Matthew H. Bernstein

Goodrich C. White Professor

On leave 2021-2022

Office: Rich Bldg 101A

Phone: 404-727-3466



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


A native of Long Island, New York, I have been teaching film history and criticism at Emory since 1989.

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, 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), and an interview on the 2018 Olive Films blu-ray of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Buy this DVD).  

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.  Both will be published by the University of Georgia Press.  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.

From Fall 2006 through July 2021, I served as chair of the Film and Media department.

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.



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




Screening a Lynching: The Leo Frank Case on Film and Television

Named a 2009 Choice magazine “Outstanding Academic Title”; finalist for the Theatre Library Assocation’s 2010 Richard Wall Memorial Award, which recognizes books of “exceptional scholarship in the field of recorded performance.”

(University of Georgia Press, 2009)

Hollywood Independent

Walter Wanger, Hollywood Independent

(University of Minnesota Press, 2000; University of California Press, 1994)

Michael Moore

Editor, Michael Moore: Filmmaker, Newsmaker, Cultural Icon

(University of Michigan Press, 2010) 

John Ford

Co-Editor (with Gaylyn Studlar), John Ford Made Westerns: Filming the Legend in the Sound Era

(Indiana University Press, 2001) 

controlling hollywood

Editor, Controlling Hollywood: Censorship and Regulation in the Studio Era

(Rutgers University Press, 2000) 

Orientalism in Film

Co-Editor (with Gaylyn Studlar), Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film

(Rutgers University Press, 1997) 

Other Recent Publications:

“’The edge of unacceptability': Preston Sturges and the PCA,” Refocus: The Films of Preston Sturges, ed. Jeff Jaeckle and Sarah Kozloff (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 83-106.

"The Era of the Moguls: The Studio System," The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film, Volume II, 1929-1945, ed. Cynthia Lucia, Roy Grundmann and Arthur D. Simon (Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 23-43. 

 “Unrecognizable Origins: ‘The Song of the Dragon’ and Notorious,” in R. Barton Palmer and David Boyd, eds. Hitchcock at the Source (New York: SUNY Press, 2011), 139-158.

The Train: John Frankenheimer’s ‘Rape of Europa’,” in Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer, eds., A Little Solitaire: John Frankenheimer and American Film (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 62-77.

"The ‘Professional Southerner’ in the Hollywood Studio System: Lamar Trotti at Work, 1934-1952,” in Deborah Barker and Kathryn B. McKee, eds.,  American Cinema and the Southern Imaginary (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011), 122-147.

“The Producer as Auteur,” in Barry K. Grant, Auteurs and Authorship: A Film Reader (New York: Blackwell’s, 2008), 180-189.

Imitation of Life (1934) in a Segregated Atlanta: its Promotion, Distribution and Reception,” co-authored with Dana F. White, Film History 19, no. 2 (2007): 152-178.

They Won’t Forget: Trying to Tell the Truth and Nothing but the Truth,” The Oxford American, no. 56 (2007): 76-79.

“John Huston’s Wise Blood,” in 20th Century American Fiction on Film, ed. R. Barton Palmer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 144-169, March 2007.

Stagecoach (1939),” in Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, Jeffrey Geiger and R.L. Rutsky, eds. (New York: Norton, 2005; rpt. 2013), 318-338.

"Oscar Micheaux and Leo Frank: Cinematic Justice Across the Color Line," Film Quarterly 57, No. 4 (Summer 2004): 8-21.

"Perfecting the New Gangster: Writing Bonnie and Clyde," Film Quarterly 53, no. 4 (2000), 16-31.

"High and Low: Art Cinema and Pulp Fiction in Yokohama Harbor," in James Naremore (ed.), Film Adaptation, Rutgers University Press (2000), 172-189.

"Model Criminals: Visual Style in Bonnie and Clyde," in Lester D. Friedman (ed.), Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, Cambridge University Press (1999), 101-126.

"Selznick's March: Gone With the Wind Comes to White Atlanta," Atlanta History 43, no. 2 (Summer 1999), 7-33. Winner of the Franklin M. Garrett Prize for Best Essay on Atlanta and Georgia History, 1998-1999.

"'Floating Triumphantly': The American Critics on Titanic," in Kevin Sandler and Gaylyn Studlar (eds.), Titanic: Anatomy of a Blockbuster, Rutgers University Press (1999), 14-28.