The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Jon Lewis Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

May 4, 2017


“The Godfather of Film Studies at OSU”  May 4, 2017  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Lewis describes his family background and upbringing on Long Island, his early education, and the development of his scholarly interests in literature and film studies. Of particular note are Lewis' recollections of his awakening to cinema while an undergraduate at Hobart College in the mid-1970s. From there, Lewis comments on his doctoral candidacy at UCLA, recalling his memories of the physical transition to southern California as well as the specifics of his studies in UCLA's new Film Studies department.

Next, Lewis recounts the circumstances by which he came to accept a faculty position at Oregon State University. He then discusses his memories of the state of the English department in the early 1980s; his leadership of the International Film Series and friendships with Paul Turner and Peter Copek; and his building a Film Studies curriculum at OSU from scratch.

The session then turns its attention to Lewis' research, touching on each of the books that he has written as well as his personal forays into film production. A major topic of conversation is Lewis' long-standing interest in the life and work of Francis Ford Coppola, including a well-received book that Lewis wrote on The Godfather. Lewis likewise traces the origins and authoring of several other notable works including Hollywood v. Hard-Core (2000) and a new text, Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Post-War Los Angeles.

The interview concludes with Lewis' thoughts on his work habits and productivity; his perspective on change within OSU's College of Liberal Arts; and his sense of OSU's direction as it looks toward its 150th birthday.