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Directed by Allen Smithee

2001

Jeremy Braddock and Stephen Hock, editors
Foreword by Andrew Sarris

Directed by Allen Smithee

A new estimation of Hollywood’s least appreciated director.

From 1969 until 1999, Allen Smithee was the pseudonym adopted by Hollywood directors who refused to be associated with their own films. Encompassing more than fifty films of various stripes—B movies, sequels, music videos, made-for-TV movies—Smithee’s work provides a unique opportunity to reassess auteur theory, the concept of the director as the primary creative force in filmmaking.

Contributors: Tom Conley, Jonathan P. Eburne, James F. English, Christian Keathley, Jessie Labov, Laura Parigi, Donald E. Pease, Robert B. Ray, Craig Saper, Andrew Sarris.

What editors Jeremy Braddock and Stephen Hock have assembled is a cultural studies book that splits the difference between your typical academic compendium and its self-conscious parody, merging the deadly serious with the quasi irreverent.

Artforum

Allen Smithee specializes in the mediocre. He is versatile. He is prolific. And he doesn't exist. From 1969 until 1999, Allen Smithee was the pseudonym adopted by Hollywood directors who refused to be associated with their own films. Encompassing more than fifty films of various stripes—B movies, sequels, music videos, made-for-TV movies—Smithee’s work provides a unique opportunity to reassess auteur theory, the concept of the director as the primary creative force in filmmaking.

Sometimes treating Smithee as an auteur in much the same way critics and scholars have treated directors as diverse as Douglas Sirk, Abbas Kiarostami, and Quentin Tarantino, the contributors reclaim new possibilities for auteurist filmmaking and film studies, even as they show what an empty display it has recently become. In accounting for this change, the essays in this volume employ innovative theories of authorship to recapture the subversive effect that auteurism once enjoyed. Thus the Smithee name becomes part of a larger discussion of the economics and history of pseudonyms in filmmaking—notably in the blacklist of the 1950s—as well as an opportunity to employ Jacques Derrida's theory of the signature to recover obscured economic and historic contexts within Smithee’s films.

Unique in its focus, innovative in its approach, Directed by Allen Smithee argues that it is precisely through throwaway films such as Smithee's that recent Hollywood cinema can best be studied.

Contributors: Tom Conley, Harvard U; Jonathan P. Eburne; James F. English, U of Pennsylvania; Christian Keathley; Jessie Labov; Laura Parigi; Donald E. Pease, Dartmouth College; Robert B. Ray, U of Florida; Craig Saper, U of the Arts; Andrew Sarris.

Directed by Allen Smithee

Jeremy Braddock is a graduate student in English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Stephen Hock is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania in the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory.

Andrew Sarris is professor of film at the School of the Arts, Columbia University. He is film critic of the New York Observer and author of You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: The American Talking Film: History and Memory, 1927-1949.

Directed by Allen Smithee

What editors Jeremy Braddock and Stephen Hock have assembled is a cultural studies book that splits the difference between your typical academic compendium and its self-conscious parody, merging the deadly serious with the quasi irreverent.

Artforum

While some of the essays explore individual Smithee films, the collection emphasizes the broader questions about film authorship and identity that his very existence—or nonexistence—provokes.

Lingua Franca

What I found most appealing about Directed by Allen Smithee was its unstinting commitment to unexpected trains of thought. Its writers suggest seemingly endless ways of rethinking old chestnuts like auteur theory or the content of personal style. Fact-laden, thought-provoking, weird and even entertaining, Directed by Allen Smithee doesn’t discredit auteur theory—it twists it into strange new shapes, recasting it as a madcap phenomenology of naming. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes far-fetched to the point of delirium, I enjoyed it very much.

Sight and Sound

The contributors aren’t allergic to fun.

The Guardian

Directed by Allen Smithee advances theories both thrilling and depressing in their attempts to demolish romantic romantic nations of authorship while reveling in the expanded possibilities for art. An uncommonly fun read.

Austin Chronicle