Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Peter Hitchcock

Committee Members

Jerry W. Carlson

Morris Dickstein

Subject Categories

American Film Studies | American Popular Culture | Other Film and Media Studies | Television | Theory and Criticism


auteur, failure, Hollywood, film, cinema, authorship, maverick, Welles, De Palma, Gilliam


This dissertation directly challenges the critical and commercial primacy of success attached to Hollywood films and their filmmakers, especially when one argues for or against their quality and/or importance within cinematic history. Through a process of shifting and multiplying perspectives within a broader narrative that is critical of what separates success and failure, certain films and filmmakers that were judged as failures or disappointments under impossible prerequisites of creating a successful film––commercially, aesthetically, or both–– are, instead, reconsidered as constructive counterpoints to the expectations of the Hollywood economic field of production as well as to the inevitable disappointment of the anticipated cinematic effect desired by critics and popular audiences. Following a deep revision of how the signatures of filmmakers constitute a larger nexus of creative forces that are always in perpetual negotiation with their emergence within the industry as well as with their lasting effects throughout their history, each chapter isolates specific figures of cinematic authorship throughout the history of Hollywood that represent a certain brand of maverick whose failure to completely satisfy its industry and audience is unavoidable and arguably intentional. Instead, these mavericks offer alternative approaches to standardized practices of Hollywood filmmaking, and these “failures” become foundational. Rather than being exiled from the system, they are more often absorbed into those Hollywood practices to form new expectations of cinema’s potential and its future.