Benjamin Brodsky (1877-1960): The Trans-Pacific American Film Entrepreneur – Part Two, Taking A Trip Thru China to America

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Author: Ramona Curry
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Part One of this essay traced a biography for Benjamin Brodsky and revealed surprising facets of the production of his 1916 feature-length travelogue A Trip Thru China. Part Two addresses the film's genre inscription and cinematic qualities and relates its embedded values to its enthusiastic reception across America 1916-18. Although the ethnographic documentary pays admiring tribute to laboring men and women throughout China, it also valorizes the moribund Chinese empire, as embodied in Brodsky's ultimate patron in China, President Yuan Shikai. While fully eschewing the "Yellow Menace" U.S. discourse of its period, Trip humorously delineates the East and West as essentially different. The rare work's exceptional critical and popular success from California to New York City points to Brodsky's skilled showmanship and ability to engage the support of independent movie distributors and investors. Why, then, the essay considers in conclusion, did Brodsky's subsequent experiences after his shift in 1917 to making films in Japan, including the feature-length travelogue Beautiful Japan (1918), so diverge in its outcome from his early filmmaking career in China?

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