Nicholas Ray and New Directions in Director Studies (SCMS Conference, New Orleans, LA, March 10-13, 2011)

full name / name of organization: 
Society for Cinema and Media Studies

Prospective Panel:

Essay submissions sought that consider the relationship between film authorship and citizenship with respect to Nicholas Ray, director of "They Live By Night" (1949), "In a Lonely Place" (1950), "Johnny Guitar" (1954), "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955), and "Bigger Than Life" (1956).

Ray was the "cause célèbre of the auteur theory," as critic Andrew Sarris put it, and yet unlike his senior colleagues Alfred Hitchcock or Howard Hawks, he remains a director largely ignored by academic film scholarship. Marking his 100th birthday, this interdisciplinary panel aims to revisit Ray in the wake of renewed interest in the director: his widow Susan Ray is currently restoring his final film, "We Can't Go Home Again" (1976), for re-release in 2012; his daughter Nikka Ray is at work on a memoir; and writer Patrick McGilligan is completing a new biography. Rather than taking a traditional auteurist reassessment based on style and "personal vision" alone, we want to reframe authorship studies to explore the communal responsibility and public life of the director at the intersections of auteurism and civic discourse. The tensions between individuality and community, and rebellion and conformism, both in Ray's films and in his reputation working in the Classical Hollywood system, make him a representative case study in this regard. Through this lens, we want to investigate more broadly how both the biographical legends and aesthetic practices of directors articulate civic identity in ethical, social, political, cultural, and national contexts.

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to the following:

•Ray's background in architecture, radio, and socialist theater

•The transnational reception of Ray's films in Europe during the 1950s and in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s that led to his canonization as a "Hollywood auteur"

•The rise of youth culture and a youth market in the 1950s

•Gender, sexualities, and whiteness: representation / identification

•Screening social class

•Space: rural vs. (sub)urban America

•Place: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, the backroads of Oklahoma, "the frontier," etc.

•Outlaws and folk heroes, celebrity, and the myth of "the rebel"

•Marginalized figures, victims of society, and the politics of rebellion

•Ray's non-Hollywood films: "We Can't Go Home Again" (1973-76), "The Janitor" (1974), and "Marco" (1978)

•Film performance, stardom, and its social contexts: Ray's collaborations with James Dean, Joan Crawford, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Ryan, and others

•Ray's international legacy and influence on the French New Wave, as well as on filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, Jim Jarmusch, and Wim Wenders

Send 300 word abstract with 5 item bibliography and full academic CV (as separate e-mail attachments) to: Steve Rybin ( and Will Scheibel ( Submitters will be notified as to the status of their proposal by August 15, 2010. Please visit the SCMS website for more details about the 2011 conference:

Deadline for submissions: Sunday, August 8, 2010 11:59 PM EDT