cover of book

Bernard Shaw on Cinema
edited by Bernard F DuKore
Southern Illinois University Press, 1997
eISBN: 978-0-8093-8111-1 | Paper: 978-0-8093-2155-1
Library of Congress Classification PN1994.S5183 1997
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.43


With his customary wit and quite often with remarkable prescience, Bernard Shaw maintained a dialogue on cinema that ran almost from the infancy of the industry in 1908 until his death in 1950. Bernard F. Dukore presents the first collection of Bernard Shaw’s writings and oral statements about cinema. Of the more than one hundred comments Dukore has selected, fifty-nine—more than half—are new to today’s readers. Twelve are previously unpublished, one is published in full for the first time, and forty-six appear in a collected edition of Shaw’s writings for the first time since their publication in newspapers and magazines.

Very early in the life of cinema, Shaw perceived that as an invention, movies would be more momentous than the printing press because they appealed to the illiterate as well as the literate, to the manual laborer at the end of an exhausting day as well as to the person with more leisure. He predicted that cinema would form people’s minds and shape their conduct. He recognized that cinema’s "colossal proportions make mediocrity compulsory" by leveling art and life down to the blandest morality and to the lowest common denominator of potential audiences throughout the world.

By 1908, Shaw was familiar with experiments synchronizing movies and sound. When talkies arrived, he discerned that they would precipitate major changes in acting, writing, and economics. He also saw how they would affect live theatre: "The theatre may survive as a place where people are taught to act," he said in 1930, "but apart from that there will be nothing but ‘talkies’ soon." At that time, few people in the theatrical profession were making such prophecies, at least not in public.

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