From Library Journal
These are the initial three volumes in a projected ten-volume series, scheduled for completion in 1993, which explores American cinema through the 1980s. Musser, who teaches film studies at NYU and Columbia, focuses on what he considers to be the first 12 years of American cinema, beginning when films were first projected in 1895. A good portion of the work is devoted to the precursors of film: the magic lantern and its successors, including the stereopticon and such exotic mechanisms as the zoopraxiscope and phasmatrope. Although Musser recounts the plots of many of the early films, it is the film industry rather than film as an art form (however primitive) which he emphasizes. 1907 is a somewhat arbitrary date, but, as Bowser's title indicates in Volume 2, cinema came of age during the next several years. The Motion Picture Patents Company was established, films became "feature" length, and an art form evolved under directors such as D.W. Griffith. Although Bowser, curator of film at the Museum of Modern Art, focuses a bit more on cinema as art, much of her work is still devoted to its commercial aspects. The third volume, written by Koszarski, curator of film at the American Museum of the Moving Image, is probably the most balanced in regard to the art/commercialism aspect, athough the narrative seesaws disconcertingly between the two. This work, covering the flowering and apex of silent film, is sketchier than the others, being more of a general overview, as typified by the brief discussion of the prominent filmmakers and stars of the period. In general, these profusely illustrated volumes are quite readable, but their audience is uncertain. They are too detailed for casual readers, and aside from their lengthy bibliographies, insufficiently detailed for research purposes. Nevertheless, future volumes of this ambitious undertaking will be anticipated by film aficionados. For general audiences, Kevin Browlow's The Parade's Gone By (Knopf, 1968) is the single volume of choice for the silent era.- Roy Liebman, California State Univ., Los Angeles
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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"The sounds, sights, and smells of theaters and their audiences come to life in this volume. Yet Koszarski never loses sight of the world outside the theater." -- Stephen J. Ross, American Historical Review
"[Koszarski] brings to the period not only a secure awareness of its motion pictures and major players, but also a joy in the appreciation of movies. His book is alive with the flavor of the great silent film era, its people, its products, even its advertisements." -- Jeanine Basinger, New York Times Book Review