Theodore Dreiser's dissection of the American dream, An American Tragedy, was hailed as the greatest novel of its generation. Now a classic of American literature, the story is one to which Hollywood has repeatedly returned.Hollywood's obsession with this tale of American greed, justice, religion and sexual hypocrisy stretches across the history of cinema. Some of cinema's greatest directors - Sergei Eisenstein, Josef von Sternberg and George Stevens - have attempted to bring this classic story to the screen. Subsequently, both Jean-Luc Godard and Woody Allen have returned to the story and to these earlier adaptations.Hollywood's American Tragedies is the first detailed study of this extraordinary sequence of adaptations. What it reveals is a history of Hollywood - from its politics to its cinematography - and, much deeper, of American culture and the difficulty of telling an American tragedy in the land of the American dream.
Mandy Merck is Professor of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has edited the film and television journal Screen and the Channel 4 television series Out on Tuesday. Her books include Perversions: Deviant Readings, In Your Face: Nine Sexual Studies, The Art of Tracey Emin (co-edited with Chris Townsend) and a new collection of critical studies, America First: Naming the Nation in US Film.
1. An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser 2. A Monstrous Challenge to American Society - Sergei Eisenstein 3. A Courtroom Drama - Josef von Sternberg 4. Let the Audience See His Desire - George Stevens 5. Afterword