After my post on Phillip Lopate’s introduction to American Movie Critics, Ryan McNeil over at The Matinee expressed an interest in reading the book himself and doing a joint series on it. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to discuss the book with another film fan while reading it, so that’s what we’re going to do. Ryan posted his take on the introduction and Vachel Lindsay, the first writer covered, earlier this week, so I’m posting this short piece on Lindsay’s section to catch up, and then from here on out, these posts will be conversations between me and Ryan. Look for the first one of those within the next few days.
In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the two pieces of criticism included from Vachel Lindsay. Lindsay was primarily a poet, but was also an enthusiastic supporter of the movies, writing the first American book about film aesthetics in 1914, a time when movies were still considered impossibly low entertainment and very few people seriously considered film artistic in any way. In the two excerpts in American Movie Critics, one from that 1914 work The Art of the Moving Picture and the other from a sequel written in 1925 but not published until long after his death, he rhapsodizes about the Action Picture and Douglas Fairbanks. According to Lopate’s little introductory bio, Lindsay also has chapters in his book about the Intimate Picture, the Film of Splendor and more, but it’s great to have this section on the Action Film, since action films represent the type of film most enthusiasts of the time pointed to as the major thing movies could do much better than the more established arts, yet they’re also the kind of dime-a-dozen thrill that detractors decried as the lowest of all forms of entertainment. Lindsay doesn’t deny the cheap ubiquity of the genre, but rather finds his way to praise that in itself, urging his readers to “close the book and go round the corner to a photoplay theatre. Give the preference to the cheapest one.”