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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 26, 2009

UI Press releases book about pioneering filmmaker D.W. Griffith March 1

"Stagestruck Filmmaker: D.W. Griffith and the American Theatre" by David Mayer will become available March 1 from the University of Iowa Press.

The book will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

An actor, vaudevillian and dramatist before he became a filmmaker, Griffith used the resources of theater to pioneer the modern medium of film from the 1890s to the 1930s. In "Stagestruck Filmmaker" Mayer brings Griffith's process to life, offering detailed insights into the racial, ethnic, class and gender issues of those decades.

Combining the raw materials of theatre, circus, minstrelsy and dance with the newer technology and imagery of motion pictures, Griffith became the first acknowledged artist of American film. "Birth of a Nation" in particular demonstrates the degree to which he was influenced by the racist justifications and distorting interpretations of the Civil War and the Reconstruction era.

Moving through the major phases of Griffith's career in chapters organized around key films or groups of films, Mayer provides an account of the American stage and cinema in the final years of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th century.

Theater historian Rosemarie K. Bank of Kent State University wrote: "David Mayer combines groundbreaking archival work with first-rate cultural history to establish the lineage between theatre and early film. Mayer's clear and nuanced reading challenges current views of melodrama, early film acting, and verisimilitude in art, indeed the very relationship between stage and screen in D.W. Griffith's America."

Mayer is emeritus professor in the department of drama at the University of Manchester. He is the author and editor or coeditor of numerous publications in 19th- and 20th-century British and American popular entertainment. His books include "Harlequin in His Element: English Pantomime, 1806-1836" and "Playing Out the Empire: 'Ben-Hur' and Other Toga-plays and Films."

His book is part of the UI Press Studies in Theatre History & Culture series.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Thomas, UI Press,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,