Stempel, Thomas Ritter 1941-

views updated

STEMPEL, Thomas Ritter 1941-

(Tom Stempel)

PERSONAL:

Born December 1, 1941, in Bloomington, IN; son of John Emmert and Mary Roberts (Farmer) Stempel; married Kerstin Elisabeth Sutherland, December 6, 1964; children: Audrey Ann. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1963; University of CaliforniaLos Angeles, M.F.A., 1970, Ph.D., 1975. Politics: Republican. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, walking, watching movies and television, theatre, classical music.

ADDRESSES:

HomeLos Angeles, CA. Office—Los Angeles City College, 855 North Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029-3516.

CAREER:

Research associate, American Film Institute, Los Angeles, CA, 1970-71; Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles, CA, professor, beginning 1971, became professor of cinema; writer. Tour guide, MGM Studios Tour, 1986. Military service: United States Navy, 1963-67; became lieutenant.

WRITINGS:

UNDER NAME TOM STEMPEL

Screenwriter: The Life and Times of Nunnally Johnson,

A. S. Barnes (San Diego, CA), 1980.

Screenwriting, A. S. Barnes, (San Diego, CA), 1982.

Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the America Film, Continuum, (New York, NY), 1988.

Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing, Continuum, (New York, NY), 1992, revised with new afterword, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1996.

Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film, 3rd edition, foreword by Philip Dunne, Syracuse University Press, (Syracuse, NY), 2000.

American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS:

Thomas Ritter Stempel has spent the better part of three decades as a professor of film history and screenwriting at Los Angeles City College. His books on the subject include Screenwriter: The Life and Times of Nunnally Johnson, which details the life of the journalist-turned-movie-scribe who wrote screenplays such as The Grapes of Wrath, How to Marry a Millionaire, and The Dirty Dozen during his forty years in Hollywood. Los Angeles Times reviewer Bill Desowitz described the book as "a readable and informative biography—complete with memorable anecdotes and curiously insightful content. It not only tells us about Johnson's successful… years as a screenwriter and occasional producer and director with Paramount and Fox, but also serves as a reverential ode to the craft of screenwriting itself." Similarly, a critic in Publishers Weekly thought Stempel's books offers a fine guide for other authors looking to pen works about screenwriters, commenting "it is a thorough, thoughtful, lively, illuminating study that stresses and explains the writer's importance to films."

The delicate relationship between a film and its audience was the topic of Stempel's 2001 study, American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing. In an age of mass communication, it is often the "buzz" of audience approval, as much as a high-priced marketing campaign or critical reaction, that helps ensure a film's box-office success. Such movies as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for example, struck a chord with Americans and became "sleeper" hits without the benefit of large advertising budgets or marquee stars. But the success of Crouching Tiger "does not necessarily mean [audiences] will flock to the next Asian marital arts flick, although this will not prevent a stream of similar pictures being made in the near future and most probably by the Hollywood studios," said George Papadopoulos in a Senses of Cinema article. In an American Studies review, Sam Gigus thought that American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing raises issues that ought to be discussed and that "Stempel's book will provide a good beginning for some for such a discussion."

The author presents American Audiences chronologically, beginning with the 1950s, the last decade of silver-screen dominance before television's emergence as the most popular form of visual entertainment. Later chapters bring the story up to the age of videocassette recorders and other high-tech developments. Quotes from average moviegoers are included; one of them gives a quick analysis of the adventure film Top Gun: "Big bad plane, big bad motorcycle, and big bad Kelly McGillis." Another sums up Return of the Jedi this way: "A moronic, very 'Hollywoody' script, and a bunch of dancing teddy bears." Papadopoulos described this book as "not as ground-breaking as Stempel would have you believe," though the author "does raise many pertinent issues in regards to movie audience reception."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

AB Bookman's Weekly, December 9, 1996, review of Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing, p. 2001.

American Cinematographer, November, 1982, review of Screenwriting, p. 1107; March, 1989, review of Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film; December, 2001, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing.

American Studies, spring, 2002, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, pp. 196-197.

Booklist, November 15, 1988, review of Framework, p. 533.

Choice, March, 1989, review of Framework, p. 1172; March, 1993, review of Storytellers to the Nation, p. 1159; October, 2001, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, p. 318.

Cineaste, summer, 2002, Marco Calavita, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, p. 110.

Classic Images, December, 1992, review of Storytellers to the Nation; June, 2001, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing.

Creative Screenwriting, January-February, 2002, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, p. 58.

Emmy, April, 1993, review of Storytellers to the Nation, p. 22.

Film Quarterly, summer, 1989, review of Framework, p. 49.

Films in Review, November, 1990, review of Framework, p. 566.

Foreword, December, 2000-January, 2001, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, p. 74.

Georgia Review, summer, 1989, review of Framework, p. 423.

Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, winter, 1996, review of Storytellers to the Nation, p. 1016.

Journalism Quarterly, autumn, 1989, review of Framework, p. 763; summer, 1993, review of Storytellers to the Nation, p. 453.

Journal of Popular Film and Television, fall, 1997, review of Storytellers to the Nation, p. 140.

Library Journal, December, 1988, review of Framework, p. 129; October 1, 1992, review of Storytellers to the Nation, p. 90; January 1, 2001, Stephen Rees, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, p. 110.

Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1980, Bill Desowitz, review of Screenwriter: The Life and Times of Nunnally Johnson.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 11, 1982; August 15, 1982, review of Screenwriting.

New York Times Book Review, January 17, 1993, review of Storytellers to the Nation, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, June 6, 1980, review of Screenwriter, pp. 11-78.

Reference & Research Book News, December, 1991, review of Framework, p. 28; May, 2001, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, p. 208.

Sight and Sound, May, 2001, review of American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing, p. 32.

ONLINE

Senses of Cinema,http://www.sensesofcinema.com/ (October 10, 2002), George Papadopoulos, "What Audiences Want."

About this article

Stempel, Thomas Ritter 1941-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article