Academic journal article American Studies

CINEMA RIGHTS: Regulation, Repression, and Race in the Classical Hollywood Era

Academic journal article American Studies

CINEMA RIGHTS: Regulation, Repression, and Race in the Classical Hollywood Era

Article excerpt

CINEMA RIGHTS: Regulation, Repression, and Race in the Classical Hollywood Era. By Ellen C. Scott. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 2015.

While much has been written about classic Hollywood in both popular and academic film history, surprisingly little has addressed the issue of race. The absence or abjection of cinematic representation of people of color is one explanation for this silence. Ellen C. Scott has attempted to look deeper into the politics of representation to find out the ways that race factored into production decisions within the Hollywood studio system.

Scott does an excellent job of situating her work alongside other film historians like Thomas Cripps and Ed Guerrero, who have also grappled with similar problems regarding representations of race in Hollywood. Borrowing from queer film theory, Scott offered the idea of "representability" as a lens into the decisions that lead to both the representation and its absence on Hollywood screens. Scott does so by looking at the repressed materials that reveal the racialized code that comes to define race in Hollywood.

Much of her research focuses on a nexus of regulating agency and civil rights activists, most notably, the Production Code Administration, several state censorship boards, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Archives. This research leads to analysis of the representational politics that regulated the depiction of civil rights issues. During the 1930s, Scott convincingly argues that studios did all they could to "manage" controversial themes such as racial lynching, miscegenation and social equality so as not to offend distributors and exhibitors. With examples from films such as the 1934 version of Imitation of Life, Scott provides evidence of how the studios and censors influenced script revisions from screenplay to final cut. …

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