What do Marlene Dietrich and Whoopie Goldberg have in common? They both appeared as card readers in films. If you are interested or obsessed in movies and divination with cards, this book is a scholarly work on focused entirely on this specific tarot topic.
The book is divided into two parts. Part I is “Divination, Cards and Culture” with an introduction, a chapter devoted to the history of cards and cartomancy. Another chapter offers a history of the tarot trumps and card divination from the printing press to tarot's popularization in the 1970s and 80s.
Part II “Cards and Cartomancy in Film” constitutes the lion's share of the book. Chapter 4 provides an in-depth examination of cartomancers and querents as film characters. These are analyzed by gender, age, marital status, profession, ethnicity, eccentricity and the supernatural, and nomadism. Auger delves deeply into the way that card readers are depicted in films. The stereotypical portrayal is a female reader garbed in pseudo-gypsy style with large gold hoop earrings, a patterned skirt, head wrap, and shawl. Descriptions of the various details of card reading portrayals offer a glimpse of the imagery that surrounds both readers and reading environments. The same scrutiny is applied to querents. Chapter 5 addresses the role of cards in film narratives (how readings forward the plot), and the various film genres and themes that surround films with tarot and card readings in them. Chapter 6 is dedicated to the twenty-two trump cards and lists the films in which each of these appears. Chapter 7 is the conclusion.
The Appendices occupy a large portion of the book. Appendix 1: Filmography (68 pages) provides a list of nearly 200 films referenced in the work with a few key credits, the deck used, and a short synopsis of the film. Appendix 2: Charts offers a series of numeric graphs and lists condensing much of the material discussed in the book for easy reference. Further appendices list films by date, lists of directors, actors and actresses. There is a complete bibliography, a list of sources and decks, and a detailed index.
Cartomancy and Tarot in Film 1940-2010 has a companion book, A Filmography of Cartomancy and Tarot 1940-2010 that describes tarot scenes in these same films in much greater depth.
This collection and analysis was a massive undertaking accomplished within the strictures of scholarly detailing. The language is at times deep but the overriding subject—card readings in films—keeps the discussions and descriptions lively and interesting. Fans of films and cards will love these books! They will also be exceptionally useful as reference works for tarot scholars, students of film studies, and film historians. There simply aren't any other books that focus on this information. This book and its companion are must-have reference works for specialized scholars, as well as for those aficionados who want to see as many tarot films as possible! Auger should be commended for producing this literary monument to an important but overlooked film genre. Her contributions benefit readers and scholars in both fields.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: Emily E. Auger
Intellect/University of Chicago Press, 2016
Hardback 7” x 9.25” cloth $114.00 from U of Chicago Press; hardback $108.36 from Amazon.