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Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies Hardcover

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Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies + Movie Censorship and American Culture + Controlling Hollywood: Censorship and Regulation in the Studio Era (Rutgers Depth of Field Series)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195387848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195387841
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Reforming Hollywood is richly researched and painstakingly footnoted...It is clearly and compellingly written and certainly of interest to students and academics looking to enrich their understanding of film censorship." --Scope: An Online Journal of Film and Television Studies

"A detailed, thoughtful, and thoroughly engaging account of the impact of Protestant Religious machinery on the development of the studio system an important, timely study."--Literature & Aesthetics

"An outstanding historical work...[a] well-researched treatment...The gift of Romanowski s excellent treatment of the history of Protestant engagement with film is in recognizing the shortcomings of the contemporary evangelical approach to film criticism, and in providing enough history for us to find a better way forward while keeping us from falling into past traps." --Patheos

"William Romanowski is fair-minded, has a fascinating story to tell, and tells it well." --Times Literary Supplement

"Romanowski recounts the work of Hollywood's Protestant reformers with an astonishing level of detail and clarity...Reforming Hollywood should become the standard secondary source for anyone interested in the role Protestants have played in the history of Hollywood--and in understanding how their work has helped shape, for better and worse, the cinema we have today." --Patton Dodd, Books & Culture

"To attempt to summarize all of the questions and issues that Romanowski's book raises would do disservice to his text. Reforming Hollywood is an important resource for scholars of American cultural, religious, and intellectual history, as well as media theory, but it also is an important read for Protestantsespecially evangelicalswho tend to assume that our recent attempts at a more sophisticated, fully-rounded view of filmmaking and analysis are a new development." --Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today

"Pop culture expert Romanowski (Eyes Wide Open) offers a subtle and surprising thesis: far from being censorious, American Protestants have for a century had a formative, complex, often cooperative relationship with the Hollywood film industry through a variety of commission, councils, and representatives seeking to use film to promote and improve the nation's moral health. The book brims with historical evidence-gathered from interviews and periodicals and painstakingly footnoted-that proves and provides nuance to Romanowski's argument...Especially fascinating is the illumination of the cultural and political forces that developed culture wars in the entertainment arena." --Publishers Weekly

"...thoroughly researched, astonishingly succinct study...serious students of the media and religion will savor its rich detail." --Booklist

"For those with an interest in popular culture and its relationship with Christianity, in this instance American Protestantism, Romanowski's book is illuminating." --Theology

"Thoroughly researched readers will appreciate and learn much from the fresh perspective on the relation of religious Americans to the movies that Reforming Hollywood offers." --Church History

"Reforming Hollywood is an important reminder of the role that affiliated Protestants played in the ongoing struggle against film censorship in the first half of the twentieth century." --Journal of American History

"This is one of those important books which may change the discourse in a discipline. It is erudite, inspiring, meticulously researched, and published by the world's most prestigious academic publishing house; it sets out, explicitly, to retell the standard history of its field."
--Byron Borger, Comment

"...for those wanting to think more deeply about how artistic freedom, profit margins, and Protestant concern for public welfare have related to one another, the groundbreaking Reforming Hollywood will be just the ticket." --Barry Cooper, The Gospel Coalition

"William D. Romanowski gives us a meticulously-researched, highly readable account that illuminates the history of American religion in the twentieth century...[Reforming Hollywood] is a fluent, thorough history from which any student of film or American religious history--and anyone who loves the movies--will learn a lot." -- ImageUpdate

"Deeply researched... fills an important gap in the history of American cinema and adds to the understanding of religion in movies." --American Historical Review

"Reforming Hollywood brilliantly comingles film history with church history, dispelling enduring fictions that the religious community only wanted to censor films. Weaving in fresh material from Protestant archives, this work contributes greatly to a fuller understanding of the constructive contributions of religious leaders to the Hollywood film industry. This remarkably fresh, significant, and fascinating text truly reforms misunderstandings of Hollywood and religion."--Terrence Lindvall, C.S. Lewis Chair of Communication and Christian Thought, Virginia Wesleyan College

"Film history is filled with studies of how Jews and Catholics influenced the course of the movie industry. William D. Romanowski's pathbreaking study Reforming Hollywood reveals how a wide range of Protestant organizations waged their own battles for control of what audiences would or would not see on the screen-a battle that influenced the religious and moral content of American film from the silent era to the present."--Steven J. Ross, author of Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics

"As the first book to examine the relationship between Protestant church organizations and the motion picture industry, Reforming Hollywood corrects film history's tendency to exaggerate the influence of the Catholic Legion of Decency and its successors. In this authoritative account, Romanowski reveals how Hollywood's relationship with the Protestant establishment was crucial to debates around film regulation, and charts the erosion of its influence in the post-war years. This is a well-told story, with new perspectives and information in every chapter."--Richard Maltby, author of Hollywood Cinema

About the Author

William Romanowski is Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College. His books include Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture (a 2002 ECPA Gold Medallion Award Winner) and Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in America Life.

More About the Author

Not to be confused with the former NFL linebacker, William "Bill" Romanowski is a nationally recognized scholar and award-winning commentator on the intersection of religion and popular culture. He earned his Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University and is currently Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College where he teaches courses in film and media studies.

Critics commended his book, Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in American Life (1998) as "remarkably balanced" and "a stunning portrait of the interplay of religion and popular culture." His Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture (2001, 2007) won the ECPA Gold Medallion Award. A three-part DVD series based on Eyes Wide Open earned an Aegis Award and a Communicator Award of Distinction.

Dr. Romanowski is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and Faculty Research Award. His latest book, Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies (2012), won the Religious Communication Association Book of the Year Award 2013 and received the President's Author Series Award, Indiana Wesleyan University. Bill is a member of the editorial board of Popular Music and Society, and author of various publications investigating the relation of American Christianity, popular art and culture.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Derek on November 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book because of a positive review in Christianity Today. I found this book well-researched, and a useful perspective on the history of Hollywood. However, I did find this book to be quite academic. Even more than that, I found the book to be quite discouraging and even dispiriting as it detailed all the ego-driven clashes between Hollywood moguls and would-be Protestant reformers, clashes that frequently revolved around the issue of money. While this book is focused primarily upon the efforts of mainline Protestants to reform Hollywood in order to prevent the specter of censorship from becoming a reality, Romanowski also examines the efforts of Catholics and Evangelicals to reform Hollywood. According to Romanowski, it appears as though Catholics actually were most successful at providing moral guidance to Hollywood, while mainline Protestants and Evangelicals have largely failed, despite their tireless efforts.

While this book is an important scholarly addition to the history of Hollywood, I would not recommend it for a popular audience. Instead, I would recommend this book for those who are keenly interested in the history of Hollywood.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Herbert F. Lowe on July 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent scholarly history of the relationship of the Protestant Church to the advent and growth of the film industry.
It will be a reference book, and perhaps the only one, on this topic for anyone who is interested in the subject.
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