In recent years, the classic Hollywood film has gained currency in a dichotomising cultural critique. However, this re-evaluation of the popular film has not led to a reappraisal of one of its most famous Australian advocates: Bill Collins. Collins is defined by his relationship with the unrecuperated mass culture medium of television. Collins detaches his films from the historically specific, rewriting them in terms of a nostalgia readily accommodated within a concept of the perpetual present of television. In these terms Collins's presentation of himself and his consequent representation offer a way into debates which attempt to distinguish between film and television and, at the same time, highlight the accompanying cultural assumptions and distribution of value. It is a debate in which the mass culture critique looms large, with perceptions of Collins exemplifying the specifically gendered nature of this search for definition.
John Ellis has produced the most sustained attempt to theorise the relationship between the visual media. In his pioneering Visible Fictions: Cinema: Television: Video, the 'dream-like' state of the film spectator is contrasted with the 'glance' of the television viewer:
The gaze implies a concentration of the spectator's activity into that of looking, the glance implies that no extraordinary effort is being invested in the activity of looking. The very terms we habitually use to designate the person who watches TV or the cinema screen tend to indicate this difference. The cinema-looker is a spectator caught by the projection yet separate from its illusion. The TV-looker is a viewer, casting a lazy eye over proceedings, keeping an eye on events, or, as the slightly archaic designation had it, 'looking in'. (137)
Distinguishing between two media which he suggests have been collapsed together in popular discourse, Ellis attempts to constitute each medium as functionally and theoretically separate and discrete:
Cinema and broadcast TV are often taken to be interchangeable media, in direct competition with each other. This book argues their differences from each other: differences in their social roles, their forms of institutional organisation, their general aesthetic procedures. (1)
Many of the distinctions depend on the fairly straightforward physical and technical characteristics which make the television viewer's relationship with the image different from that of the spectator in the cinema. However, this impulse for definition has encouraged a tendency to essentialise the content of each of the media. Yet often the search for some kind of formal essence results in a distillation of the "genuinely" televisual, while film is allowed a historical existence. In these terms, the classic realist text of the "golden years" of Hollywood is seen as a highly influential phenomenon rather than the definitive cinematic form. In contrast, Sandy Flitterman-Lewis defines the soap opera as a 'paradigmatic televisual form' (195), while John Ellis refers to the commercial as 'in many ways the quintessence of TV', suggesting that the experience of viewing a television advertisement is an exhilarating experience: 'that of seeing a medium used for itself, and not weighed down by cultural presumptions that are not its own' (118).
At the same time, television advertisements have become increasingly filmic, so that the expensive artistry of the commercial often contrasts with the more tightly budgeted programs. A celebrated advertisement for Nescafe coffee has drawn on the cultural mythology surrounding the intellectual bohemianism of Paris during the thirties while simultaneously inserting itself within the discourse specific to Hollywood in which Paris becomes emblematic of the exotic other world offered by cinema. The painterly, impressionistic style of the advertisement dominated by the passionate and "authentically" French tones of Edith Piaf gestures away from television, just as the cafe setting gestures away from the instant coffee which is the advertisement's raison d'etre. Yet, it is the television viewer who has been trained to accept and read the rapid editing of images which condenses the experience of the exotic. In the same way, the experienced reader of commercials is expected to read the instant coffee being offered by Nescafe as not only a concentrate of the "real" coffee being consumed in the advertisement but of the experience as a whole.
I first encountered this advertisement when Nescafe "presented" Bill Collins's Golden Years of Hollywood. Usually Collins appears amidst either an orchestral version of the all-purpose tribute to the cinema That's Entertainment or the strains of the theme music from his main film of the night. Instead, on this particular evening, Collins made his appearance to the accompaniment of Piaf. In this way, the advertisement which preceded Collins's appearance overflowed into the space carved out by him for the presentation of the classic Hollywood movie. The aural reference to the commercial produces the effect of a palimpsest in which the voice of the dead Piaf, whose life has been mythologised in similar terms to that of Marilyn Monroe, becomes part of the fantasy being offered by Collins via the Hollywood product. The film experience and the advertisement coalesce.
While the Saturday evening program generally has a main sponsor, this is kept separate from the relationship established between Collins and the viewer. Hence Collins's theme and entrance is preceded by the announcement that 'this program is proudly brought to you by...'. While an apparent intrusion into the understanding that the program is being brought to "us" by Bill, far from unsettling Collins's position as cultural mediator, the sponsorship serves both to proclaim the program as an "event" and to connect him more precisely with the film text. His insertion of himself into the film text is in effect a gesture of recuperation, an effort to extricate the film from the televisual flow and reinstate its cinematic properties. Consequently, he demands of his audience the kind of concentration which is ascribed to the spectator at the cinema:
It's Saturday night and in thousands of homes all over Australia a pair of blue eyes - part twinkly, part piercing - peer from the television screen and demand-command attention. 'Now, don't doze off,' he is likely to say in a voice part waspish, part cajoling. 'This is a very special night and I have two very special films for you, so don't go off to bed. Make yourself a cup of tea and sit up!' (The Bulletin August 14 1990, 63)
Such an imperious demand for viewing attention can serve as a reminder that it is more specifically Collins's role to attend to ratings than it is to convert the modern viewer to the cause of the classic Hollywood movie. Yet, it is difficult to separate these two objectives, each endeavour being implied in the other. Just as the Nescafe advertisement sells both instant coffee and the experience of drinking real coffee in a French cafe, Bill Collins is simultaneously selling a product (television) and an experience (film). So, while the insertion of an advertisement within the framed space occupied by Collins could be seen to speak an otherwise hidden connection between him and the modus vivandi of commercial television (the sale of advertising time), it could be argued that when such a connection is created by the music of Piaf, it leads to a mutual privileging of the element of fantasy/nostalgia available within the other text.
