This is to announce the University of California Press spring publication of Dan Streible's book FIGHT PICTURES: A HISTORY OF BOXING AND EARLY CINEMA.
From their very beginning, motion pictures had a close affiliation with boxing. By 1896, when film projection became widely available, dozens of sparring scenes had already been shot. The first filmed prizefight, Veriscope's Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight (1897) became one of cinema's first major attractions, ushering in an era in which hugely successful boxing films helped transform a stigmatized sport into legitimate entertainment. Exploring a significant and fascinating period in the development of modern sports and media, Fight Pictures is the first work to chronicle the mostly forgotten story of how legitimate bouts, fake fights, comic sparring matches, and more came to silent-era screens and became part of American popular culture. In rich detail, the book examines the experiences of the men -- and women -- who watched fight pictures and describes the world in which filmmakers, fighters, promoters, showmen, and spectators lived. It also explores why these films generated such intense controversy, which ultimately subjected them to federal censorship. The book illuminates the key issues in American cultural and social life that fight pictures animated -- issues of class, race, and gender that resonate to this day. It features many previously unpublished illustrations, including frame enlargements from previously unidentified films, and a filmography of more than 250 boxing films made before 1916.
Foreword by Charles Musser
Ch. 1 Preliminaries: History, Prizefighting, Early Cinema
Ch. 2 The Sporting and Theatrical Syndicate: Boxing Pictures and the Origins of Cinema, 1891-1896
Ch. 3 The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight: Women at the Veriscope, 1897
Ch. 4 Under the Lights: Filming Ringside in the Jim Jeffries Era, 1899-1904
Ch. 5 Fake Fight Films: S. Lubin of Philadelphia, 1897-1908
Ch. 6 Fight Pictures in the Nickelodeon Era: Mile Bros. of New York & San Francisco, 1905-1912
Ch. 7 Jack Johnson Films: Black Exhibition, White Suppression, 1908-1910
Ch. 8 Jack Johnson's Descent: The Ban on Pictures of Prizefights, 1911-1915
Ch. 9 Bootlegging: The Clandestine Traffic in Fight Pictures during Prohibition, 1916-1940
Men in skimpy clothing engaged in the manly art of beating on each other became the cinema's very first movie stars. With masterful historical research from in both film and sport history, Dan Streible's book provides the definitive account of the complex fascination these first films exerted, as prizefighting collided with early cinema and staged new battles over gender, race and class.
-- Tom Gunning
This compelling book forces us to rethink the history of cinema. Dan Streible's thought-provoking rediscovery of an entire lost genre of hundreds of early films, reminds us how much we still do not know about the development of American movie culture. The fact that only a fraction of these forgotten films survive, and those mostly in fragments, makes this historical account of them all the more valuable.
-- Martin Scorsese