American Showman: Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, 1908-1935
Columbia University Press
Publication date: May 2012
Digital Book format: ePub (Adobe DRM)
You save: $3.00 (9%)
Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel (1882–1936) built an influential and prolific career as film exhibitor, stage producer, radio broadcaster, musical arranger, theater manager, war propagandist, and international celebrity. He helped engineer the integration of film, music, and live performance in silent film exhibition; scored early Fox Movietone films such as Sunrise (1927); pioneered the convergence of film, broadcasting, and music publishing and recording in the 1920s; and helped movies and moviegoing become the dominant form of mass entertainment between the world wars. Regularly cited as one of the twelve most important figures in the film and radio industries, Roxy’s legacy may have been forgotten, but his importance to the development of film exhibition and commercial broadcasting cannot be overstated.The first book devoted to Rothafel’s multifaceted career, American Showman examines his role as the key purveyor of a new film exhibition aesthetic that appropriated higher culture forms (legitimate theater, opera, ballet, and classical music) in order to attract multi-class audiences. Roxy scored motion pictures, produced enormous stage shows, managed many of New York’s most important movie houses, directed and/or edited propaganda films for the American war effort, produced short and feature-length films, exhibited foreign, documentary, independent, and avant-garde motion pictures, and expanded the conception of mainstream, commercial cinema. He was also one of the chief creators of the radio variety program, pioneering radio broadcasting, promotions, and tours between 1922 and 1935, and helping to establish the careers of radio, dance, and music figures, such as Eugene Ormandy, Jan Peerce, James Melton, Erno Rapee, Hugo Riesenfeld, Maria Gambarelli, and the Rockettes.American Showman presents the silent and early sound era mogul as more than a bureaucratic functionary. The producers and promoters of distinct themes and styles, showmen like Roxy profoundly remade the moviegoing experience, turning the deluxe motion picture theater into a venue for exhibiting and producing live and recorded entertainment. Roxy’s interest in media convergence also challenges the dominant history of the “coming of sound” in the late-1920s, reframing the development as part of a larger moment in which the entertainment industry, now in the control of multinational media conglomerates, began to create brands and franchises, exploit them through content release “events,” and give rise to feature films, soundtracks, broadcasts, live performances, and related consumer products. American Showman maps Roxy’s unique position in American popular culture as a media mogul and star as well as his dramatic influence on the film, broadcasting, and music industries in the early twentieth century.