Within each text, this careful orchestration of the film or filmic within the televisual flow both mutes the connection to television while, at the same time, relying on the very fact and function of television in order to achieve its effect. Stephen Heath and Gillian Skirrow emphasise the 'nowness' of television, suggesting that the technology of television implies live transmission, despite the fact that little which appears on television is actually live:
...where film sides towards instantaneous memory ('everything is absent, everything is recorded - as a memory trace which is so at once, without having been something else before'), television operates much more as an absence of memory, the recorded material it uses - including the material recorded on film - instituted as actual in the production of the television image. This is not, of course, to suggest that the television transmission of, say, High Sierra will induce the illusion of watching a live performance by Bogart and Lupino; simply, it is to emphasise the way in which what is specific to television - the possibility of 'live broadcasting', the present electronic production of the image - becomes the term of its exploited imaginary, the generalised fantasy already mentioned; which fantasy - the very title World in Action pays tribute to its power - is then taken for the ground reality of television and its programmes, exactly the normal assumption. (55, 56) 1
So, in the case of Bill Collins' Golden Years of Hollywood and the Nescafe commercial, Heath and Skirrow would suggest that the fantasy offered within these texts connects with the ever-present possibility of technical disruption or textual interruption. Certainly, within The Golden Years of Hollywood, no matter how many times Bill Collins may repeat a particular film, it will be different each time, depending not only upon a different commentary, but also upon the advertisements inserted within the frame. Similarly, the Nescafe commercial is a text which is able to expand or contract depending on the amount of time bought in a particular hour of television, or it can be detached from its image track, as in the case being discussed.
However, each of these examples also constructs an alternative televisual fantasy. Asserted against (and within) the dominant association of television and the 'perpetual present', they offer a concept of the past in the present. In the advertisement, the stylish nineties/fifties/thirties couple, achieve their style by means of their distance from the "everyday", a distance created by rejecting the "natural-seeming", even slightly amateurish, forms of representation often associated with television. 2 Within this formula, style becomes linked to a connection between the present and elsewhere (time, location, lifestyle etc.). Bill Collins's mode of presentation in The Golden Years of Hollywood alludes to the televisual convention in which the presenter is offered as a mediator between the viewing audience and, in Raymond Williams's terms, the flow or, in those of Heath and Skirrow, the perpetual present. Most specifically this form of direct address has become associated with the newsreader and the supposed mediation of the "real", a concept of reality which, according to John Fiske, eschews a sense of continuous history and demands that a newsworthy event be no more than twenty-four hours old (284). Hence, the gap being bridged within the conventional framework of presentation is a spatial one. (For example, SBS is 'bringing the world back home'.) In the sense that Bill Collins demands that the audience watch his films as if in a cinema, it could be said that he is dealing in a kind of spatial negotiation. However, he most specifically defines his role in terms of his capacity to mediate between the viewer of the present and the films of the past. Asserting a vital and necessary personal connection with the films of the past, Collins offers his own nostalgia for general consumption. His enthusiastic desire to recover the (his) past involves a collapsing of the notion of history and an assertion of the classic Hollywood film as the essence of cinema. 3
And here is another question I am often asked: 'What do you mean by the term "Golden Years of Hollywood"?'
I use the term to refer mainly to American films made between 1935 and 1955, and even more importantly to films in which beauty and ideals are not sacrificed for cheap thrills, sordid visuals, obscenity and other exploitation features[my italics]. (Collins Bill Collins Presents vi&vii)
Similarly, when presenting The Wicked Lady, he commented:
Yes, I know it is an English film, but when we talk about the "golden years of Hollywood", we're talking about a kind of movie. We're not talking strictly about American made movies and The Wicked Lady is very much a part of that wonderful period. (Collins previewing The Wicked Lady soon after Margaret Lockwood's death.)
Indeed, nostalgia is distinctly ahistorical. Prompted by the necessary incompleteness of the present, the nostalgic past assumes a shape and meaning. It is in this context that cinema merges with a more general impulse towards shaping past experience: '[Cinema] is a form of narration that depends upon the sense of present-past that invades the cinematic image. Cinema narrates events that have already completed themselves before the film begins' (Ellis, 66). Yet, at the same time, Ellis argues that popular cinema is constructed for a single viewing:
in fact, entertainment cinema hinges on the fact that its audience has not seen the particular film before. Films are generally constructed to be seen once and once only. To see a film again is usually accounted either as a sign of great devotion to the person accompanied, or as a rather suspect devotion to cinema itself. (26)
Of course, a split occurs between the shaping of the past within the narrative film and these films as artefacts themselves, and it is just as much, though not exclusively, the latter notion of film upon which Bill Collins focuses. Pat Buckridge describes this distinction in terms of the experience of the past offered in shops which deal in second-hand books: 'To enter a second-hand bookshop is to be confronted, or rather surrounded, by a quite powerful representation of history as books. Not history through books, since that implies that the books which constitute the representation are already read by the subject in question, whereas a large part of their signifying power derives not from their meaning as verbal texts but from their physical characteristics - texture, appearance, smell, position, etc. - as objects - in combination with the minimal reading necessary for the identification of period, genre and author' (131).
If a film is made to be seen only once, television relies on the capacity to repeat. However, far from diminishing the sense of television as an immediate, temporary form, repetition is integral to such a definition. The repeat of a program at a different time assumes that it has been missed the first time around, or the repeat of a program "by popular demand" suggests that it passed by the appreciative audience too quickly the first time round. While it could be argued that the instant replay during a direct sporting coverage works against the very concept of "live" broadcast, the insertion of this kind of technology in order to interrupt and slow the events taking place assumes an unmediated present which defies meaningful organisation.
It therefore becomes strangely appropriate that Collins should carve out a space for nostalgia within a medium which is defined - at least superficially - in opposition to the kind of shaping and ordering required by the narrative film. Ellis suggests that film on television is transmitted 'by reference to a notion [my italics] of "cinema"'(25). In fact, what Bill Collins does is generate a notion of cinema unavailable to the spectator whose experience at the cinema is described by Ellis in the following terms
More central...is the experience of watching a fiction (it usually is a fiction in entertainment cinema) with an anonymous group of people, who need have nothing more in common than the fact that they have been attracted to that particular place and that particular fiction. Cinema in this way becomes a very precise urban experience, that of the crowd with its sense of belonging and loneliness. (26)
However, Collins is able to allude on television to other ways of visiting the cinema. Compare the following rare or anachronistic phenomena described by Ellis to the experience and associations invoked by Bill Collins' Golden Years of Hollywood:
Alternatively, cinema in smaller communities tends to perform a different function when most of the audience are acquainted with each other. Here the entertainment is related to particular characteristics of individuals or of the place itself. The film comes from outside, the cinema belongs to a particular place...
Cinema also functions as a special event, as a particular conception of an evening's entertainment. The massive investment in cinema-building, in America from the mid 1910s and in Europe with the boom after the First World War, was predicated on this conception of cinema. The buildings that were constructed were the 'picture palaces', now the subject of nostalgic photo-books: simple brick shells decorated in bizarre and rich styles, and usually of a massive size to emphasise the grandeur of the cinematic experience. (27)
In fact Bill, as he leans forward and reveals another piece of gossip or asks for help in tracing an obscure novel or pinning down an errant detail, uses the para-social dimension of television in order to invite the viewer into a fellowship based not only on an interest in "old movies" but also on having rejected the empty entertainments of a Saturday night out on the town for a more familiar pleasure.
