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American Showman: Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, 1908-1935 (Film and Culture Series) Hardcover – May 1, 2012

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American Showman: Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, 1908-1935 (Film and Culture Series) + Regarding Frank Capra: Audience, Celebrity, and American Film Studies, 1930–1960 + Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and Method
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Editorial Reviews

Review

[An] eye-poppingly informative new book.... To paraphrase Frank Loesser's 'Guys and Dolls,' with the publication of American Showman, the question 'What's playing at the Roxy?' can now be answered: 'First-rate cultural history.'

(Mindy Aloff Washington Post)

[American Showman] provides valuable insight into Roxy's dynamic contemporary moment--one characterized by world military strife, economic downturn, and a blossoming of technological innovation.

(Publishers Weekly)

[An] exhaustive biography.

(Ethan Mordden Wall Street Journal)

Dr. Melnick skillfully captures the substance and durability of Rothafel's prolific life.New York Times

(Sam Roberts New York Times)

A penetrating, exhaustive contextualized study of Roxy's crucial role in every aspect of the early film industry...highly recommended.

(Choice)

American Showman is a fascinating, passionate, and definitive biography of Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel.... Melnick unveils aspects of Rothafel's career that change our understanding of American film history from the late 1910s to the early 1930s.

(Charles Musser Journal of American History)

For anyone interested in the historical transition from the Nickelodeon era to the classical Hollywood cinema, Ross Melnick's American Showman is a must read.

(Jan-Christopher Horak UCLA Film & Television Archive)

An impeccably researched and definitive study of Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel

(Bernard F. Dick American Studies 1900-01-00)

Roxy?'s extraordinary life, as Melnick illustrates, serves as a powerful lens through which to examine a dynamic age of cultural change in American life.

(Josh Glick Business History Review 1900-01-00)

Anyone who cares about the development of film exhibition in the early 20th century should consider it essential reading... even a casual film buff will find much to enjoy... the book is well written and not overly burdened with jargon.

(Leonard Maltin Indiewire)

With so many greatly exaggerated reports of the death of cinema abroad, what a pleasure to read Ross Melnick's scrupulously researched, exhaustive biography of movie-palace impresario Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel -- a biography that doubles as a cultural history, looking to a moment when the movies were the upstarts, making vaudeville and live theatre quake in their boots.

(Nick Pinkerton Sight & Sound 1900-01-00)

Review

American Showman is at the cutting edge of contemporary film studies. It is to this book that future generations of film scholars engaged in cultural history will turn.

(John Belton, Rutgers University, author of American Cinema/American Culture)|

It's about time that we are finally getting the full story of America's most daring and successful showman. On a par with Thomas Edison, D. W. Griffith, and P. T. Barnum, Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel was not only the most important impresario the film world has ever known, but he was also a leader in the realm of silent film music and the country's first major radio personality. For nearly two decades, Roxy was the most powerful man in the film industry--yet until now we have lacked a serious treatment of his fabulous career. American Showman rights that wrong, and how! Ross Melnick's book is that rare combination of in-depth research and a great read. Finally, Roxy has received his due.

(Rick Altman, University of Iowa, author of Silent Film Sound)|

Once quite literally up in lights, the name of Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel has dimmed over time--an oversight happily remedied by Ross Melnick's splendid new study of the legendary showman. An engaging writer, insightful critic, and rigorous scholar, Melnick has vividly recaptured the magic and moxie of this pioneer of the American entertainment industry, a marquee name in vaudeville, radio, and motion pictures. Melnick's illuminating cultural biography is not just the engrossing story of the beloved and larger-than-life Roxy but a fascinating journey into American culture in the first passionate years of a lifelong affair with its own mass media.

(Thomas Doherty, Brandeis University, author of Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration)
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Product Details

  • Series: Film and Culture Series
  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231159048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231159043
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,625,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ross Melnick is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of "American Showman: Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry" (2012) and is the co-author of "Cinema Treasures" (2004). His articles on film and media history have appeared in journals such as Film History and The Moving Image.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By filmgene on June 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Melnick's American Showman does have its moments of "thesis-itis", but if you can get beyond the jargon, particularly in the introduction, you will find a well-written and revelatory story of the years between 1910 and 1936 when both the motion picture and radio industries were created out of whole cloth by a cast of mostly-forgotten innovators. The author's research appears to be extensive and his integration of facts makes a compelling narrative of a man who, as much as anyone, created popular culture in the first half of the 20th century........Gene Stavis, NYC
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kermit on June 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
An enticing cover and arresting subtitle sure gets your attention. And the subject looks vitally interesting. Woe to you. An absolutely unreadable academic polemic that was obviously written for some academic pop culture convention or lecture, this is a lost opportunity to present an innovative personality to readers.
This kind of academic tome is fine for a very limited audience and good for them. But Barbara Tuchman and other historians were able to bridge the gap between the academic and the readable... and did it with flair and great success. This is a dry, tedious and leaden work... all the more tragic because the reader can sense that there is a great story behind the verbiage ... if only the writer would stop playing to peers and tell the story to the rest of us.
Still waiting for the engaging bio that does justice to this great showman.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Williamj on January 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The beginning of the motion picture era is a fascinating time in history and Roxy made it happen. The original workaholic.
This was an incredible time in American entertainment history, when 90 million people a week would go to theatres for live and filmed entertainment.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Heikkila on May 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent view at one of the most influential men in the world of cinema. Must read for lovers of film and history.
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