The New York film community was shocked and saddened this past weekend upon receiving news that Robert Sklar, longtime pillar of NYU’s Department of Cinema Studies, had died of injuries suffered in a cycling accident while vacationing in Spain.
Distinguished as he was, Bob Sklar was less ivory tower academic than people’s historian who never lost his passion for that which was happening now.
He had worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times before attending Harvard to receiving a Ph.D in the history of American civilization; he was an anti-war activist while a junior faculty member at the University of Michigan, one of the creators of Rotisserie baseball and, as the author of the classic book Movie-Made America, first published 35 years ago, the film scholar most responsible for the current narrative of Hollywood history, theorizing movies as a cultural form that developed from the bottom up.
Bob radiated warmth, intelligence and collegiality. His was a generous spirit. As an editor (both at Cineaste magazine and Temple University Press), he mentored hundreds of would-be film writers. I never studied with Bob, although his support made it possible for me to publish three books at Temple. Professor Sklar’s courses in American film history served to ground, orient, and inspire the thousands of students who passed through the Department of Cinema Studies during the 33 years that he taught there. Movie-Made America did the same for many thousands more and, as the richest and most readable one-volume history of its subject, will continue to do so for some time to come.
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