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Alan K. Rode and the Film Historian subculture


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Recently I have been noticing a spate of people purporting to be "film historians" being interviewed in various milieus for their opinions on movies. I realize that many true historians, who worked in the field of film criticism for years, have often quibbled about what should be the qualifications for awarding oneself this honorary title, as the term is now used. Just as I would not be amenable to a person saying they can fix my plumbing, who accords themself the title of master plumber, without some proof of having achieved this standard, so too I find it a bit disingenuous to auto-title oneself as any kind of "historian" [much less a film one] without a bit more basis for the honor than having written a few books, or gotten a gig talking about films they dig with some of their friends, who also deal in film aggrandizement, and not always a high standard of scholarship.
 
Even in the world of film verbiage, there are contentions that this term of "film historian" is bandied about way too much. A quote online states admirably that the term "Film historian is considered a nebulous title because so many claim it, yet are believed beneath it and so many others credited with it, disclaim it." In the olden days when there was more of a serious realm of film thought with no pandering to monetary forces, only a critic with a very long track record and scholarship, could be accorded the status of film historian.

One would guess that just as in all endeavors, there are some, perhaps neophytes who would applaud any and all who have achieved a modicum of knowledge about the subject matter. But there are also those with some acumen in the field, who would expect and demand more from one purporting to lead the masses as "historian". A book alone is not demonstrable as an instrument of where one's mastery of the subject matter places one in the hierarchy, since merely the cataloguing of facts found by research in the public record does not make for any true insights into the personage or film history being depicted in print. Otherwise we might call anyone writing any film connected book, to be a verified film historian in good standing, if they have researched every facet of the extensive film career of someone like Pia Zadora, and had this tome published.
 
I bring this up having recently seen someone named Alan K. Rode publicizing one of his books on TCM, and notice he too was using this moniker of distinction, like many others I have seen in the last year online and on tv.

Thoughts pro or con on the current standard of too many Chiefs and not enough Native Americans in this subculture of the egregious numbers of "film historians" currently in print and on the media espousing their brilliance daily. To paraphrase Traci Lords though..."If you like Alan K. Rodes that's fine, and if you don't like Alan K. Rodes, that's fine too." To each his/her own.
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Yes, "film historian" is or should be something other than "film critic" or "film enthusiast." Alan K. Rode is knowledgeable about and has written about the history of film noir, so it's appropriate to describe him as a film historian.

 

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You mean Michael Curtiz: A Life in FilmCharles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy, or his corraboration with Wallace Stone for George Raft.

I like Charles McGraw so I may give his bio a go.

 

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Hi, Cigar Joe!

No, Kingrat mentioned that Rode had written books on Film Noir. I was not referring to this newest one he is promoting on TCM about Curtiz.

I'd never seen Rode before being interviewed, but have read his previous books, given to me by a friend online who had received them gratis. I was not personally impressed with his writing or takes on the subject matter, but perhaps others will be.

I realize Rode is part of the group appropriating the noir banner as the sole intelligentsia who unearth what is acceptable noir fare, for that group called the Film Noir Foundation, along with Muller. Its a cash cow which seems to have both keenly on the bandwagon, and good for them in finding a way to remarket films which are lying around and can be repackaged and resold, for their benefit or whatever.

As for Rode's credentials though as a Noir Scholar I find it highly instructive that his IMDB bio states that not only
is "Alan K. Rode knowledgeable about and has written about the history of film noir" but he is also a:

"Renaissance Man". That seems a bit of hyperbole but perhaps not to him.

If you do read any of Rode's books though, don't listen to me and I hope you enjoy them.


 

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I read the McGraw book quite a while ago, but already own at least two to three serious books on Michael Curtiz I've inherited or bought over the years, that run the gamut about the career and life of Curtiz, so would not be interested in any new revelations by the Rode book.

I've had someone here on the TCM message board reference a really good book on Curtiz by Murray Pomerance I think, that supposedly is quite well written and insightful, if anyone is looking for more books on Curtiz and his films. I haven't read it but it was highly recommended.

 

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I have had the privilege of hearing Alan Rode introduce countless films over the years and now call him a friend.  He is a true historian who has probably forgotten more about films than I know, and frankly I know a lot.  The years of research and efforts which went into the Curtiz book alone are staggering.  His enthusiasm for films in general and film noir in particular has caused me to try many films and expand my interests and for that I'm especially grateful.  I'm delighted that he is now appearing on TCM.  He'll also be introducing THE SEA WOLF at TCMFF later this month.

As for the Film Noir Foundation, it is a nonprofit which is directly responsible for saving/restoring many films which would otherwise be lost.  They do great work and I've been happy to donate to the cause.

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