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Film, Theater, and Performing Arts > Individual Performers and Directors
A Life Beyond the Silver Screen
Alice Faye's sweet demeanor, sultry glances, and velvety voice were her signatures. Her haunting rendition of "You'll Never Know" has never been surpassed by any other singer. Fans adored her in such films as Alexander's Ragtime Band, Rose of Washington Square, Tin Pan Alley, Week End in Havana, and Hello, Frisco, Hello. In the 1930s and 1940s she reigned as queen of 20th Century Fox musicals. She co-starred with such legends as Shirley Temple, Tyrone Power, Carmen Miranda, and Don Ameche and was voted the number-one box-office attraction of 1940, placing ahead of Bette Davis and Myrna Loy. To a select cult, she remains a beloved star. In 1945 at the pinnacle of her career she chose to walk out on her Fox contract. This remarkable episode is unlike any other in the heyday of the big-studio system. Her daring departure from films left Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck and the rest of the movie industry flabbergasted. For years she had skirmished with him over her roles, her health, and her private life. His heavy-handed film editing of her fine work in Otto Preminger's drama Fallen Angel, a role she had fought for, relegated Faye to the shadows so that Zanuck could showcase the younger Linda Darnell. After leaving Fox, Faye (19151998) devoted herself to her marriage to radio star Phil Harris, to motherhood, and to a second career on radio in the Phil Harris Alice Faye Show, broadcast for eight years. She happily gave up films in favor of the independence and self-esteem that she discovered in private life. She willingly freed herself of the "star-treatment" that debilitated so many of her contemporaries. In the 1980s she emerged as a spokeswoman for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, touring America to encourage senior citizens to make their lives more meaningful and vital. Before Betty Grable, before Marilyn Monroe--Alice Faye was first in the lineup of 20th Century Fox blondes. This book captures her special essence, her work in film, radio, and popular music, and indeed her graceful survival beyond the silver screen. Jane Lenz Elder, a librarian at Southern Methodist University, is the author of Across the Plains to Santa Fe and The Literature of Beguilement: Promoting America from Columbus to Today. She is co-editor of Trading in Santa Fe: John M. Kingsbury's Correspondence with James Josiah Webb, 1853-1861.
The Life and Films of Thomas Dixon
" Thomas Dixon has a notorious reputation as the writer of the source material for D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking and controversial 1915 feature film The Birth of a Nation . Perhaps unfairly, Dixon has been branded an arch-conservative and a racist obsessed with what he viewed as “the Negro problem.” As American Racist makes clear, however, Dixon was a complex, multitalented individual who, as well as writing some of the most popular novels of the early twentieth century, was involved in the production of some eighteen films. Dixon used the motion picture as a propaganda tool for his often outrageous opinions on race, communism, socialism, and feminism. His most spectacular production, The Fall of a Nation (1916), argues for American preparedness in the face of war and boasts a musical score by Victor Herbert, making it the first American feature film to have an original score by a major composer. Like the majority of Dixon’s films, The Fall of a Nation has been lost, but had it survived, it might well have taken its place alongside The Birth of a Nation as a masterwork of silent film. Anthony Slide examines each of Dixon’s films and discusses the novels from which they were adapted. Slide chronicles Dixon’s transformation from a major supporter of the original Ku Klux Klan in his early novels to an ardent critic of the modern Klan in his last film, Nation Aflame. American Racist is the first book to discuss Dixon’s work outside of literature and provide a wide overview of the life and career of this highly controversial twentieth-century southern populist. Anthony Slide is the author of numerous books, including Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses.
Norman Corwin and Media Authorship
This collection of essays examines one of the most important, yet understudied, media authors of all time—Norman Corwin—using him as a critical lens to consider the history of multimedia authorship, particularly in the realm of sound. Known for seven decades as the “poet laureate” of radio, Corwin is most famous for his radio dramas, which reached tens of millions of listeners around the world and contributed to radio drama’s success as a mass media form in the 1930s and 1940s. But Corwin was a pioneer in multiple media, including cinema, theater, TV, public service broadcasting, journalism, and even cantata. In each of these areas, Corwin had a distinctive approach to sonic aesthetics and mastery of multiple aspects of media production, relying in part on his inventive atmospheric effects in the studio both prerecorded, and, more impressively, live in real time. From the front lines of World War II to his role as Chief of Special Projects for United Nations Radio and his influence on media today, the political and social aspect of Corwin’s work is woven into these essays. With a foreword by Michele Hilmes and contributions from Thomas Doherty, Mary Ann Watson, Shawn VanCour, David Ossman and others, this volume cements Corwin’s reputation as perhaps the greatest writer in the history of radio, while also showing that his long career is a neglected model of multimedia authorship.
Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel
Possessing a unique beauty and refined acting skills, Ann Dvorak (1911--1979) found success in Hollywood at a time when many actors were still struggling to adapt to the era of talkies. Seemingly destined for A-list fame, critics touted her as "Hollywood's New Cinderella" after film mogul Howard Hughes cast her as Cesca in the gangster film Scarface (1932). Dvorak's journey to superstardom was derailed when she walked out on her contractual obligations to Warner Bros. for an extended honeymoon. Later, she initiated a legal dispute over her contract, an action that was unprecedented at a time when studios exercised complete control over actors' careers.
