Film Quarterly (Fall 1958 to the present) had two antecedents: Hollywood Quarterly (October 1945–Summer 1951) and Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television (Fall 1951–Summer 1957). Hollywood Quarterly was launched in 1945 as a joint venture of the Hollywood Writers Mobilization and the University of California Press. The association began as a wartime collaboration between educators and media workers in response to social needs occasioned by the war. Playwright and screenwriter John Howard Lawson and Franklin Fearing, a university supporter, were co-editors; two additional industry representatives, including writer-director Abraham Polonsky, and three university representatives made up the editorial board. The first issue, which appeared just after the end of the war, posed the question: "What part will the motion picture and the radio play in the consolidation of the victory, in the creation of new patterns in world culture and understanding?" The first issue featured Fearing's article "Warriors Return: Normal or Neurotic?" and "The Case of David Smith," a radio play by Polonsky on a similar subject. High standards were maintained in subsequent issues as representatives from many areas of the industry contributed essays on their respective crafts. These included writers Philip Dunne, Lester Cole, and John Paxton; directors Irving Pichel and Curtis Harrington; composers Franz Waxman and Adolph Deutsch; costume designer Edith Head; and others. In late 1946 the earliest phase of postwar Red hunting targeted Lawson, among others.
According to Alan Gevinson's profile of Film Quarterly in Anthony Slide's International Film, Radio, and Television Journals (1985), Lawson resigned from his position as co-editor when "the provost of the University of California told him the journal would have to fold or dissociate itself from the university if Lawson continued his position." Polonsky took over as co-editor and continued Lawson's policies, among other ways by writing excellent and socially conscious reviews of Odd Man Out and Monsieur Verdoux . But the journal, according to Gevinson, "eventually lost its critical bite and turned academic, emphasizing studies, albeit excellent ones in many cases, of foreign
and past filmmakers, Shakespearean adaptations, and television programming." Hollywood Quarterly was cited in a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing as a Communist organ; in 1951 its name was changed to Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television . The new journal stated that it no longer spoke for the Hollywood community. It published, said Gevinson, "high quality but politically safe pieces on a variety of subjects," including an article on the history of the horror film by Curtis Harrington, Norman McLaren's "Notes on Animated Sound," and T.W. Adorno's "How to Look at Television." August Frugé, director emeritus of the University of California Press, notes in his book A Skeptic Among Scholars (1993) that the Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television gradually ran down "—or so I seem to remember—as the emphasis became more sociological and less cinematic." A series of assistant editors who worked under the editorial board "did not always fit in well." The last of these, says Frugé, often threatened to resign to get her way. At last he accepted her offer. Frugé expected trouble with the editorial board, but the board's chairman, Kenneth MacGowan, professor emeritus of theater arts at UCLA, understood and wondered if another qualified person could be found. "In the end, and after a quiet talk, he sighed and said that perhaps the time had come to bring the enterprise to a halt." Frugé speculates that MacGowan, who once again had become involved in theater—his first love—had lost some of his former interest in film.
"That should have been the end of the affair," says Frugé, "but I hesitated." The Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television had what was then called a university subvention (that is, a subsidy), as did other journals, and he did not want it to revert to the state. Frugé looked at Sight and Sound and Cahiers du cinéma . "There was no American review comparable to these two, intellectual but not academic and devoted to film as art and not as communication. By accident we found ourselves with the means to publish one—if we chose and if we knew how."
Frugé had been talking to Andries Deinum, his one friend in the film business. Deinum had been teaching film at the University of Southern California, but in 1955 he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee; he testified that for a time he had been a member of the Communist Party in Hollywood, but he refused to name names. As a result, he was dismissed from his position at USC. Deinum's knowledge and "his great ability to talk and, talking, to enlighten" impressed Frugé; hence he asked whether, if a new journal were started, he would serve as editor. Deinum declined, on the basis that the university would never hire him. Frugé disagreed: in the expanded university, President Sproul was "no longer second-guessing our decisions." Frugé speculates that Deinum's incomparable ability with the spoken word may have decided him against an editor's role. (In any case, Deinum took a
teaching position soon after, which he held for the rest of his career, at Portland State University.) Deinum suggested that Frugé instead consider someone on Frugé's own staff: Ernest Callenbach, of whose work as a film critic, including contributions to the Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television , Frugé was unaware. Frugé recalls that Callenbach was reluctant to take the job, mindful of the other activities that such a move might forestall. Before making up his mind, Callenbach suggested Pauline Kael, who had made a local reputation writing blurbs for a repertory movie house near campus. Kael came in for a discussion, and "almost immediately it became clear that she and I did not think alike and would never be able to work together. For one thing, she wanted a completely free hand, which we would not give."
