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American Showman (Film and Culture Series) Hardcover – 27 Apr 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (27 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231159048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231159043
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 17.8 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,526,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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[An] eye-poppingly informative new book... To paraphrase Frank Loesser's 'Guys and Dolls,' with the publication of American Showman, the question 'What's playing at the Roxy?' can now be answered: 'First-rate cultural history.' -- Mindy Aloff Washington Post [American Showman] provides valuable insight into Roxy's dynamic contemporary moment--one characterized by world military strife, economic downturn, and a blossoming of technological innovation. Publishers Weekly [An] exhaustive biography. -- Ethan Mordden Wall Street Journal Dr. Melnick skillfully captures the substance and durability of Rothafel's prolific life.New York Times -- Sam Roberts New York Times A penetrating, exhaustive contextualized study of Roxy's crucial role in every aspect of the early film industry...highly recommended. Choice American Showman is a fascinating, passionate, and definitive biography of Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel... Melnick unveils aspects of Rothafel's career that change our understanding of American film history from the late 1910s to the early 1930s. -- Charles Musser Journal of American History For anyone interested in the historical transition from the Nickelodeon era to the classical Hollywood cinema, Ross Melnick's American Showman is a must read. -- Jan-Christopher Horak UCLA Film & Television Archive An impeccably researched and definitive study of Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel -- Bernard F. Dick American Studies Roxy?'s extraordinary life, as Melnick illustrates, serves as a powerful lens through which to examine a dynamic age of cultural change in American life. -- Josh Glick Business History Review Anyone who cares about the development of film exhibition in the early 20th century should consider it essential reading... even a casual film buff will find much to enjoy... the book is well written and not overly burdened with jargon. -- Leonard Maltin Indiewire With so many greatly exaggerated reports of the death of cinema abroad, what a pleasure to read Ross Melnick's scrupulously researched, exhaustive biography of movie-palace impresario Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel -- a biography that doubles as a cultural history, looking to a moment when the movies were the upstarts, making vaudeville and live theatre quake in their boots. -- Nick Pinkerton Sight & Sound

About the Author

Ross Melnick is assistant professor of film and media studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received his Ph.D. in cinema and media studies from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a postdoctoral fellowship from Emory University. He has worked as a curator at the Museum of the Moving Image and in marketing for Loews Cineplex, Miramax, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and DreamWorks, and in film distribution for Sony Pictures. With Andreas Fuchs, he is the coauthor of Cinema Treasures.

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Format: Hardcover
In today's age where any specialisation to a high degree is considered natural and professionally beneficial in all sectors of business, it is easy to forget how talented and multifaceted entrepreneurs once managed to successfully work in a range of industries so diverse that people marvelling at their accomplishments today are often tempted to apply labels like 'Renaissance man'.
Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel (1882-1936) was in his teens when moving pictures started to flicker across simple screens in tiny, makeshift venues. Like numerous others, the young Rothafel seized the opportunity and soon established himself in this brand-new and ever-evolving industry.
His inquisitive mind, varied interests, vision and business sense, as well as sheer, dogged determination would make 'Roxy' the quintessential American showman. Not content with mastering just one aspect of cinema (i.e. film exhibition), Rothafel would realise the significance and convergence of different entertainment sectors and aspects, rising rapidly (and far) to become an influential, key figure also in radio broadcasting, the scoring of films, stage production, music recording, and propaganda film directing/editing.
A mere decade after many cinemas (and their operators) had just begun to inch beyond moderate capacities of around 250 patrons, 'Roxy' mixed incredible vision with a generous dose of audacity to conceive the 5,920-seat Roxy Theatre in New York, an ornate behemoth of a cinema that would employ 125[!] ushers alone.
Considered one of the twelve most important figures in the cinema and radio industry in the USA, it was high time that a skilled expert like Melnick (assistant professor of Cinema Studies at Oakland University) put together a comprehensive study of Rothafel's work and his legacy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being a professor of cinema and writing an entertaining book about films and cinema should not be mutually exclusive.The proof of this is Richard Jewell and his excellent history of RKO Radio Pictures.Unfortunately in this instance the author forgets that he is writing for readers,like myself,who are greatly interested in the history of cinemas,and seems to be addressing this book mainly to academics.He uses the phrase "unitary texts" so often that it seems like a substute for "and" or "But".I quote the following sentence from page 311 "Theme songs may have served initially as a structuring device for film scorers,but they soon became imbedded in tangible,multifacted material objects that profited from the convergence of film,broadcasting,music publishing,and recording that defined this new era".I call this acadamese because it is unintelligible to anyone other than an academic.
The book suffers from a number of other problems.The writing is far to dry,where facts take first place all the time.The photo section and selection is very poorThe photsos are printed on the same paper as the rest of the book.The photos are of poor quality,laking any contrast and quite faded.
What is worse is that there are no photos of the sadly lost Roxy,and the happily extant Radio City Music Hall.Although the book is about Roxy,nevertheless these 2 cinemas are what he is remembered for.
It is also clear that the author does not even have a clear grasp of film terminology.In relation to a meeting between Roxy and the London Film Business he refers to exhibitors as renters,whereas it was the film distributors who were called renters.
This is a sad opportunity lost.I doubt that another book will be written about Roxy,and this book is quite unsatisfactory.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A very revealing work 14 Jun. 2012
By filmgene - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Melnick's American Showman does have its moments of "thesis-itis", but if you can get beyond the jargon, particularly in the introduction, you will find a well-written and revelatory story of the years between 1910 and 1936 when both the motion picture and radio industries were created out of whole cloth by a cast of mostly-forgotten innovators. The author's research appears to be extensive and his integration of facts makes a compelling narrative of a man who, as much as anyone, created popular culture in the first half of the 20th century........Gene Stavis, NYC
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Lost Opportunity 6 Jun. 2012
By Kermit - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
An enticing cover and arresting subtitle sure gets your attention. And the subject looks vitally interesting. Woe to you. An absolutely unreadable academic polemic that was obviously written for some academic pop culture convention or lecture, this is a lost opportunity to present an innovative personality to readers.
This kind of academic tome is fine for a very limited audience and good for them. But Barbara Tuchman and other historians were able to bridge the gap between the academic and the readable... and did it with flair and great success. This is a dry, tedious and leaden work... all the more tragic because the reader can sense that there is a great story behind the verbiage ... if only the writer would stop playing to peers and tell the story to the rest of us.
Still waiting for the engaging bio that does justice to this great showman.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great biography 16 Jan. 2013
By Williamj - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The beginning of the motion picture era is a fascinating time in history and Roxy made it happen. The original workaholic.
This was an incredible time in American entertainment history, when 90 million people a week would go to theatres for live and filmed entertainment.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 19 May 2012
By Michelle Heikkila - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent view at one of the most influential men in the world of cinema. Must read for lovers of film and history.
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