challenging dominant narratives of media history, and Wendy Chun, Michael Silverman, Elliot Colla, and Karl Schoonover helped me find my path as an academic and historian. This project germinated in 2003, when, in Robert C. Allen s graduate seminar on the history of moviegoing in the United States, I first encountered the movies of H. Lee Waters, an itinerant filmmaker from North Carolina whose work remains as engaging as the day I first saw it at Duke University s Special Collections. At the University of North Carolina, where I completed a master s thesis on Waters, I benefited from Allen s incisive commentary, as well as advice and mentorship from Robert Cantwell, Patricia Sawin, and, at Duke, Jane Gaines. At New York University, where I expanded my research into a dissertation, I added another roster of advisors and mentors, most notably Dan Streible, who, more than any scholar I know, has bridged divides between scholars and archivists, filmmakers and critics, bringing new vibrancy to film history, a field that for too long was stuck in the delta of Hollywood. Anna McCarthy, Jonathan Kahana, Dana Polan, the late Robert Sklar, and Moya Luckett also provided critical support for my project as it developed. My classmates, including Greg Zinman, Jinying Li, Dominic Gavin, Paul Grant, Jihoon Kim, Paul Fileri, Nate Brennan, Wyatt Phillips, Jennifer Zwarich, and David Parisi, were cheerful companions. Finally, I want to thank my colleagues in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at the Catholic University of America. I appreciate the generosity and thoughtfulness of Steve McKenna, Alex Russo, Niki Akhavan, Maura Ugarte, Josh Shepperd, and Abby Moser, who were always there to give advice as needed.
As I presented my research at conferences, I developed colleagues and mentors at other universities. In particular, I wish to thank, in alphabetical order, Richard Abel, Michael Aronson, Stephen Bottomore, Joe Clark, Allyson Nadia Field, Caroline Frick, Oliver Gaycken, Marsha Gordon, Jennifer Horne, Sarah Keller, Jeffrey Klenotic, Paul S. Moore, Jennifer Peterson, Ryan Shand, and Gregory A. Waller. In addition, friends inside and outside of academia provided critical support, including Matt Cordell, Ben Healy, Alice Lovejoy, Kris Nesbitt, the late Johnetta Pressley, and Daniel Wilinsky.
Although I possess neither the training nor the manual dexterity to be a film archivist, I would like to think of myself as an honorary member of the archival community. Dwight Swanson, in particular, has been a generous friend, giving me his collection of VHS tapes and DVDs from his days as a pursuer of itinerant-produced films. Karan Sheldon, cofounder of Northeast Historic Film, and Margie Compton, of the University of Georgia, have been enthusiastic supporters of my research. I also wish to thank Kim Andersen, Snowden Becker, Skip Elsheimer, Karen Glynn, Siobhan Hagan, the late Cynthia Luckie, Meredith McDon

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