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B.A. (1972), M.A. (1975), Ph.D. (1979), University of California, Davis
Scott Simmon works at the intersection of film scholarship, archiving, and access – especially with the goal of expanding the canon of U.S. films that are taught and studied. To this end, his best known publications are five DVD-and-text anthologies in the National Film Preservation Foundation's Treasures from American Film Archives series. The five sets together make available over two hundred films preserved by U.S. public archives. The most recent DVD anthology, Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, was published in 2013. Two restorations he supervised for the Library of Congress have also become key to the film-studies canon: Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates (1919; the earliest surviving film by an African American) and Lois Weber's birth-control and abortion drama Where Are My Children? (1916).
Scott obtained his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. here at UC Davis. As curator of film programs at the Library of Congress, he founded the Library's first cinema exhibition space. For the National Film Preservation Board, he co-authored a report on the state of American film preservation and helped formulate the national film preservation plan, submitted to Congress in 1994. For the National Film Preservation Foundation, he curated Treasures from American Film Archives (called by The New York Times "the best DVD set of the year" in 2000), More Treasures from American Film Archives (which makes available on DVD 50 films preserved by five major U.S. film archives: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive), Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film (included in the "Top 10 DVDs of 2007" by The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time magazine), and Treasures 5: The West. Simmon's writings include books on directors King Vidor and D.W. Griffith. His Invention of the Western Film won the 2003 Theatre Library Association Award, given for the year's "best English-language book about recorded performance."
New Publication Spotlight
Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive--a DVD anthology with 56-page booket. Published by the National Film Preservation Foundation, September 2013. Curated by Scott Simmon.
Winner of a 2013 "Film Heritage Award" from the National Society of Film Critics.
This 3-1/4 hour, 13-film DVD celebrates the largest international collaboration in decades to preserve and present American films found abroad. It draws from an extraordinary cache of nitrate prints that had been safeguarded in New Zealand and unseen in decades. Through a partnership between the New Zealand Film Archive and American film archives, the National Film Preservation Foundation arranged for 176 films to be shipped to the United States for preservation to 35mm film. Treasures New Zealand brings some of the discoveries to DVD. None of the films have been presented before on video; in fact, none were even thought to exist just four years ago. The DVD resurrects lost works by major directors and samples the variety of American pictures exported abroad: industrial films, news stories, cartoons, travelogues, serial episodes, comedies and more.
The line-up includes John Ford’s Upstream (1927) and a preview for his lost Strong Boy (1929);The White Shadow (1924), 3 reels from the first surviving feature credited to Alfred Hitchcock, the assistant director, art director, and writer; and Won in a Cupboard (1914), the first surviving film directed by and starring Mabel Normand.
That films lost in the United States came to be found 7,000 miles away speaks volumes about the international popularity of American movies from the very start. Today hundreds of American movies from the silent era that were not saved in the U.S. survive abroad.
For a full list of the films, click here.
For a video preview and excerpts click here.
Previous Publication Spotlight
"Westerns are only one of the genres represented in Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938, the fifth boxed set of DVDs in the essential series Treasures from American Film Archives, produced by the National Film Preservation Foundation. The three-disc, 10-hour collection includes, in addition to a healthy selection of fictional narrative films, a wide range of travelogues, documentaries, home movies, newsreels and sponsored films from corporations and government agencies. Put together with an engaging combination of showmanly flair and scholarly responsibility by Scott Simmon, the author of the seminal study The Invention of the Western Film (Cambridge University Press), it’s a selection that seeks to represent the range and depth of the material preserved in the vaults of the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House and the National Archives.... With Treasures 5: The West the National Film Preservation Foundation reminds us again what a rich and wondrous body of work is the American cinema, and how little of it we actually know."
—Dave Kehr, The New York Times (September 23, 2011)
Recent Online Writing:
- "Too Much Johnson in Context" (PDF) and "Too Much Johnson: The Films Reimagined" (PDF) This pair of articles was written to accompany the National Film Preservation Foundation's on-line release in August 2014 of the long-lost films for Too Much Johnson, the innovative 1938 Mercury Theatre project directed by Orson Welles. The full 66-minute workprint and my 34-minute "reimagining" of what the films might have looked like had they been completed can be viewed at those links. An interview with me about the project is on the Orson Welles web resource Wellesnet at this link.
- "Let There Be Light (1946) and Its Restoration" (PDF). This article was written to accompany the 2012 restoration of John Huston's long-suppressed U.S. Army documentary about psychologically wounded World War II soldiers. The restored version is online at this YouTube link.
- Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive. National Film Preservation Foundation, 2013. 3-hour, 13-film DVD with 56-page booklet.
- Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938. National Film Preservation Foundation, 2011. 10-hour, 3-disc DVD set with 136-page book.
- Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900-1934 . National Film Preservation Foundation, 2007. 12-hour, 4-disc DVD set with 200-page book. (Click here to hear Scott talk about this set with the film critic Elvis Mitchell, or here to view samples of the films alongside an ABC News story.)
- More Treasures from American Film Archives: 50 Films, 1894-1931 . National Film Preservation Foundation , 2004. 10-hour, 3-disc DVD set with 132-page book.
- Treasures from American Film Archives: 50 Preserved Films, 1893-1985 . National Film Preservation Foundation , 2000. 11-hour, 4-disc DVD set with 200-page book. (To watch extended excerpts from the films on all five DVD sets, follow this link to the National Film Preservation Foundation's "DVDs and Books" page, then click on the DVD covers.)
- The Library of Congress Video Collection. Smithsonian Institution. 1994. 10-hour videotape set with brochures. Reissued on DVD as Origins of Film, 2001.
U.S. Government-Issued Books:
- Redefining Film Preservation: A National Plan. (co-author). Library of Congress, 1994. (Available online.)
- Film Preservation 1993: A Study of the Current State of American Film Preservation. (co-author). Library of Congress, 1993. 4 volumes. The report, the Los Angeles hearing, and the Washington D.C. hearing are available through these links.
University Press Books:
- The Invention of the Western Film: A Cultural History of the Genre's First Half-Century. Cambridge University Press, 2003 .
- The Films of D.W. Griffith. Cambridge University Press, 1993.
- King Vidor, American. (Co-author: Raymond Durgnat). University of California Press, 1988.
Education & Interests:
- Ph.D. (UC Davis); Film Studies, American Culture, 20th-century American Literature