So, I'm reading The American Cinema for the first time. Should it, perhaps, be subtitled The Main Opinion? I find little of value in it. Why is it such an important book...assuming that it is, of course? The auteur theory wasn't even his.
I find Sarris's book very useful and interesting. And of course he is opinionated, and there are quite a few errors (Films listed twice under different titles, etc) and omitted directors that one feels should be in the book, such as Frank Lloyd, whose PASSPORT TO HELL I watched last night.
There are a few directors who shouldn't be in the book since they had made no American films by 1968, and some of the later films mentioned never got made. One could also disagree about how the various film-makers are categorised, and indeed the categories themselves.
One should take his book with all faults and areas of disagreement, particularly in the light of when it was written and published. At least it is the product of enthusiasm and love for the medium, and one can have an enjoyable time disagreeing with some of his comments.
And of course if you still don't find it useful I'm sure your local second-hand bookseller will happily pay you a pound or two for it....
I read the Sarris book shortly after it was published when I was 18 or 19. More than his snooty opinions, his high-handed tone was obnoxious especially when he resorted to French every few lines. He was obviously trying too hard to be impressive but it apparently worked. I steered clear of his stuff after that although, to be fair, I understand that he adopted a much better tone in his later years and dropped the French. No matter, his book is one "for the ages" now.
Having the book in front of me, I fail to find much French in it - only in the introduction where a reference to the French thinking of a film having an author like a book seemed justified. Opinion, and opinion was the essence of the book, can always be questioned, but he dared to have one on a topic seemingly new to the then scene of US movie buffs. Another thing: I reread now the Zwemmer/Barnes series of descriptions of US film making in a specific period ("Hollywood in the Twenties" etc.). A collector writing today could just go to his cupboard and have a film at hand. Then memory or notes had to be enough, and a lot of films could not be revisited at all....
Sarris, (and his wife, fellow critic Molly Haskell) undoubtedly had better access to rep cinemas and museums which showed movies, as well as more cinemas in general. Remember, Hitchcock, Hawks, Cukor, etc were still active. But, yes, they had to rely on memory / notes, because even a collector such as Everson would not fancy ruining his prints by doing fast forwards every time they wanted to check a line of dialogue.
Nowadays we don't even have to fish the film out, just to press a few buttons. Though not the same as an experience, it does mean we can avoid blunders of this kind. Sarris's book is by no means comprehensive, but it is useful if one can grant him the right to have opinions.
YOU AIN'T HEARD NOTHING YET https://www.amazon.com/You-Aint-Heard-N ... bc?ie=UTF8 is IMO his most enjoyable book, much more "film buffy" and fun than a lot of his writing perhaps because it's all about the 30s/40s era. I was amused by his final chapter, year by year break down of the year's best picture, actor, actress, etc. (even "ingénue"!) in which he is as fanboy as any of us (often picking Garbo or Dietrich for the year's best actress performance, even in weaker vehicles). I met him about fifteen years at a book festival and he was charming, we talked a bit about TCM (which he said was "heaven"). Mrs. Sarris was also there who I met several minutes later in another area. Found her to be completely lacking in the friendliness of her husband.