Deac Rossell papers

Scope and Content

Regulations relating to film production, 1945-1948; film budget 1949; film script 1992; oral histories c 1988; MSS, various 1988-1996; conference papers 1949-1995

Administrative / Biographical History

Deac Rossell was born in 1944. After receiving his BA from Syracuse University in 1966, he began his professional life as film critic for Boston After Dark, later the Boston Phoenix. As a journalist, he was also the newspaper's Film Editor and then Associate Editor, interviewing personalities from Alfred Hitchcock and Bette Davis to John Cassevetes and Sidney Poitier, before moving in the early 1970's to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as the museum's Film Coordinator. At the MFA, the programme welcomed filmmakers like Toshiro Mifune, George Cukor, Sam Fuller, Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and many others. The programme also featured critics and historians such as Susan Sontag, James Card, Stephen Heath, Eric Rentschler, Ron Holloway and others. Institutionally, the first film endowments were put in place during his tenure, and he oversaw the detailed planning for the new Remis Auditorium designed by architect I. M. Pei. Notable in the light of his later career were pioneering lecture presentations by early cinema scholars, including Charles Musser and Tom Gunning, whilst they were still at graduate school, as well as by more established specialists like Paul Spehr and Roger Manvell. In Boston he also spent three years as the film critic of Boston Magazine, a similar term as the photography critic of the Boston Globe, and co-edited the Newsletter of the Boston Visual Artist's Union for several years.  In the mid-1980's Rossell moved to Los Angeles to take up the post of Special Projects Officer for the Director's Guild of America, where he oversaw an existing oral history project (published by the Scarecrow Press), devised and administrated education programmes for the Guild membership, mounted an annual seminar for university film teachers, and undertook an array of other duties with members and with film cultural institutions in Los Angeles and across the country. Notable during his tenure were the reorganization of the Guild's newsletter, the unification of the Los Angeles and New York Special Projects offices (with Deac becoming National Special Projects Officer), and many negotiations with delegations of Russian filmmakers in the era of glasnost, culminating in the first official U.S. - U.S.S.R. Information Talks in April 1988, in Washington, D.C., to which Deac was named as one of five U. S. film industry representatives in a delegation led by the MPAA's Jack Valenti.  After a year as Guest Programmer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, while Programmer Geoff Gilmore was on leave at the Sundance Institute, Rossell was recruited by the British Film Institute in the early 1990's as Head of Programme Planning at the National Film Theatre in London. Here, at one of the world's leading cinematheques, he organized the public film programmes of three theatres exhibiting some 1100 films each year. The vast programme of the NFT was involved in every aspect of world cinema and historical film exhibition, and the briefest of highlights included appearances at the NFT by Robert Redford, Fay Wray, Terence Davies, Paul Schrader, Roger Corman, Derek Jarman, and many others. Again, early cinema played a role with a major season of archive screenings led by Barry Salt.  From 1994, Rossell turned away from his career as a film generalist to begin to specialize in his personal interest in early cinema. His first major publication was a book-length chronology of events in early cinema from 1889 to the end of 1896 which took up an entire issue of the journal Film History (Vol. 7, No. 2), and which had begun as a project at the DGA for the late Doug Edwards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to support a Los Angeles-wide celebration of the centennial of moving pictures. A book from the State University of New York Press followed, Living Pictures: the origins of the movies, which was given a Choice Award by the American Library Association denoting the best academic books of the year. Work on the overlooked chronophotographer Ottomar Anschütz produced several articles and a major exhibition curated for the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf and the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt a. M. in 2000, along with an accompanying book Faszination der Bewegung: Ottomar Anschütz zwischen Photographie und Kino (Stroemfeld / Roter Stern, 2001). 
In 1997 he began his association with GoldsmithsCollege, University of London, taking up his present post as Lecturer in European Studies in 2004, where he has led or contributed to both undergraduate and postgraduate courses on European cinema, the work of Alfred Hitchcock, and studies in Literature and Film, among others. He has also taught at the European Film School in Ebeltoft, Denmark, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts; he also earlier served as Tutor to Roger Manvell when he was University Professor at Boston University. He is currently a Trustee of South London Community Music, the umbrella charity that runs the ensembles London Sings!, the Southwark Concert Band, and the South London Jazz Orchestra.


Chronological within series

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Printed list in Goldsmiths' Special Collections Reading Room

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Custodial History

Kept by creator prior to deposit with Goldsmiths' Library Special Collections


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Location of Originals

Material is original


Deac Rossell, Living Pictures: The Origins of the Movies (New York 1998)

Personal Names