However, this sense of a communal domesticity is balanced by a quite contrary emphasis upon the nature of the program as an occasion. While echoing the double features of the forties, Collins connects and frames two films (sometimes three) in a manner which curiously incorporates the sequential rhythm of broadcast television. In accordance with the general organisation of prime time programming, the 'B' picture follows the main feature. Similarly, the only time an audience at the cinema might expect a framing commentary would be at a premiere. There is a sense in which this is the kind of occasion to which the program refers, despite the pre-loved nature of the material being shown. In this context, it is interesting that the evening's entertainment is often heralded by the appearance of Bill Collins' Golden Years of Hollywood in lights. 4 Although this is a convention generally associated with the theatre, movie "buffs" will know that this convention was often borrowed for the star-studded premiere of an important Hollywood film. Indeed, this connection is made specific by an introductory still of just such a premiere. With his name up in lights, an analogy is made between Bill Collins and the stars he presents. (The Oscar perched behind him expands this analogy in a fairly bold fashion.)
Yet, within the television context, the fact that he and his program are given this privilege ahead of any specific film leads to an extension of his role as host. Traditionally, the television host slots into the kind of para- social role which I have suggested is integral to the social experience which comprises one part of Collins's invitation to his audience/guests. However, the concept of host also implies a parasitic association: if Collins is the host, the films he presents become dependent upon him. In his essay "The Critic as Host" J. Hillis Miller suggests that the literary text is dependent for its existence upon the readings produced by the critic. This concept becomes peculiarly appropriate to Collins's enthusiastic resuscitation of a number of films which would otherwise have disappeared into oblivion. The fact that he interrupts the lead film of the evening to inscribe further his reading of and observations about the film complicates the distinction between framed and frame.
Lynn Spigel discusses this distinction in her essay "Installing the Television Set: Popular Discourses on Television and Domestic Space, 1948-1955" in order to point to the way the proscenium arch was used during the early years of American television in order to connote a night-out at the theatre. Of The Burns and Allen Show she writes:
...the domestic space is rendered with a high degree of artifice; in fact there is no attempt to sustain the illusion that it is a real space at all. Instead, it is the stage space which is represented through realist conventions. The spatial and temporal unities of the stage space are kept intact, and the actions on the stage always appear to unfold in real time - that is, in the time that it takes the home audience to watch the program. Thus, the stage appears more real than the domestic space, and the home audience is given the sense of watching a live play in the theater. (25)
However, this ostensible privileging of the theatrical performance is ultimately a celebration of the "liveness" claimed by television rather than of the live theatrical performance. Consequently from an alternative perspective it would seem that the action inside the arch was put at one remove from the audience in order to make what happened outside the arch more convincing, more real. Indeed, Spigel refers to the appropriation of this space by the advertiser. She describes an episode of I Love Lucy in which this dimension of television is explored to maximum effect when a box of Philip Morris cigarettes actually forms the stage:
Not only did this framing structure work as a graphic reminder that the story had been brought to our homes through the courtesy of the sponsor, it also served to make the advertiser's discourse appear to be in a world closer to the viewer's real life. (25)
In this way, a concept of oral culture, a culture of presence, adheres to a notion of "real" television to be contrasted with the scripted exchange within the frame. Collins separates himself from other television hosts by means of his extraordinary (self-reported) capacity for emotional identification with the narrative and his eschewal of the conventional critical vocabulary of evaluation. He reports a capacity for absorption by the text which transcends history: the old film is, for him, forever young. Although I am not convinced of the essentially oral nature of television which can be opposed to some alternative literary essence, these distinctions have a functional place within the formulation of the stories television tells about itself. 5 And the ironic fact that Collins actually pre-records his commentary in large, uninterrupted blocks only serves to reinforce further these conventions.
Collins's very existence as a film presenter is defined by the access granted to these films by television. Hence, whilst placing the cinema of the past at the centre of a cultural pantheon which should, within these terms, exclude television, Collins becomes an apologist for the domestic medium. He quotes Max Ophuls in order to reverse the usual distinctions made between film and television, presenting the cinema spectator as a distracted, partial viewer who is unable to surrender to the image on the screen, while the television viewer is made stable, able to concentrate by the peace and harmony of the domestic environment:
People who go to the cinema are still thinking about the car they've just managed to park after driving around the cinema ten times. Or they leave the office and take their worries with them, and they are still preoccupied with the activity in the streets which carries over into the newsreels preceding the film. So it can happen that they are not sufficiently relaxed to watch a film which demands all a spectator's concentration. While at home, in an armchair, after dinner, with the lights dimmed, you can achieve that kind of concentration and get involved in the film. That should make us view the future of television with great optimism. (Ophuls cited by Collins vii)
Ophuls' comments stem from an indebtedness to television for providing his oeuvre with a second chance for public acceptance, and in turn his status as an auteur is used by Collins to grant the medium of television prestige. Collins contextualised this quote as follows:
I have heard the movie pundits and purists often say that a film must be seen on the cinema screen, in the dark, to be appreciated properly. Max Ophuls was interviewed in the mid-1950s by Jacques Rivette and Fran½ois Truffaut. The interview was reprinted in a British Film Institute publication, Ophuls, edited by Paul Willemen and published in 1978. He commented about the 'fairly insignificant' career of his Letter from an Unknown Woman at the box office in the United States, the more successful runs in Europe and the film's renewed popularity on television. Then he made this pertinent point which is a reply to those who are indifferent to films being shown on television. (vi)
Although Max Ophuls and Bill Collins join together in their celebration of the capacity for television to allow a reappraisal and recuperation of films which might otherwise have disappeared into oblivion, Collins's relationship with the medium remains a troubled one. His own style involves an extended allusion to the notion of the live broadcast, not only in terms of the para-social relationship developed with viewers but also, by means of his refusal of prompters and prepared script. His commentary is "off the cuff" as he less than accurately chooses his words before the viewer's very eyes, or so it seems:
He has no script, no auto-cue. On the occasions when he forgets the name of the fourth-billed supporting actor, he will raise his eyebrows and say: 'And I can't for the life of me remember his name but you watch out for him; he has some very fine scenes with S.Z. "Cuddles" Zakall in the last 10 minutes.' Re-takes are rare on the Golden Years set not least because it's not that sort of show. Enthusiasm and passion are what count not fanatically perfect sentences. (The Bulletin August 14, 1990, 64)
While Collins's relationship with the viewing audience is established within and through the conventions of orality, he attaches the classic Hollywood narrative to an always elusive concept of the literate and the written. He gestures towards a notion of origin in his emphasis upon the written source of a number of "his" films, a gesture offered against the boundless intertextuality of television but which actually serves to demonstrate the contradictions and slippage involved in any such attempt to fix culture. The relationship created by Collins between film and book is an interesting one in terms of the production of the past. In fact, the books which Collins flourishes serve to emphasise his role as archaeologist. Most of these novels are difficult or impossible to procure and/or have vanished into cultural oblivion. Citing his own private collection, Collins's exclusive possession of these forgotten texts serves to reiterate the privileged access to the past being granted through his presentation of the perhaps otherwise forgotten movie. 6 Pat Buckridge writes of Bill Collins's emphasis upon the book as being anti-nostalgic:
Another feature of the Bill Collins format that hardly conforms to the nostalgia stereotype is his habit of recommending the book of the film to his viewers. Perhaps the intention of these recommendations is that the book will reinforce the film's nostalgic appeal, but it is doubtful if this is ever its primary effect. In most cases the effect is rather to elaborate the past since the film only covers a part of the book. (135)
It would seem that Buckridge, in this oblique commentary, is suggesting that Collins, by expanding his reference to the past to include an alternative artefact, is pointing to the complexity of establishing a historical perspective. However, by emphasising the relationship between a text which has disappeared from sight and another which is about to appear before the viewer, Collins offers his film as inclusive of the forgotten past. In this way, the nostalgic affect which adheres to the second-hand book is transferred onto the old movie.
