Monday 28 October 2013

Studying Movie Magazines and Fan Culture! Online Research and Methodology Resources. And LANTERN!

 A Guide to Studying a Movie Magazine by Tamar Jeffers McDonald with Catherine Grant (on shaky cam!).
With her customary wit and aplomb, Jeffers McDonald shows us how media historians and theorists might make use of a copy of the November 1965 issue of the American fan magazine Modern Screen. See below for further information about the video, as well as for a discussion about how Jeffers McDonald used resources, like the one showcased in the video, in research for her new book Doris Day Confidential: Hollywood Sex and Stardom.

Today, Film Studies For Free presents a bumper entry on movie magazines and fan culture research! The entry boasts three main content clusters: 
  1. A guide to using Lantern, the new search and visualization platform for the Media History Digital Library, a wonderful project that FSFF wrote about back in 2011 when it launched.
  2. A nine minute video Guide to Studying a Movie Magazine (also embedded above), presented by film scholar Tamar Jeffers McDonald, Reader in Film Studies at the University of Kent, UK, and an audio interview in which she expands on the fan magazine research she carried out for her new book on Doris Day's stardom.
  3. Links to written studies and other essential online resources on, or using, movie magazine and fan culture research methodologies.


Pages from Radio and Television Mirror, Jan-June 1949 (archived by the Internet Archive), as discussed by Tamar Jeffers McDonald, Reader in Film Studies at the University of Kent, UK, in her report, below, on using Lantern, Media History Digital Library's search and visualisation platform.

Many readers at Film Studies For Free will already know of, and indeed be using, Lantern, the new, essential, search and visualization platform for the Media History Digital Library, a wonderful project that FSFF wrote about back in 2011 when it launched. The MHDL has digitized over 800,000 pages of out-of-copyright media publications for open access. Many of the rare magazines in the collection came from the Library of Congress Packard Campus (you can see the full list of contributing individuals and sponsors on the credits webpage). The MHDL's searchable collections now include:
Business Screen (1938-1973); Educational Screen (1922-1962); The Film Daily (1918-1948); International Photographer (1929-1941); International Projectionist  (1933-1965); Transactions of SMPE and Journal of SMPE (1915-1954); Motion Picture Magazine (1914-1941); Motography (1909-1918); Movie Classic (1931-1937); Movie Makers (1926-1953); Moving Picture World (1907-1919); The New Movie Magazine (1929-1935); Photoplay (1914-1943); Radio Annual and Television Yearbook (1938-1964); Radio Digest (1923-1933); Radio Mirror (1934-1963); Radio Broadcast (1922-1930); Sponsor (1946-1964); Talking Machine World (1906-1928); Variety (1905-1926 - production on the next twenty years is underway)
The great news is that we can search and access items from the collection platform at MHDL's brilliant Lantern site, or simply type your query into the searchbox of the existing MHDL site: The site was developed designed and produced by Eric Hoyt, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts, UW-Madison and Co-Director (with David Pierce), Media History Digital Library.

