Ben Brewster

  • Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research
Expertise and Activities: 

My principal area of research is the early cinema in Europe and America, on which I have published a number of articles in Screen, Cinema Journal, and Film History. Much of my current work is on performance in early cinema and stage acting in the same period. The book Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film, written with Lea Jacobs and first published by Oxford University Press in 1997, is now available in an open access online edition:
While previous accounts of the relationship between cinema and theatre have tended to assume that early filmmakers had to break away from the stage in order to establish a specific aesthetic for the new medium, Theatre to Cinema argues that the cinema turned to the pictorial, spectacular tradition of the theatre in the 1910s to establish a model for feature filmmaking. The book traces this influence in the adaptation and transformation of the theatrical tableau, acting styles, and staging techniques, examining such films as Caserini’s Ma ľamor mio non muore!, Tourneur’s Alias Jimmy Valentine and The Whip, Sjöström’s Ingmarssönerna, and various adaptations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The book may be downloaded by parts. Clicking on the individual illustrations in the pdfs of the parts will allow you to download them as image files (you can choose one of four sizes).

Table of Contents
Front Matter

Part One: Introductory
Chapter 1 Pictures
Chapter 2 Situations

Part Two: The Tableau
Chapter 3 The Stage Tableau in Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Chapter 4 The Fate of the Tableau in the Cinema

Part Three: Acting
Chapter 5 Pictorial Acting in the Theatre
Chapter 6 Pictorial Styles and Film Acting
Chapter 7 The Pictorial Style in European Cinema

Part Four: Staging
Chapter 8 Pictorial Staging in the Theatre
Chapter 9 The Cinematic Stage
Chapter 10 Staging and Editing



  • M.S. Sociology, London School of Economics, 1967
  • B.A. Natural Sciences, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1966


  • 1997. Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film. Oxford, England: Oxford .