'Hell on a paying basis' : morality, the market, and the movies in Harry Lachman's "Dante's Inferno" (1935)

  • The 1935 Fox Films "Dante's Inferno" (directed by Harry Lachman) traces the rise and fall of an entrepreneur. Its protagonist, Jim Carter (played by Spencer Tracy), begins the story as a stoker on a cruise liner. The narrative opens with a burst of flames from the ship's boiler, and the ensuing scene goes on to show the protagonist competing at shovelling coal for a bet in the sweltering engine-room. Interspersed are shots of the superstructure directly above with a number of elegant and vapid passengers following the game below. This initial sequence thus concisely conveys the main features of the film's social agenda through imagery that anticipates that of two of its later 'infernal' sequences. [...] Spectacular admonition and concern about the ruthless pursuit of wealth are the main features which link this "Inferno" of the thirties to the one that had appeared some six hundred years earlier. Wealth and avarice were, of course, demonstrably serious concerns for Dante: as Peter Armour, for example, has shown, there is a recurrent and pervasive concern with money, its meaning, and its misuse throughout the "Commedia". So it is not surprising that the "Inferno" should also have been appropriated by social critics some hundred years before the 1935 Hollywood fable. [...] Some of the narrative and visual patterns in "Dante's Inferno" imply an uneasy underlying vision of the movie industry and its practices. Other productions, publicity, and journalism of the time reinforce suggestions of such a metafictional approach to movies, morality, and the market in the 1935 "Dante's Inferno".

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Author:Nick Havely
Parent Title (English):Metamorphosing Dante : appropriations, manipulations, and rewritings in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries / ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti and Fabian Lampart ; Cultural Inquiry ; 2
Publisher:Turia + Kant
Place of publication:Wien
Document Type:Part of a Book
Date of Publication (online):2019/10/28
Year of first Publication:2011
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2019/11/20
Tag:Lachman, Harry: Dante's Inferno
Capital market; Ethics; Film adaptions; Motion picture; Productive reception
GND Keyword:Dante Alighieri; Inferno; Rezeption; Adaption <Literatur>; Film; Lachman, Harry; Gesellschaftskritik; Moral
Page Number:16
First Page:269
Last Page:284
Dewey Decimal Classification:7 Künste und Unterhaltung / 79 Sport, Spiele, Unterhaltung / 791 Öffentliche Darbietungen, Film, Rundfunk
8 Literatur / 80 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft / 800 Literatur und Rhetorik
Sammlungen:CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
Sammlung Musik, Theater, Film / Literatur zum Film
CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft / ICI Berlin
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen