Tibbetts, John C(arter) 1946-

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TIBBETTS, John C(arter) 1946-

(Jack Ketch)

PERSONAL: Born October 6, 1946, in Leavenworth, KS; son of James C. (a printer) and Dorothy G. Tibbetts. Education: University of Kansas, B.A., 1969, M.A., 1975, Ph.D., 1979. Hobbies and other interests: Classical piano, collecting record albums and books (especially those by G. K. Chesterton and Robert Schumann), silent film (primarily those featuring Buster Keaton and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.), illustrating for fantasy publications, American illustrators (Brandywine and Ash-Can schools), photography.

ADDRESSES: Home—1138 Indiana St., #1, Lawrence, KS 66044. Office—222 Oldfather Studios, Lawrence, KS 66045. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: KANU-FM Radio, Lawrence, KS, announcer, 1966-70; University of Kansas, Lawrence, instructor in film, 1973-78; Avila College, Kansas City, MO, instructor in film, beginning 1977. Freelance commercial artist. Military service: U.S. Army, Security Agency, German linguist, 1970-73.

MEMBER: Society of Cinema Studies, American Film Institute, National Film Society (member of board of governors).


(With James M. Welsh; self-illustrated) His Majesty the American: The Cinema of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., A. S. Barnes (South Brunswick, NJ), 1977.

(Editor) Introduction to the Photoplay, National Film Society (Shawnee Mission, KS), 1977.

The American Theatrical Film: Stages in Development, Bowling Green State University Press (Bowling Green, OH), 1985.

(Editor) Dvorak in America, 1892-1895, Amadeus Press (Portland, OR), 1993.

(With James M. Welsh) The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with James M. Welsh)The Cinema of Tony Richardson: Essays and Interviews, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1999.

(With James M. Welsh) Novels into Film: The Encyclopedia of Movies Adapted from Books, Checkmark Books (New York, NY), 1999.

The Encyclopedia of Stage Plays into Film, Facts on File (New York, NY), 2001.

(With James M. Welsh) The Encyclopedia of Filmmakers, Facts on File (New York, NY), 2002.

(With James M. Welsh) The Encyclopedia of Great Filmmakers, Checkmark Books (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Chuck Berg and Tom Erskine) The Encyclopedia of Orson Welles, Facts on File (New York, NY), 2002.

(With James M. Welsh and Richard Vela) Shakespeare into Film, Checkmark Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor of artwork and articles to film and literature journals. Editor (and contributor, sometimes under pseudonym Jack Ketch) of American Classic Screen, beginning 1977.

SIDELIGHTS: John C. Tibbetts is an author, educator, broadcaster, and pianist. He is an associate professor of film at the University of Kansas, and is the author or editor of several books on music and film.

In Dvorak in America, Tibbetts presents a collection of papers on the career of the composer Antonin Dvorak, focusing on the years he spent as director of the National Conservatory in New York from 1892 to 1895. In Notes, Thomas L. Riis wrote, "A potpourri of perspectives, it is a reader-friendly book, approachable by specialist and nonspecialist alike interested in exploring Dvorak's continuing impact."

Tibbetts and coauthor James M. Welsh, in The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, describe 313 novels that have been adapted into film, as well as the films themselves. The authors also provide biographical sketches of selected authors, details of the novels' publication and of the films' production, and references for further reading.

In The Encyclopedia of Stage Plays into Film, Tibbetts and coauthor James M. Welsh provide a comprehensive work on stage plays that have been adapted into film. The volume is divided into three sections: Standard Dramatic Adaptations, Shakespearean Adaptations, and Musical Theatre Adaptations. Each entry includes a summary of the play, as well as a comparison to the film version. Photographs and line drawings bring notable performances to life, and lists of references for each play help readers locate critical comments about the plays and films.

Tibbetts studied art history, theater, photography, and film at the University of Kansas, and was the first person ever to earn an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from that institution. He has since hosted a television show in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a commentator for CBS Television and CNN. He is a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor.

Tibbetts once wrote: "Studying the rise of mass culture in the last century affords a fascinating glimpse into the ways people entertain themselves. Entertainment and art have so coalesced that they are at times quite indistinguishable, which challenges our own deeply rooted concepts of the nature of the art image as opposed to the mere transmission of information. The motion picture has always been for me an art form that pinwheels the observer off onto other tracks, historical, sociological, cultural, political, etc. It becomes the challenge to those aforementioned definitions of art and information. Thus it often confounds us to the extent that we are compelled to go further than the mere visual perception of a film; it becomes necessary to contemplate a different kind of literacy of the future—that of the image as well as the word.

