Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance in the American Historical Review

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In Film Quarterly

“A stunning study of a complex but rather neglected director. Utilizing the brilliant combination of archival research and film analysis which marks her previous books, J. E. Smyth convincingly demonstrates that Zinnemann injected serious ideas about history, antifascism, memory, and nationalism into works which moved beyond the confines of traditional genres. Showing that he was a great historian of women on screen, Smyth argues that his unique blend of commitment and distance make him a filmmaker who speaks directly to our times.”–Robert A. Rosenstone, author of History on Film/Film on History

Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance is as richly researched and rigorously argued as any landmark study in the field of film history. As such, it will profoundly change the way film historians view post-World War II Hollywood cinema. More remarkable still is the elegance of Smyth’s prose, which manages to convey dense archival detail and complex reasoning with verve and accessibility, catapulting the book far beyond academe into the realm of quality popular scholarship. A major publishing event.” –Roy Grundmann, editor of The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film, Vols. I-IV

“Smyth captures Zinnemann’s approach to filmmaking. She has put him on the page with an insight displaying the delicacy with which Fred approached chaos, love, and heightened desire delivered with surprise and without a sense of caution. He battled heavyweight producers and even a tough-as-nails Lillian Hellman, as well as a star actor when he was challenged. Smyth’s thorough research and affection for Zinnemann’s cinema history masters it all.” –Alvin Sargent, Academy Award-winning writer of Julia (1977) and Ordinary People (1980)

“Deftly blending archival research and astute readings of Zinnemann’s films–a staggering output that included “High Noon,” “From Here to Eternity,” and “Julia”–Smyth probes the inner workings of a progressive and fiercely independent director whose films and filmmaking were case studies in resistance.” –Thomas Schatz, author of The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era

“Smyth, who has steeped herself in the history of resistance movements to write this book, makes convincing claims for Zinnemann s early recognition of the role of women in these struggles, for his constant questioning of the myths created around such movements, and for his dangerous generosity in acknowledging the courageous role of communists in underground activities. . . . It s a stimulating book that illuminates an important career. — Philip French, Sight and Sound

“This book is a model for the way to do rigorous film criticism. Smyth does more than just resuscitate Zinnemann–she provides an entirely new and original portrait and understanding of him as a truly independent genius of film. A great book.” –Sam B. Girgus, author of Clint Eastwood’s America

“Makes a powerful case for a re-evaluation of the filmmaker, making particular use of his complex and nuanced interrogation of story, script, and research material. . . . Matchless scholarship, with the author exhibiting a broad and authoritative knowledge of other film work, American and European, dealing with these themes of antifascism and women s resistance. Zinnemann is portrayed as a director whose origins, concerns, and sensibility, as well as his shifting abode, distinguishes him as a genuinely international director.” — Cineaste


On Hollywood and the American Historical Film:

“Smyth has assembled a stellar cast of authors in a comparatively rare attempt to bring together expertise in both film scholarship and American history.” – Melvyn Stokes, University College London, UK

“This groundbreaking collection of essays redraws the parameters of the historical film, expanding it to include a wide range of films set in the past, notably comedies, westerns and melodramas. Dry debates about historical accuracy and authenticity are rejected in favour of case studies that seek an understanding of the power and pleasures that this genre holds. Written in a lively and accessible style, and harbouring a wealth of authoritative scholarship, it is bound to become a fixture of university courses and a landmark in its field.” – Mark Glancy, Queen Mary University of London, UK

“Hollywood and the American Historical Film explores the specifics as well as the methods whereby Hollywood offers up history to its audiences. Filled with succinct essays whether David Culbert’ s refreshing and concise re-assessment of Birth of a Nation; Robert Sklar’s investigation of the ways in which Hollywood films represent Hollywood as a changing industry, culminating with George Cukor’s A Star is Born (1954); or J.E. Smyth’s own look at Fred Zinnemann’s Julia (1977) based on composite and fictive characters: this collection brings a new complexity to its topic. These essays are consistently fascinating, and refreshing in their sophisticated approaches.” – Charles Musser, Yale University, USA

“Valuable for both historians and students of film. Summing Up: Essential.”- CHOICE

Edna Ferber’s Hollywood:

” A remarkable achievement. Smyth has rescued Edna Ferber from scholarly neglect, in a book that asks us to consider Ferber’s achievement as a popular middlebrow author with a keen sense of what appealed to Hollywood in its heyday. Her treatment of Giant is brilliant.” — David Culbert, editor, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

“This book will be a major contribution to the vexed and much debated treatment of film as history.”– Marcia Landy, University of Pittsburgh


On Reconstructing American Historical Cinema:

“A scrupulously researched discusson of historical films produced by Hollywood from 1931 to 1942. In treating Westerns, gangster films, Civil War films, and various kinds of biopics, she brings to the discussion a treasure trove of production materials that show how far from thoughtless these films really are. Smyth stakes out new critical territory. Essential.” —Choice

“Although Hollywood is noted for its formulaic filmmaking, Smyth argues that serious historical treatment is evident in different genres. Her endorsement of certain films as honest reflections of the American past will pique readers’ interest.”–Library Journal

“”J.E. Smyth’s book is a controversial, innovative, and meticulously researched text that reconfigures time-worn conceptions of what constitutes history on and in cinema.”–American Historical Review

“This is an excellent book. It serves as an important challenge to traditional readings of classical Hollywood, to traditional understanding of American historiography, and to those theories of ‘film and history’ that are rapidly becoming traditionalized.”– Screening the Past

“Smyth provides a fascinating history of a Hollywood when producers, more than directors, controlled the texture of American film.”–Film Quarterly




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