Yet, in no way does Collins allow the very obscurity of a number of the novels to which he refers to explain their exclusion from any established literary tradition. On the contrary, on countless occasions an evening's entertainment is prefaced by a homage to Olive Higgins Prouty, Ayn Rand or James Hilton. Collins is highly suspicious of the critical and political processes which interfere in the reading of culture. He sees his own criticism in political terms: his recuperation of the "critical failure" (it becomes a failure of criticism) often takes on the guise of guerilla warfare. In this context, his relationship with the viewer becomes integral to his enterprise:
I'm sure sometimes when critics are face to face with a film like Now Voyager they are somewhat confused, although they wouldn't admit it. They love to demean a film like this by saying it is soap opera, which it is not. They say 'women's fiction' - they apply this as much to Olive Higgins Prouty's novel as this film. A 'women's picture'. What's that? Is that supposed to suggest that if it's a picture about women's experiences, then it's not as important or valid as film about men's experiences? (Collins The Golden Years of Hollywood 1989)
Collins does not have the facilities to revive the misunderstood novel (other than to brandish it before the viewer, out of reach). On the other hand, television allows ready access to the forgotten film. Consequently, any such motion away from television ultimately restates his conjunction with it.
Pauline Kael, in her essay "Movies on Television", deplores this very capacity of television to revive films which she considers better forgotten. Most particularly, however, she is concerned with television's capacity for destroying history, for interfering in the meaningful production of the past: 'Now these movies are there for new generations, to whom they cannot possibly have the same impact or meaning because they are all jumbled together, out of historical sequence'(267). This skewed, ridiculous-seeming conglomeration of old films feeding television's insatiable appetite is to be contrasted with a selective cultural tradition conceived in Darwinian terms: 'In the other arts, something like natural selection takes place: only the best or the most significant or influential or successful works compete for our attention' (268). The effect of this, she argues, is to destroy any notion of value, to erode standards:
There's a kind of hopelessness about it: what does not deserve to last lasts, and so it all begins to seem one big pile of junk, and some people say, 'Movies never really were any good - except maybe the Bogarts.' If the same thing had happened in literature or music or painting - if we were constantly surrounded by the piled-up inventory of the past - it's conceivable that modern man's [sic] notions of culture and civilization would be very different. (ibid)
Kael describes a situation in which the random pooling of the cinematic product of the past results in a wholesale diminution of value, whereas Bill Collins reads television as a film archive, bestowing upon each film the honour of representing the Hollywood of the past.
It could be argued that Collins's role on television forestalls the fears Kael holds for a contextless product. He provides a multiplicity of details relating to the circumstances in which a particular film has been produced and, within the very process of recuperation, he often points to the lack of critical and box-office success a particular film may have had. 7 However, Collins's intervention between the film and its audience does not involve an insertion of history within the simulacra of television but, rather, an assertion of an essence of cinema defined in terms of a connection with the nostalgic past. It is in these terms that Bruce Beresford phrases his "diatribe" against Bill Collins, (while, at the same time, revealing his own critical bias):
At the other end of the scale from Wilson and James there is the reactionary Bill Collins, who has achieved both prominence and influence in N.S.W. through his TV presentation, complete with trivial stories of the lives of the stars or (more often) the supporting players and extras, of old movies. When I first saw Mr Collins raving (the right word) over some piece of 1940s studio-bound schmalz I assumed there was no possibility of his being sincere. I mean, no one really likes those films. Not today. He was, I believed, obliged to feign an interest in them as it was, after all, his job to sell them to the public.
But things have reached a crazy pass. When Bill Collins came on screen, in tears, after a screening of Courage of Lassie, and gulped 'What more can I say?', I knew he had to be the genuine article. No one could have played the part. To him the sickening sentimentality was true emotion, the contrived plot was believable, the overacting was human behaviour. Mr Collins has spent so much of his life, particularly his impressionable childhood years, in the gloom of Australian suburban picture shows, that he has no grasp of the real world at all. (50)
Beresford, who himself fixes and essentialises the Hollywood product, argues that Collins privileges content ahead of form. By being overly receptive to linear narrative, it seems that Collins fails to keep the distance required for a formal critique. Beresford applies the realist aesthetic which has become embedded within the mass culture critique, an aesthetic which invalidates an emotional identification which overrides formal constraints. 8 Significantly, Beresford's search for true emotion and genuine human behaviour culminates in an assertion of the nature and chronology of the real artist. With a naive confidence in notions of authorship and origin, he asserts, in direct opposition to Bill Collins, the essential inferiority of the product of the Hollywood studio system. Celebrating the development of the independent production which Beresford saw as rightly authorising the director, Beresford proclaims:
At last, real artists (in America and elsewhere) were more able than ever before to express themselves through film. The difference was like that between a piece of furniture made in a factory and something turned out by a master craftsman. (50)
Beresford's attempt to reinscribe an 'aura' within the demystifying process of film-making leads him to reinvest it with the hand of the individual. In this way, the entire enterprise of auteur theory can be seen as an anachronistic attempt to reinscribe creative origin.
