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Working-Class Hollywood Paperback – December 14, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0691024646 ISBN-10: 0691024642

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691024642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691024646
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Ross (history, Univ. of Southern California) offers a thought-provoking examination of silent film and its social reverberations. This medium provided the earliest, cheapest, and most far-reaching form of entertainment to capture the public, frequently portraying working-class life with truth and empathy. These productions made definite statements about labor and politics while vigorously defining class issues and struggles?a potent combination during any era. The resulting government and corporate disdain created pressure, but the vast potential for profit was quickly perceived as well. Soon, the studio system took hold with its far softer approach to content. This work abounds in solid information on films, events, trends, historical details, and people along with intelligent analyses of the changing perceptions of class that were partially shaped by these early cinematic ventures. Essential for scholars and serious students of film and American culture.?Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield,
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

An impassioned celebration of a movement that depicted social issues at the birth of the big screen. In this century's first three decades, filmmakers could ``entertain, educate, and politicize millions of Americans'' in silent movies, according to Ross (History/Univ. of Southern Calif.). From the days of the earliest nickelodeons, film was the most egalitarian of industries. A largely immigrant, working-class audience, attending one of the few types of entertainment they could afford, saw their lives reflected sympathetically on the screen by Charlie Chaplin, Upton Sinclair, and D.W. Griffith (whose working-class sympathies in early films were as pronounced as the appalling racism he demonstrated in Birth of a Nation). Moreover, start-up costs were low enough to entice newcomers of all ideological stripes to the field. Among these latter were individual workers, unions, and radicals who came to see film as a medium with revolutionary potential for shaping mass views of what it meant to be a worker. Although comparatively few in number, these leftist filmmakers were considered dangerous enough that J. Edgar Hoover assigned secret agents to spy on them. With the rise of the Hollywood studio system in the 1920s, the worker-film movement collapsed, undone by rising costs, inability to secure financing from Wall Street or large union groups such as the AFL, and censorship. Ross draws on labor newspapers, union records, and government documents, as well as more conventional film-studies materials to limn this obscure corner of early cinema. But he occasionally lapses into academese (e.g., ``gendered space''), and never proves the centrality of film in shaping notions of class. Moreover, he criticizes conservative films for stereotypes while never hinting that some radical cinema might have failed because it was more agitprop than entertainment. A valuable addition to cinema history, though marred by leftist sympathies that seldom allow for subtle analysis. (28 pages b&w illustrations) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

STEVEN J. ROSS is Professor of History at the University of Southern California and Co-Director of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities. He is the author of Movies and American Society (2002) and Workers On the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788-1890 (1985). His book, Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America (1998), received the prestigious Theater Library Association Book Award for 1999 and was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of the "Best Books of 1998." His Op-Ed pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald-Tribune, HuffingtonPost, and Washington Independent. He recently served as historical consultant and on-air expert for the Emmy-nominated documentary, "Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood."

Ross' book, Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics, received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Film Scholars Award--the academic equivalent of an "Oscar."

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Calvert on January 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Anyone interested in films dealing with social issues will love this book. In the 1910's the movie studios made many films that dealt with the relationship between management and workers. In the 1920's, a combination of lack of funds, censors and powerful movie studios combined to restrict stories of class conflict from the screen. This book explores one-reel melodramas by D.W. Griffith, comedies by Charlie Chaplin that ridicule people in authority, the "Red Scare" films from after World War I, and the films produced by labor activists themselves. It shows how many films used stereotypes of violent strikers that were not realistic. By necessity, this book is sympathetic to labor unions, but that does not interfere with the author's analysis of his subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on February 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Steven J. Ross shines a light on a little known and rarely examined period of cinema and labour history. In Working-Class Hollywood (Silent Film and the Shaping of class in America), he looks at the movies created by, for or against the labour movement and its emerging class identity. It is so interesting as it is a time of growth and struggle for both the cinema and the labour movements and the author shows how these two forces bumped and grinded with each other in a way movies never would again. Movies helped create a certain image of class and by the thirties this was pretty much set in stone so it is the period of the silent film where the struggle to shape that identity ensued. This book is amazingly well researched and accessible for the reader of either cinema, labour, or American history. Sometimes the author stretches his point and the reader will be frustrated that many of the films discussed are unavailable for viewing but these are small caveats to an impressive work.
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