FSFF asked film scholar Tamar Jeffers McDonald, whose fabulous work in this area is expanded on in the next section of this entry, to test Lantern as a highly seasoned user of offline archives. Here is her glowing account:
For me Lantern's utility lies not only in its stock of periodicals, freely accessible, fully searchable, available for my own research purposes but also the possibilities it offers as a teaching tool, bringing film history alive.
     My recent research has been on Doris Day. Trips to the British Library, the Library of Congress and the Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles netted me over 1500 articles to peruse, but not the first article turned up by Lantern when I put in "Doris Day" as the search term, "That Day Girl/That Hope Fellow" from Radio and Television Mirror, May 1949. This is an early piece in which the new star herself purports to write about Bob Hope, the veteran entertainer on whose radio show Day appeared as songstress and sidekick. The article attempts to preserve the double-act nature of the pair's relationship by getting each to write about the other. The columns notionally penned by 'Day' - and there is no way at this distance that we can either prove or disprove her actual authorship - testify to what a great guy Hope is; his sections do the same, maintaining his comic persona as a narcissist. This confirms the piece's early date - 1949 - Day was already beginning to be spoken of as a major star and fan magazines would not allow space dedicated to her to boost another performer for much longer. By 1952 coverage of Day was saturating the movie magazines: she appeared on or in all twelve monthly issues of Movie Stars Parade and was featured in seventy-five other periodicals that year too. Finding this piece through Lantern is a valuable corrective, then, to the belief that Day became a star effortlessly, consistently receiving lead billing and attention in the magazines. While Motion Picture did hail her as the next big thing in August 1948 [see images below**], other publications obviously took longer to be convinced.
     In addition to its value for researching for individual stars or films, Lantern is also useful for more general searches for social history. Since the whole text of the issues is scanned and searchable, the advertising sections of the magazines can be viewed also, and provide fascinating social history data about the presentation of a variety of products. Typing in "pink toothbrush" recovers the history of Ipana, a toothpaste which boasted it could do away with gum disease; "Zonite" claimed it was the "solution to a woman's most intimate problem". Enter any product name to see the variety of methods used to sell it in the different periodicals, and different periods, covered: a search for "Lustre Creme shampoo" will bring up gorgeous full colour portraits of Hollywood stars as well as more utilitarian black and white ads featuring a more anonymous 'the Lustre-Creme Girl'.
     Lantern truly illuminates both the importance of fan and trade periodicals as cinema paratexts, and itself as an invaluable source for finding and searching them.
     (Note: For the first search, I simply put in Doris Day as the term, without inverted commas, with no specified date range and without altering the default Sort mode for results, By Relevance. Changing this to 'Sort by date' is the best option to capture the changing methods of presentation for product advertising).
Further great accounts of Lantern may be found at the links below:
Let’s talk about search – lessons from building Lantern: Eric Hoyt on the new search engine for the now-even-more-valuable Media History Digital Library; for background, see David Bordwell’s post Magic, this lantern. - See more at:
Let’s talk about search – lessons from building Lantern: Eric Hoyt on the new search engine for the now-even-more-valuable Media History Digital Library; for background, see David Bordwell’s post Magic, this lantern. - See more at:

Let’s talk about search – lessons from building Lantern: Eric Hoyt on the new search engine for the now-even-more-valuable Media History Digital Library; for background, see David Bordwell’s post Magic, this lantern. - See more at:
In the video embedded at the top of the entry, Tamar Jeffers McDonald presents a guide to studying a movie magazine. With her customary wit and aplomb, she shows us how media historians and theorists might make use of a copy of the November 1965 issue of the American fan magazine Modern Screen. The above, somewhat impromptu (shaky cam!) resource came out of an interview with Jeffers McDonald carried out at the National Theatre, London, in October 2013 by Film Studies For Free. An audio recording of the interview is embedded below and online here at FSFF's new podcast site.

The  main topic of conversation was about Jeffers McDonald's new book Doris Day Confidential: Hollywood Sex and Stardom (London: I B Tauris, 2013). This book poses as a central question, amongst others, “Why do we assume Doris Day always plays a virgin?” In previous work (her PhD thesis, the edited collection Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Inexperience in Film, (Wayne State University Press, 2010), and an article on Rock Hudson from 2007 - see details here) Jeffers McDonald has examined what ‘playing a virgin’ might mean and consist of; now she turns her attention to how this dominant idea has been circulated, through studying the film fan periodicals which advanced and then froze Day’s stardom, a methodology she explores in detail in this video, and in the (12 minutes long) audio interview embedded below. [** See the foot of FSFF's entry for images from Motion Picture Magazine, August 1948, to which Jeffers McDonald refers in the interview].

3. Online Resources on Movie Magazines and Fan Culture Research Methodologies

**Below are images from Motion Picture Magazine, August 1948, reproduced by kind permission of Tamar Jeffers McDonald, to which she refers in her audio interview embedded above.

Monday 21 October 2013


Film Studies For Free is under the cosh of a few deadlines right now (there are some great things to come at this here open access campaigning website in the next weeks!).

