An Army of Phantoms

American Movies and the Making of the Cold War

Acclaimed critic J. Hoberman’ s masterful exploration of the Cold War film industry in “an epic . . . alternately fevered and measured account of what might be called the primal scene of American cinema” (Cineaste)

“Utterly compulsive reading. . . . there’s something majestic about the reach of Hoberman’s ambitions, the breadth and rigor of his research, and especially the curatorial vision brought to historical data.” —Film Comment

Acclaimed by the Los Angeles Review of Books as “the most detailed year-by-year look at Hollywood during the first decade of the Cold War ever published, one that takes film analysis beyond the screen and sets it in its larger political context,” An Army of Phantoms is a “delightful” and “amazing” (Dissent) work of film history and cultural criticism by J. Hoberman, one of the foremost film critics writing today, addressing the dynamic synergy of American politics and American popular culture.

By “tell[ing] the story not just of what’s on the screen but what played out behind it” (The American Scholar), Hoberman orchestrates a colorful, sometimes surreal pageant wherein Cecil B. DeMille rubs shoulders with Douglas MacArthur, atomic tests are shown on live TV, God talks on the radio, and Joe McCarthy is bracketed with Marilyn Monroe. From cavalry Westerns, apocalyptic sci-fi flicks, and biblical spectaculars, movies to media events, congressional hearings and political campaigns, An Army of Phantoms “remind[s] you what criticism is supposed to be: revelatory, reflective and as rapturous as the artwork itself” (Time Out New York).

Praise

“[O]ne of the many virtues of An Army of Phantoms is how assiduously Hoberman collects prequel moments to our contemporary national fissures.”
Bookforum
“An epic: an alternately fevered and measured account of what might be called the primal scene of American cinema.”
Cineaste
“[An] amazing book.”
Dissent
“An important, overflowing and often compelling study of movie history. . . . Smartly conceived, and its richness defies capture in a book review.”
Ha’aretz
An Army of Phantoms is the most detailed year-by-year look at Hollywood during the first decade of the Cold War ever published, one that takes film analysis beyond the screen and sets it in its larger political context.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“A welcome acknowledgment of how complicated the story of one particular period really is.”
National Review
An Army of Phantoms belongs in every home, right next to the copy of Naming Names.”
The Nation
“Utterly compulsive reading. . . . There’s something majestic about the reach of Hoberman’s ambitions. . . . An Army of Phantoms may prove to be the definitive text on its subject.”
Film Comment
“‘If one movie is a manufactured fantasy,’ Hoberman writes, a decade’s worth is a ‘stream of consciousness that insinuates itself into a shared national narrative.’ As film critic for the Village Voice since the 1980s, Hoberman has been our finest interpreter of that stream of consciousness. . . . Hoberman tells the story not just of what’s on the screen but of what played out behind it.”
The American Scholar
“An energetic and adventurous book . . . scholarly, even encyclopedic, yet written occasionally in a style akin to the Hush-Hush columns of L.A. Confidential.”
London Review of Books

Books by J. Hoberman

The Dream Life
Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties

J. Hoberman