The art and craft of the screen: Louis Reeves Harrison and the moving picture world

Jordan Brower, Josh Glick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


A leading editorial columnist for the Moving Picture World, Louis Reeves Harrison is an often-cited but rarely analyzed critic in American film historiography of the 1910s. While industry outsiders such as poet Vachel Lindsay and experimental psychologist Hugo Münsterberg are frequently credited for articulating the earliest theories of film as a distinct art, trade press critics made important contributions to a contemporary understanding of film as an aesthetic and economic product. This article explores Harrisons interest in film as a creative craft, which was both symptomatic of the MPWs investment in boosting the industrys cultural status, and his interests in interpreting film production as a process that synthesized dignified labor, aesthetic innovation, and commerce. Harrison occupied a central position within a field of writing that responded to, and helped to shape, a burgeoning industry in transition. Examining Harrisons writing for the MPW and his main treatise Screencraft (1916) reveals shared interests and major tensions between figures of various professional affiliations and disciplinary backgrounds interested in the value of film as a form of art.In criticizing motion pictures from a fine-art standpoint, I take the ground that they are being produced, now and then, of high artistic quality. I have written pages upon pages of generous appreciation designed to encourage those who are taking pains and showing quality in a personal effort to raise the average of motion-picture performance. Why Because I believe that impartial and intelligent criticism will help to raise the average quality of production to the ultimate benefit of everyone interested directly or indirectly in the business.Louis Reeves Harrison, 19101

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-551
Number of pages19
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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