Paris in the Dark

Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930–1950

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 30 illustrations Published: March 2020

Author: Smoodin, Eric

Cultural Studies, European Studies, Media Studies > Film

In Paris in the Dark Eric Smoodin takes readers on a journey through the streets, cinemas, and theaters of Paris to sketch a comprehensive picture of French film culture during the 1930s and 1940s. Drawing on a wealth of journalistic sources, Smoodin recounts the ways films moved through the city, the favored stars, and what it was like to go to the movies in a city with hundreds of cinemas. In a single week in the early 1930s, moviegoers might see Hollywood features like King Kong and Frankenstein, the new Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier movies, and any number of films from Italy, Germany, and Russia. Or they could frequent the city's ciné-clubs, which were hosts to the cinéphile subcultures of Paris. At other times, a night at the movies might result in an evening of fascist violence, even before the German Occupation of Paris, while after the war the city's cinemas formed the space for reconsolidating French film culture. In mapping the cinematic geography of Paris, Smoodin expands understandings of local film exhibition and the relationships of movies to urban space.


“Eric Smoodin is a delightful guide to Parisian movie theaters as they shaped the filmgoing experience in the decades of the 1930s and 1940s, from the coming of sound to the somber years of the German Occupation to the postwar efforts to rebuild film culture. Paris in the Dark is an outstanding study of the spaces and places of Parisian filmgoing and a major contribution to French film studies.” — Judith Mayne, author of Le Corbeau

“This meticulously researched study of French film exhibition charts the shifts in film culture during the early sound period, the German Occupation, and the postwar reconstruction. Eric Smoodin crafts a fascinating, street-level history of film culture through a savvy use of primary sources, industry surveys of spectators, and government studies. Enriched with case studies about stardom, ciné-clubs, and the rise of fascist violence, this book reminds us of the vitality and fragility of French film culture.” — Kelley Conway, author of Chanteuse in the City: The Realist Singer in French Film

"Through presenting incredibly meticulous research, which comes as the sum total of a forty-year pursuit of better understanding Paris' film culture, this work fills an essential gap in understanding the history of Parisian film exhibition by tracing the dimensions of moviegoing at the beginning of the sound era on through to the first films of the French New Wave. In addition to presenting a needed bridge between the Classical French Cinema and the New Wave, Paris in the Dark can be seen as an essential case study in the ongoing effort within the film studies discipline to redefine national cinema." — David Morton, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eric Smoodin is Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis, and author of Regarding Frank Capra: Audience, Celebrity, and American Film Studies, 1930–1960, and coeditor of Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and Method, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. A Walking Tour: 1930–1981  1
1. The Cinemas and the Films: 1931–1933  21
2. The Ciné-Clubs: 1930–1944  41
3. Chevalier and Dietrich: 1929–1935  60
4. Violence at the Cinema: 1930–1944  76
5. Occupied Paris: 1939–1944, 2009  99
6. Liberation Cinema, Postwar Cinema: 1944–1949  122
Conclusion. A Final Stroll, 1948–1954: 1980–2016  147
Notes  157
Bibliography  181
Index  189
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0692-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0611-4
Funding Information This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses,and the Association of Research Libraries—and the generous support of University of California, Davis. Learn more at the TOME website, available at: