Circles, columns and screenings: mapping the institutional, discursive, physical and gendered spaces of film criticism in 1940s London

Selfe, M. (2012) Circles, columns and screenings: mapping the institutional, discursive, physical and gendered spaces of film criticism in 1940s London. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 9(4), pp. 588-611. (doi: 10.3366/jbctv.2012.0107)




This article revisits the period considered within ‘The Quality Film Adventure: British Critics and the Cinema 1942-1948’, mapping the professional cultures, working contexts and industry relationships that underpinned the aesthetic judgements and collective directions which John Ellis has observed within the critics published writings. Drawing on the records of the Critics’ Circle, Dilys Powell’s papers and Kinematograph Weekly, it explores the evolution of increasingly organised professional cultures of film criticism and film publicity, arguing that the material conditions imposed by war caused tensions between them to escalate. In the context of two major challenges to critical integrity and practice – the evidence given by British producer R.J. Minney in front of the 1948 Royal Commission on the Press and an ongoing libel case between a BBC critic and MGM – the different spaces of hospitality and film promotion became highly contested sites. This article focuses on the ways in which these spaces were characterised, used, and policed. It finds that the value and purpose of press screenings were hotly disputed and observes the way the advancement of women within one sector (film criticism) but not the other (film publicity) created particular difficulties, as key female critics avoided the more compromised masculine spaces of publicity, making them harder for publicists to reach and fuelling trade resentment. More broadly, the article asserts the need to consider film critics as geographically and culturally located audiences, who experience films as ‘professional’ viewers within extended and embodied cultures of habitual professional practice and physical space.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Criticism, professionalism, publicity, space, gender, press screenings, audiences, The Critics’ Circle, MGM, Dilys Powell, The 1948 Royal Commission on the Press
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Selfe, Dr Melanie
Authors: Selfe, M.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Journal Name:Journal of British Cinema and Television
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press
ISSN (Online):1755-1714
Published Online:01 October 2012
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2012 Edinburgh University Press
First Published:First published in Journal of British Cinema and Television 9(4):588-611
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
526621The mediated performance of film criticism in post-war British culture (1945-1960)Melanie SelfeThe Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland (CARNEGIE)UNSPECIFIEDCCA - THEATRE FILM AND TV STUDIES
405381Research Councils UK academic fellowships - public policy research - cultural policyPhilip SchlesingerEngineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)GR/T28003/01CCA - THEATRE FILM AND TV STUDIES