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Film Mavericks in Action

New Hollywood, New Rhetoric, and Kenneth Burke

Alan Taylor

The book’s ambition is to uniquely yoke familiar histories of New Hollywood with aspects of critical theory that, since the 1950s, have embraced advances in the New Rhetoric as pioneered by literary theorist, philosopher, social analyst and educator Kenneth Burke (1897–1993). The study tracks the career arcs of Hollywood film directors Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Michael Cimino and Francis Ford Coppola whose productions are regarded as Burkean perspectives by incongruity. This analysis is contextualized within an overview that, from the 1920s to the present, considers Hollywood as a "languaged industry" that is grounded in Burkean principles of Order, identification, hierarchy, courtship and ambiguities of substance. The project is designed to serve the interests of colleagues and students in Rhetorical Theory, Film Education, Creative Writing, American Studies, Production Studies, and Film and Media Studies.

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5. Michael Cimino and Frontier Ambiguities of Substance


In his mind was the colossal portrait of a frontier animated with people, activity, contrasting interests, social classes, ethnic groups, languages – the picture of an extraordinary country caught in the struggle of becoming itself (Vallan, 2013, p. 4, on Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980).

And insofar as men “cannot live by bread alone,” they are moved by doctrine, which is to say, they derive purposes from language, which tells them what they “ought” to want to do, tells them how to do it, and in the telling goads them with great threats and promises, even to the gates of heaven and hell (KB, RR, p. 274).

On accepting the Academy Award for Best Film from John Wayne for The Deer Hunter Michael Cimino only recognized the contribution of assistant producer Joann Carelli and especially Robert De Niro but never mentioned his British producers Michael Deeley and Barry Spikings who were standing at his side. Cimino’s only words, “I love you madly. Thank–you” were to the audience. In their appreciations Spikings and Deeley were equally concise, never mentioning Cimino who departed the stage to return to his pre–production duties with United Artists on Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980).

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