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July 2011, Week 1


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Dana Polan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 6 Jul 2011 09:45:36 -0500
text/plain (88 lines)
On behalf of the department of Cinema Studies at NYU, I am sending this
notice (drafted by Richard Allen) of the passing of our dear colleague
Robert Sklar:


It is with great sadness that I must report to you the death of our beloved
colleague, Robert Sklar. On Sunday, June 26, Bob had an accident while
bicycling in Barcelona with his wife, Adrienne Harris. He lost control of
his bike, fell and hit his head. He was removed to a Barcelona hospital with
head injuries. At the hospital he was diagnosed as having extensive bleeding
of the brain. He underwent brain surgery, but the injuries were too severe
for recovery. On Saturday, July 2, he expired from his injuries. He will be
cremated and the ashes brought back to New York. Our thoughts go out to
Adrienne and to Bob’s entire family at this time.

Bob began his academic career as historian of American culture earning a
Ph.D. in the history of American civilization from Harvard in 1965. In 1967
he authored a book on F. Scott Fitzgerald with Oxford University Press,
which was followed by an anthology of essays on The Plastic Age: 1917-1930
in 1970. However, it was to the good fortune of his colleagues that he
decided to bring his deep general knowledge of American society and culture
to bear upon understanding the history of American film and media. His books
on American film and television history pioneered a politically informed
socio-cultural approach to the analysis of media long before “cultural
studies” as a field was invented.  His seminal work, Movie-Made America: A
Cultural History of American Movies (1975), set a standard for historical
scholarship in the field that inspires each generation of film scholars
anew. Bob brought an historian’s breadth and insight to understanding the
social forces that shape the emergence and transformation of media and
sought to convey in his writing the possibilities and promise of film as a
medium of social change.

Bob assumed a leading role in the development of the modern fields of film
and media studies. He helped to shape the modern Society for Cinema and
Media Studies, taking leadership of the organization at a crucial phase of
its development between 1978 and 1981 when it was then still the Society for
Cinema Studies. He was also an important advocate for the preservation of
our media heritage through his position on the National Film Preservation
Board and by helping to establishing the Program in Moving Image Archiving
and Preservation at New York University. Bob began his professorial life
teaching history at the University of Michigan and he joined the Department
of Cinema Studies at NYU in 1977. Through his thirty plus years of service
to the Department (he retired in 2009), Bob was a beloved teacher, mentor,
and colleague who led countless courses on the history of American Cinema
and trained generations of film historians through his caring and
disciplined guidance. 

As a scholar and intellectual, Professor Sklar, who began his career as a
journalist for the Los Angeles Times in the 1960s, always sought a broader
public for his thinking and writing. Aside from his books, that were written
with such extraordinary clarity and verve, Bob consistently engaged with
that broader public not only in his journalism for national newspapers like
The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and as film critic for the weekly
newspaper Forward, but also through his nearly three decade association with
the film magazine Cineaste, one of the few remaining independent magazines
devoted to sustaining what used to be called “film culture.” Bob also served
for a number of years served on the selection committee of the New York Film
Festival. His extensive viewing experience of world cinema was distilled in
the notable, prize-winning, book Film: An International History (1993).

Before his death, Bob co-edited a volume of essays entitled Global
Neorealism: The Transnational History of a Film Style with Saverio
Giovacchini, which is forthcoming from University Press of Mississippi. He
also contributed two essays to the forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell History of
American Film that is being edited by three of his former students, Cindy
Lucia, Roy Grundmann and Art Simon--the key, opening essay to the
four-volume series: "Writing American Film History" and an essay in volume
three of the series: "Authorship and Billy Wilder."

Bob always had a keen interest in sport both as a participant and viewer and
his avid baseball fandom led him to become a member of the very first
fantasy baseball league, Rotisserie Baseball. Bob will be sorely missed by
all of us who knew him in his various lives, and in particular by his
colleagues here in the Department of Cinema Studies at NYU. Yet Bob will
remain with us in our fond memories of his kindness, his dry sense of humor
and his wise counsel, and through the contribution of his elegant writings
to the field. There will be a memorial service for Bob in the fall that will
be announced in due course.

Richard Allen
Professor and Chair of Cinema Studies
New York University

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