Desley Deacon reviews 'Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s filmmakers changed movie storytelling' by David Bordwell

Desley Deacon reviews 'Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s filmmakers changed movie storytelling' by David Bordwell

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s filmmakers changed movie storytelling

by David Bordwell

University of Chicago Press (Footprint), $84.99 hb, 572 pp, 9780226487755

With the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement reminding us all too vividly of flesh and blood Hollywood, David Bordwell’s cerebral Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s filmmakers changed movie storytelling seems to come from another planet. But Bordwell, who is the Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has spent a lifetime writing about ‘the genius of the system’ that is classical Hollywood, rather than the system’s individual geniuses. Generations of film students have absorbed his 1979 textbook Film Art: An introduction, now in its eleventh edition and translated into at least ten languages. His seventeen-plus books (many co-authored with his wife, Kristin Thompson), his long tenure on the editorial board of Cinema Journal, his blog, and his numerous consultancies all over the world make him one of the most influential film scholars of his generation. His planet, therefore, is mainstream American academia.

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Desley Deacon

Desley Deacon

Desley Deacon is a writer and historian living in Sydney. She is currently revising a manuscript, Four Husbands, a Lover, and a Friend: Mary McCarthy’s Experiments in Heterosexuality, for University of Chicago Press and is working on a biography of Australian-born actress of stage and screen, Judith Anderson. She was formerly Professor of History at the Australian National University, where she is now Professor Emerita, and taught for a number of years at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life (University of Chicago Press), and Managing Gender: The State, the New Middle Class, and Women Workers 1830-1930 (OUP), and has co-edited, with Penny Russell and Angela Woollacott, two volumes on transnational biography.