Callenbach agreed to a one-year trial and was aided by an advisory board composed of Deinum; Gavin Lambert, a former editor of Sight and Sound and then a screenwriter in Hollywood; Albert Johnson; Hugh Gray; Paul Jorgensen; and Colin Young of UCLA. The first issue of Film Quarterly , as the new journal was called, appeared in Fall 1958. In the Fall 1991 issue—thirty-three years later—Callenbach penned his "Founding Editor's Farewell," in which he announced both his retirement from the editorship and his participation on the editorial board to continue his association with the journal. Callenbach had overseen the production of 133 issues of Film Quarterly .
The present editor is Ann Martin, who has worked at American Film and The New Yorker , edited a series of monographs for the American Film Institute, and worked in film and video production. Martin has been the editor of Film Quarterly since the Winter 1991–92 issue; the Fall 1998 issue marked the completion of seven years—twenty-eight issues—under her leadership. It is possible to argue that the successful transfer of the editorship of Film Quarterly from Callenbach to Martin is the most important moment in the history of the journal since its founding forty years ago. One need only look around a bit to see how rare such a peaceful transition is. In most cases, either a venerable journal is scrapped when a longtime editor retires, or the appointment of a successor coincides precisely with its decline. There are many exceptions, of course, but with dictatorships—however benevolent and effective—and with journals—however brightly and long they burn—the problem that is never quite worked out is that of transition.
The Physical Journal
What follows will explore only a few aspects of Film Quarterly's first forty years. "Where to begin?" is not only the title of an essay by Roland Barthes, but also a conundrum faced on any sort of writing occasion. We might take a
cue from Dziga Vertov's The Man with a Movie Camera : the camera itself is the first thing we see in the film and virtually the last. As the star of the show, the camera takes a mechanical bow to the audience near the end of the film. So we will begin with the physical journal itself, reminding us that it has an existence—a life?—of its own that is affected by, but independent of, publisher, editor, board, contributors, and readers.
The journal that was born fully grown in 1958 measured a svelte 6 3/4 by 8 3/8 inches. Unlike the rest of us, it stayed that way for twenty-three years, including, of course, the twentieth-anniversary issue of Fall 1978. Beginning with the Fall 1981 issue, the format expanded to 6 3/4 by 9 3/4 inches; that is, the width remained the same, but 1 3/8 inches were added at the top. In the Fall 1989 issue the format expanded to the dimensions of a ream of letter-quality computer paper. The first format lasted twenty-three years, the second eight years, and the third completed its ninth year with the Summer 1998 issue. Phenomenologically speaking, the first format suggested a radical pamphlet that one could stuff in one's pocket and read at any time, secretly if necessary. Familiar as it was then, it is now almost impossible to visualize the tiny envelopes that issues from that period arrived in. Unpacking the contents must have recalled to some the long-gone thrill of opening a mailed Captain Midnight decoder, with instructions. Once the shock of change wore off, the new appearance was accepted as the "natural" form of Film Quarterly of the then present. (It is disconcerting to recall that this format corresponded almost exactly to the two Reagan terms: 1981–1989.) By contrast, the expansion to 8 1/2 by 11 inches took place with no more than a "Not again!" Let me note—before some other pundit does—that the format changes of the last seventeen years have seemed no more than two double-clicks on a computer keyboard, the first achieving a somewhat taller screen and the second a fuller one.
An indication of the shock of the first format change in nearly a quarter century may be found in the Editor's Notebook in the Fall 1981 issue. Under the title "Our New Format," the column explained:
Three issues back, we adopted a new cover design for Film Quarterly . With this issue we are enlarging our pages and switching to a larger, more readable type size. The editorial policies of the magazine remain the same: as a journal published by a university press, we print the most intransigently intelligent film criticism that we can find.
