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Life after Birth: the Klan and cinema, 1915-1928.

Rice, T.; (2007) Life after Birth: the Klan and cinema, 1915-1928. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

"Life after Birth" considers the relationship between the Ku Klux Klan and cinema during the 1920s, highlighting how the Klan used, produced and protested against film in order to recruit members, generate publicity, and define itself as a traditional Protestant American organisation. In my opening chapter I reassess the significance of The Birth of a Nation in the development of the Klan, and introduce a number of other overlooked films, such as The Face at Your Window that Kleagles (Klan recruiters) used after 1920. In the second chapter, I consider the discourses between the Klan and the film industry, assessing the Klan's protests against individual films, such as Chaplin's The Pilgrim (1923). I show how the opportunistic Klan redefined popular conservative discourses around film, Hollywood and cinema exhibition in order to generate publicity, and to define itself against what it perceived as an immoral 'foreign' industry. After considering how the Klan and the film industry addressed each other on a discursive level, I then question how this relationship was extended onto film. In chapter three I consider how the industry presented the Klan, and question what these films reveal about the industry's attitude towards race, ethnicity, and its own role in modern society. Chapter four uncovers a series of independent films produced by the Klan. I explore the ways in which the Klan represented itself through film, and through the publicity and exhibition contexts in which these films were shown. Using extensive primary research, I chart an unknown history of Klan film production and exhibition, and highlight the problems faced by independent Klan film enterprises. In the final chapter, I consider the decline of the Klan after 1925, through a close examination of the Klan's continued engagement with cinema. My thesis offers insights into the film industry, non-theatrical exhibition, censorship, and also racial attitudes within America. This interdisciplinary work, using archives previously unaccessed by cinema scholars, extends our knowledge of this crucial and overlooked moment in social and political culture and in American cinema history.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Life after Birth: the Klan and cinema, 1915-1928.
Identifier: PQ ETD:592343
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by Proquest
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > CMII
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1445030
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