Preceding and in contrast to this assertion of presence, 9 Walter Benjamin, in his essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", suggests that film is more enabling of a process of defamiliarisation and Brechtian fragmentation than live theatre because of the intervention of the camera between the performance and the audience (pace Christian Metz): 'This permits the audience to take the position of a critic, without experiencing any personal contact with the actor' (230). However, he also points to the efforts of the star system to (re)affix an aura, a sham authenticity, to the cinema product:
The film responds to the shrivelling of the aura with an artificial build-up of the 'personality' outside the studio. The cult of the movie star, fostered by the money of the film industry, preserves not the unique aura of the person but the 'spell of the personality', the phony spell of a commodity. (233)
In this context, a connection can be made between Collins's approach and Beresford's assertion of an author-centred aesthetics of film.
Just as Beresford fixes his films within a tradition dependent upon originality and origin, so too does Collins in terms of the "unique" personality of the star in question. In these terms, a performance of a fictional character becomes an indication of the character of the performer. It is from this premise that the mythology which surrounds the casting of the Hollywood film evolves. (The search for Scarlett O'Hara is perhaps the archetype.) Hence, in his presentation of Humoresque, Collins emphasises the numerous other great stars who were considered for the film in order to point to the essential "fitness" of Joan Crawford in the part:
Now you know she's right for the part because you can't imagine any other actress doing it really. Even those I mentioned earlier, like Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis who would have been totally wrong for it. (Collins The Golden Years of Hollywood 1991)
In fact, Collins goes on to point out that once Crawford was chosen for the part, the script was altered in order to accommodate better her particular style/image. However, while this makes it seem less of a feat that 'she's right for the part', such a mobilisation of a film around a particular personality points directly to the power of that personality.
It is in these terms that Collins recounts a publicity-bound anecdote relating to the creative interplay between the director Jean Negulesco and Crawford. Inserting the creative, transformative capacities of the star in place of those of the director argued for by Bruce Beresford, Collins presents the director's role as simply that of a mirror (of the soul):
And by the way, Jean Negulesco ensured that Joan didn't wear nail polish and didn't wear hats in Humoresque so that there wouldn't be anything to detract from her face. Would you like to see the sketch he did of Joan Crawford where he tried to convey to her in some way the qualities he wanted to capture? [my italics] (Collins The Golden Years of Hollywood 1991)
At the same time, the capacity for the star (as opposed to the actor) to transform a role eludes critical explanation or intervention. Accordingly, as the sketch is displayed before the television audience, Collins continues: 'Now I don't pretend to try and explain this. I don't think you can explain beauty. Sometimes it is better not to' (ibid). At this point, Collins renounces his role as interpreter in order to offer the text as unmediated experience. 10
It is this abolition of critical distance which has most exercised Beresford's ire. The privileging of the auteur is constructed in terms of an aesthetics of form which implies "perspective". Despite the fact that the critical distance demanded within this and other mainstream critical practices bears little resemblance to that required by Benjamin, they share with him a suspicion of those elements of classic Hollywood cinema which insert/invite the spectator into the text. (Yet, while the auteurist conception of critical distance underpins the identification of a totalising artistic imagination, Benjamin requires a critical relationship with film which defies any imposed system of representation.) In contrast, Collins offers as his favourite film the film which is perceived as the most popular Hollywood product, 11 justifying his choice, not by reading the popular text against the grain, but by celebrating the capacity of this text to overcome him:
Gone with the Wind since I saw it when I was ten. I think my passion for film became an obsession with that film - after that I was a different kind of movielover. When people ask me what my favourite films are I don't pretend by listing one by Ray and one by Kurosawa etc. I think the most interesting assessment comes from people who are emotionally involved in something and care about it and who want other people to experience it. (Filmnews September 1991, 9)
While Collins's status as a critic is often questioned because of his lack of discrimination and over-developed capacity for identification, he suggests that it is precisely his ability to be delighted by classic Hollywood cinema in general which assures his critical expertise. For Collins, formal criticism is pretence. Indeed, it is when he is speaking or writing about the despised and despicable critic that he most emphatically casts aside his mantle of mediator and offers himself as exemplary critic:
If someone says to me that he didn't think much of a particular movie I have presented, I reply that his reaction may tell me more about his perception, the quality of his appreciation, his receptivity and so on, than about the film itself...
We all have our likes and dislikes, many of them irrational and emotional. They are often due to the mood we are in - or even our ignorance. I know one thing. I approach every movie I see as open-mindedly as I can. I would rather enjoy than not enjoy. I prefer to find the good rather than bad. (Collins Bill Collins Presents vi)
In statements such as these Collins is offering his sensibility as superior to the smugness of the majority of other critics. Indeed, in an interesting about-face, the very critical distance prescribed by mainstream criticism becomes within Collins's formula its opposite, a rather petty form of self-absorption. Hence, when presenting Of Human Hearts, Collins predicts an alternate (but not alternative) viewing position in which his reading of heart-warming and venerable would become sentimental and dated:
Let me say something to you. If you're a cynic or a critic or a very clever critic and you like picking movies to pieces, then I think you'd better find something else to do because this film will probably displease you. (Collins The Golden Years of Hollywood 1991)
While Collins's open-mindedness ultimately constitutes a preference for a particular product, it is interesting, particularly in relation to his special position between two media, to see this espoused openness to the text as conjuring up the desiring relationship which is much more specifically an element of the relationship posited between the spectator and the experience of cinema than between the viewer and television: 'The cinema is attended out of desire, not reluctance, in the hope that the film will please, not that it will displease' (Metz as cited by Flitterman-Lewis 180). Within this theoretical framework, it is the classical narrative which is offered as most conducive to the spectator's pleasurable insertion into the alternative world of the film:
If the traditional film tends to suppress all the marks of the subject of enunciation, this is in order that the viewer may have the impression of being that subject himself, but an empty, absent subject, a pure capacity for seeing. (Flitterman-Lewis, 185)
It is with reference to this kind of identification through fantasy that Collins offers his films to his audience. Of Now Voyager, he proclaims: 'This is a film which changed my life. Perhaps it will change yours' (Collins The Golden Years of Hollywood 1989). Indeed, his preliminary discussion of this film involves a rather literal working through of this process of identification when he rationalises his personal involvement with the plight of the main female character in the following terms:
And yet I believe, in Now Voyager, we have a central female character in Charlotte Vale who could, with a little imagination, have been a male character. Because what she goes through [are] the same kinds of things as what many men have gone through in their lives. Perhaps there are some right now who are watching who realise that they are unloved by someone whose love they desire most of all. Perhaps there are some who want to be self-determining persons but just can't pick up the courage to do so. (Collins The Golden Years of Hollywood 1989)
Yet, as is perhaps demonstrated by this clumsy attempt to masculinise his affinity with the character of Charlotte Vale (and/or the star Bette Davis), such an excessive identification is conventionally associated with the female spectator (as opposed to the female viewer whose relationship with television is perceived in quite different terms):
The idea that the cinematic image functions as a lure, so forcefully elaborated in contemporary film theory, seems to apply even more insistently in the case of the female spectator who, in the popular imagination, repeatedly "gives in" to its fascination. Proximity rather than distance, passivity, over-involvement and over-identification (the use of the term "weepies" to indicate women's pictures is symptomatic here) - these are the tropes which enable the woman's assumption of the position of "subject" of the gaze. (Doane 2)
The assertion of a peculiarly feminine relationship with culture, as Andreas Huyssen has discussed, connects with an association of the feminine with so-called inferior forms of culture, in particular mass culture. Using the example of Madame Bovary, Huyssen points to Flaubert's detached and ironic assessment of Emma Bovary's obsession with romantic novels:
One aspect of the difference that is important to my argument about the gender inscriptions in the mass culture debate is that woman (Madame Bovary) is positioned as reader of inferior literature - subjective, emotional and passive - while man (Flaubert) emerges as writer of genuine, authentic literature - objective, ironic, and in control of his aesthetic means. (189-90)
The dichotomy between high culture and mass culture and the hidden insertion of opposed gender subject positions, is one which allows for one culture to speak its value while the other is pledged to embarrassed silence. Ien Ang discusses the mass culture critique in terms of its incapacity to account for the very real pleasures experienced by a large quantity of Dallas viewers:
The privileging of "good" television produces a sort of ideological closure; its authority makes it difficult if not impossible for Dallas fans to construct an autonomous positive discourse about what the show means to them. In other words, what this "discourse of the Great Divide" produces is a silence as to the very real pleasures that people experience from watching Dallas. It entails a downright rejection of that pleasure, it cannot understand it except in a negative way. It is "cultural absolutism". ("(Not) Coming to Terms" 75)
Within Huyssen's 'Great Divide' ('the kind of discourse which insists on the categorical distinction between high art and mass culture' (cited in Ang 72), the opposition between actively productive male and passively consuming female further demonstrates the ideological function of the critic as defined by Beresford. In these terms it is revealing to locate the high culture rejection of Bill Collins because of his particular interest in recuperating precisely those texts which have been devalued for their melodramatic or sentimental nature.
The mass culture critique offers the dismissal of the mass culture product as grounded in an inherent and natural logic: it goes without saying that certain texts are culturally inferior. However, in the case of Bill Collins it is worth noting the extent to which he is spoken and recirculated, particularly within the forum of television itself. The fact that Australian commercial television in general is seen as being on the wrong side of the Great Divide does not interfere with an internalised application of this critique. Hence, Channel 9 employs the television-hating Clive Robertson in order to give the station a certain cultural legitimacy, while Channel 7 sifts and satirises the medium in Fast Forward. Within this context, Collins has been parodied to such an extent that he seems to be contemplating copyrighting himself. Jim Schembri, tackling Collins on 'those local comedians who send him up', is told that:
I'd like to have residuals. I think it's amazing; after 25 years, they're still doing it. I mean, God Almighty, can't they think of anything else to do? (The Age "Green Guide" July 18 1991, 1)
Obviously such parody stems in part from the fact that Collins seems to take himself so seriously (and here he joins with Derryn Hinch, another prime target). 12 However (and taking oneself seriously probably intersects with this), 13 another element in the amusement, even disbelief, which is generated by Collins connects with the similarity between his critical practice and the mythology of a peculiarly feminine intersection with mass culture. Cora Kaplan describes an enduring post-enlightenment model underlining the denunciation of popular romance readers in the name of feminism:
Female subjectivity was characterised in this account by its retrograde tendency to take up other subject positions and identify self as object. It was this already unstable, degraded subject (constructed in childhood and early adolescence) that reads romance and fantasizes about it...Popular sensational literature both reinforced and evoked a set of romantic scenarios which the reader will use at once to interpret, act through and escape from ordinary lives. (147)
Collins is reproduced as a kind of cultural transvestite, ridiculous in his enthusiastic appropriation of a culturally inferior position. In another context, Mary Ann Doane uses Adam's Rib in order to point out that the female desire for gender transformation is signified as natural/unremarkable, while any such male desire for the feminine becomes ridiculous:
What characterises the sequence is the marked facility of the transformation of the two women into men in contradistinction to a certain resistance in the case of the man. The acceptability of the female reversal is quite distinctly opposed to the male reversal which seems capable of representation only in terms of farce. Male transvestism is an occasion for laughter; female transvestism only another occasion for desire. (Doane "Film and Masquerade" 81)
At the same time, femininity (or the lack of masculinity) has been read within patriarchy as contained and represented by personal adornment. In this way, it is interesting that a parody of Collins may be instantly signalled by an obvious wig to represent his abundant and suspiciously dark hair, thick glasses and a brightly coloured jacket. 14 Collins's complication of gender positions is reproduced in the popular discourses which surround him in terms of a questioning of his sexuality. Consequently, Beresford offers him as a victim of an arrested development because of all of those 'impressionable childhood years' spent in the cinema, while he is described by Josephine Brouard as 'indulging himself - like a schoolgirl with chocs - with another movie "bite"' (Cleo, November 1986, 102). Recently, Cleo named Collins as the fourth unsexiest man alive, describing him in terms which specifically align his uncritical enthusiasm for the product he presents with a lack of sexuality:
You're going to love this one; he's adorable in it. There's a wonderful little moment when he smiles for the first time and you think: 'Who is this clown?' Then you realise he's serious! He cares! He loves you, the viewer, and he adores his work. Which is just Fabulous! And you adore him, too, for his screaming-to-be satirised soliloquies, his straight-off-a-choccie-box delivery, his tragic red sports coats...But huggable isn't necessarily hunk. Adorable is teddy bear, toddlers and late-movie-tear-jerkers. Sexy is something else entirely - I mean can you imagine actually doing it with Bill Baby? See you next week. (Cleo August 1991, 94)
In her essay "Femininity as mas(s)querade", Tania Modleski offers a reading of Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman in which the relationship between the effeminate homosexual consumer of mass culture and the marxist revolutionary deconstructs the opposition between masculinity/production/writing and femininity/consumption/reading. Modleski points to the way Molina's constructed femininity, which is at first ridiculed by the macho Valentin, finally operates to collapse the opposition constructed between them and to reposition the revolutionary within the relationship to pleasure offered by Molina:
As for Molina, his identification with the passive and often masochistic heroines of his films, his swooning rapture over the films he describes, would appear to make him the ideal manipulated consumer. On the contrary, however, it becomes increasingly apparent as the novel progresses that Molina uses the films in order to do his own manipulating. On occasion he admits to resorting to strategy, as when he confesses that he likes to leave Valentin hanging so he will enjoy the film more. 'You have to do it that way with the public, otherwise they're not satisfied. On the radio they always used to do that to you. And now on the TV soaps' (25-6). In other words, Molina uses the techniques of manipulation he has learned from his adored mass culture in order to seduce Valentin into his web. (46)
It is within this context that I would suggest that any discussion of the discourses which circulate about Bill Collins needs to take into account the circulation of his own metadiscursive self-representation. In a curious fashion, a review of the biographical and autobiographical material which has been produced during Collins's career on television echoes Molina's movement from textual innocence in which the text read him (· la Barthes) to one of extra-textual trickery in which he reads the audience.
In the early days of his television appearances he offered a personal biography to Elisabeth Wynhausen which established a suspicious correspondence with the persona on the screen:
Not long before midnight, we were back at the projector, so that Collins could show me a personal favourite, the early colour film Sweethearts (1938), one of the Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy musicals. MacDonald is the pinnacle of all of Collins' dreams. 'She's gorgeous, glamorous, always stunningly gowned. What could I compare her to. It's like Rachmaninov, Puccini. Everything they ever created, I adore.' As MacDonald, in long plaits and a lacy fanned cap, started to trill, Collins waltzed around the room. 'Isn't that showbiz. Look at it! They're gods and goddesses, the ultimate.' He stopped waltzing and stood, waving his arms to the music, conducting perhaps. 'Look at that spotlight.' (The National Times November 21-26, 1977, 5)
While Ellis suggests that it is in fact this conflation of performance and biography which defines the television personality as essentially ordinary, this biographical sketch furthers the connection between Collins and the extraordinary world of the classic Hollywood film. It is within this context that Wynhausen negotiates the play between performance and reality:
Collins is a performer, a ham - it is difficult to guess how contrived. Certainly all the film kitsch in his life means much to him. When he gestured melodramatically and said: 'My life is up there, love, there on the screen,' he was not simply spoofing himself. (The National Times November 21-26, 1977, 5)
Yet Collins is inserted, not as a star despite his production of himself in these terms, but as himself an example of the kitsch he so adores. Consequently, the reader, and by implication the viewer, is asked to read Bill from an ironic distance. Wynhausen interrupts the relationship ostensibly being established between the host and his show to assert an ironic reading which, as Ien Ang has suggested in Watching Dallas, encompasses the pleasure of the cultural product but evades the mass culture critique. In this context, Wynhausen accounts for the success of the original Golden Years of Hollywood: 'It went on nine years. Collins became a cult figure. Devotees switched on lousy films to watch his performance' (The National Times November 21-26, 1977, 4).
The ironic viewing perspective Wynhausen describes depends on the unwitting nature of the performance. 15 Consequently, she struggles with her perception of Collins as a performer. It is interesting to speculate about the effect on not only the reading of Collins offered by Wynhausen but also that which underpins Beresford's diatribe, if 'Mr Movies' is not totally serious/genuine. Lyndell Fairleigh, in an interview suggestively entitled "A Picture [my italics] of Sincerity" points to the way the whole production of Collins unravels if one suspects Bill's sincerity/authenticity for a moment: '...sincerity is at issue and to doubt it would, I suspect, be to doubt Bill Collins in every facet of his life' (Australian Left Review, February 1990, 35). In this context, what is the impact of the interview with Clive Robertson in which Collins offers his language as far from straightforward and sincere? Instead it becomes a code: 'When I say that this is a film which you will enjoy watching again and again that means turn off the television and switch on your VCRs for the night, you fools.'
In Collins's production of himself this chameleon-like quality further connects him to the medium of film and, increasingly, is offered as an example of his distance from television. Appropriately, his admission that he actually recommends films which he does not like comes out in an interview with Clive Robertson, a man of a similar age whose position on television is very much that of high culture critic of television - a paradox which he celebrates. In this context, Collins joins with him in an expression of a mutual distaste for the television product:
You are an imitable man, people send you up. How do you take it? Do you watch it?
No, I never see them. I don't watch much television.
Come on. I've heard you don't like it much.
Well you know what irritates me, Clive. Do they ever have a go at you too?
No, I don't watch.
Well, I don't watch either.
But you get irritated I know.
However, despite such efforts to dissociate himself from the banality of television, Collins's "split" personality ultimately could be seen to re-emphasise his connection to television and mass culture in terms of a cynical alignment of himself with the commercial demands of television. Diana Simmonds acknowledges the connection between the 'bifocalised' Collins and the desire to keep his job within a discussion of his ambivalence towards Colorisation:
'I have to be careful,' he says. 'Having a public platform is very important in this kind of work. It would be foolish to jeopardise it. And there's no point in upsetting people just to make yourself feel better for a moment.' (The Bulletin, August 14, 1990, 65)
Within this discussion she also observes that Collins's adoption of a new 'altogether more cerebral' style for his appearance on SBS 'revealed how much of a conscious performer and careful marketer Collins is'. Hence, it would seem that far from inserting himself within the kind of masculinist discourse offered by Beresford, Bill Collins has the choice between being ridiculously sincere or scheming and duplicitous. It could be said that, in the very process of inserting a distance between himself and mass culture, Collins becomes further entwined within the mass culture critique: he is either a cultural dupe or cultural trickster.