But it has temporarily cast off its work shackles to rush you tidings of two new ejournal issues: the latest Screening the Past, co-edited by Adrian Martin and Anna Dzenis, and replete with Part One of a brilliant dossier on Aesthetic Issues in World Cinema and a marvellous essay by Nicole Brenez, among other treasures (Hediger, Martin and Tofts, Phelps); and the very welcome return online of the multilingual La furia umana (whose website, and fabulous archive [soon to return fully], were devastated by a malware attack), edited by Toni D'Angela and replete with dossiers on Joseph Losey and Bertrand Bonello, and a marvelous essay by Nicole Brenez, among other treasures (Ramani, Calder Williams, Small, to cite just some anglophone ones)!

Scroll down for all the wonderful contents. FSFF will be back properly soon!


Aesthetic Issues in World Cinema (Part 1)
First Release


Editorial: T.D. / La critique comme concaténation

Confidential report
NICOLE BRENEZ / La Critique comme concept, exigence et praxis


Prima linea
Histoires du cinéma
L'occhio che uccide
Flaming creatures
The new world

Thursday 10 October 2013

Women Film Pioneers Project at Columbia University

Website header and masthead at the incredible Women Film Pioneers Project website

This project began as a search for silent cinema “women film pioneers” who challenged the idea of established great male “pioneers of cinema.” Since researchers found more women than anyone expected to find, one principle came to organize the project: What we  assume never existed is what we invariably find. [About 'Women Film Pioneers Project']
Film Studies For Free is heading away from its computer for a few days but had to rush to publish the essential news of an incredible new website resource: the Women Film Pioneers Project.

WFPP is a new free online database published by Columbia University Libraries’ Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. The database includes more than 150 career profiles of women who worked during the silent film era as directors, co-directors, scenario writers, camera operators, title writers, editors, costume designers, exhibitors, animal trainers, studio accountants, film company owners, and theatre managers.

A monumental, open access piece of important film historical research and publishing, this first phase of the project places together the Americas, the U.S. in the North and Latin America in the South. The next phases will open up the study of women in other national silent era cinemas: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary,  India, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey,  The United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Yugoslavia.

Clearly this is an archival resource that will also grow as more people know about it and can contribute missing information to it, but the editors have done a truly fantastic job in establishing this resource and populating it with such high quality and significant material already.

Congratulations and many thanks go to the WFPP team led by the brilliant film historian Jane Gaines, whose related book on early cinema, Fictioning Histories: Women Film Pioneers was published by University of Illinois Press in 2009. The project launch will take place at MoMA this Saturday, part of the film exhibition To Save and Project: The 11th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Lives on Film: Auto/Biographical Fiction and Documentary Film Studies

Lizzie Thynne, filmmaker, writer and Senior Lecturer in Media and Film at the University of Sussex, discusses her theoretical and practice research into film biography with FSFF's author. In REFRAME’s interview, as well as her earlier films Child of Mine (Channel Four Television, 1996) and Playing a Part: The Story of Claude Cahun (2004), and her written research on biographical, subjective and feminist filmmaking, Thynne talks about her recent experimental documentary On the Border (UK, 2013, 56 minutes), a daughter’s exploration of her Finnish family’s history prompted by the letters, objects, and photographs left in her mother’s apartment. You can find more information about the above video here. Lizzie Thynne's film On the Border is screening today, Wednesday, October 9, at 7pm in The Finnish Church, 33 Albion St, London SE16 7JG – free entry courtesy of the Finnish Church in association with the Anglo-Finnish Society. The screening will be followed by a discussion with participants: Lizzie Thynne, Titus Hjelm (UCL, School of Slavonic Studies) and others.

Film Studies For Free brings you a list of links to open access scholarly and critical resources on the subject of biopics - life (hi)stories on film in a variety of fictional and documentary forms.

This entry is produced to coincide with the publication this week of the above embedded video on film biography, part of FSFF's sister project REFRAME Conversations, a new series of in-depth, open access explorations of media, film, music and cultural studies research, published and shareable on and offline in video/audio formats.