The appearance of Film Quarterly did not change except in minor details for more than twenty years. But the marketplace in which we compete—the newsstands and bookstores of the nation—has changed a great deal. In time the austere Roman elegance of our old cover design tended to disappear in a welter of increasingly flashy commercial magazines. Our new cover, with a larger area of color and the title in bolder lettering, makes Film
Quarterly more visible; it has already helped us begin to attract more of the new subscribers we depend upon for our survival. . . . These changes should make the contents more visually appealing to new readers and old, as we continue our familiar mix of articles, interviews, reviews, and book reviews—all with the lively seriousness that befits a scholarly journal.
The editor here assures the reader that the change in the journal's size will not affect editorial policy and the categories of material that will appear in its pages—interviews, articles, film reviews, and book reviews. Some might ask why an additional 1 3/8 inches at the top of a journal should change its contents. But the size, shape, and typeface of a magazine or journal determine how one holds it, how one turns the pages, and how one's eye traverses the page (whether text is arranged in columns or across the page); in short, how the physical journal disposes and interacts with the body of the reader. As Norman O. Brown said, all categories are bodily categories.
As noted, the format of the journal changed again in the Fall 1989 issue. What were the editor's reflections on this change? We do not know, because by then the institution of the Editor's Notebook no longer existed. (Its last appearance was in the Summer 1986 issue.) Its disappearance was due to another redesign of the contents page, in the excised right column of which the Editor's Notebook had appeared for twenty-eight years. One might argue, on the other hand, that the excitement of the cinema that emerged in the late fifties, sixties, and seventies had shifted to business-as-usual in the mid-eighties. The mining of viewers for cinematic gold perhaps required more patience, more systematic search; it was no longer everywhere to be found. As a result, the avidity for chats and discussions of all kinds diminished, including perhaps the Editor's Notebook. Hegel once said that the Owl of Minerva takes flight only after sunset; that is, we attain wisdom about events only after they are completed. The eighties and nineties may not be a conspicuously innovative period in cinema, but the articles, reviews, interviews, and book reviews of this era have seemed to probe more deeply and attain more understanding than before.
A Galaxy of Writers
The principal glory of Film Quarterly has been its contributors. Some journals have proceeded with more or less the same group of writers, with only occasional replenishment by others over the years. In each of its main time periods, Film Quarterly has had a far greater diversity among both regular and occasional contributors.
From 1958 to 1965, a number of writers who were well known—either then or later, or both—wrote for Film Quarterly . These included Arlene Croce,
Parker Tyler, Vernon Young, Eugene Archer, and Gavin Lambert, among others. What these superb writers contributed to the journal were almost exclusively film reviews. (Noël Burch wrote articles as well as reviews during this period.) There was also, beginning in 1961, a regular feature called "Films of the Quarter," in which a group of professional film critics—Dwight Macdonald, Stanley Kauffmann, Pauline Kael, Jonas Mekas, and Gavin Lambert—discussed what they regarded as the best films of the preceding three months. It was when Andrew Sarris (Mekas's fellow writer on the Village Voice ) joined the group that sparks began to fly. In the Spring 1963 issue Pauline Kael attacked Sarris and auteurism in an article called "Circles and Squares." In the Summer 1963 issue Sarris responded in his article "The Auteur Theory and the Perils of Pauline." For a short while "Films of the Quarter" continued alongside these heated exchanges. In the Fall 1963 issue, Dwight Macdonald resigned:
I've been wondering, for various reasons, whether to keep on contributing to "Films of the Quarter," but now that Andrew Sarris has been added to the stable, I feel the decision has been made for me. I am not willing to appear under the same rubric as a "critic" who thinks The Birds "finds Hitchcock at the summit of his artistic powers." His simplistic coarsening of Truffaut's auteur theory has produced a dogma so alien to the forms of reasoning and sensibility I respect as to eliminate any basis of discussion.
Not long after, "Films of the Quarter" quietly disappeared. Pauline Kael, who had contributed articles, film reviews, and other material to the journal between 1961 and 1965, reprinted a great deal of that material in her first book, I Lost It at the Movies (1965).
