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Hollywood and the Culture Elite: How the Movies Became American (Film and Culture Series) Paperback – October 3, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0231133777 ISBN-10: 0231133774

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Product Details

  • Series: Film and Culture Series
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231133774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231133777
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,150,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


It is in the author's discussion of these Cold War happenings that the narrative becomes almost cloak-and-dagger.

(Publishers Weekly)

A clearly written and well-researched historical work that makes a strong contribution to film scholarship.

(Heidi Kenaga The Moving Image 1900-01-00)

A frequently profound ethical query into the costs of patronage.

(Kevin Hagopian Film Quarterly 1900-01-00)


(The American Historical Review 1900-01-00)

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 1900-01-00)

A very significant work that demands attentive and critical engagement.

(Tom Crosbie Screening the Past 1900-01-00)

More About the Author

Peter Decherney is Professor of Cinema Studies and English and Director of the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds a secondary appointment at the Annenberg School for Communication, and he is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition at Penn Law School. Prof. Decherney is the author of Hollywood's Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet and Hollywood and the Culture Elite: How the Movies Became American, as well as the co-editor of the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication. He has testified before the Copyright Office of the United States, and in 2011 he filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court Case of Golan v. Holder. Prof. Decherney has been an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scholar and a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "M" on November 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, HOLLYWOOD and THE CULTURE ELITE explores a most intriguing portion of the role of movies/ Hollywood during the early to mid 20th century. It is a factual, clearly written easy read for those of us intersted in the topic,but not necessarily a student of film history.

Peter Decherney, the author, deftly explains the impact,both positive and negative, that well-known institutions have on one another, and makes us understand that no one person nor industry nor group can thrive, let alone exist, without the others.

The reader will learn many levels of information ranging from facts to amusing anecdotes to fascinating character portraits.

This book is well worth every minute you spend reading it!
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