Ronnie Scheib (1944 – 2015)

“Daffy Duck, c’est moi.” [1]

In 1996 the film critic Ronnie Scheib was a guest of the Melbourne International Film Festival. Ronnie was invited to introduce, and speak about, the films of Ida Lupino for a visionary retrospective of films that Lupino directed and starred in. Ronnie was the obvious choice for this role as she was a key Lupino scholar, having drawn attention to the work of this marginalised female filmmaker with an important essay on Lupino for Film Comment titled “Ida Lupino: Auteuress” (1980), and an essay on Never Fear (1950) for Annette Kuhn’s anthology Ida Lupino: Queen of the ‘B’s: Ida Lupino Behind the Camera (1995). Ronnie also went on to co-produce the release (in 1997) of three of Lupino’s films for Kino on Video in a VHS box-set. The films selected for this release were Not Wanted (1949), The Hitch-Hiker (1953) and The Bigamist (1953).

In conjunction with MIFF, Raffaele Caputo organised a roundtable so a group of us that included Raffaele, Rick Thompson, [2] Adrian Martin, Rolando Caputo, Rebecca Maywald and myself had the good fortune, and great pleasure, to meet with Ronnie and talk to her about many things including Lupino, film criticism, the state of contemporary cinema and animation. Ronnie was erudite, knowledgeable, loved to talk and enchanted us with her film scholarship, her ideas and her analysis. This roundtable is republished in this dossier that also includes a selection of Ronnie’s writing.

Ronnie was born in Brooklyn, USA in 1944 and originally pursued an academic career. She was an undergraduate at Brandeis University, and did a Masters at McGill University and a PhD at Yale University, both in French Literature. Following this she did some teaching at UCLA and Rutgers University. However, during some time spent studying in France she discovered the Cinémathèque and her passion for cinema grew exponentially from there. In the 1970s and 1980s this led to Ronnie writing film criticism for various film journals including Film Comment, American Film, Framework, and 24 Images. She also contributed essays to film anthologies such as The American Animated Cartoon and American Directors. Scholars on film criticism, such as Robert Polito and Jonathan Rosenbaum, position her writing in a tradition of film writers who were influenced by the great film critic Manny Farber, whose criticism was as much about the writing as it was about the analysis. From 2002 Ronnie was a film critic for Variety and, during that period, also occasionally wrote film reviews for Chicago Reader
Ronnie’s reviews for Variety were shorter than her earlier epic essays, but it is evident that she continued to seek out the more marginal films and wrote about them in provocative, insightful and deeply personal ways.

Something which may not be as widely known, but adds to the mystique and marvel of Ronnie Scheib, is that she also wrote dialogue for Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck for a number of the 1990s Warner Bros reboot cartoons including (Blooper) Bunny! (1991), Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers (1992) and Bugs Bunny’s Creature Features (1992) all directed by her partner Greg Ford, together with Terry Lennon. She also appeared in a documentary titled Forging the Frame: The Roots of Animation (1900-1930) (2010) which was produced by Ford, where she discusses aspects of the history of animation.

In his obituary on Ronnie, her colleague at Variety Justin Chang quotes Greg Ford as saying, “She wrote especially good Daffy Duck dialogue; it couldn’t have been better,” and her own explanation for her special ability to do so was “Daffy Duck, c’est moi.” [3]

Special thanks for their contribution to this dossier goes to Greg Ford and the Estate of Ronnie Scheib, Justin Chang and Variety and André Roy and 24 Images

[1] Raffaele Caputo’s choice for the title of this dossier
[2] Rick Thompson already knew Ronnie through Greg Ford. See Greg Ford and Richard Thompson, “Chuck Jones: Interview”, Film Comment (January–February 1975), pp. 27–28.
[3] Justin Chang, “Variety Film Critic Dies at 71″, Variety (14 October, 2015)

About the Author

Anna Dzenis

About the Author

Anna Dzenis

Anna Dzenis is a Screen Studies lecturer and researcher who has taught at La Trobe University, Victorian College of the Arts and RMIT. She teaches screen literacy, screen criticism, world cinema, film history and theories of visuality. She is a scholar of photography and cinema and brings these two disciplines together in her teaching and research. She is co-editor of the online journal Screening the Past, and has published essays in Senses of Cinema, Screening the Past, Lola, Real Time, Metro, The Conversation, 24 Frames: Australia and New Zealand, The Oxford Companion to Australian Film, and The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Films.View all posts by Anna Dzenis →