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Monitoring the Movies: The Fight Over Film Censorship in Early Twentieth-Century Urban America by Jennifer Fronc

Clay Waters


The chapters are arranged chronologically, retracing the national fight over film content, as various taboo subjects like abortion, white slavery, and racial intermarriage were addressed (or exploited) within the emerging medium. Similar ground was covered by Lee Grieveson in Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early-Twentieth-Century America (2004), the subject of a lengthy note in Monitoring the Movies. But Fronc’s work is bolstered by voluminous correspondence from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, and the 40 pages of notes (in addition to an appendix, bibliography, and index) signal a comprehensive appraisal of this facet of the Progressive era. Along the way, there are a few light anecdotes, including one involving a melodramatic film about a railroad strike that featured a scene of a burning trestle, a special effect that meant the film’s costs ran into “many hundreds of dollars” (40).

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