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Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer (Screen Classics) Hardcover – November 30, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Scholars and historians welcome an authoritative, detailed, and readable study of this neglected film pioneer."―Richard Koszarski, author of Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff"

"Brian Taves has written the first book length study in English of Thomas Ince, the unjustly forgotten producer-director responsible for creating the classical Hollywood studio system of production. Taves' lucid account of a career cut short by a premature death, debunks the many myths surrounding Ince's mysterious last days, while placing Ince in proper perspective as one of Hollywood's greatest early pioneers."―Jan-Christopher Horak, Director of UCLA Film & Television Archive

"Brian Taves's exhaustive and compelling biography of Thomas Ince documents the career of a valiant independent producer in the early days of Hollywood, a period when the movies became big business. Thanks to Taves's exhaustive research, which documents Ince's working methods, financial arrangements, and filmmaking skills, Ince emerges as a true founder of the industry, along with Adolph Zukor, Carl Laemmle, Cecil B. De Mille and D. W. Griffith."―Tino Balio, author of The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946-1973

"For more than half a century, film historians all over the world have been awaiting an authoritative and scrupulously researched biography of American film mogul Thomas H. Ince. Brian Taves has achieved this formidable task, patiently researching in the remotest archives in order to give us a vivid and convincing portrayal not only of a neglected filmmaker, but of his flourishing film company and his independent studio. A must for any cinephile's library."―Hervé Dumont, author of Frank Borzage: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Romantic

"I strongly recommend Brian Taves' vanguard study on Thomas Ince as a definitive source. Accessible and free of jargon, Taves makes exemplary use of newly available archival materials with keen analysis of Ince's surviving films to paint a vivid picture of Ince's career as an independent, challenges he faced and overcame, revealing Ince's contribution as an under-recognized innovator in film history. As Taves demonstrates, Ince developed the division of labor and system of specialized roles that dominate Hollywood to this day."―Sheri Chinen Biesen, author of Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir

"Until now, Thomas Ince has not been the subject of a biography. This book offers a glimpse into the world of silent cinema through the story of one of its earliest and most influential moguls."―The Silent Treatment

"[Taves] is painstakingly righting nearly a century of wrongheaded, ignorant or deliberately cruel thinking about Ince's character and career."―The Denver Post

"This fascinating book offers insight into the professional achievements and personal struggles facing Ince during the tumultuous silent movie era."―Film Threat

"Filled with unexpected surprises."―King Features Syndicate

"Only one third of Ince's features survive. . . . Taves is less interested in the nature of his subject's cinematic achievement than in what his career reveals of the early film industry, and in particular of the struggles between the monopolistic tendencies of the major studios and a few individuals trying to maintain their independence."―Sight & Sound

"Ince was busy making films, not scandal, and it is fitting that this biography treats his business and artistic dealings in detail, for those, and not fictions about his death, are important parts of the larger story of movies."―Columbus Dispatch

"Taves explores Ince's impact on Hollywood's production system, the Western, his creation of the first American movies starring Asian performers, and his cinematic exploration of the status of women in society. . . . A great bio for you film buffs out there."―Kick Ass Book Reviews

"Shows just how important [Ince] was to the film business and how many producers model their careers after him today."―City Book Review

"The illuminating result is a picture of an extraordinary businessman who virtually invented the role of the producer and the institution of the studio."―Virginian Pilot

"Will undoubtedly become a priceless handbook for everyone interested in the history of [the] American film industry."―25fps

About the Author

Brian Taves is an archivist with the Library of Congress, where this project began with a staff fellowship award. He is the author of over a hundred articles and six books including P. G. Wodehouse and Hollywood: Screenwriting, Satires and Adaptation; Robert Florey: The French Expressionist; and The Romance of Adventure: The Genre of Historical Adventure Movies. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia.
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Product Details

  • Series: Screen Classics
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky (November 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813134226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813134222
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian Taves is author of a range of books on film history and popular culture, from the silent cinema to the era of television, on genres from science fiction to historical adventures. Taves earned his doctorate in Cinema-Television Critical Studies at the University of Southern California in 1988 and has been a film archivist with the Library of Congress since 1990.

The newest book by Taves, Hollywood Presents Jules Verne, chronicles more than a century of adaptations of the science fiction pioneer's stories to the screen. Taves has been the author of countless articles on Verne over the last thirty years, and edited and coauthored The Jules Verne Encyclopedia (1996), a Locus nominee for Best Nonfiction Book. Taves is currently editing the Palik Series, stories and plays by Verne never before translated into English, for the North American Jules Verne Society, published by BearManor Fiction (search "BearManor Verne" on amazon).

Taves wrote the first biography of the acclaimed silent movie producer, Thomas H. Ince, a volume named to the "ten best" film books of 2011 on Huffington Post, and chosen by Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) as their "book-of-the-month" for January 2012.

Examining different filmmaking professions, Taves wrote his first book on director Robert Florey (1986, reprinted in 2014 by BearManor). Taves explored the career of P.G. Wodehouse as a screenwriter, commentator on Hollywood, and the source of numerous screen adaptations (McFarland, 2006).

