Underground Film Journal

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1946 Art In Cinema: Official Lineup

By Mike Everleth ⋅ December 15, 2010

Cover to the Art in Cinema program book

In the fall of 1946, Frank Stauffacher mounted a major, and very influential, retrospective of avant-garde film in the U.S. at the San Francisco Museum of Art. The series was called “Art in Cinema” and it featured ten different programs from filmmakers in the U.S., France, Germany and Canada.

By the mid-’40s, the avant-garde hadn’t taken a strong hold in the U.S. yet, so the majority of the films screened came from Europe, or by Europeans who relocated to the U.S. However, by that time also, the European avant-garde had pretty much completely petered out. Still, Stauffacher wanted to show that there was a continuity to avant-garde film history that, up until that point, had yet to be fully considered.

In conjunction with the series, the San Francisco Museum of Art published a catalog, pretty much like one would find with any major art exhibit. However, from what I can figure, the catalog wasn’t published until 1947, which I think causes some confusion. For example, I note on the Underground Film Journal’s Underground Film Timeline, two different reference sources place the first “Art in Cinema” series as taking place in 1947. But, that’s not the case according to underground film historian Scott MacDonald, who compiled a book on the subject, also called Art in Cinema and which includes a reprinting of the ’47 catalog.

The 1947 catalog was also reprinted in 1968 by Arno Press in New York. Although, I don’t know what the occasion of that reprinting was. After the success of the first “Art in Cinema” series, Stauffacher organized nine more, taking place once or twice a year until 1954. Sadly, Stauffacher died in 1955 from a brain tumor. He was just thirty-nine years old.

Recently, I found that 1968 reprinting and copied out all the titles of the films that Stauffacher screened at that first “Art in Cinema.” Kind of stupidly, I didn’t also copy the names of the ten programs that the films were divided into. At the time I was doing my research, I thought just to get the film titles so that I could add them to the Underground Film Timeline. I didn’t think to do this separate post until much later.

Going over the list, there’s not too much surprising about what Stauffacher programmed. Only two sort of oddball filmmaker names pop out that one doesn’t traditionally associate with the avant-garde. One is Windsor McCay, the animator and comic strip creator who was included because of his film Gertie the Dinosaur.

But, the real oddball name that stands out is Walt Disney, who had two films screened: The Skeleton Dance and the historic cartoon Steamboat Willie.

Below are the names of filmmakers included in the first series with the titles of which of their films screened — or portions of such. The names are pretty much in order that I just copied them out of the Art in Cinema catalog, although I combined some if the filmmaker had films in a couple different of Stauffacher’s programs. I also don’t have the dates on which the films screened.

I imagine MacDonald’s book, which compiles correspondence written by Stauffacher in conjunction with his series, has a lot more of this relevant data in it. But, I thought this list was interesting in and of itself to reprint here.

I’ll be adding these titles to the Underground Film Timeline in the coming days, except for the ones in which a date wasn’t specified. Unfortunately, that includes work by a pair of Canadian filmmakers, Norman MacLaren & Alexande Alexeiff. Canada usually gets left out of things like this, so I was happy at least to see somebody from there was represented.

Before the list below, one more note: Countries associated with filmmaker names indicates where they were living when they made their films — not their nationality, e.g. Man Ray is American, but made his films on the list in France.

Ferdinand Zecca (France)
Scenes of Convict Life (1905)
A Father’s Honor (1905)
Whence Does He Come? (c1906)
Slippery Jim (c1906) (WATCH)
Fun After the Wedding (c1907)

Jean Durand (France)
Onesime Horloger (1908)

Viking Eggeling (Germany)
Symphonie Diagonale (1918-20) (DVD)

Hans Richter (Germany)
Rhythmus 21 (1921) (DVD)

Robert Wiene (Germany)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)

Germaine Dulac (France)
The Smiling Madame Beudet (1922) (DVD)

Dmitri Kirsanov (France)
Menilmontant (1924-25)

Fernand Leger (France)
Ballet Mecanique (1924) (DVD)

Rene Clair (France)
Entr’acte (1924)

Erno Metzner (Germany)
Uberfall (Attack) (1929) (DVD)

Man Ray (France)
Emak Bakia (1926) (DVD)
L’etoile de mer (Star of the Sea) (1928) (DVD)

Germaine Dulac (France)
Coquille et clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman) (1928) (DVD)

Oskar Fischinger (Germany)
Study No. 5 (1929)
Study No. 6 (1929-30)
Study No. 7 (1930-31)
Study No. 8 (c1931)
Study No. 11 (c1932)
Coloratura (1931)
Composition in Blue (1933)
Circle (1933)

Oskar Fischinger (U.S.)
Allegretto (1936)
An American March (1939)

Mary Ellen Bute (U.S.)
Rhythm in Light (1936)

Emile Cohl (France)
Drame chez les fantoches (1907)

Winsor McCay (U.S.)
Gertie the Dinosaur (1909)

Walt Disney (U.S.)
Steamboat Willie (1928)
The Skeleton Dance (1929)

Lotte Reiniger (Germany)
Carmen (1933)

Norman MacLaren (sic) & Alexande Alexeiff (Canada)
Chants Populaires (no year)

Douglass Crockwell (U.S.)
Glenn Falls Sequence (no year)

Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid (U.S.)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) (DVD)

Maya Deren (U.S.)
At Land (1944) (DVD)
Ritual in Transfigured Time (1945-46) (DVD)

Maya Deren & Talley Beatty (U.S.)
A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) (DVD)

John and James Whitney (U.S.)
“First sound film” (1943)
“Fragments” (1944)
“Fourth film” (four sections) (1944)
“Fifth film” (1944)

Sidney Peterson & James Broughton (U.S.)
The Potted Psalm (1946) (DVD)

Alberto Cavalcanti (France)
Rien que les heures (1926) (DVD)

Walther Ruttman (Germany)
Berlin: The Symphony of a Great City (1927)

Ralph Steiner & Willard Van Dyke (U.S.)
The City (1939)

Jean Epstein (France)
La Chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher) (1928)

Lewis Jacobs (U.S.)
Footnote to Fact (1933)

Gjon Mili (U.S.)
Jammin’ the Blues (1944) (WATCH)

Dr. John S. Watson & Melville Webber (U.S.)
Lot in Sodom (1933) (DVD)

Hans Richter (Germany)
Vormittagspuk (Ghosts Before Noon) (1927-28) (DVD)

Jean Cocteau (France)
Le Sang d’un poete (The Blood of the Poet) (1930) (DVD)

Marcel Duchamp (France)
Anaemic Cinema (1925) (DVD)

Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali (France)
Un Chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929) (DVD)

Hans Richter (U.S.)
Dreams That Money Can Buy (1944-46)