As the first full-length biography of an often-overlooked actress, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel explores the life and career of one of the first individuals who dared to challenge the studio system that ruled Tinseltown. The actress reached her pinnacle during the early 1930s, when the film industry was relatively uncensored and free to produce movies with more daring storylines. She played several female leads in films including The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932), and Three on a Match (1932), and Heat Lightning (1934), but after her walk-out, Warner Bros retaliated by casting her in less significant roles.
Following the casting conflicts and illness, Dvorak filed a lawsuit against the Warner Bros. studio, setting a precedent for other stars who eventually rebelled against the established Hollywood system. In this insightful memoir, Christina Rice explores the spirited rebellion of a talented actress whose promising career fell victim to the studio empire.
" Anna Held (1870?-1918), a petite woman with an hourglass figure, was America's most popular musical comedy star during the two decades preceding World War I. In the colorful world of New York theater during La Belle �poque, she epitomized everything that was glamorous, sophisticated, and suggestive about turn-of-the-century Broadway. Overcoming an impoverished life as an orphan to become a music-hall star in Paris, Held rocketed to fame in America. From 1896 to 1910, she starred in hit after hit and quickly replaced Lillian Russell as the darling of the theatrical world. The first wife of legendary producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., Held was the brains and inspiration behind his Follies and shared his knack for publicity. Together, they brought the Paris scene to New York, complete with lavish costumes and sets and a chorus of stunningly beautiful women, dubbed ""The Anna Held Girls."" While Held was known for a champagne giggle as well as for her million-dollar bank account, there was a darker side to her life. She concealed her Jewish background and her daughter from a previous marriage. She suffered through her two husbands' gambling problems and Ziegfeld's blatant affairs with showgirls. With the outbreak of fighting in Europe, Held returned to France to support the war effort. She entertained troops and delivered medical supplies, and she was once briefly captured by the German army. Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway reveals one of the most remarkable women in the history of theatrical entertainment. With access to previously unseen family records and photographs, Eve Golden has uncovered the details of an extraordinary woman in the vibrant world of 1900s New York.
From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend
Anna May Wong was perhaps the best known Chinese American actress during Hollywood’s golden age, a free spirit and embodiment of the flapper era much like Louise Brooks. She starred in over fifty movies between 1919 and 1960, sharing the screen with such luminaries as Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Marlene Dietrich. Born in Los Angeles in 1905, Wong was the second daughter of six children born to a laundryman and his wife. Obsessed with film at a young age, she managed to secure a small part in a 1919 drama about the Boxer Rebellion. Her most famous film roles were in The Thief of Baghdad, Old San Francisco, and Shanghai Express opposite Dietrich. Despite these successes, instances of overt racism plagued Wong’s career. When it came time to make a film version of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, she was passed over for the Austrian-born actress, Luise Rainer. In a narrative that recalls both the gritty life in Los Angeles’s working-class Chinese neighborhoods and the glamour of Hollywood at its peak, Graham Hodges recounts the life of this elegant, beautiful, and underappreciated screen legend.
Anthony Minghella: Interviews is an illuminating anthology of in-depth conversations with this important contemporary film director and producer. The collection explores Minghella's ideas on every aspect of the cinematic creative process including screenwriting, acting, editing, the use of music in film, and other topics concerning the role of the film director.Minghella (1954-2008) was a highly regarded British playwright (Made in Bangkok), and television writer (Inspector Morse) before turning to film directing with his quirky, highly regarded first film, Truly, Madly, Deeply, in 1990. He went on to direct an extraordinary trilogy of large-scale films, all adapted from significant works of contemporary literature. Minghella's 1996 adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's poetic novel The English Patient was the director's most critically and commercially successful film and went on to win dozens of awards around the world, including nine academy awards. Minghella followed this film with his entertaining, elegant adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley, a film that enjoyed great critical and commercial success and featured some of the best acting of the 1990s by its talented cast of young, rising stars, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Minghella's ambitious adaptation of Charles Frazier's American Civil War romance, Cold Mountain, was released in 2003, and firmly marked Minghella as a director of intimate, yet large-scale epic cinema worthy of David Lean. Although Minghella was a successful film director and producer, he was also an important part of the cultural life of the U.K. He was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2001 for his contributions to culture, and he was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the British Film institute from 2004 to 2007.
