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American Showman (Film and Culture Series) [Hardcover]

Ross Melnick
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

27 April 2012 Film and Culture Series
Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel (1882--1936) built an influential and prolific career as film exhibitor, stage producer, radio broadcaster, musical arranger, theater manager, war propagandist, and international celebrity. He helped engineer the integration of film, music, and live performance in silent film exhibition; scored early Fox Movietone films such as Sunrise (1927); pioneered the convergence of film, broadcasting, and music publishing and recording in the 1920s; and helped movies and moviegoing become the dominant form of mass entertainment between the world wars. The first book devoted to Rothafel's multifaceted career, American Showman examines his role as the key purveyor of a new film exhibition aesthetic that appropriated legitimate theater, opera, ballet, and classical music to attract multi-class audiences. Roxy scored motion pictures, produced enormous stage shows, managed many of New York's most important movie houses, directed and/or edited propaganda films for the American war effort, produced short and feature-length films, exhibited foreign, documentary, independent, and avant-garde motion pictures, and expanded the conception of mainstream, commercial cinema. He was also one of the chief creators of the radio variety program, pioneering radio broadcasting, promotions, and tours. The producers and promoters of distinct themes and styles, showmen like Roxy profoundly remade the moviegoing experience, turning the deluxe motion picture theater into a venue for exhibiting and producing live and recorded entertainment. Roxy's interest in media convergence also reflects a larger moment in which the entertainment industry began to create brands and franchises, exploit them through content release "events," and give rise to feature films, soundtracks, broadcasts, live performances, and related consumer products. Regularly cited as one of the twelve most important figures in the film and radio industries, Roxy was instrumental to the development of film exhibition and commercial broadcasting, musical accompaniment, and a new, convergent entertainment industry.

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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: 23.6 x 16 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,658,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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 5/11/12 [ 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 5/14/12 [An] exhaustive biography. -- Ethan Mordden Wall Street Journal 5/19/12 Dr. Melnick skillfully captures the substance and durability of Rothafel's prolific life. -- Sam Roberts New York Times 5/20/12 A penetrating, exhaustive contextualized study of Roxy's crucial role in every aspect of the early film industry...highly recommended. Choice 9/1/2012 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 6/1/13 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 6/22/13 An impeccably researched and definitive study of Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel -- Bernard F. Dick American Studies Vol 52, No 3 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 Vol 87, No 2 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 9/19/12 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 Vol 22, No 12

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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Academic To Be Enjoyed 9 Oct 2013
By Wingate
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) 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very revealing work 14 Jun 2012
By filmgene - Published on
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
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 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 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 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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