“Highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred review)
A Short History of Film, Second Edition, provides a concise and accurate overview of the history of world cinema, detailing the major movements, directors, studios, and genres from 1896 through 2012. Accompanied by more than 250 rare color and black-and-white stills—including photographs of some of the industry’s most recent films—the new edition is unmatched in its panoramic view of the medium as it is practiced in the United States and around the world as well as its sense of cinema’s sweep in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster present new and amended coverage of film in general as well as the birth and death dates and final works of notable directors. Their expanded focus on key films brings the book firmly into the digital era and chronicles the death of film as a production medium.
The book takes readers through the invention of the kinetoscope, the introduction of sound and color between the two world wars, and ultimately the computer-generated imagery of the present day. It details significant periods in world cinema, including the early major industries in Europe, the dominance of the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s and 1940s, and the French New Wave of the 1960s. Attention is given to small independent efforts in developing nations and the more personal independent film movement that briefly flourished in the United States, the significant filmmakers of all nations, and the effects of censorship and regulation on production everywhere. In addition, the authors incorporate the stories of women and other minority filmmakers who have often been overlooked in other texts. Engaging and accessible, this is the best one-stop source for the history of world film available for students, teachers, and general audiences alike.
-- Christian Zabriskie, Library Journal
"With the goal of offering 'a fast paced tour' of movie history, Dixon and Foster have produced a study in the tradition of Paul Rotha's The Film till Now. The authors touch all the bases--they address new trends in international moviemaking, technologies, and critical theory and the emergence of new national and ethnic cinemas--and relate film history to social history (the latter augmented by a witty, useful time line: e.g., the year l900 lists quantum theory, Freud, the Brownie camera, the Boxer Rebellion, and 'the hamburger' as benchmarks). Each new technique, style, school, trend, and newly visible ethnic or feminist group takes its place in the larger history, and Dixon and Foster make it all accessible to the neophyte reader without ever breaking the pace. Uncommonly well-reproduced stills and a topically organized bibliography enhance the discussion. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers."
-- Thomas Cripps, Choice.
"I’m often asked to recommend a book on 'movie history.' Surprisingly enough, finding a single volume covering the development of such a wide-ranging subject can be difficult. But the quest has ended, in my opinion. A Short History of Film is the best 'one-stop shopping' volume on cinema history I have ever read. It offers not only thoroughness and concision, but also encourages meaningful browsing, as readers can pick and choose their topics of particular interest and then move on as desired. This book rewards both cover-to-cover reading and more sporadic 'as time permits' perusal. The major chapters focus on: the invention of moving pictures; the birth of the film industry; the Hollywood studio system and concurrent developments in international moviemaking; the influence of World War II and other historical events on subsequent decades of filmmaking; 'world cinema' from the 1970s to the present; and the 'new Hollywood.' Throughout, the text emphasizes important directors and significant examples of their work, described in precise and engaging prose. Arguably just as valuable as the book’s content are its frequent 'supplements,' including a timeline from 1832 to 2012, delineating important developments both cinematic and world-historic; and a glossary of film terms. And thanks to the book’s numerous bibliographies, if/when a reader’s appetite is whetted for additional information on a particular director or individual country’s film output, more recommended titles are close at hand. A Short History of Film will reward readers with an expansive and entertaining journey through an ever-evolving art form brought to fruition by a century’s worth of dedicated craftspeople."
-- Catherine Ritchie, Booked Solid.
New Book: Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood
Click here to listen to Dixon discuss Death of the Moguls on NPR affiliate WICN's Inquiry, with host Mark Lynch.
“In this accessible and engaging history of the moguls who made the studios successful through sheer force of personality, Dixon does a terrific job of getting inside the heads of the bosses who built their studios into major entertainment factories.” — Barry Keith Grant, Brock University
"In this book, written with his usual critical acumen, Wheeler Winston Dixon gives a lucid and penetrating account of the men who ran the old Hollywood studio system and the ultimate decline and fall of their empires."— Steven Shaviro, Wayne State University
Death of the Moguls is a detailed assessment of the last days of the “rulers of film.” Wheeler Winston Dixon examines the careers of such moguls as Harry Cohn at Columbia, Louis B. Mayer at MGM, Jack L. Warner at Warner Brothers, Adolph Zukor at Paramount, and Herbert J. Yates at Republic in the dying days of their once-mighty empires. He asserts that the sheer force of personality and business acumen displayed by these moguls made the studios successful; their deaths or departures hastened the studios’ collapse. Almost none had a plan for leadership succession; they simply couldn't imagine a world in which they didn’t reign supreme.
