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Great Cinematic Performances Volume 1: America

Edited by Murray Pomerance, Kyle Stevens

Paperback (Forthcoming)
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Analyses what makes an acting performance excellent, through a range of examples from American film

This two-volume set presents detailed interpretations of singular performances by several of the most compelling actors in cinema history, asking in many different and complementary ways what makes performance meaningful, how it reflects a director’s style, as well as how it contributes to the development of national cinemas and cultures. Whether noting the precise ways actors shape film narrative, achieve emotional effect, or move toward political subversion, the essays in these books innovate new approaches to studying screen performance as an art form and cultural force.

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Introduction: Kyle Stevens and Murray Pomerance
1--Ethel Waters in The Member of the Wedding, Anna Everett
2--Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth, Steven Rybin
3--Cary Grant in His Girl Friday, Adrienne L. McLean
4--Janet Gaynor in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Janet Bergstrom
5--Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter, Homer B. Pettey
6--Bette Davis in Dangerous, Lucy Fischer
7--James Stewart in Vertigo, William Rothman
8--Carole Lombard in To Be or Not to Be, Alex Clayton
9--James Mason in Lolita, Rebecca Bell-Metereau
10--Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun, George Toles
11--Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success, John Bruns
12--Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther, Daniel Varndell
13--Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, R. Barton Palmer
14--Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy, Murray Pomerance
15--Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night, Frances Gateward
16--Gene Hackman in The Conversation, Brenda Austin-Smith
17--Gena Rowlands in Gloria, David Greven
18--Jack Nicholson in The Passenger [Professione: Reporter], Rick Warner
19--Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Jason Jacobs
20--Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye, Douglas McFarland
21--Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco, Tim Vermeulen
22--Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple, Lester D. Friedman
23--Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Shonni Enelow
24--Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year, Charles Ramírez Berg
25--Kristin Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria, Elliott Logan

About the Author

Murray Pomerance is an independent scholar living in Toronto. He is the author of many books including The Man Who Knew Too Much (BFI, 2016), A King of Infinite Space (Oberon, 2017) and Moment of Action: Riddles of Cinematic Performance (Rutgers, 2016).

Kyle Stevens is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Appalachian State University. He is the author of Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism, and his essays have appeared in Cinema Journal, Critical Quarterly, Film Criticism, World Picture, as well as several edited collections. He is also editor-in-chief of New Review of Film and Television Studies.


Mustering a wide array of voices and perspectives, these game-changing volumes provide a welcome scholarly corrective to the scandalous undervaluation of actors, acting, and performance that has prevailed in cinema studies for far too long. This collection promises to shape discourse on screen acting for many years to come.

- David Sterritt, Maryland Institute College of Art


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