Synopses & Reviews
In the early decades of the twentieth-century, Main Street was the heart of Los Angelesandrsquo;s Mexican immigrant community. It was also the hub for an extensive, largely forgotten film culture that thrived in L.A. during the early days of Hollywood. Drawing from rare archives, including the cityandrsquo;s Spanish-language newspapers, Colin Gunckel vividly demonstrates how this immigrant community pioneered a practice of transnational media convergence, consuming films from Hollywood and Mexico, while also producing fan publications, fiction, criticism, music, and live theatrical events.and#160;and#160;Mexico on Main Street
locates this film culture at the center of a series of key debates concerning national identity, ethnicity, class, and the role of Mexicans within Hollywood before World War II. As Gunckel shows, the immigrant communityandrsquo;s cultural elite tried to rally the working-class population toward the cause of Mexican nationalism, while Hollywood sought to position them as part of a lucrative transnational Latin American market. Yet ironically, both Hollywood studios and Mexican American cultural elites used the media to present negative depictions of working-class Mexicans, portraying their behaviors as a threat to middle-class respectability. Rather than simply depicting working-class immigrants as pawns of these power players, however, Gunckel reveals their active participation in the eraandrsquo;s film culture. and#160;
and#160;Gunckelandrsquo;s innovative approach combines media studies, urban history, and ethnic studies to reconstruct a distinctive, richly layered immigrant film culture. Mexico on Main Street demonstrates how a site-specific study of cultural and ethnic issues challenges our existing conceptions of U.S. film history, Mexican cinema, and the history of Los Angeles.and#160;
andquot;With clear and concise analysis, extensive archival work, and sound scholarship, Hidden Chicano Cinema makes a significant contribution to the field.andquot;
andquot;Brilliantly exploring a century of narrative, documentary, and hybrid films set in the Southwest Borderlands, A. Gabriel Melandeacute;ndez reveals the Chicano presence 'hidden' at the core of the American imagination.andquot;
andquot;Based on archival research, oral histories, and secondary literature, this book documents film and photographic representations of Mexican Americans in New Mexico from the late 19th century to the start of the 21st century. This book fills a significant gap in the literature on the region. Recommended.andquot;
andquot;A rich and impressive study of how Mexican film culture in Los Angeles responded to and shaped film industries of both the U.S. and Mexico.andquot;
andquot;Jarvinen effectively and meticulously undermines common assumptions about Spanish-language films and the transition to sound in this compellingly argued analysis of a largely overlooked body of Hollywood production.andquot;
andquot;Transnational cultural history at its best! Jarvinen unearths struggles among racist Hollywood executives, nationalist Latin Americans, and cosmopolitan film crews as they forged a new market for Spanish-language films.andquot;
andquot;Jarvinen has written a model piece of transnational history and she deserves applause for her smart, cogent examination of an important
yet little-known aspect of film history.andquot;
andquot;Melandeacute;ndezandrsquo;s analytical investigation stands as a serious contribution to the scholarship of Borderlands film studies.andquot;
andquot;Very interesting and insightful study. Melendez...is the first to provide a theoretical frameworkandmdash;proxemicsandmdash;that illustrates how the image-making of the Borderlands changed from the early to the late twentieth century.andquot;
This visual representation of New Mexico and its people is a fascinating study of how the region has been depicted in film from the dawn of early filmmaking and the silent era to today. Melandeacute;ndez examines such films as Adventures in Kit Carson Land, The Rattlesnake, and Red Sky at Morning, among others, that have both educated and misinformed us about a state in our own midst that remains a andldquo;distant localeandrdquo; to most white Americans.
Hidden Chicano Cinema
examines how New Mexico, situated within the boundaries of the United States, became a stand-in for the exotic non-western world that tourists, artists, scientists, and others sought to possess at the dawn of early filmmaking, a disposition stretching from the silent era to today as filmmakers screen their fantasies of what they wished the Southwest Borderlands to be.
The book highlights andldquo;film momentsandrdquo; in this regionandrsquo;s history including the andldquo;filmic turnandrdquo; ushered in by Chicano/a filmmakers who created new ways to represent their community and region. A. Gabriel Melandeacute;ndez narrates the drama, intrigue, and politics of these moments and accounts for the specific cinematic practices and the sociocultural detail that explains how the camera itself brought filmmakers and their subjects to unexpected encounters on and off the screen. Such films as Adventures in Kit Carson Land, The Rattlesnake, and Red Sky at Morning, among others, provide examples ofand#160; movies that have both educated and misinformed us about a place that remains a andldquo;distant localeandrdquo; in the mind of most film audiences.
Mexico on Main Street takes us inside a forgotten world: the film culture that thrived within Los Angelesandrsquo;s Mexican immigrant community in the early decades of the twentieth-century. Drawing from rare archives, Colin Gunckel demonstrates how these immigrants not only consumed Hollywood and Mexican films, but also produced fan publications, fiction, criticism, music, and live theatrical events. This book demonstrates how a site-specific study of cultural and ethnic issues challenges our existing conceptions of U.S. film history, Mexican cinema, and the history of Los Angeles.and#160;and#160;
Silent film was universally understood and could be exported anywhere. But when andldquo;talkiesandrdquo; arrived, the industry began experimenting with dubbing, subtitling, and dual track productions in more than one language. Where language fractured the European film market, for Spanish-speaking countries and communities, it created new opportunities. In The Rise of Spanish-Language Filmmaking, Lisa Jarvinen focuses specifically on how Hollywood lost ground in the lucrative international Spanish-speaking audience between 1929 and 1939.
Hollywood studios initially trained cadres of Spanish-speaking film professionals, created networks among them, and demonstrated the viability of a broadly conceived, transnational, Spanish-speaking film market in an attempt to forestall the competition from other national film industries. By the late 1930s, these efforts led to unintended consequences and helped to foster the growth of remarkably robust film industries in Mexico, Spain, and Argentina. Using studio records, Jarvinen examines the lasting effects of the transition to sound on both Hollywood practices and cultural politics in the Spanish-speaking world. She shows through case studies based on archival research in the United States, Spain, and Mexico how language, as a key marker of cultural identity, led to new expectations from audiences and new possibilities for film producers.
About the Author
COLIN GUNCKEL is an assistant professor of screen arts and cultures, American culture, and Latina/o Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He serves as associate editor of the A Ver: Revisioning Art History series.and#160;
Table of Contents
Note to the Reader
1. First Responses to the Challenge of Sound, 1929-1930
2. Hollywood's Spanish Versions, 1930-1931
3. Language Controversies, 1930-1931
4. The Start of National Competition, 1931-1932
5. Modes of Translating Hollywood Films, 1930-1935
6. Fox Film's Prestigious Spanish Productions, 1932-1935
7. Exaggerating the National, 1934-1939