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Otis Ferguson

Posted 8/30/2016 1:45pm by Eugene Wyatt.
American writer best remembered for his music and film reviews in The New Republic in the 1930s.
He was considered "the first rock critic" due to his appreciation of jazz and its impact on popular culture.
From Wikipedia
Ferguson's famous appreciation of Bix Beiderbecke (1930) shows his technical knowledge without showing it off, draws pointed comparisons with other musicians, and captures what is both traditional and new about jazz.
He played a full easy tone, no forcing, faking, or mute tricks, no glissando to cover unsure attack or vibrato to fuzz over imprecisions of pitch—it all had to be in the music. And the clear line of that music is something to wonder at. You see, this is the sort of thing that is almost wholly improvised, starting from a simple theme and taking off from that into a different and unpredictable melodic line, spontaneous, personal—almost a new tune but still shadowing the old one, anchored in its chord sequence. Obviously, without lyric invention and a perfect instinct for harmony, this is no go for a minute, let alone chorus after chorus, night after night.
Ferguson wrote in the laconic, wiseacre idiom of the generation who faced the turmoil of the 1930s and who knew the lessons of Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. Jazz inflected his prose, as did the pulse of the movies, which by the time he started reviewing had finally learned to talk properly.
Just as everyday conversations hop from high metaphor to curse words, Ferguson could jump registers.
Rhapsodes, How 1940's Critics Changed The American Film Culture, 2016 David Bordwell
Posted 5/16/2016 4:13am by Eugene Wyatt.

Ferguson’s conversational tones, his populist sentiments, and his succinct, punchy writing style established him as a thinking man’s proletariat with his cerebral gears usually engaged on the how and the why certain movies worked. He fit his forum, The New Republic, as his tone seemed to court cineastes and intellectuals as well as the politically aware and literarily minded casual readers. His opinions were provocatively and often amusingly presented.

“No one can study the deceptive effortlessness with which one thing leads to another without learning where the true beauty of this medium is to be mined,” he wrote, admiring Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). The critic tried to enlarge on this notion with his assessment of Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940), writing, “If you have any interest in the true motion or sweep of motion pictures, watching that man work is like listening to music ... . If you would like a seminar on how to make a movie travel the lightest and fastest way, in a kind of beauty that is peculiar to movies alone, you can see this once, and then again to see what you missed, and then study it twice.”

Ferguson recognized that film art is based in the primary aspects of dialogue writing, acting, camera framing and camera movement, and film editing. And he felt that the more seamless that these and other ingredients were combined by the director, the more effective any film would be. Ferguson felt that if he could detect showboating in a filmmaker, the less effective the final result would be. Unlike critics who would zero in on directors as distinctive stylists with persistent themes—Von Sternberg and Lubitsch—Ferguson argued that direction should parallel musical composition and should show little or no sign of itself.

The main reason Ferguson felt that Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) amounted to “retrogression in film technique” was that it was unnecessarily showy, a movie that brandished technique.

The Complete History Of American Film Criticism (2010) Jerry Roberts, Loc 816.

My emphasis.