Arthur Penn: American Director is the comprehensive biography of one of the twentieth century’s most influential filmmakers. Thematic chapters lucidly convey the story of Penn’s life and career, as well as pertinent events in the history of American film, theater, and television. In the process of tracing the full spectrum of his career, Arthur Penn reveals the enormous scope of Penn’s talent and his profound impact on the entertainment industry in an accessible, engaging account of the well-known director’s life. Born in 1922 to a family of Philadelphia immigrants, the young Penn was bright but aimless—especially compared to his talented older brother Irving, who would later become a world-renowned photographer. Penn drifted into directing, but he soon mastered the craft in three mediums: television, Broadway, and motion pictures. By the time he made Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Penn was already a Tony-winning Broadway director and one of the prodigies of the golden age of television. His innovative handling of the story of two Depression-era outlaws not only challenged Hollywood’s strict censorship code, it shook the foundation of studio system itself and ushered in the film revolution. His next films—Alice’s Restaurant (1969), Little Big Man (1970), and Night Moves (1975)—became instant classics, summoning emotions from shock to sensuality and from confusion to horror, all of which reflected the complexity of the man behind the camera. The personal and creative odyssey captured in these pages includes memorable adventures in World War II; the chaotic days of live television; the emergence of Method acting in Hollywood; and experiences with Marlon Brando, Anne Bancroft, Warren Beatty, William Gibson, Lillian Hellman, and a host of other show business legends.
Arthur Penn—director of The Miracle Worker, Bonnie and Clyde, Alice’s Restaurant, and Little Big Man—was at the height of his career when Robin Wood’s analysis of the American director was originally published in 1969. Although Wood then considered Penn’s career only through Little Big Man, Arthur Penn remains the most insightful discussion of the director yet published. In this new edition, editor Barry Keith Grant presents the full text of the original monograph along with additional material, showcasing Wood’s groundbreaking and engaging analysis of the director. Of all the directors that Wood profiled, Penn is the only one with whom he developed a personal relationship. In fact, Penn welcomed Wood on the set of Little Big Man (1969), where he interviewed the director during production of the film and again years later when Penn visited Wood at home. Both interviews are included in this expanded edition of Arthur Penn, as are five other pieces written over a period of sixteen years, including the extended discussion of The Chase that was the second chapter of Wood’s later important book Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan. The volume also includes a complete filmography and a foreword by Barry Keith Grant. The fourth classic monograph by Wood to be republished by Wayne State University Press, this volume will be welcomed by film scholars and readers interested in American cinematic and cultural history.
"From his childhood in the 'Jewish heart' of Brooklyn to his memorable production of Endgame in the 1960s, Herbert Blau's autobiography provides not only more of Blau's penetrating insights into dramatists like Beckett and into the complex cross-currents of the American experimental theatre of this turbulent period. It is also a rich, deeply felt and powerfully expressed chronicle of cultural change that goes far beyond specific theatrical productions to offer a valuable personal view of the years that did so much to shape the contemporary world, expressed by one of the theatre community's most original and articulate thinkers." ---Marvin Carlson, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York "Herb Blau's memoir---of his life, but also of an era---captures what has always been important about his work. 'Blooded thought,' he taught us to call it---the embodied process of 'finding yourself divided, in the embrace of what's remembered.' His vivid account of childhood in a particular kind of American neighbourhood is complemented by reflection on his years in San Francisco when the theatre and the Cold War unfolded as mutual antagonists in his personal drama. Acute, insightful, and sometimes painful, it is also an intellectual page-turner." ---Janelle Reinelt, University of Warwick "I read As If from cover to cover, engaged and powerfully moved by a familiar brilliance . . . Blau holds an utterly unique place in twentieth-century American theater, in American culture, and in theater theory and practice." ---Elin Diamond, Rutgers University "Few theater practitioners have had comparable influence in American theater; few have endured such intoxicating highs and dispiriting lows; none, arguably, has reflected so deeply and sharply about so wide a spectrum of first-hand practical experience." ---Linda Gregerson, University of Michigan "Masterful . . . a brilliant and touching book written with honesty and humility . . . In addition, it serves as an admirable introduction to Blau's theories, providing a context for his complex and sometimes difficult ideas." ---John Lutterbie, Stony Brook University As If: An Autobiography traces the complex life and career of director, scholar, and theorist Herbert Blau, one of the most innovative voices in the American theater. From his earliest years on the streets of Brooklyn, with gang wars there, to the often embattled, now-legendary Actor's Workshop of San Francisco, the powerfully told story of Blau's first four decades is also a social history, moving from the Great Depression to the cold war, with fallout from "the balance of terror" on what he once described in an incendiary manifesto as The Impossible Theater. Blau has always forged his own path, from his activist resistance to the McCarthy witch hunts to his emergence as a revolutionary director whose work included the controversial years at The Workshop, which introduced American audiences to major playwrights of the European avant-garde, including Brecht, Beckett, Genet, and Pinter. There is also an account here of that notorious production of Waiting for Godot at the maximum-security prison at San Quentin, which became the insignia of the Theater of the Absurd. Blau went on from The Workshop to become codirector of the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, and then founding provost of California Institute of the Arts, where he developed and became artistic director of the experimental group KRAKEN. Currently Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor of the Humanities at the University of Washington, Blau has been visionary in the passage from theater to theory, and his many influential and award-winning books include The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976–2000; Sails of the Herring Fleet: Essays on Beckett; Nothing in Itself: Complexions of Fashion; To All Appearances: Ideology and Performance; The Audience; The Eye of Prey: Subversions of the Postmodern; and Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point. This richly evocative book includes never-before-published photographs of the author, his family and friends, collaborators in the theater, and theater productions.