The University of Wisconsin Press

Popular Culture


Reel Rituals
Ritual Occasions from Baptisms to Funerals in Hollywood Films, 1945–1995
Parley Ann Boswell and Paul Loukides

Popular Culture

Ritual occasions in the movies can bring us to laughter and tears and hope and regret; the chords they strike suggest the complex intersection between American movies and our lives. Major ritual occasions of weddings, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, funerals, graduations, and birthday parties appear in hundreds of popular films produced by Hollywood throughout the 20th century. This study suggests that these stock scenes are more significant to American film than we might have thought.

Ritual occasions in the movies are most often less than transformative experiences, but more than simple recreations of ceremony. This book examines the tension between authentic ritual occasions and an event on film that is often twisted or devoid of meaning, and suggests that this complex ambivalence toward ritual occasions in American film is related to other ritualized conventions in American movies and American culture.

Parley Ann Boswell
is a professor of English at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. She has contributed essays on film to four volumes of Beyond the Stars.

Paul Loukides is a professor of English at Albion University where he has taught since the year Spartacus was released.

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Cover image is navy blue with an illustration of a reel of film.

LC: 99-011699 PN
156 pp. 6 x 9
ISBN 978-0-87972-791-8  
Cloth $40.95 t
ISBN 978-0-87972-792-5
Paper $19.95 t

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Updated February 8, 2010

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