Intellect’s The Directory of World Cinema has many times proven its worth as an invaluable resource for film fanatics and academics alike, but with American Hollywood, edited by Lincoln Geraghty, the series has out done itself. For those unaware of the series it collates essays written by scholars and critics on films from around the world dividing into particular regions and countries. Importantly, this series does not only cover classics films that everyone should see, but also films that individual writers have deemed important – for good or for bad. Written in a more colloquial, yet professional style and devoid of tiresome academic language, the series provides a wealth of information that is a joy to read.
The book is well structured and opens with a series of introductory essays on what is meant by the term ‘American Hollywood’ – this ranges from technological shifts to business practices. Following this are a series of chapters covering the major genres – western, crime, romance etc. that populate Hollywood’s production history. Such a structure allows the reader to dip in and out of the book exploring different genres rather than necessarily reading cover to cover. Being able to examine much loved and much ignored films in such a way is central to the usefulness and readability of the book. There is equally an impressive range of historical periods covered ranging from silent film to last year’s big new mainstream and blockbuster releases.
As with any collected work the style and quality vary throughout but it should be stressed that there is an overall high standard throughout. The essays and introduction to the blockbuster chapter by Michael S. Duffy are particularly captivating for their insights, as is John Bleasdale’s essay on Some Like It Hot (1959). Equally important is the fact that the book is very current, of course something that will quickly date; however the editor appears to have made a keen effort to include films that have made an important contribution to the culture of Hollywood, a fact that keeps the inclusion of more recent film valuable for re-reading down throughout the years. The Directory of World Cinema: American Hollywood is noot only a highly enjoyable read and invaluable resource, but also provides fresh and unique perspectives on some of the most famous films to come out of Hollywood.