Directed by Allen Smithee

Directed by Allen Smithee

Directed by Allen Smithee

Directed by Allen Smithee

Synopsis

Allen Smithee specializes in the mediocre. He is versatile. He is prolific. And he doesn't exist. From 1969 until 1999, Allen Smithee was the pseudonym adopted by Hollywood directors when they wished not to be associated with films ostensibly of their making. Encompassing over fifty films of various stripes -- B movies, sequels, music videos, made-for-TV movies -- Smithee's three decades of work affords the authors of this volume a unique opportunity to reassess the claims of auteurism, both in its traditional guise and in the more commodified form it currently assumes.

Sometimes treating Smithee as an auteur in much the same way critics and scholars have treated directors as diverse as Douglas Sirk, Abbas Kiarostami, and Quentin Tarantino, the contributors reclaim new possibilities for auteurist filmmaking and film studies, even as they show what an empty display it has recently become. In accounting for this change, the essays in this volume employ innovative theories of authorship to recapture the subversive effect that auteurism once enjoyed. Thus the Smithee name becomes part of a larger discussion of the economics and history of pseudonyms in filmmaking -- notably in the blacklist of the 1950s -- as well as an opportunity to employ Jacques Derrida's theory of the signature to recover obscured economic and historic contexts within Smithee's films.

Unique in its focus, innovative in its approach, Directed by Allen Smithee argues that it is precisely through throwaway films such as Smithee's that recent Hollywood cinema can best be studied.

Excerpt

I wish to inform you that Allen Smithee is alive and well and living in a Hollywood trailer park where disappointed, disaffected, and discarded film directors drop off their unwanted movies and credits. He almost reappeared very recently when Jocelyn Moorhouse, director of A Thousand Acres, repudiated the final studio cut with the threat of taking her name off the credits, and letting the ever available Smithee take all the credit or blame for the final result. Smithee had already put on his director’s beret and Erich von Stroheim’s Hapsburg Dynasty riding boots when Michelle Pfeiffer, one of the feisty stars of A Thousand Acres, reportedly stormed into the Disney office, and said that if Moorhouse took her name off the credits, Pfeiffer would take her name off as well, and she would see to it that Moorhouse never worked in the town again. Moorhouse backed down and shoved Smithee aside, but the damage was done to the movie’s critical and commercial prospects, particularly with Moorhouse giving interviews bad mouthing it at every opportunity. Siskel and Ebert picked up on the industry buzz and gave it two thumbs down, and most every other critic lambasted it. I’ve seen A Thousand Acres and it isn’t that bad. In fact, it isn’t bad at all. It could be described as the year’s Marvin’s Room, a joint vehicle for two brilliant actresses, Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer, just as Marvin’s Room (1996) was a splendid opportunity for Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep.
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