Queen's Film and Media

Film and Media Studies
Film and Media Studies



















The past few years, I've been teaching a second-year course in historical approaches to film and a third-year course in Canadian film and television, and in 2001 I started offering a senior-level seminar in film authorship that concentrates on the work of Nicholas Ray and Orson Welles.

This partly derived from work I did many years ago, which resulted in a book, Nicholas Ray: A Guide to References and Resources. The pair of filmmakers had interestingly parallel lives and careers. They were born within a few years of each other, both in Wisconsin, and died within only a few years, too. They had formative years in radical theatre, New Deal-era public culture, and radio before starting their directing careers, both at RKO in the 1940s. And each had a varied and troublesome Hollywood career before banishment into the uncertainty and creative ferment of independence.

I've also been considering issues of film authorship in relation to my current research for a professional biography of Phillip Borsos (1953-1995), director of The Grey Fox, One Magic Christmas, Bethune: The Making of a Hero, and several other short and feature-length films. Sometime soon, I hope, you'll be able to find my chapter, "The Grey Fox Afoot in a Modern World," in Canada's Best Features, edited by Gordon Collier and Gene Walz, to be published by Rodopi (http://www.rodopi.nl/), and another essay, "Directed by Phillip Borsos," in North of Everything: English-Canadian Film Since 1980, edited by Bill Beard and Jerry White, to be published by the University of Alberta Press (http://www.ualberta.ca/~uap/).

My recent research has also resulted in a series of three articles on a 1939 film, Heritage, produced by the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau and released around the time John Grierson was writing his report on Canadian government film activity. The film, made for the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, outlines a history of wheat farming on the prairies up to the 1930s, and describes the government programs intended to combat the drought and institute improved farming practices. It's a lot more interesting than it sounds. Really. But the history of the film's production, its relations to Pare Lorentz's much better known film, The Plow That Broke the Plains, and its role in the transformation of government filmmaking during the early years of the National Film Board offer even more to chew on. "Making Heritage, A Canadian Government Motion Picture," is destined to appear in an anthology on "Canada's Unknown Cinemas," edited by Christopher Faulkner and William O'Farrell. "Canada's Heritage (1939) and America's The Plow That Broke the Plains (1939) can be found in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/carfax/01439685.html) 19.4 (1999): 439-72, and "A National 'As Distinct from Departmental' Film Board, and the Case of Heritage" in the Canadian Journal of Film and Media (http://www.filmstudies.ca/journal/) 9.1 (Spring 2000): 30-54.

In addition to this work on Canadian film, I've devoted attention to a couple of other areas. The new edition of Television: Critical Methods and Applications, by Jeremy Butler, includes my revised chapter, "Music Television," which uses Lauryn Hill's Everything is Everything for a sample analysis. My dissertation, "The Beat Generation and the New American Cinema, 1956-1960," (http://wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations/fullcit/8423199) led to other Beat-related work, such as "The Making (and Unmaking) of Pull My Daisy, in Film History 3.2 (Sept/Oct 1988): 185-205  and "'Oh, Those Happy Pull My Daisy Days,'" in Moody Street Irregulars: A Jack Kerouac Newsletter 22-23 (Winter 1989-90): 4-10. Most recently, at Hofstra University's 1998 "Frank Sinatra: The Man, the Music, the Legend" conference (you hadda be there), I presented a paper titled "Frank Sinatra Meets the Beats," on the uses of Sinatra by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and corresponding images of hipness. It's scheduled to appear in the conference proceedings, to be published by Greenwood Press.

As well as this teaching and research, I've made a few films. The most recent, from 1991, is titled You Are Not Alone. It's a detective story about missing persons, but it's also about homesickness. It's distributed by the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (http://www.cfmdc.org/).


See also my Directory of CBC Television Series, 1952-1982 and In a Film by Allan King, a reference work based on the Allan King Collection at Queen's University Film and Media. See below: