Dick, Bernard F. 1935-

views updated

Dick, Bernard F. 1935-
(Bernard Francis Dick)


Born November 25, 1935, in Scranton, PA; son of Jacob Nelson and Anita Dick; married Katherine M. Restaino (an adjunct professor of English and communications), July 31, 1965. Education: University of Scranton, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1957; Fordham University, M.A., 1960, Ph.D., 1962. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, theater.


Home—580 Wyndham Rd., Teaneck, NJ 07666-2612. Office—College at Florham, 285 Madison Ave., Madison, NJ 07940. E-mail—[email protected].


Educator and writer. Iona College, New Rochelle, NY, instructor, 1960-63, assistant professor of classics, 1963-67, associate professor of classics and chairman of department, 1967-70; Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, associate professor, 1970-73, professor of English and comparative literature and chairman of department, 1973-95, director of School of Communication Arts, 1996-97, professor of communications and English, 1996—. College of New Rochelle, NY, adjunct lecturer, 1962-63. Has made numerous radio and television appearances; consultant to A&E Entertainment.


Assistantship in classics, Fordham University, 1957-60; outstanding scholarly book of the year award, Choice, for The Star-spangled Screen: The American World War II Film; Fairleigh Dickinson University award for distinguished scholarship, 1991.


William Golding, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1967, revised edition, Macmillan (Boston, MA), 1987.

The Hellenism of Mary Renault, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1972.

The Apostate Angel: A Critical Study of Gore Vidal, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.

Anatomy of Film, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1978, 5th edition, 2004.

Billy Wilder, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1980, revised edition, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1996.

(Editor) Dark Victory (screenplay), University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1981.

Hellman in Hollywood, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Madison, NJ), 1982.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1983.

The Star-spangled Screen: The American World War II Film, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1985, revised edition, 1996.

Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1989.

(Editor) Columbia Pictures: Portrait of a Studio, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1991.

The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1993.

City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1997.

Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2001.

Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2004.

Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 2006.

Classical World, associate editor, 1961-63, contributing editor, 1963-68. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Classical Philology, Literature-Film Quarterly, Southern Quarterly, Georgia Review, and Bucknell Review.


Bernard F. Dick has specialized in film history, film criticism, and screenwriting, the foci of his many books about the icons and history of Hollywood. In his book The Star-spangled Screen: The American World War II Film—first published in 1985 and revised in 1996—Dick shows how films were influenced during and following the war with their emphasis on patriotism and characters that elevated everyday people—the soldier, the girl he left behind, his mother—to the status of heroes and heroines. Dick looks at such postwar films as Battleground (1949), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Patton (1970), Biloxi Blues (1986), and Schindler's List (1993).

Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten is Dick's examination of the plays, films, novels, poems, and memoirs of the ten individuals who refused to answer questions from the House Committee on Un- American Activities regarding their affiliations with the Communist Party and the suspect Screen Writers Guild. A Book News contributor called Radical Innocence "an intriguing work of a strange time."

Dick has written two books that focus on Columbia Studios. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Michael E. Ross commented that the first, Columbia Pictures: Portrait of a Studio, "sheds light on one part of a frenzied, fractious industry." The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures is a history of the studio and the man who ran it from 1932 until his death in 1958, and was compiled using archival materials, including teletypes sent between Harry Cohn and his brother Jack, as well as interviews with some of the survivors of the Cohn days. Harry took the studio known for churning out B films to new heights with talents like director Frank Capra and actress Jean Arthur.

Film Quarterly contributor Matthew Bernstein wrote that in Dick's lengthiest chapter, he "sets out one of the book's major claims: ‘Harry, who had the most diverse background of any of the moguls (pool hall hustler, trolley car conductor, nickelodeon performer, song plugger), wanted movies that, like himself, were not easily categorized.’ According to Dick, Cohn embraced Capra's knack for creating a melting pot of genres and applied it to many of Columbia's non-Capra films—for instance, screwball romance and feminist sentiment (social consciousness) in She Married Her Boss." Bernstein added: "I do not find [Dick] convincing about the reasons for what he calls ‘CapraCohn.’ He neglects the ‘impurities’ that existed in film genres (e.g., screwball comedies frequently posited great equality between the sexes anyway)." Bernstein called chapter nine, in which Dick discusses Cohn's contributions to such films as

From Here to Eternity, All the King's Men, and Born Yesterday, "the most satisfying." Robert Osborne, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, commented: "Writers have been trying to sort out Cohn-the-myth and Cohnthe- man but no one has yet done it in more fascinating detail than Bernard Dick." He called the biography "extremely readable, stuffed with a tankful of facts."

Dick's study City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures largely focuses on German immigrant Carl Laemmle, who went to California from New Jersey, founded Universal City in 1912, and with the help of his son, Carl Jr., controlled the studio responsible for many of the classic horror films, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Phantom of the Opera. Dick uses stills, photos, and publicity shots to illustrate City of Dreams. Thomas J. Weiner wrote in Library Journal that Dick attempts to integrate "an enormous amount of material into a relatively modest space, and he's only intermittently successful." However, a reviewer for Sight and Sound called City of Dreams a "shrewd, well-researched biography."

Comedy reigned at Universal in the 1940s, spurred by talents like Abbott and Costello. Universal's films from the 1950s on were driven by talented directors and producers, such as Steven Spielberg, who became associated with the studio in the 1970s. Lew Wasserman headed MCA, the parent company of Universal, from the 1960s into the 1980s. Film Quarterly reviewer Douglas Gomery noted that Dick covers Wasserman with "but a page a year. But this MCA period, not the Laemmle era, ought to provide the core decades for Universal; this is the period when the studio stood at the very peak of Hollywood power, influence, and innovation. Dick is right that information on Lew Wasserman and company is hard to get, but, again, data access and availability ought not dictate the structure of this historical analysis and argument."

Alfred Hitchcock joined Wasserman at Universal, and Gregory Peck won "best actor" for his role in To Kill a Mockingbird. Wasserman paved the way for television movies and miniseries with productions such as

Columbo, Kojak, and The Six-Million-Dollar Man. Movies like Jaws and E.T. brought in revenues in the billions of dollars.

Dick follows the artistic history of Universal and its changing ownership, including its sale to Decca, MCA, Matsushita, then to Seagrams of Canada, a sequence of events that a Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed "not an easy mix." Gomery noted that such a complex history "should have ended with the bowing out of Lew Wasserman, leaving to later historians the task of analyzing the corporation's fate as part of one of the world's largest liquor companies." Still, a Kirkus Reviews contributor was pleased with Dick's accounting, writing that "most major points in the studio's fortunes are clearly recounted." "The problems of keeping a studio going receive detailed and juicy treatment," wrote Gerald F. Kreyche in USA Today.

Dick examines how the influx of corporate money has changed the Hollywood moviemaking business in his book Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood. In the first half of the book, the author primarily focuses on Paramount, a long-time leader in the Hollywood film industry, and describes how the advent of television in the 1950s and declining revenues opened the door for outside business interests and a move towards diversification that ultimately resulted in the sale of the studio. Dick then explores different business deals and the growing influence of large corporations on various studios. Writing in the Library Journal, Carol J. Binkowski called the book a "thoroughly researched story." A Publishers Weekly contributor referred to the book as "an important addition to literature on Hollywood and the economics of entertainment."

In the biography Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars, Dick follows the life and career of the influential Hollywood producer who, while working at Warner Brothers, oversaw the making of such film classics as Casa-blanca. He also helped launch the movie careers of many notable actors, such as Edward G. Robinson and Shirley MacLaine, and recruited Elvis Presley to acting. Dick also presents his case for Wallis's inclusion among the great Hollywood producers even though Wallis never achieved during his lifetime the accolades of other successful Hollywood producers. Gregory McNamee, writing in the Hollywood Reporter, referred to the biography as an "always illuminating life of Wallis," also noting that "it gives a great filmmaker his due."

Dick once told CA: "Although all my degrees are in classics, a decision I have never regretted, I only taught and published in that discipline for a short time before moving into comparative literature and then film history, which I now consider my field. The training I received in Latin and Greek proved invaluable to my research in film. I cannot say exactly why I have been writing about film for the past twenty-five years. The fact that movies were part of my childhood does not explain how a pastime became a career. Rather, I think that exposure to the classics gave me an appreciation for the past—the need to preserve it and fill in the gaps that either indifference or carelessness have created.

"When I work in archives and pour over memos and teletypes bearing the names of legendary studio heads like Darryl Zanuck and Harry Cohn, I feel something akin to what a medieval monk might have experienced when he found a manuscript of The Aeneid in a pile of dust-covered scrolls. Every new project entails discovery; I never know if a Minotaur is lurking in the labyrinth, but the armor of scholarship that I carry from my classical past protects me from the one great fear that scholars in all fields have: the fear of being so overwhelmed by the research that one yields to selfdoubt and abandons the project. If monks could transcribe the ancient epics, I can sort through production files. After all, I don't have to illuminate manuscripts."



Book News, April, 1989, review of Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten, p. 24; September, 1994, review of The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures, p. 39.

Business History, July, 2002, Gerben Bakker, review of Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood, p. 146.

Choice, May, 1992, T. Cripps, review of Columbia Pictures: Portrait of a Studio, p. 1403.

Cinema Canada, June, 1984, George L. George, review of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, p. 20.

Film Quarterly, summer, 1983, Alan Williams, review of Hellman in Hollywood, p. 36; fall, 1985, Karen Jaehne, review of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, p. 49; summer, 1989, Larry Ceplair, review of Radical Innocence, p. 33; summer, 1995, Matthew Bernstein, review of The Merchant of Poverty Row, p. 51; fall, 1998, Douglas Gomery, review of City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures, p. 76.

Hollywood Reporter, April 26, 1994, Robert Osborne, review of The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row; July 8, 2004, Gregory McNamee, review of Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars, p. 12.

Journal of American Culture, spring, 1991, Adam J. Sorkin, review of Radical Innocence, p. 93.

Journal of American History, March, 1990, Robert Sklar, review of Radical Innocence, p. 1324; March, 1999, Steven J. Ross, review of City of Dreams, p. 1637.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1997, review of City of Dreams, p. 517.

Library Journal, July, 1980, Roy Liebman, review of Billy Wilder, p. 1536; June 1, 1997, Thomas J. Weiner, review of City of Dreams, p. 100; August, 2001, Carol J. Binkowski, review of Engulfed, p. 111; April 15, 2004, Roy Liebman, review of Hal Wallis, p. 87.

Literature-Film Quarterly, October, 1994, Richard Keenan, review of Columbia Pictures, p. 278.

New York Times Book Review, March 8, 1992, Michael E. Ross, review of Columbia Pictures, p. 17.

Pacific Historical Review, May, 1993, Clayton R, Koppes, review of Columbia Pictures, p. 255; February, 1999, Gregory D. Black, review of City of Dreams, p. 117.

Publishers Weekly, November 4, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Radical Innocence, p. 69; April 7, 1997, review of City of Dreams, p. 81; June 25, 2001, review of Engulfed, p. 62.

Sight and Sound, August, 1997, review of City of Dreams, p. 30.

USA Today, March, 1998, Gerald F. Kreyche, review of City of Dreams, p. 80.


Fairleigh Dickinson University Web site,http://www.fdu.edu/ (May 19, 2006), faculty profile of author.

About this article

Dick, Bernard F. 1935-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article