From Publishers Weekly
Few people doubt the influence that Hollywood cinema has had on American culture, but to what extent has the city of illusions forged the American identity? In this rather dry examination, cinema studies professor Decherney posits that "museums, universities, and government agencies embraced film and the film industry to maintain their hold on American art, education, and the idea of American identity itself." Further, the film industry's leaders welcomed the relationship with these "elite" organizations so that they could retain their "new and tenuous hold" on the popular culture. Thus, with the support of New York City's MoMA and the National Endowment for the Arts, film became "a weapon of the cultural cold war" in the 1930s, '40s and early '50s. Decherney's prose perks up as he explores how the MoMA film library served as "the nucleus of the U.S. film propaganda machine" and how the museum's film curator, Iris Barry, a Brit who formerly decried the influence of American culture on the world, became one of American film's biggest proponents. It is in the author's discussion of these Cold War happenings that the narrative becomes almost cloak-and-dagger funny. As Decherney points out, some anti-Soviet efforts included CIA funding of avante-garde art to underscore freedom of expression in the U.S., even while the FBI was investigating the artists' alleged ties to communism. Though these details will interest history buffs, the bulk of this book is best suited for serious cinema scholars. 17 illustrations.
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It is in the author's discussion of these Cold War happenings that the narrative becomes almost cloak-and-dagger.
A clearly written and well-researched historical work that makes a strong contribution to film scholarship.
(Heidi Kenaga The Moving Image
A frequently profound ethical query into the costs of patronage.
(Kevin Hagopian Film Quarterly
(The American Historical Review
Decherney does an excellent job exploring the individual players
and exposing how our current cinematic institutions and assumptions regarding film were founded.
(Erin Hills-Parks Film & History
A very significant work that demands attentive and critical engagement.
(Tom Crosbie Screening the Past