Covering 20th Century-Fox, Selznick International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, Paramount Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Republic Pictures, Monogram Pictures and Columbia Pictures, Dixon briefly introduces the studios and their respective bosses in the late 1940s, just before the collapse, then chronicles the last productions from the studios and their eventual demise in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He details such game-changing factors as the de Havilland decision, which made actors free agents; the Consent Decree, which forced the studios to get rid of their theaters; how the moguls dealt with their collapsing empires in the television era; and the end of the conventional studio assembly line, where producers had rosters of directors, writers, and actors under their command.
Complemented by rare, behind-the-scenes stills, Death of the Moguls is a compelling narrative on the end of the studio system at each of the Hollywood majors as television, the de Havilland decision, and the Consent Decree forced studios to slash payrolls, make the shift to color, 3D, and CinemaScope in desperate last-ditch efforts to save their kingdoms. The aftermath for some was the final switch to television production and, in some cases, the distribution of independent film.
WHEELER WINSTON DIXON is the James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. His many books include 21st Century Hollywood: Movies in the Era of Transformation (co-authored by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster), A History of Horror, and Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia (all Rutgers University Press).
A volume in the Techniques of the Moving Image series, edited by Murray Pomerance
Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access
Click here to listen to Dixon discuss Streaming on NPR affiliate WICN's Inquiry, with host Mark Lynch.
Film stocks are vanishing, but the image remains, albeit in a new, sleeker format. Today, viewers can instantly stream movies on demand on televisions, computers, and smartphones. Long gone are the days when films could only be seen in theaters; videos are now accessible at the click of a virtual button, and there are no reels, tapes, or discs to store. Any product that is worth keeping may be collected in the virtual cloud and accessed at will through services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant.
The movies have changed, and we are changing with them. The ways we communicate, receive information, travel, and socialize have all been revolutionized. In Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access, Winston Wheeler Dixon reveals the positive and negative consequences of the transition to digital formatting and distribution, exploring the ways in which digital cinema has altered contemporary filmmaking and our culture. Many industry professionals and audience members feel that the new format fundamentally alters the art while others laud the liberation of the moving image from the “imperfect” medium of film, asserting that it is both inevitable and desirable. Dixon argues that the change is neither good nor bad; it’s simply a fact.
Hollywood has embraced digital production and distribution because it is easier, faster, and cheaper, but the displacement of older technology will not come without controversy. This groundbreaking book illuminates the challenges of preserving digital media and explores what stands to be lost, from the rich hues present in film stocks to the classic movies that are not profitable enough to offer as streaming video. Dixon also investigates the financial challenges of the new distribution model, the incorporation of new content such as webisodes, and the issue of ownership in an age when companies have the power to pull purchased items from consumer devices at their own discretion.
Streaming touches upon every aspect of the shift to digital production and distribution. It not only explains how the new technology is affecting movies, music, books, and games, but also how instant access is permanently changing the habits of viewers and influencing our culture.
“Dixon has written a lively, opinionated, and detailed up-to-the-minute dispatch on the current state of the moving-image media as they experience a period of rapid transition marked by instability and uncertainty regarding the future of viewing and exhibition practices. It is a timely and urgent contribution to current scholarship in the constantly evolving discipline of media studies.”—David Sterritt, author of Screening the Beats: Media Culture and the Beat Sensibility
“Dixon’s book offers a cogent overview of the history of digital film production and its impact on traditional filmmaking. His work is more than just a historical map of the development of digitalized filmmaking, but also a socio-cultural and psychological study of how digitally formed film will (and does) impact viewers. Streaming will make a significant contribution to the field, as no scholar has yet looked at digital cinema and its impact on the socio-cultural experience of viewing film.”—Valerie Orlando, author of Screening Morocco: Contemporary Film in a Changing Society
"In this expansive, elegantly written and engaging study, Dixon attempts nothing less than to rethink the future of cinema in a digital age. Exploring the ways in which the Hollywood model of embracing digital production is spreading throughout the world, Streaming complicates, illuminates, and extends our understanding of the current media landscape."—Patrice Petro, Professor of English, Film Studies and Global Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
"'Today, the choice between streaming and hard-copy technology is the major divide in consumer viewing habits' writes Wheeler Winston Dixon in Streaming: Movies, Media and Instant Access, a worthy addition to the growing chorus questioning the breakneck conversion to digital. Dixon fears that conventional film will soon be available only to archaeologists of 20th-century culture, leaving audiences stuck with the 'hyperreal glossiness' of HD. Only a handful of repetory cinemas will serve as sanctuaries from DCP, if liberating ourselves from the couch remains an option in the author's occasionally hyperbolic vision of a future under house arrest. Even classic films on cable are cut to ribbons, he laments, and foreign and 'orphan' films have no chance at all in a Redbox-heavy diet . . . the real doomsaying is reserved for the book's second half, which explores the extremes of the wired universe: the perils of facial recognition software, Web apps that cater to stalkers,'body implants' that would display images and entertainment 'inside your head,' and Facebook tapping into 'the essence of your being' for advertisers. Having only dabbled in social media, I nonetheless set down Dixon's book feeling like Harry Caul in The Conversation when he realizes that the complimentary pen slipped into his pocket is actually a bugging device." —James Hughes, Film Comment, March-April 2013
Wheeler Winston Dixon, James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies and professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is coeditor-in-chief of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video and the author of numerous books, including A History of Horror, Visions of the Apocalypse: Spectacles of Destruction in American Cinema, and Film Talk: Directors at Work.