The later sixties and early seventies introduced a number of new writers to Film Quarterly , each of whom was to contribute to the journal over a long period. These include Stephen Farber, who first wrote for Film Quarterly in 1965; James Roy MacBean (1968); Leo Braudy (1968); Joan Mellen (1971); Michael Dempsey (1971); Brian Henderson (1971); and Marsha Kinder and Beverle Houston (1973). This group brought to the journal a new seriousness about film criticism and scholarship and took a longer-range view of commentary on film than did the "Films of the Quarter" group, whose polemics and turf wars, moreover, did not interest the newcomers. Not least, it was members of this group who introduced to Film Quarterly an abiding interest in film theory and theoretically inflected criticism. This interest quickly became and has remained one of the distinctive features and commitments of the journal. Those who wrote for the journal between other assignments included Estelle Changas,
Claire Clouzot, Richard Corliss, David Denby, Peter Harcourt, Richard T. Jameson, Richard Kozarski, Max Kozloff, Joseph McBride, Harriet Polt, Paul Schrader, and Paul Warshow.
Film Quarterly writers who have emerged since those early days include long-time contributors Jonathan Rosenbaum, Karen Jaehne, Tania Modleski, William F. Van Wert, Peter Brunette, and James Naremore, as well as the journal's Rome editor, Gideon Bachmann, and its New York editor, William Johnson. The journal's outstanding book reviewers, including Tom Gunning, Dana Polan, and others too numerous to name here, should also be acknowledged.
A few words about this book are in order. It is not, sadly, a representative selection of Film Quarterly and its writers over forty years and 160 issues. It contains one interview (out of well over a hundred), no film reviews (out of many hundreds), and no book reviews (out of perhaps thousands). Its organization and selections were determined at two extraordinary meetings of the editorial board, in which a much-too-large proposed book was whittled down and merged with a composite of other choices and categories. This most stimulating process went through many stages and hours before resulting in a conclusion acceptable to all. The editors of this volume wish to thank the editorial board—Leo Braudy, Ernest Callenbach, Albert Johnson, Marsha Kinder, and Linda Williams—for its labors and unceasing perspicacity. Thanks also to the expert advice of experienced page counters at our planning meeting for telling us, to paraphrase Cocteau, how far we could go too far. They kept all of us firmly under the rule of the reality principle. No one emerges from such a regimen without fantasies, however; each of us had at least several pieces, and—these failing—one last one that we still wished were included.
Over forty years, the pages of Film Quarterly have reflected not only many interests, but also many kinds of interests. These are reflected in the section headings of this book: Theory, Genre, Documentary, Technologies, Historical Revisions, and, under the heading of Group Texts, the avant-garde on the one hand, and feminism and the narrative film tradition on the other. In the necessarily compressed dimensions of this book we have tended toward articles that in one way or another combine two or more of these categories. To compare Film Quarterly to other journals, there are certainly others that specialize in feminism or in the avant-garde, and hence perhaps treat them more extensively than we do. In documentary coverage, and especially in documentary theory—although other journals have articles and features in this field—the position of Film Quarterly is especially strong. Superb as they are, the articles and interview in this book only sample the abiding commitments of the journal over forty years. But what is unique about Film Quarterly is not any one of these specialty areas, but all of them. No other film journal has embraced and kept up with all of these fields as Film Quarterly has.
Two topics not yet dealt with are theory and Film Quarterly 's annual book review issue. The massive annual review coverage of the year's film books is unique; no other film journal in the United States or elsewhere offers anything like this systematic coverage. (The genesis and development of the book issue are discussed in the introduction to Part One, "Early Days.")
As for theory, it is a more complex question—of course! What else would it be? Film Quarterly has published theoretical work by André Bazin, Umberto Eco, and Jean-Louis Baudry, among other Europeans, and a very considerable body of indigenous work as well. Theory has included narrative theory and, as mentioned, feminist, documentary, and avant-garde theory. Film Quarterly remains open to—indeed is hoping for—both articles on general theory and theoretical work addressing particular fields. Recently, under the rubric "anti-theory," some have proposed the end of theory. At Film Quarterly , we are waiting for the theoretical and other kinds of work that will frame the course of film and television studies in the new century. And one last minor note: although the essays in each section are listed chronologically in the table of contents, the introductions to four of the sections—Theory, Genre, Technologies, and Historical Revisions—depart from temporal order to develop thematic points among the pieces included.