chapter  3
American Madness (1932)
ByERIC SMOODIN
Pages 18

At least since the 1930s, film studies as practised in the USA typically has considered national cinema in fixed terms, with an untroubled understanding of what ‘American’ cinema might mean. We can get a sense of this from the titles of some of the founding texts of film studies from that era: Lewis Jacobs’ The Rise of the American Film (1939) for example, or Margaret Farrand Thorp’s America at the Movies (1939). When Robert Gessner began teaching his film-appreciation class at New York University in the late 1930s, he included such categories on his syllabus as ‘The Early American Spectacle’, ‘Legend and Fantasy in Germany’, and ‘Contemporary Soviet Naturalism’ (Smoodin 2004: 4, 6-7). Thirty years later, Andrew Sarris called his study of directors (including Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau and other Europeans) The American Cinema (1968).