The Critic at Clark




Renowned film critic and historian Andrew Sarris once wrote of Otis Ferguson '33, "I think a claim can be made for Ferguson as the writer of the best and most subtly influential film criticism ever turned out in America." High praise for the Jazz Age writer with a rebellious streak that first showed itself when he reviewed James Joyce's "Ulysses" for a Clark student publication, at a time when the book was still banned in the United States. Ferguson staked his claim to literary greatness with The New Republic, where he churned out film and jazz reviews that entertained and enlightened many, and left others aghast. In his notorious pan of "The Wizard of Oz," he noted, "[The film] has a light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet." Ferguson's life and career were tragically brief. He answered the call of duty in WWII and in 1943 he was killed aboard a ship in the Bay of Salerno.

Otis Ferguson photographs

Publication covers, above: In the Spirit of Jazz: The Otis Ferguson Reader; The New Republic, vol. LXXXX, no. 1170. Contains Ferguson's article "But is it art?"


Hugh Manon, associate professor and director of the Screen Studies Program at Clark, has published in Cinema Journal, Film Criticism and Framework, and contributed to numerous anthologies, including articles on Tod Browning, George Romero, Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" and Stanley Kubrick's film noirs.

Did You Know?

The ever-cheeky Ferguson, when asked about his future plans in the 1933 yearbook "Pasticcio," responded: "None."

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