University Press of Kentucky
192 pages 6 x 9
ISBN 978-0-8131-4217-3 Cloth $69.00x
ISBN 978-0-8131-4219-7 Paper $24.95
ISBN 978-0-8131-4224-1 PDF
ISBN 978-0-8131-4218-0 EPUB
21st Century Hollywood: Movies in the Era of Transformation
(Rutgers University Press, 2011)
"The paradigm shift from analog to digital media has completely changed the way Hollywood produces and distributes its business. 21st-Century Hollywood presents a perfect snapshot of the new digital present."--Jan-Christopher Horak, Director, UCLA Film & Television Archive
“A significant and impressive work on the cutting edge of current critical discussion on the digitization of film . . . the sheer scope of Dixon and Foster’s knowledge is dazzling.”
—Steven Shaviro, author of Post-Cinematic Affect
They are shot on high-definition digital cameras—with computer-generated effects added in postproduction—and transmitted to theaters, web sites, and video-on-demand networks worldwide. They are viewed on laptop, iPod, and cell phone screens. They are movies in the 21st century—the product of digital technologies that have revolutionized media production, content distribution, and the experience of movie-going itself. 21st - Century Hollywood introduces readers to these global transformations and describes the decisive roles that Hollywood is playing in determining the digital future for world cinema. It offers clear, concise explanations of a major paradigm shift that continues to reshape our relationship to the moving image. Filled with numerous detailed examples, the book will both educate and entertain film students and movie fans alike.
A History of Horror (Rutgers University Press, 2010; second printing 2011)
Also Available as an Audiobook from Audible, published October 2012.
Click here to listen to Dixon discuss A History of Horror on NPR affiliate WICN's Inquiry, with host Mark Lynch.
"This is an excellent survey of horror movies. The author, a veteran film historian, takes the reader back to the beginning, when, in the first three decades of the twentieth century, such directors as Georges Melies, F. W. Murnau, and Paul Wegener were defining not only the look of a genre but also cinema itself. The period between 1930 and the late 1940s saw the rise of the classic Universal Studios characters —Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy—and the actors who played them: Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney Jr. By the end of the 1940s, horror was dying, “killed by a plethora of poorly made sequels.” But never fear: the period between the late ‘40s and 1970 saw a massive resurgence, due in part to gimmicks (such as 3-D); low-budget quickies from the likes of Roger Corman, the wizard of the B movie; and the stylish resurrection of the classic Universal monsters by Britain’s Hammer Film Productions. This survey, which takes the reader right up to the present, is full of fascinating information and is delivered in an accessible manner. Required reading for horror fans."
— David Pitt, Booklist, August 4, 2010
"Dixon surveys the development of the horror genre from the earliest Frankenstein and Dracula films through the decades of classics by Hammer studios, William Castle, Roger Corman, and Val Lewton. Dixon covers movies seldom found in other histories and more modern, international titles such as Wolf Creek, Black Water, and Grudge. The endurance of horror, trends like remakes and sequels, and such popular franchises as Child's Play and Halloween are also discussed. In the final chapter, Dixon analyzes the decline of modern horror owing to desensitized audiences, graphic gore, violence, and lack of solid plot lines or character development. Lists of the best horror websites as well as the 50 movies covered round out this volume [. . .] This concise overview is an informative and entertaining read [. . .] Recommended for all libraries."
—Rosalind Dayen, Library Journal, September 16, 2010.
