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Kathleen Loock (Freie Universität Berlin)

Short Bio

Kathleen Loock is a post-doc research associate at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University of Berlin. She is a member of the Research Unit "Popular Seriality: Aesthetics and Practice," and currently working on the project "Retrospective Serialization: Remaking as a Method of Cinematic Self-Historicizing." Kathleen received her PhD in American Studies from the University of Göttingen with a dissertation on the commemorative constructions and deconstructions of Christopher Columbus in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States, published as Kolumbus in den USA: Vom Nationalhelden zur ethnischen Identifikationsfigur (transcript, 2014). Her other publications include the coedited collections Of Body Snatchers and Cyberpunks: Student Essays on American Science Fiction Film (with Sonja Georgi; Göttingen UP, 2011) and Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions: Remake | Remodel (with Constantine Verevis; Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), and a special issue on serial narratives for the journal Literatur in Wissenschaft und Unterricht (2015). 


Abstract: "'Match Them If You Can': The Cultural Work of 'Talker Remakes'"

During the transition to sound and throughout the 1930s, Hollywood remade a great number of former silent hits as talkies. Remaking was an established practice by that time, but since the coming of sound cinema attendance had decisively increased with between 80 and 90 million Americans going to see double features every week in theaters that remained open all year long. Until the early 1940s, studios produced from 400 to 800 films each year, and recycling old properties was both a way to meet the public demand for talkies when it was difficult to find fresh stories and to encourage return visits to the cinemas with tried and proven material. Hollywood movies had a "short shelf-life" at the time. They were essentially ephemeral commodities - quickly outdated and forgotten unless they were remade. In this sense, "talker remakes" replaced predecessors from the days of silent cinema with updated sound versions, yet in doing so they also preserved popular narratives for future media generations. In fact, they constructed these media generations and prompted them to recognize themselves as such in the ways their versions differed from earlier renditions of the same story. "Talker remakes" and the various paratexts that surrounded them evoked the memory of silent films as something of the past and framed the transition to sound as a narrative of technological progress. Thus, they made the historic development of cinema as a technological medium visible and ultimately helped to construct and communicate a cinematic past and archive.