chapter  11
Race Cinema, the Transition to Sound, and Hollywood’s African-American-Cast Musicals
Pages 16

Arresting as Rogin’s overarching claim is, closer scrutiny suggests that its value as a comprehensive film-historical schema is limited.1 Construing his wording literally, the reader wonders if, by “[e]ach … moment,” Rogin means “each and every”: could there be others here that he does not mention? Along similar lines, why does his timeline end in 1939, with the flowering of “classical Hollywood”? Moreover, Rogin’s notion of the “transformative” seems undertheorized, conflating distinct forms of historical evaluation. At least two of his four examples, The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind, make the list less because they demonstrate clear “firsts” (novelties in film style, technology, and/or mode of production) and more because of their canonical status, as determined retrospectively by critics. These imprecisions notwithstanding, Rogin’s discussion of “transformative moments” holds real critical value for how it illustrates the structuring force of conventions of African-American representation established in blackface minstrelsy and nineteenth-century stage melodrama on numerous American motion pictures, from their inception through the end of the classical era.