"In less than 250 pages, author Wheeler Winston Dixon manages to cover the trends and sub-genres of film horror from 1896 to 2009. Bonuses include a list of top horror sites, a list of fifty classic films, and a pretty wonderful bibliography. Dixon offers analysis without lapsing into academic language. He also provides the occasional behind-the-scenes anecdote. The main purpose of A History of Horror, however, seems to be delineating themes and trends as they work their way through each generation of horror filmmaking. At this the author excels, and the result is much more useful to fans than the clumsy attempts at thematic links provided by Amazon and Netflix. I found several titles that were completely unfamiliar to me and added them to my 'watch instantly' list [. . . ] Well written and well researched [. . . ] and offering an enjoyable overview of more than one hundred years of cinema, A History of Horror is a quick, delightful read. If you appreciate lucid, informed, but not stuffy analysis, here's your guide."
— S. P. Miskowski, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, November 5, 2010
"[Dixon's] book is a page-turner! It is a fabulous piece of work. A breathtaking panorama, written with wit and candor, showing how the horror film has shaped cinema from its the origins of the genre until now. I am really thrilled by the way A History of Horror refuses to fetishize the horror film at the same time it brings into view the complexities of history informing the genre. The very critical assessment of recent films in the final pages is a reminder to readers and filmmakers that, as the author has done himself, they would do well to take keen note of its rich and variegated past in view of its reinvention."
--Tom Conley, Harvard University
“Rich with excellent illustrations and clever anecdotes, this book will appeal to fans of horror as well as film students and scholars interested in a readable overview of the history of the genre.”
-- Rebecca Bell-Metereau, author of Hollywood Androgyny
“There is a wealth of research material here for anyone willing to follow Dixon’s many threads [. . .] the author offers generous and moving portraits of three American giants of horror: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney, Jr. [. . .] Dixon’s book is illustrated with a sprinkling of photos from the classic moments of the horror film genre. We see Lugosi as Count Dracula, Karloff as the Frankenstein monster, Linda Blair looking possessed, Sissy Spacek covered with blood in Carrie, an unusually maniacal Jack Nicholson from The Shining, and more gore-bedecked actors than one could shake a skull at.”
-- Martin A. David, New York Journal of Books
"The metric ton of movies listed in Wheeler Winston Dixon’s A History of Horror could have easily overwhelmed. However, thanks to witty and clever summations, as well as his ability to group films in such a way as to provide an excellent overview, the book is a breeze for this horror fan . . . even a casual reader will find themselves needing to keep a notepad handy, so as to keep track of everything you’ll want to search out."
--Nick Spacek, Rock Star Journalist
Film Noir and The Cinema of Paranoia
"Dixon seeks to broaden the scope and definition of film noir by focusing on its most dominant motif--paranoia. Concentrating on that impulse, and also on fear and violence, the author demonstrates that these all-encompassing aspects of film noir are found not only in gangster/detective films of the 1940s but also in such genres as science fiction and horror. Beginning with the pre-Code era, Dixon guides the reader through a comprehensive overview of the evolution of film noir to its present form, along the way presenting an enlightening examination of American and British society and politics and revealing the role film noir has played during certain periods. He demonstrates how film noir serves to contradict the false "feel good" images mediated to the public through movies and television programming. [Dixon]'s observations illustrate how paranoia, as constructed through the lens of film noir, proves more relevant than ever in lieu of the veil of fear that envelops every aspect of post-9/11 life. A wonderful addition to the literature on film noir and film genres. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty." -- A. F. Winstead, Choice, September 2009.
". . . the book offers an impressive catalogue of marginal and forgotten films of the studio era, accompanied by handfuls of Hollywood Babylon dirt for added impact [ . . .] noir addicts will [ . . .] walk away with one hell of a screening list." -- José Teodoro, Film Comment (July-August 2009)
"In Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia, Dixon displays a true cinephile's fascination with the gunslingers and femmes fatales of film noir, and the dark, uneasy world they inhabit. Wide-ranging and packed with compelling detail, this work will be an invaluable addition to the bookshelves of fans, academics and completists alike." - Mikita Brottman, author of The Solitary Vice
"Wheeler Winston Dixon is the intrepid sleuth of cinema studies, tracking down film noir in places where most of us never thought to look, seeing through the aliases and disguises - horror noir, western noir, musical noir, and more - that have kept its infinite variety in the shadows until now. Writing with nonstop energy and verve, Dixon explodes narrow definitions of noir as conclusively as the Great Whatsit blew up postwar innocence in Kiss Me Deadly. His timely, spirited book is a boon for film scholars, general readers, and movie buffs alike." - David Sterritt, Chairman, National Society of Film Critics
Book Series Editor, New Perspectives on World Cinema, Anthem Press, London
On the Value of "Worthless" Endeavor
Dark Humor in Films of the 1960s
"Lost in A Roman Wilderness of Pain": Film and Television After 9/11
Beyond Characterization: Performance in 1960s Experimental Cinema