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Robots in Cowboy Hats: Hollywood Sound Serials and the Hinterland Audience

Robots in Cowboy Hats: Hollywood Sound Serials and the Hinterland Audience
1 Devonshire Place, Munk School of Global Affairs, Room 208N
Time: Feb 26th, 4:00 pm End: Feb 26th, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: United States Studies, Science/Technology, Drama, Theatre, Performance Studies (FAS), Critical Theory, Communications, Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (UTM), Cinema, Arts, Culture and Media (UTSC), 1950-2000, 1900-1950
Lecture by Justin J. Morris, Ph.D. student, Cinema Studies


Wednesday, February 26, 4:00-6:00 pm
Munk School of Global Affairs, Room 208N
1 Devonshire Place


Robots in Cowboy Hats: Hollywood Sound Serials, and the Hinterland Audience

Organized by the Organized by the Centre for the Study of the United States Graduate Student Workshop.

Though a great deal has been written on the status of the silent film serial as a highly popular form that helped to establish formative economic relationships between cinema and the newspaper industry, in relation to the growth of widespread fan cultures, the “golden age” of the Hollywood sound serial (encompassing a period of roughly 1935 to the late 1950s, and the advent of television) has largely mirrored the academic discussion of other “lower” film forms, such as the Hollywood B-film. Guy Barefoot indicates that film historians have only “made occasional references to […] later film serials,” quoting Ben Singer as reductively asserting that the serials survived “as a low-budget ‘B’ product with limited distribution, and an appeal primarily to hyperactive children.” Though statements such as Singer’s move to suggest that sound serials were merely poorly produced cinematic hiccups that played without fanfare to small audiences, it is the status of this unique film form among the hinterland audience which establishes its importance to economic, exhibition, and movie-going histories. Drawing upon exhibitor reports found primarily within the “What The Picture Did For Me” section of the Motion Picture Herald, this paper will seek to trace the serial’s progression from mass to niche markets, from a vastly populated “adult” audience, to a hinterland audience frequently addressed (by Hollywood and local exhibitors alike) as juvenile. Ultimately, Morris’ paper strives to establish the Hollywood sound serial as a significant—rather than diminutive phenomena, of Great Depression-era exhibition and movie-going practice.

Justin J. Morris is a first year PhD student at the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute. Justin completed his Bachelor’s degree in History and Film Studies at the University of Alberta in 2011, and his Master’s degree in Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto in 2012. His research interests include the depiction of Canada in Hollywood cinema, the phenomena of 1930s singing cowboys, and the nature of seriality in cinema. He is currently co-authoring a documentary on experimental artist Harry Smith and the Anthology of American Folk Music, to be broadcast on University of Victoria radio in the coming year.

To register for this event, please go to: http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/events/

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