American Film Cycles

American Film Cycles

AMANDA ANN KLEIN
Copyright Date: 2011
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/726802
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    American Film Cycles
    Book Description:

    A series of movies that share images, characters, settings, plots, or themes, film cycles have been an industrial strategy since the beginning of cinema. While some have viewed them as "subgenres," mini-genres, or nascent film genres, Amanda Ann Klein argues that film cycles are an entity in their own right and a subject worthy of their own study. She posits that film cycles retain the marks of their historical, economic, and generic contexts and therefore can reveal much about the state of contemporary politics, prevalent social ideologies, aesthetic trends, popular desires, and anxieties.

    American Film Cycles presents a series of case studies of successful film cycles, including the melodramatic gangster films of the 1920s, the 1930s Dead End Kids cycle, the 1950s juvenile delinquent teenpic cycle, and the 1990s ghetto action cycle. Klein situates these films in several historical trajectories-the Progressive movement of the 1910s and 1920s, the beginnings of America's involvement in World War II, the "birth" of the teenager in the 1950s, and the drug and gangbanger crises of the early 1990s. She shows how filmmakers, audiences, film reviewers, advertisements, and cultural discourses interact with and have an impact on the film texts. Her findings illustrate the utility of the film cycle in broadening our understanding of established film genres, articulating and building upon beliefs about contemporary social problems, shaping and disseminating deviant subcultures, and exploiting and reflecting upon racial and political upheaval.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73541-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
    (pp. 1-24)

    The John C. Rice–May Irwin Kiss (1896, William Heise), later known simply as The Kiss, is believed to be the first sex act captured by the cinema (Linda Williams, Screening Sex, 27). For most of the film’s brief running time, the famous actors build anticipation for the embrace promised by the film’s simple title.¹ They press their cheeks together lovingly and utter what appear to be “sweet nothings.” Then, in the final seconds of the film, Rice pulls away from Irwin, twiddles his mustache, grabs her face as she turns toward him, and kisses her on the mouth.² The...

  5. CHAPTER 1 REAL GANGSTERS DO CRY: A CYCLICAL APPROACH TO FILM GENRES
    (pp. 25-59)

    Toward the end of The Public Enemy (1931), the tough-as-nails gangster hero, Tom Powers (James Cagney), avenges the murder of his best friend, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), by launching a surprise attack against Schemer Burns. Burns and at least eight members of his gang are holed up in the Western Chemical Company warehouse, and Tom is alone, armed with just two revolvers. The audience knows that this is a suicide mission, but the gangster hero is so grief-stricken and enraged by his friend’s death that he does not realize, or care, that the odds are against him. As Tom approaches...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A DYING SERPENT: UNDERSTANDING HOW FILM CYCLES CHANGE OVER TIME
    (pp. 60-99)

    In 1940, East Side Kids (Robert F. Hill), the first entry in the East Side Kids cycle (which was itself a spin-off of the successful Dead End Kids cycle of the late 1930s), was released.¹ In his review of the film, the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther expresses his disdain for both East Side Kids and the Dead End Kids cycle as a whole: “A less cautious historian … might assert flatly that the end [of the Dead End Kids cycle] has been reached, but a cinematic cycle, like the proverbial serpent, dies hard, with its remote tail flicking...

  7. CHAPTER 3 I WAS A TEENAGE FILM CYCLE: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUTH SUBCULTURES AND FILM CYCLES
    (pp. 100-137)

    American International Pictures’ I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957, Gene Fowler, Jr.) offers a useful starting point for a discussion of how teenagers and their subcultural behaviors were both depicted and exploited by the cinema in the 1950s. In this particular entry in the juvenile-delinquent-themed teenpic cycle, we meet a moody, lower-middle-class white teenager, Tony Rivers (Michael Landon). Tony’s short fuse, as the film’s opening scene demonstrates, frequently gets him embroiled in schoolyard brawls. Later in the film, Tony attends a Halloween party at which practical jokes are the evening’s entertainment. However, when it is Tony’s turn to become the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 NOT ONLY SCREEN BUT THE PROJECTOR AS WELL: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RACE AND FILM CYCLES
    (pp. 138-174)

    In 1991, a series of independent films dealing with black themes and directed by African Americans were all slated for release at once, including titles like Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash), Livin’ Large (Michael Schultz), and Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton). This phenomenon generated an abundance of press coverage on the subject of African American filmmaking. The general tone of this coverage balanced excitement for the future of black cinema with a tentativeness about what African American filmmakers should do with their newfound Hollywood clout. A Los Angeles Times article from 1991 is characteristic of the early coverage...

  9. CONCLUSION LOVE, DISDAIN, AND THE FUTURE OF CYCLE STUDIES
    (pp. 175-190)

    This book opened with a brief look at some of the earliest examples of film cycles, kissing films and train films, and examined how those two subjects were soon combined as a way to extend the financial viability of each cycle. I conclude here with an examination of some of the more recent manifestations of the film cycle, along with the cycle’s place in contemporary film production. The quotation opening this chapter is from a particularly negative review of Disaster Movie (2008, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), a film that parodies the cycle of disaster films that were released throughout...

  10. APPENDIX: SELECTED FILMOGRAPHIES
    (pp. 191-198)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 199-210)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 211-230)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 231-243)