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John Dos Passos and Cinema$
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Lisa Nanney

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954873

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781942954873.001.0001

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The Birth of an Industry

The Birth of an Industry

Setting the Stage for the Screen

(p.25) Chapter Two The Birth of an Industry
John Dos Passos and Cinema

Lisa Nanney

Liverpool University Press

Film emerged rapidly both as an art and as an industry during the same years Dos Passos was maturing as an artist and absorbing the boundary-breaking creative potentials wrought by modernist innovations in all the arts. The process by which film achieved its privileged status as an engine of change was both cultural and aesthetic; as film developed this agency, it was driven by and in turn drove economic systems that were in flux during the decades before the economic Crash of 1929. These systems and this process fashioned film into the kind of potent political force that Dos Passos sought for his own art. The revolutionary interchange among the arts that transformed them in the 1920s galvanized Dos Passos’s practice in each discipline he was undertaking in that period—painting and set design, and writing plays and novels. Critics have long recognized the impact of the visual arts and particularly of moving pictures on the stylistic innovations that characterized his modernist novels. Dos Passos acknowledged that both Manhattan Transfer (1925) and U.S.A. (1938) were built on montage, and he specifically credited the impact of individual film pioneers such as D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein on his narrative style.

Keywords:   film editing, film industry, Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), montage, nickelodeon, spectacle

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