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  Andrew Sarris: Director Categories from "The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968" [Published in 1968]  
  "The American Cinema is more than a work of criticism; it is a cultural event, the record and the incarnation of the moment when American film begins to take account of itself as an art form and as an autonomous narrative tradition. In other words, this book is not film history, it is part of the history of film." - Frank McConnell, University of California, Santa Barbara  
  Andrew Sarris, 1928-2012  
  Hail the Conquering Hero: Kent Jones re-examines the 50-year career of Andrew Sarris, the man who brought auteurism to America. (Film Comment).  
  Auteur Theory and Authorship (Film Reference)  
  Pantheon Director  These are the directors who have transcended their technical problems with a personal vision of the world. To speak any of their names is to evoke a self-contained world with its own laws and landscapes. They were also fortunate enough to find the proper conditions and collaborators for the full expression of their talent. Includes John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch, Jean Renoir and Charles Chaplin.

The Far Side of Paradise  These are the directors who fall short of the Pantheon either because of a fragmentation of their personal vision or because of disruptive career problems. Includes Frank Capra, Blake Edwards, Joseph Losey, Vincente Minnelli and Douglas Sirk.

Expressive Esoterica  These are the unsung directors with difficult styles or unfashionable genres or both. Their deeper virtues are often obscured by irritating idiosyncrasies on the surface, but they are generally redeemed by their seriousness and grace. Includes Stanley Donen, Joseph H. Lewis, Don Siegel, Frank Tashlin and Budd Boetticher.

Fringe Benefits  These directors occupied such a marginal role in the American cinema that it would be unfair to their overall reputations to analyze them in this limited context in any detail. Includes Claude Chabrol, Sergei Eisenstein, Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Roman Polanski.

Less Than Meets the Eye  These are the directors with reputations in excess of inspirations. In retrospect, it always seems that the personal signatures to their films were written with invisible ink. Includes David Lean, Lewis Milestone, Billy Wilder, John Huston and Rouben Mamoulian.

Lightly Likable  These are talented but uneven directors with the saving grace of unpretentiousness. Includes John Cromwell, Delmer Daves, Henry Hathaway, Mervyn LeRoy and Andrew L. Stone.

Strained Seriousness  These are talented but uneven directors with the mortal sin of pretentiousness. Their ambitious projects tend to inflate rather than expound. Includes Jules Dassin, John Frankenheimer, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet and Robert Rossen.

Oddities, One-Shots, and Newcomers  These are the eccentrics, the exceptions and the expectants, the fallen stars and the shooting stars. They defy more precise classification by their very nature. Includes John Boorman, John Cassavetes, Francis Ford Coppola, Charles Laughton and Lindsay Anderson.

Subjects for Further Research  These are the directors whose work must be more fully evaluated before any final determination of the American cinema is possible. There may be other unknown quantities as well, but this list will serve for the moment as a reminder of the gaps. Includes Clarence Brown, Tod Browning and Henry King.

Make Way for the Clowns!  These are the most conspicuous of the non-directorial auteurs, and, as such, they cannot be subsumed under any directorial style. They are ultimately the funniest footnotes to the auteur theory. Includes Jerry Lewis.

Miscellany  No description given. Assumedly, all directors that didn't quite fit into one of the above categories. Includes John Brahm, William Dieterle, Stuart Heisler, David Miller and Elliott Nugent.

  Please keep in mind that these director categorisations are over 40 years old. We have primarily included them within TSPDT as a tribute to Sarris' famous and influential study on the American cinema and auteur theory. Have his opinions/categorisations stood the test of time? Was there, for instance, "Less Than Meets the Eye" to Billy Wilder's pre-1968 work? That seems a harsh call, in retrospect. There's obviously much to agree with and/or disagree with in Sarris' categorisations, whose relevance still applies strongly to directors whose filmographies were either complete or pretty much finished by 1968. It goes without saying, however, that the passing of time has made certain directors' categorisations redundant. For example, Francis Ford Coppola (who'd only made 4 films to that point) was filed within "Oddities, One-Shots, and Newcomers". Today, he would more than likely (depending on your point of view) slot into "The Far Side of Paradise" or "Less Than Meets the Eye". Sam Peckinpah - a director who today garners a huge cult following - was also filed under "Oddities, One-Shots, and Newcomers". Today, he would more than likely be slotted into "Expressive Esoterica". Nevertheless, for the sake of historical accuracy, we have included all of Sarris' categorisations as they were.  
  Of more than passing interest... Renowned critic Fred Camper has compiled an interesting  list of his favourite filmmakers on his website. Here's an excerpt from his introduction: "As someone who made great use in my teens of Film Culture 28, Andrew Sarris's "American Directors" issue (later expanded into his book, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, though I prefer the original Film Culture version), which catalogued and classified mostly Hollywood directors and was used by many as an early viewing guide (and informally called "The Bible"), I thought that if my own lists were of use to a few others, especially as encouragements to seek out the work of certain filmmakers, then it would be worth posting them."  
  Fred Camper's Favorite Filmmakers  


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