Recalling Modleski's discussion of the Kiss of the Spiderwoman, it seems that the collapsing, within the character of Molina, of the opposition between consumption and production ultimately reaffirms those very fears which have produced and attached themselves to the discourses of femininity and mass culture. In discussing the perceived threat to masculinity posed by broadcast technology, Lynn Spigel cites, in a particularly vivid example, Philip Wylie's Generation of Vipers written in the early 1940s:
Just as Goebbels has revealed what can be done with such a mass stamping of the public psyche in his nation, so our land is a living representation of the same fact worked out in matriarchal sentimentality, goo, slop, hidden cruelty, and the foreshadow of national death. (Wylie as cited by Spigel "Television in the Family Circle" 87)
This fear of the feminising capacity of mass culture adheres to Collins in homophobic terms, a response which points to the schematic nature of the positions available within cultural discourse. According to the formula offered by Beresford, the films shown by Collins are inauthentic simulations in the same way that Collins simulates his role as critic, and even his "manhood". Furthermore, and here I recall Pauline Kael's version of an authentic and inauthentic cultural tradition, it would seem that television becomes a succubus drawing in a formless, meaningless mass culture. According to this hegemonic cultural dichotomy, the very association of masculinity and television becomes unsettling. Hence, when Collins joins the ranks of the ten most unsexy men alive in Cleo, he is accompanied by five other television personalities and not a single film star, while, on the other hand, eight of the ten most sexy men are film stars. (The only television performer is Kyle Maclachlan, who presumably rates a place because of the filmic virtues of Twin Peaks.)
Yet, it would be difficult - nay, impossible - to imagine David Stratton, John Hinde or Ivan Hutchinson ever being considered for such a list. While varying in their address to the popular, they occupy a position which assumes a historical and critical distance from the films they present. Often this "criticism" (particularly with Hinde) may be no more than paraphrase, but it is the kind of plot summary which attaches film to the literary, described by Fiske and Hartley as 'narrative, sequential, linear, static, artifact, abstract, permanent, individual, metonymic, logical, univocal/"consistent" ' (Fiske 106). Rosalind Coward suggests that a recent trend has been to legitimate television with reference to the same auteurism which allowed a popular cinema in search of respectability become identified with the literary (passim). It is unlikely that this kind of trend would have much content to sustain it in the current grim economic climate of Australian television. However, if it is true that television is being increasingly identified with those conventions which it was once defined against, I wonder what may be made of Bill Collins's current exile from the "Saturday night out at home" to the dreary confines of Sunday afternoon?
1. Meaghan Morris has taken the opposite point of view and suggests in her article "Banality in Cultural Studies" that television has become so integral to the process of representation that its disruption signals a cutting through the banal 'to something like truth': 'So people panicked, and waited anxiously for details. But the catastrophe was that there was no information. Now, this was not a catastrophe on TV - like the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger - but a catastrophe of and for TV.There were no pictures, no reports, just silence - which had long ceased to be coded as paradisal, as it was in my fable of origin, but was now the very definition of a state of total emergency. The announcer's stammer was devastating. He had lost control of all the mechanisms for assuring credibility; his palpable personal distress had exposed us, unbelievably, to something like a truth' (17).
2. On the other hand, the "slick" American product could just as easily be seen as the touchstone of television. However, as Ien Ang suggests in her study of Dallas, such a product can be seen as a perversion of the local (real) function of television. She quotes the chairman of the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation as follows: 'No one can maintain that these American series are of a high standard as regards content. They are at most cleverly made' (Ang Watching Dallas 95).
3. Admittedly, I am at this point essentialising Collins's position, removing him from the processes of history and denying him the capacity for change. As I will be discussing later, he has recently been intent on unfixing this necessary connection between the product he presents and his own taste.
4. Another way of opening which also relies on the 'That's Entertainment' theme involves the presentation of 'The Golden Years of Hollywood' as a photo album cover which is then opened in order to reveal the films of the past.
5. Fiske and Hartley list the properties associated with these two modes as follows. The oral is: 'dramatic, episodic, mosaic, dynamic, active, concrete, ephemeral, social, metaphorical, rhetorical, dialectical', while the literate is: 'narrative, sequential, linear, static, artifact, abstract, permanent, individual, metonymic, logical, univocal/"consistent"' (cited in Fiske, 105-6)
6. Hence the allusion to the photo album. See note 4.
7. 'I'm reminding some of you that you did promise, Ladies and Gentlemen, that you are going to stay up late for our second movie tonight, King Vidor's Ruby Gentry. When this film first came out in the 1950s, all of the critics, who couldn't appreciate it, really panned it. And now film scholars regard it as one of King Vidor's most extraordinary achievements. You can judge for yourself tonight' (Collins, The Golden Years of Hollywood Sat. Dec. 15, 1990).
8. It is this way of reading which Ien Ang terms 'emotional realism': '[T]his realism has to do with with the recognition of a tragic structure of feeling, which is felt as "real" and which makes sense for these viewers'(Ang Watching Dallas 87).
9. Benjamin describes this as follows: 'Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be'(222).
10. However, in keeping with the oscillations I have been attempting to describe in this essay, this elaboration of the star is enabled by television precisely because of the absence of stars within this medium. Richard Ellis has suggested that the creation of a star depends on the contrast, within the one image, of the ordinary and the extraordinary and that television allows no such variation of light and shade. However, within the format offered by Collins, dependent as it is on the opposition between the accessible world of television and the elusive, mysterious cinematic past, even the most minor star in the Hollywood firmament begins to glow more brightly.
11. Admittedly, in recent times, Collins has expanded his taste to accommodate a fairly eclectic array of modern films but, in the process, has started to sound increasingly peremptory. Hence, to a recent question regarding the nature of a quality film, Collins replied: 'A film I like'(Filmnews, September 1991, 8).
12. Another essay could be written on Derryn Hinch's construction within the mass culture arena. It could be suggested that he has a similar relationship with his material as Collins.
13. Beresford begins his diatribe by referring to his notion of the exemplary critic, a notion which takes for granted the value of a distancing (superior) wit · la Clive James.
14. Indeed, these jackets have achieved the distinction of a special feature in the Age's 'Good Weekend': 'Many of the movies Bill Collins shows on TV are in black and white, but the man himself rarely appears on screen in any other state than vivid colour, courtesy of his amazing wardrobe of jackets. "Most people look so drab," he laments. "I can't see why men can't wear bright colours like women. I just want people to look at me and say, 'Gosh, he's bright'" (The Age "Good Weekend" May 16 1991, 8). Derryn Hinch is also available for such metonymic representation.
15. It may be remembered that Bruce Beresford's diatribe depends on the seriousness of Collins's criticism. However, Beresford's elevation of the notion of auteur and authority depends on the serious reading of the "real" work of art. In contrast, the ironic stance looks to read against the grain in order to construct a reading which defies the author's intention.
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