Because of this schedule, preparation of the below list precedes the publication of a great looking new edited collection on The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture by Tom Brown (a friend of this blog - see the entry on direct address here) and Belén Vidal. The two editors have completed a podcast on their project shortly to be uploaded to this website. That great link will be added here later.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Celebrating Laura Mulvey: Or, Film Studies with Poetic License

A fascinating and informative excerpt from the audio commentary track on the British Film Institute's brand new Dual Format Edition of RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX (Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, 1977). You can find more information about this new video version of the film here and read a new interview with Mulvey about its making here.
Riddles of the Sphinx was made in 1976-7. The film used the Sphinx as an emblem with which to hang a question mark over the Oedipus complex, to illustrate the extent to which it represents a riddle for women committed to Freudian theory but still determined to think about psychoanalysis radically or, as I have said before, with poetic license. Riddles of the Sphinx and Penthesilea, our previous film, used ancient Greece to invoke a mythic point of origin for Western civilization, that had been critically re-affirmed by high culture throughout our history. [... S]ome primitive attraction to the fantasy of origins, a Gordian knot that would suddenly unravel, persisted for me in the Oedipus story, and its special status: belonging to very ancient mythology and to the literature of high Greek civilization, chosen by Freud to name his perception of the founding moment of the human psyche. My interest then concentrated on breaking down the binarism of the before/after opposition, by considering the story as a passage through time, a journey that could metaphorically open out or stretch the Oedipal trajectory through significant details and through its formal, narrational, properties. [Laura Mulvey, 'The Oedipus Myth: Beyond the Riddles of the Sphinx', PUBLIC, 2, 1989, FSFF's emphasis]

Film Studies For Free proudly presents an entry in honour of one the most important, most brilliant, most influential and hardest-working film and moving image scholars of all time: Laura Mulvey, professor of film and media studies at Birkbeck, University of London, a Fellow of the British Academy, and recently, co-founder of the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image. Mulvey is the author of: Visual and Other Pleasures (Macmillan, 1989; second edition, 2009), Fetishism and Curiosity (British Film Institute, 1996; 2nd ed. 2013), Citizen Kane (in the BFI Classics series, 1996) and Death Twenty-four Times a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (Reaktion Books, 2006). And she has made six films in collaboration with fellow film theorist and practitioner Peter Wollen including Riddles of the Sphinx (BFI, 1978) and Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti (Arts Council, 1980) and with artist/film-maker Mark Lewis Disgraced Monuments (Channel 4, 1994)

FSFF's author has a pretty good record in celebrating Mulvey's influence on film studies already, having been lucky enough to take part, earlier this year, in a day devoted to this activity at Birkbeck's Institute of Humanities - an event recorded by Backdoor Broadcasting. The happy occasion for today's eFestschrift, however, is the British Film Institute's release of a new DVD/BluRay disk of Riddles of the Sphinx, the hugely significant and original feminist film Mulvey co-directed and produced in 1976/77 with her partner Wollen (the disk also contains their first film together: Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons [1974]).

To accompany this entry FSFF was honoured to be able to produce a short, exclusive extract of a sequence of its choice from the DVD audio commentary accompanied version (as embedded above). FSFF warmly thanks Laura Mulvey herself, as well as Hannah Maloco and the BFI, whose Production Board thankfully funded Riddles of the Sphinx, for kindly allowing this blog to create such a memorable and instrumental item of openly accessible film studies.

Beneath the BFI's own Riddles of the Sphinx clip (embedded below) -- a commentary free version of substantially the same sequence -- you can find a wonderful listing of links to openly accessible online scholarly work by and about Laura Mulvey. It provides ample testimony, were it needed, as to why she has been, is, and always will be, one of the true greats of our subject - as Michel Foucault probably would have put, a veritable 'founder of discursivity' for our discipline... 

Online written work by Laura Mulvey: 

Online written work by Peter Wollen about Mulvey/Wollen's joint work: 

Online video/audio work by or featuring Laura Mulvey:

Online writing about Laura Mulvey's work: