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Matthew H. BernsteinGoodrich C. White Professor

A native of Long Island, New York, I have been teaching film history and criticism at Emory since 1989. From Fall 2006 through July 2021, I served as chair of the Film and Media department.

The courses I have taught range from Introduction to Film and the international History of Film two semester sequence to more specialized classes on African-Americans in American film, American film comedy, American film and media criticism, classical Hollywood cinema, the history of documentary film, Japanese cinema, post-war European cinemas, Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, Billy Wilder and Frank Capra in the 1930s.

My research and teaching include the history of Hollywood, particularly in the studio era and film reception.More specifically, I explore the ways in which the business of Hollywood inflected production, genre and style and the dynamics of Hollywood's self-regulation of content and its response to state and city censorship. This resulted in my books Walter Wanger, Hollywood Independent and Screening a Lynching: The Leo Frank Case on Film and Television and several anthologies listed below. Click here for an example of my research into how writer-director Preston Sturges worked under Hollywood's Production Code to create his landmark romantic comedy The Lady Eve (1941). More examples of my work on Walter Wanger include my commentary on the 2014 Criterion Blu-ray of Riot in Cell Block 11 (Buy this DVD), an interview on the 2018 Olive Films Blu-ray of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Buy this DVD), and the Vanity Fair/Cadence 13 podcast Love is a Crime.

I am currently co-writing with Dr. Eddy von Mueller a history of Columbia Pictures from its inception to the present day as part of the Routledge Hollywood Centennial Series. We look at the studio's corporate history, production policies, and major films, stars, directors, producers and genres, charting its rise from a Poverty Row independent to the home of Frank Capra in the 1930s to a major studio in the 1950s, as well as its history in the conglomerate and digital era , when it was owned by Coca Cola and now Sony.

I am also currently completing, two projects developed and co-written with my late, highly esteemed and accomplished Emory colleague Dr. Dana F. White, Professor of American Studies. Atlanta at the Movies is an anthology; Segregated Cinema: Atlanta, 1895-1962 is a full narrative history, combining an analysis of race and representation, reception studies, censorship history, exhibition history and business history. This Fall 2014 interview with the Harry Ransom Research Center on the Atlanta premiere of Gone with the Wind in December 1939 is an example of the work we are doing, as is this radio interview on the same subject. Here's the lecture I gave on the history of movie censorship in Atlanta.

I am active in the Atlanta film scene. I have served as host and moderator of The Atlanta Cinema Club since Fall 1998, which on alternate Sundays previews new foreign and Amerindie movies before they open in Atlanta. Click here to learn more about it. Since Spring 2020, the club has been on hiatus due to Covid. I have been deeply involved in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, serving as co-chair in 2011 and 2012, on its Board of Directors starting in Fall 2016, introducing screenings and writing program notes.I consult on the Midtown Cinema's Tuesday night classic film series, for which I sometimes introduce films. I also currently serve on the board of the Plaza Theater Foundation, and I help plan each semester's Emory Cinematheque offerings.

From 2005 to 2020, I served on the National Film Preservation Board, advising the Librarian of Congress on matters of film preservation and films that are named annually to the National Film Registry.

Awards and Grants

  • 2015 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Award for Outstanding Pedagogical Achievement in Cinema and Media Studies, to recognize and promote teaching practice, philosophy, innovation, publication, and development of educational materials and service within the discipline.
  • 2013 Faculty Creativity and the Arts Award, "for your significant contributions in creativity and arts, your impact on our campus, the region and beyond…"
  • 2008 IMAGE (Independent Media Artists of Georgia, Etc.) Award, Atlanta, GA.
  • 2006 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Award, American Jewish Committee, Atlanta, GA, 2006.
  • 2005 Katherine Singer Kovacs Essay Award from The Society for Cinema and Media Studies for outstanding scholarship in film and media studies for "Oscar Micheaux and Leo Frank: Cinematic Justice Across the Color Line," Film Quarterly 57, No. 4 (Summer 2004): 8-21.
  • Senior Fellowship, Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, 2002-2003.
  • Franklin M. Garrett Prize for Best Essay on Atlanta and Georgia History, 1998-1999, Atlanta History Center, for "Selznick's March: Gone With the Wind Comes to White Atlanta," Atlanta History 43, no. 2 (Summer 1999), 7-33.
  • 7 major Emory University Research Grants (1990-2009).
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant, July 1997-June 2000 (with Dana F. White).
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Scholar Research Fellowship, 1989.



  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1987
  • MFA, Columbia University, 1982
  • BA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1980


  • American and international film history
  • Classical Hollywood cinema
  • African-Americans in American film
  • Film criticism
  • Censorship history
  • Production histories
  • Reception studies