Susan Doll (aka suzidoll)
Susan Doll

When I was six years old, my cousins took me to see my first film in a theater-a matinee of Visit to a Small Planet, starring Jerry Lewis, at the old Bula Theater in Ashtabula, Ohio. And, I have been hooked ever since.

As a kid, I was always breaking up weekend playtime activities with my neighborhood friends because I had to go home to watch the Saturday afternoon movie shown on a local television station. Despite the missing scenes, bad splices, and millions of commercial breaks, watching On the Town, The Road to Utopia, Bringing Up Baby, and even the Bowery Boys\' adventures was always worth it. As a matter of fact, my week was organized around the movie schedules of Cleveland\'s TV stations: Weekday afternoons were reserved for the horror and suspense films hosted by the legendary Ghoulardi; on week nights, I watched major Hollywood movies with parents on Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday Night at the Movies. Much to my teacher\'s chagrin, I was the only kid in my third-grade class who habitually watched The Late Show, and then during the summers, The Late, Late Show. What she didn\'t realize was that I was getting a cultural education.

In college, I discovered film classes and couldn\'t believe someone was actually going to give me a college degree in "movies." I couldn\'t think of anything better than sitting in a classroom watching westerns, screwball comedies, Cuban films, Russian films, Italian films, thrillers, documentaries . . . and then talking about them! I rode that train as far as it would go, finally getting a Ph.D. in film studies from Northwestern. If there had been another level of degree I would have stuck around for that.

Since then, I have been able to parlay my obsession into a career by teaching, researching, and writing about the movies for over 20 years. How lucky is that? And, thank you Jerry Lewis.

Posts by Susan Doll

To view The House Is Black click here. Documentary often focuses our attention on something we might not otherwise notice—a forgotten event, an overlooked historical figure, an ignored social problem, an animal species hidden in plain sight. The House Is Black (1963), currently streaming on FilmStruck, does more than focus our attention; it dares us […]

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To view Raw Deal click here. A shadowy, expressive photography defines film noir. It creates the kind of heavy mood and atmosphere that the German Expressionists called stimmung. The genre seemed to bring out the best in cinematographers, but two have been singled out by scholars and historians—Nicholas Musuraca and John Alton. Musuraca photographed noir […]

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The Thin Blue Line (1988), which is available for streaming via FilmStruck as part of the series Documentaries by Errol Morris, is more than a documentary. It is an investigation into the case of Randall Adams, who was falsely convicted of the murder of Dallas policeman Robert Wood. Randall Adams was one of the hundreds […]

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When I lived in Chicago, I enjoyed learning the city’s history—not the events you find in text books but the city’s pop culture history. Chicago was that toddlin’ town where notorious gangsters opened red-hot nightclubs in which soon-to-be-famous singers and comedians launched their careers; or, serial killers trolled for victims at the larger-than-life Columbian Exposition […]

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Long before there was a recognizable indie-film scene, IndieWire magazine, or the Independent Spirit Awards, there was John Sayles—the independent’s independent. FilmStruck is offering five of Sayles’s films for streaming: Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980), Lianna (1983), The Brother from Another Planet (1984), Eight Men Out (1988) and Casa de los Babys (2004). The […]

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As might be expected, the first big-screen detective was Sherlock Holmes, who appeared in Sherlock Holmes Baffled for American Biograph in 1900. Sherlock has enjoyed a long run on the big screen, which isn’t over yet, because Guy Ritchie’s third SH film is currently in the works. The most beloved American detectives are arguably Sam […]

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I am teaching a section on mise-en-scene later this semester, and I am going to use stills and clips from the 1936 sci-fi classic Things to Come, which is adapted from H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come. While it is tailor-made for art and film students, any recommendation for others comes with a […]

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It’s that time of year when I ask students to select one or more Hitchcock films as part of the course material in my upper level film history class. I like to offer a pre-WWII Hitchcock film as one of the choices to represent his early spy thrillers, in which various spies and secret agents […]

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I remember the first time I recognized Bill Paxton in a film. In Near Dark (1987) Paxton played Severin, a member of a roving band of vampires in love with the night, the nomadic lifestyle and the violence of their existence. “Turned” into a vampire decades earlier, Paxton’s character seemed a remnant of the Wild […]

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If you are a fan of film noir, and who isn’t, I suggest checking out the French film movement from the 1930s known as Poetic Realism. Noir fanatics are attracted to the genre’s dark romanticism with its haunting fatalism, melancholy mood and doomed characters—conventions shared with Poetic Realism. Until the end of February, FilmStruck is […]

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