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Biography / Film & Theater / American Studies / Art History


Emile de Antonio
Radical Filmmaker in Cold War America
Randolph Lewis

"Frankly, I've worked with three directors I consider important: Terrence Malick, Francis Coppola, and Emile de Antonio."—Martin Sheen, interviewed in American Film

Emile de Antonio  (1919–1989) was the most important political filmmaker in the United States during the Cold War. Director of such controversial films as Point of Order (1963), In the Year of the Pig (1969), Millhouse: A White Comedy (1971), and Mr. Hoover and I (1989), de Antonio lived a remarkable life in dissent.

De Antonio was a womanizing raconteur, upper-class Marxist, Harvard classmate of John F. Kennedy, World War II bomber pilot, and failed English professor, who lived a colorful life even before he stumbled headfirst into the New York art world of the 1950s. "Everything I learned about painting, I learned from De," Andy Warhol said about his friend, who famously drank himself unconscious in Warhol's film Drink. De Antonio also was important to the early careers of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenburg, and John Cage. Then, in 1959, de Antonio took on the chance to distribute the Beat film, Pull My Daisy, and discovered filmmaking.

In the first book on de Antonio's life and work, Randolph Lewis traces the turbulent development of the filmmaker's career. Lewis follows de Antonio's struggle to make films about Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and J. Edgar Hoover (under whose direction the FBI compiled a 10,000-page file on de Antonio) and to work with such political allies as Mark Lane, Martin Sheen, Bertrand Russell, Daniel Berrigan, and members of the Weather Underground, whose activities he documented in the film Underground. Blending biography with critical insights about art, literature, and film, Lewis offers de Antonio as a lens to focus on the complex terrain of post-World War II America.

"An indispensable examination of a man who is arguably the most provocative film essayist/documentarian of the last sixty years in American life. This is easily one of the most readable books yet written about a major filmmaker and the complex issues of film and society."—Bill Nichols, author of Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary

"This important and original examination of de Antonio's filmmaking career represents a long-needed addition to the literature of documentary filmmaking."—Dan Streible, coeditor of Emile de Antonio : A Reader

Randolph Lewis is assistant professor of American studies and director of interdisciplinary studies at the University of Science and Art of Oklahoma. He has a site with more information about the book at

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October 2000

344 pp.   6 x 9  
20 b&w photos

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ISBN 978-0-299-16914-5
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