Jacobs, Lewis (1906–97) By Ivins-Hulley, Laura
Lewis Jacobs (1906–97) was an American film critic, historian, and filmmaker. Jacobs initially studied painting and design, and his first foray into cinema was through the Philadelphia Cinema Crafters, an amateur film club founded in the late 1920s (the first record of its existence in the Amateur Cinema League dates from 1928). In 1930, he co-founded the short-lived periodical Experimental Cinema with poet and fellow cine-enthusiast David Platt. Much of the content of Experimental Cinema dealt with Soviet montage film, but it also contained essays on filmmaking aesthetics, international directors, and workers’ film societies both in the United States and abroad. The final issue in 1935 was largely devoted to Sergei Eisenstein’s Que Viva Mexico! and published Eisenstein’s full scenario for the film. During the 1930s, Jacobs was involved with leftist film organizations in New York and made several documentaries and experimental films, including Footnote to Fact (1934). Jacobs began publishing film criticism during this period in The New York Times, his articles frequently focussing on directors like D.W. Griffith. In 1939, he published The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History. A technical, industrial, and aesthetic history; like Jacobs’ newspaper criticism, the book pays special attention to key American directors. Jacobs continued making films into the 1960s, wrote and edited books on the aesthetics of cinema and on documentary, was an early contributor to Hollywood Quarterly (subsequently renamed Film Quarterly), and taught film at the City College of New York, New York University, and the Philadelphia College of Art.