"My own viewing experiences constitute a series of blinding encounters over the years, primarily with those events of movement and grand gesture, whether they be in my early years of viewing the films of Douglas Fairbanks and Buster Keaton, or, later, with the operatic works of Visconti and Ken Russell. These experiences have not been so very different from my other encounters with the important writers of my life—artists who also seemed to specialize in the leaping gesture, the vibrant prose, and the imaginative vision. And I'm talking about the works of Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, G. K. Chesterton. Or take some of the composers who also are singularly self-propelled: Robert Schumann, Hector Berlioz, Carl Nielsen. Whether it's a film like Keaton's Seven Chances, Fairbanks's The Gaucho, or a book like Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill, or a composition like Schumann's Davidsbundler Dances, they all reveal the essentially modern predilection with flux and change, speed and device. These are art images that, as Strindberg noted in his preface to A Dream Play, constantly change, divide, and multiply.

"To enjoy and write about such things is to be caught up in this bewildering sense of constant shift. Each time I attempt to grapple with the aesthetic implications of the modern cultural image, it is like staking out a claim, albeit provisional, on an uncharted territory. Prospector-like, you work the territory, sifting and looking for the sensible and the significant. At times this is not easy, since our society is so flooded with mass-produced images to the extent that we are benumbed and desensitized. It is perhaps not so daring to write a book on mass marketers such as Doug Fairbanks and Max Steiner; it is not even so daring to attempt to delineate the social and cultural significances of such work; but it is a challenge to scan their work with a pretension toward calling it art. Indeed, it can be the height of pretention to apply aesthetic criteria toward it at all (and if so, whose criteria?).

"In the classes I have taught, I have found that the search for significance is itself problematic. Posit an interior meaning to Hamlet and no one can object to that act, but examine the films of Buster Keaton with an eye toward the twentieth century's preoccupation with man and machine, and eyes begin looking askance. We have refused to seriously examine our modern images for fear their entertainment values will diminish. My collaborator James Welsh and I tried to meet those fears with our book on Fairbanks. In a word, we both exerted the modern tendency to keep the bread buttered on both sides: to reveal an image's cultural and artistic significance, while firmly maintaining that image's role as entertainer.

"For me one of the nicest aspects of the above is that it enables one to creatively interpret modern images, whether they be visual, aural, or musical. There was once a time when the tenets of art seemed securely defined, as with the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds late in the eighteenth century. Now we perhaps rarely admit of such definitions. Like the art images themselves, they are constantly subjected to fresh buffets, ongoing revisions, and new provisional definitions. To write about popular culture is, I think, to participate in this continual re-creation.

"So, while I continue to be entertained and delighted by the acrobatics of Fairbanks, the inner musings of Robert Schumann, the word-play of Chesterton, the baroque line of Visconti, etc., I am compelled at the same time to not let matters rest there. These things and others demand my own participation. So I write and will continue to write about that perplexing world of popular images all around me. And they are not images tucked away in a museum; they are clustered around us all, jostling for attention. What kind of attention we give them, and whether it will be an essentially enlightened attention, is a troubling issue. To feel that I am even on the road toward such resolution is enough justification for me.

"Perhaps it is more revealing than I care to admit to parenthetically note that my middle name is Carter. 'John Carter' was a fictional character from the wild imagination of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Carter was an earthling, a Confederate captain, who is miraculously transported to Mars. Through a series of books, he swashes and buckles away across the exotic landscapes, leaping with thirty-foot strides in the lesser gravity, on his way toward yet another rescue of his beloved princess, Deja Thoris. I grew up on these wonderful books, always conscious that my name had been given to me by Mr. Burroughs himself (and I have a letter from him to prove it). Perhaps that accounts for my seemingly innate tendencies to jump off roofs, over walls, and across streams whenever the chance affords itself. Maybe it even justifies the sense I often have of living in an exotic landscape peopled with creatures about whom I am constantly watchful. Certainly to wander among the popular images described above is in itself a visit to a strange planet that is curiously familiar but ultimately strange in its aspect."



American Reference Books Annual, 1999, review of The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, p. 506.

Booklist, April 15, 1998, review of The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, p. 1462.

Choice, December, 1993, review of Dvorak in America, 1892-1895, p. 614; June, 1998, review of The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, p. 1682; December, 2001, review of The Encyclopedia of Stage Plays into Film, p. 662.

Entertainment Weekly, January 9, 1998, Megan Harlan, review of The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, p. 64.

Library Journal, May 15, 1993, review of Dvorak in America, 1892-1895, p. 70; February 15, 1998, review of The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, p. 134; June 1, 2002, Vivian Reed, review of The Encyclopedia of Filmmakers, p. 134.

Music and Letters, November, 1994, Karl Stapleton, review of Dvorak in America, 1892-1895, p. 622.

Notes, December, 1994, Thomas Riis, review of Dvorak in America, 1892-1895, p. 604.

Reference and Research Book News, May, 1998, review of The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, p. 157; November, 2001, review of The Encyclopedia of Stage Plays into Film, p. 217.

Reference and User Services Quarterly, winter, 2001, Janell Carter, review of The Encyclopedia of Stage Plays into Film, p. 191.

School Library Journal, May, 1999, review of The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film, p. 162.

Young Adult Reference Book, September, 1998, p. 67.*