In a series of volumes, Taves offered the first scholarly examination of the historical adventure genre. He examined the genre first in film and television, in The Romance of Adventure (University Press of Mississippi, 1993), then delineated one of its most distinctive authors, Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure (McFarland, 2005), following it with a critical anthology of Mundy stories, articles, and poems which had never appeared in book form before, Winds From the East (Ariel Press, 2006).

All of the books Taves has written are profusely illustrated with rare illustrations discovered in the course of research in primary sources and archives around the country, meticulously documented in footnotes. Additional images and commentary are publicly available on his Facebook page.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ruby Jones on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If Thomas Ince is remembered at all, it's often only for the lurid misinformation that he perished on William Randolph Hearst's yacht, Oneida, under mysterious and suspicious circumstances. That's a rumor that Brian Taves lays to at the outset of Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer. But Taves' refutation of a rumor that has persisted for nearly 100 years also serves as a warning to readers who pick this book up hoping to glean salacious gossip -- Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer is not a Hollywood tell-all, but rather a serious reconsideration of Thomas Ince's life in film.

Which is not to say that the book is dull or dry; those who are interested in the birth of American film will find much to enjoy in Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer. Taves wisely uses Ince's career to tell the larger story of the development of American film from one-reel pictures filmed outdoors to take advantage of natural daylight to the sophisticated studio system that developed in California once the movie industry moved there, ironically to take advantage of a climate that made shooting outdoors possible year-round.

One word of advice: buy Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer in print. The book is full of photographs that are simply not done justice on an e-reader screen, and, if you actually enjoy referring to footnotes, you'll find yourself frustrated and pulled away from a fascinating story if you attempt to keep up with the prodigious number of footnotes Taves employs.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charles H. Grimm II on January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brian Taves "Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer" is a fascinating look into the career of a truly amazing man. Ince was one of the earliest individuals in the Industry to not only be a triple threat as a Writer, Director and Producer, but he developed a production system as well as worked to develop a system of Distribution that up until then was unheard of. In many cases I have read books and articles that freely tout extensive use of facts and figures, but they are dry as yesterday's discarded chicken bones. Brian has used his facts and figures nicely, they enhance the story, not take away from it. This book appeals on 2 level's, for those who are serious historians of the Motion Picture Industry, it is a great look at the system of "Inceville", for the more casual fan, it provides a unique glimpse on the inner workings of the Studio System.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you are like me, you know of Thomas H. Ince as a prolific movie producer from the silent era but mostly famous because of reports of his scandalous and covered-up death in 1924 on the yacht belonging to William Randolph Hearst. Now I have read _Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer_ (The University Press of Kentucky) by Brian Taves, and I know better, and I am glad of it. Taves is an archivist with the Library of Congress, and at the very beginning of this book, surprisingly the first full-length biography of this Hollywood innovator, he shows how ironic it is that Ince should be recalled because of lurid stories about his death. Ince was a worker, intimately involved in all facets of the new art of making films, and it was his addiction to work more than any naughtiness that hastened his death. Ince was busy making films, not scandal, and it is fitting that this biography treats his business and artistic dealings in detail, for those, and not fictions about his death, are important parts of the larger story of movies.

The scandal was no scandal; there is a persistent story that William Randolph Hearst shot Ince, mistaking him for Charlie Chaplin who was supposedly too attentive to Marion Davies, followed by Hearst's managing of a cover-up. It's all baloney. There's no evidence that Ince was shot by Hearst or anyone else. He had ulcers and angina, and Taves makes a completely convincing argument that Ince's overwork caused his death at 42. He had moved quickly from acting in films to writing, directing, and producing them, involved in over 800 movies. Taves credits Ince with introducing into films activities and themes we take for granted now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Today Thomas Ince is primarily known for what has long been considered a suspicious death. This book by Brian Taves is a serious study of Inces' early invovement in the film industry and follows his work up until his untimely death in 1924.
A director, writer, producer, and studio owner, Ince was a prototype for the future moguls who would inhabit Hollywood and was contemporary with the earliest film makers such as De Mille, Lansky, Griffith, etc.
In the early days of film, a lot of what was done was made up as they went along. With technological changes and the demands of a clamoring audience who wanted more and bigger and better, movies moved to sets and then to studios. Short films/vignettes morphed into long form movies. From nameless players to stars, movies expanded. Ince was part of that expansion and an early force within the industry. He tackled themes that had not been dealt with before and popularized the early western. He also changed the way films were distributed by shifting control from syndicates to the producers.
One of the things that I liked best about this book was the length Taves went to in terms of legitimizing Ince's contributions to the film industry and identifying his volume of work. Rather than just a footnote to film, Thomas Ince becomes a well-denied figure in his own right.
While this book provides a lot of personal and professional information, it is not a rehash of the stories about Ince's ill-fated trip on the Onieda. Taves gets rid of that in quick order; no basis in fact.
This book explains how the studio system began and flourished due to a lot of practical considerations and defines Thomas Ince's role in it all.
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