Photo of Charles O'Brien

Charles O'Brien

Full Professor

Degrees:Ph.D. (University of Iowa)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 8319
Office:434 St. Patrick’s Building Carleton University 1125 Colonel By Drive Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6

Charles O’Brien is available to supervise students whose research concerns the following fields: cinema and disability, film and media history, film music and sound, transnational cinema, film and media technology, and film aesthetics.

His current research project, “Cinema and the Aesthetics of Disability,” draws on both film studies and disability studies to examine the aesthetics of films featuring characters and actors with disabilities, with a focus on how disability is invoked in current cinema in ways different from in earlier films.

O’Brien’s publications include the book Movies, Songs, and Electric Sound: Transatlantic Trends (Indiana University Press 2019), the book Cinema’s Conversion to Sound: Technology and Film Style in France and the United States (Indiana U. Press, 2005), as well as articles and book chapters on various topics, including: staging and lighting in D. W. Griffith’s Biograph films; French and German film versions of Weill-Brecht’s Die Dreigroschenoper; art deco’s impact on cinema; film noir’s beginnings in 1930s France; René Clair’s musical comedies; staging in Max Linder’s short films, the film-theoretical implications of Susan Sontag’s film criticism; voice-dubbing practices; film and electrification in Europe and North America prior to WWI; and films set in the French colonies. His translations include Francesco Casetti’s Inside the Gaze (1996).

Since arriving at Carleton in 1994 O’Brien has received a Chateaubriand Fellowship; a residential fellowship at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France; and four research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In 2006 O’Brien was appointed Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C..

His teaching assignment for 2022-2023 includes: a second-year course on world cinema, a third-year course on cinema and disability, and the first-year Introduction to Film Studies.

Publications in print (last ten years):

“Art Deco and Sound Cinema.” In Art Deco Research Companion. Michael Windover and Bridget Elliot, eds.. Surrey England: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2020.

“Recent Books on Music in French Cinema.” Studies in French Cinema (2019): 1-5. [Published online on February 11, 2020;]

Movies, Songs, and Electric Sound: Transatlantic Trends. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2019.

“Dubbing in the Early 1930s: An Improbable Policy.” In “Splendid Innovations”: The Development, Reception and Preservation of Screen Translation. Carol O’Sullivan and Jean-François Cornu, eds.. London and New York: Oxford University Press and the British Academy. 180-191.

“Technology: Plant, Imported Technology, and Film Style.” In The French Cinema Book, Revised Edition. Michael Temple and Michael Witt, eds.. London: British Film Institute, 2018. 81-88.

“Griffith Goes West: The Move to California and the Style of the Biographs.” In The Blackwell Companion to D. W. Griffith. Charlie Keil, eds.. Hoboken and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2017. 150-173.

“Film Analysis and Statistics:  A Field Report.” In Technology and Film Scholarship: Experience, Study, History. André Gaudreault and Santiago Hidalgo, eds.. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2017. 149-168.

“Film History.” International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences. London: Elsevier, 2015. 165-170.

“Staging and Acting in the Griffith Biographs.” In Performing New Media 1890-1915. Kaveh Askari et al., eds.. Eastleigh, England: John Libbey Press, 2014. 41-47.

“Sound-on-Disc Cinema.” In Early Cinema: Critical Concepts. Richard Abel, ed.. New York and London: Routledge, 2013. 42-51.

“The Exception and the Norm: Relocating Renoir’s Sound and Music.” In The Blackwell Companion to Jean Renoir. Ginette Vincendeau and Alastair Phillips, eds.. Hoboken and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. 33-52.

“Colour as Image Schema:  Technicolor Number 3 in King of Jazz.” In Color and the Moving Image: History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive. Simon Brown, Sarah Street, and Liz Watkins, eds.. New York and London: Routledge/American Film Institute, 2013. 37-46.

“Camera Distance and Max Linder at Pathé-Frères.” Cinema & Cie. 13, no. 21 (Fall 2013). 49-57.

“Motion Picture Color and Pathé-Frères: The Aesthetic Consequences of Industrialization.” In The Blackwell Companion to Early Cinema, André Gaudreault, Nicolas Dulac, and Santiago Hidalgo, eds.. Hoboken and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2012. 298-314.

“Early Film Colour: Today and Yesterday.” In Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks, and Publics of Early Cinema. Marta Braun et al, eds.. Eastleigh, England: John Libbey, 2012. 195-199.