The Public Enemy. 1931. USA. Directed by William A. Wellman. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures/Photofest. Photo: Scotty Welbourne

Lincoln Kirstein and Film Culture

April 11–24, 2019 The Museum of Modern Art

Though Lincoln Kirstein is best known today for his vital role in establishing a distinctively American idiom for ballet, his considerable contributions to film culture are less well remembered. As editor of the influential little magazine Hound & Horn—one of the few publications of its kind to offer a sustained commentary on cinema—he provided an early platform to such era-defining critics as Harry Potamkin.

Kirstein, too, was a perspicacious writer on the movies, penning essays about everything from Hollywood stars like James Cagney and Marilyn Monroe to newsreels and French film under the Occupation. He was also among the founding directors of one of the first film societies in the country. That organization’s brief yet remarkable five-program run in 1933—a heterogeneous lineup in which pathbreaking avant-garde efforts commingled with documentary studies, Disney cartoons, and even a silent serial episode—will be reconstructed as part of this survey of Kirstein’s omnivorous cinephilia.

Organized by Thomas Beard, guest curator. Thanks to the Center for Visual Music, Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée, Cinémathèque Française, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Gosfilmofond, Harvard Film Archive, The Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Paramount, Bruce Posner, and the Prelinger Archive.

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation and Steven Tisch, with major contributions from Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), Yuval Brisker Charitable Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Karen and Gary Winnick, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.

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