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The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (History of the American Cinema) Paperback – May 4, 1994

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Editorial Reviews


"Massively detailed, scrupulously and exhaustively researched, copiously graphed and illustrated, heavily footnoted, examining each period from several critical and sociological perspectives, these three books are perfectly representative, in many ways, of the state of academic film research today." -- Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Meticulously illustrated with frame enlargements from the original films, trade advertisements and productions shots. . . . Musser uses these illustrations . . . to pinpoint every development, every lawsuit and policy change within the burgeoning industry. . . . [He] has brought dignity to an era previously regarded as primitive." -- Kevin Lewis, Film Culture

"Musser gives a new concreteness to standard arguments about the development of an early cinema of attractions into a cinema of narrative complexity." -- Dana Polan, Film Quarterly

"Musser's work constitutes a revolution in the study of early American cinema." -- Stephen Bottomore, Historical Journal for Film, Radio and Television

About the Author

Charles Musser is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Film Studies at Yale University and author of Before the Nickelodeon (California, 1990).

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Product Details

  • Series: History of the American Cinema (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 613 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (May 4, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520085337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520085336
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 7.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,231,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Musser teaches courses on film historiography, American cinema, documentary film and media as well as documentary filmmaking at Yale University. His book The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (1990) received the Jay Leyda Prize in Cinema Studies, the Theater Library Association Award for best book on Film, TV and Radio, the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for outstanding book in Media Studies and other awards. His other books include Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company (1991), High-Class Moving Pictures: Lyman H. Howe and the Forgotten Era of Traveling Exhibition, 1880-1920 (with Carol Nelson, 1991), and Edison Motion Pictures, 1890-1900: An Annotated Filmography (1997). The latter received Honorable Mention, Katherine Kovacs Prize for Outstanding Book in Media Studies (1998) and Honorable Mention, Theater Library Book Award for Best Book on Motion Pictures, Radio and Television. More recently, he co-edited Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era (2001) with Jane Gaines and Pearl Bowser, which included his prize-winning essay "To Redream the Dreams of White Playwrights: Resistance and Reappropriation in Oscar Micheaux's Body and Soul." He is currently working on several book projects, which include a study of Paul Robeson's film work, and the ways in which film transformed theatrical culture.

Charlie has worked extensively in documentary, beginning with a two-year "apprenticeship" as first assistant editor on Peter Davis's Oscar-winning Hearts and Minds (1974). He went on to produce and direct the prize-winning An American Potter (1976) and Before the Nickelodeon: The Early Cinema of Edwin S. Porter (1982), which premiered at the New York Film Festival. He taught the first university-level course devoted to filmmaker Errol Morris and went on to make a feature-length documentary portrait: Errol Morris: A Lightning Sketch (with Carina Tautu, 2012). His recent essays on documentary include "Carl Marzani & Union Films: Making Left-wing Documentaries during the Cold War, 1946-53," The Moving Image, 9:1 (Spring 2009), "Truth and Rhetoric in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11," in Mathew Bernstein, ed., Michael Moore: Filmmaker, Newsmaker, Cultural Icon (University of Michigan Press, 2010) and "Political Documentary, YouTube and the 2008 US Presidential Election: Focus on Robert Greenwald and David N. Bossie," Studies in Documentary Film 4:1 (2010), 199-210.

Musser has also worked extensively in the Public Humanities and regularly curates an intensive, annual weekend of film screenings with filmmakers for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven. He has curated and programmed shows at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the New-York Historical Society, UCLA Film and Televsion Archives, and the Giornate del Cinema Muto (Pordenone, Italy). He has received the Prix Jean Mitry (1996), the George Eastman House Society International Scholar Award (1992) and is an Academy Film Scholar (2005). For more information see his website:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 1997
Format: Paperback
The Emergence of Cinema chronicles the very earliest history of cinema with focus on the development of film in America. It begins with the earliest technology of picture projection, and explores with great thoroughness each development in the technology and business of film. It is wonderfully illustrated, and clearly written, so that even the casual student of film history will not be confused or bored. This is a work whose peer I have never seen. If the rest of the series keeps up with the quality here, it will be basic to any film library. Perhaps the depth here will be to great for the truly casual reader; hardly any films here will find their way onto video.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ChicagoK8 on December 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent, comprehensive and well-written analysis of the early cinema. It is written including views of the study of film history as well as numerous concrete examples of films for every point made by the author.
Even if you're not a film student, check out this book. It's so well written that one can easily fall into the interesting history of an emerging art form and industry. The origins of cinema reach far back into the 17th century and, considering the enormous impact that film has on everyone's life, the origins of this most important art form of the past century are vitally important to you.
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The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (History of the American Cinema)
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