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Kristin Hunt

Kristin Hunt

Kristin Hunt is a Brooklyn-based writer who covers pop culture and history. She’s previously contributed to Vulture, Atlas Obscura, and Smithsonian.com.

From a movie ad for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1917

The Shark-Fighting Brothers behind 20,000 Leagues under the Sea

In 1916, the Williamson brothers used their father's underwater photography device to film a fight with a shark, piquing Universal Pictures' interest.
A still from The Private Life of Cats

The Private Life of a Cat

Maya Deren was a fringe filmmaker who existed far outside the Hollywood machine, but she often borrowed its tactics to promote herself and her movies.
Johnny Cash poses for a portrait for a publicity shot for his movie debut in "Door-to-Door Maniac" aka "Five Minutes To Live" on Auust 3, 1960 in Los Angeles, California.

The Complications of “Outlaw Country”

Johnny Cash grappled with the many facets of the outlaw archetype in his feature acting debut, Five Minutes to Live.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Night_Of_The_Living_Dead_trailer_screenshot.jpg

The D-I-Y Origins of Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead’s production story reads like a means to an end: a rag-tag group of creatives makes a movie on nothing to get noticed.
A film still from The Frog

The Bizarre Marvels of Segundo de Chomón, Father of Spanish Cinema

Segundo de Chomón made “trick films” that experimented with color and temporality, influencing the surrealist work of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.
Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Lon Chaney’s Movie Monsters

You might know him from Phantom of the Opera or The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Marilyn Monroe at Hollywood agent Johnny Hyde's backyard, 1950

How Hollywood Sold Glamour

The complicated notion of glamour in classic Hollywood, suggesting that stars were aloof and unknowable, was also a means to sell products.
A still from "Are You Popular?"

“Are You Popular?”

Mental hygiene films of the postwar era gave advice to American teens—and parroted specific cultural values.
Annie Oakley

How Annie Oakley Defined the Cinema Cowgirl

“Little Sure Shot” was famous for her precision, athleticism, and trademark femininity.
The Witch from Benjamin Christensen's Häxan, 1922

The Satanic Foreign Film That Was Banned in the U.S.

Benjamin Christensen's Häxan was part documentary and part fantasy—and considered too disturbing for public viewing.
Buster Keaton putting his ear to cannon in a scene from the film 'The General', 1926

What Drove Buster Keaton to Try a Civil War Comedy?

“Someone should have told Buster that it is difficult to derive laughter from the sight of men being killed in battle.”
A still from Princess Nicotine

The Exploding Women of Early 20th Century “Trick Films”

In “trick films,” women were shown literally exploding over kitchen accidents—the early 1900s way of mining humor out of human tragedies.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edward_G._Robinson_and_Joan_Bennett_in_%27Scarlet_Street%27,_1946.jpg

How Fritz Lang’s Flight from Nazi Germany Shaped Hollywood

German expressionism--imported to Hollywood by Jewish exiles--brought a lasting tradition of shadows, duality, and mirroring to mainstream American cinema.
Thomas Edison's 1896 silent film "The Kiss" featuring May Irwin and John C. Rice.

The First Movie Kiss

The public fascination was so intense that fans soon started demanding live reenactments.
Reefer Madness

Marijuana Panic Won’t Die, but Reefer Madness Will Live Forever

Originally produced as an exploitation film that drew on racial stereotypes, the ironic revival of Reefer Madness made it a cult classic for stoners.
Laurette Luez

Hollywood Cast Laurette Luez as a One-Size-Fits-All “Exotic”

Like many actresses of her day, Laurette Luez was expected to be a beautiful siren in skimpy clothing who could be from almost anywhere—just not here.

The Masculinization of Little Lord Fauntleroy

The 1936 movie Little Lord Fauntleroy broke box office records, only to be toned down and masculinized amid cultural fears of the “sissified” male.
Jeanne Cagney in Quicksand

How Film Noir Tried to Scare Women out of Working

In the period immediately following World War II, the femme fatale embodied a host of male anxieties about gender roles.
Frank Sinatra, Kim Charney, Nancy Gates & Sterling Hayden in Suddenly, 1954

The Sinatra Movie Some Blamed for JFK’s Death

In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra starred in Suddenly, a movie that happens to depict a plot against the President.
Madame Sul-Te-Wan (left) in Maid of Salem, 1937

Madame Sul-Te-Wan’s Forgotten Brilliant Career

The mysteriously named Madame Sul-Te-Wan was the first black actress to land a Hollywood studio contract.
Lloyd Corrigan (left) and José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac

McCarthyism at the Oscars

As José Ferrer was being handed his Oscar—making him the first Latino actor to win—he was being investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
A still from The Lodger, 1927

Hitchcock’s Transition from London to Hollywood

In England, Alfred Hitchcock cultivated a comedic sensibility that shines through in his Hollywood thrillers.
Employees of the Fleischer Studios picket the New Criterion Theater in New York to protest against the showing of Popeye and other cartoons drawn by striking Fleischer artists, 1937.

The Great Animation Strike

Animation workers took to the streets, carrying signs with bleakly humorous slogans. One read: “I make millions laugh but the real joke is our salaries.”
A scene from The Christmas Angel

The Theatrical Magic of The Christmas Angel

The silent film director Georges Melies made a unique and wonderful Christmas film by borrowing the theatrical techniques of French “feeries.”