The Immigrant Scene

The Immigrant Scene: Ethnic Amusements in New York, 1880–1920

Sabine Haenni
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsqjs
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  • Book Info
    The Immigrant Scene
    Book Description:

    Sabine Haenni reveals how theaters in New York created ethnic entertainment that shaped the culture of the United States in the early twentieth century. In analyzing how communities engaged with immigrant theaters and the nascent film culture in New York City, Haenni traces the ways in which performance and cinema provided virtual mobility and influenced national ideas of immigration, culture, and diversity in surprising ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6635-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Urban Space and Ethnic Entertainment
    (pp. 1-26)

    In 1898,Harper’s New Monthly Magazineself-consciously titled a report on the Italian and Yiddish theaters in New York “How the Other Half Laughs.” The article’s author, John Corbin, valued the immigrants as cultural consumers, their willingness to spend more on leisure than they could afford, and their effort to sustain a cultural and artistic life independent from monetary or environmental concerns: “You may pity the people of the East Side, if you must, ten hours a day, but when the arc-lights gleam beneath the tracks of the elevated, if you are honest you will envy them.” Corbin was fascinated...

  5. Chapter One Mobile Metropolis Urban Circulation, Modern Media, Moving Publics
    (pp. 27-56)

    Isaac Marcosson’s “delight and amazement” in the moving picture of the subway appears connected both to the magic of technology and the pleasure of seeing at least part of the city in its moving complexity. A similar, if slightly different, delight animates Thomas Edison’s 1910 filmThe Police Force of New York City, in which we see police officers regulating traffic on Twenty-third Street, stopping runaway horses and speeding automobiles in Central Park, rescuing a worker, apprehending river thieves, and catching burglars. In this film, as well as in Marcosson’s conception of the subway’s moving picture, the city can no...

  6. Chapter Two A Community of Consumers Legitimate Hybridity, German American Theater, and the American Public
    (pp. 57-94)

    In 1898, in an essay that recounted the history of the German theater in New York to the readers ofMunsey’s Magazine, James Ford reported that in the 1880s the German Thalia Theater on the Bowery had “proved extremely popular with English speaking playgoers” so that “for the first time in its history the theatre became the resort of New York’s fashionable people, who, although not confirmed beer drinkers, considered it a great lark to go all the way down the Bowery and there behold an admirable performance of one of the very best light operas ever given in this...

  7. Chapter Three The Drama of Performance Early Italian and Yiddish Theatrical Cultures
    (pp. 95-142)

    While German American theater provided a compelling model for other immigrant theater entrepreneurs, commentators on the Yiddish and Italian theaters, many of which could be found on the Bowery in downtown New York City, generally agreed that the public culture surrounding the theaters was quite different. In 1900, while visiting the Yiddish theater on the Bowery, Hutchins Hapgood witnessed the following scene:

    On those nights the theatre presents a peculiarly picturesque sight. Poor workingmen and women with their babies of all ages fill the theatre. Great enthusiasm is manifested, sincere laughter and tears accompany the sincere acting on the stage....

  8. Chapter Four Filming Chinatown Fake Visions, Bodily Transformations, Narrative Crises
    (pp. 143-188)

    Like their European counterparts, Chinese immigrants participated in a leisure culture that helped mediate the contradictions of urban modernity, but unlike European immigrants, the Chinese experienced a more profound disjunction between a self-organized leisure culture and an emerging mass culture that appropriated all of “Chinatown” as an object of leisure.¹ Early on, some accounts suggested the importance of commercial leisure for the Chinese immigrant population. Conducting interviews with the Chinese residents of the city in 1910, Andrew Yu-yue Tsu found that “almost every man we have met had been to the Hippodrome, the Bronx Zoo, and the Coney Island[sic]”;...

  9. Chapter Five Alien Intimacies, Urban Crowds Screening Immigrants on Broadway
    (pp. 189-228)

    InOne More American(William C. de Mille, 1918), George Beban, star of theAlienproduction with which I opened this book, plays Luigi Riccardo, an Italian owner of a puppet theater in New York City’s Little Italy, which happens to be right across the street from a movie theater (Figure 30). At some point in the film, Luigi says of his life-size wooden puppets: “When my little people cry an’ laugh, they maka da moving picture look seek.” And after looking at the moving picture house’s poster, which reads “Who is my father? Do you know who your parents...

  10. Coda: From New York to California
    (pp. 229-252)

    Norman McNamee’s invitation to visit “Universal” City, written on the occasion of the studio’s relocation to and opening in the San Fernando Valley, could be understood as foreclosing the kind of public cultures this book has described. Indeed, the film industry’s consolidation in California in the teens—the foundational moves that would result in the studio system—often seems to leave little room for local specificity and is usually understood in terms of standardization, homogenization, and rationalization. The invention of the producer who supervised a large number of directors to ensure maximum output of a standard quality and the arrival...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 253-308)
  12. Index
    (pp. 309-324)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-325)