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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.
"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.
Life of a Hollywood Rebel
Hal Ashby (1929–1988) was always an outsider, and as a director he brought an outsider’s perspective to Hollywood cinema. After moving to California from a Mormon household in Utah, he created eccentric films that reflected the uncertain social climate of the 1970s. Whether it is his enduring cult classic Harold and Maude (1971) or the iconic Being There (1979), Ashby’s artistry is unmistakable. His skill for blending intense drama with off-kilter comedy attracted A-list actors and elicited powerful performances from Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail (1973), Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in Shampoo (1975), and Jon Voight and Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1979). Yet the man behind these films is still something of a mystery. In Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel, author Nick Dawson for the first time tells the story of a man whose thoughtful and challenging body of work continues to influence modern filmmakers and whose life was as dramatic and unconventional as his films. Ashby began his career as an editor, and it did not take long for his talents to be recognized. He won an Academy Award in 1967 for editing In the Heat of the Night and leveraged his success as an editor to pursue his true passion: directing. Crafting seminal films that steered clear of mainstream conventions yet attracted both popular and critical praise, Ashby became one of the quintessential directors of the 1970s New Hollywood movement. No matter how much success Ashby achieved, he was never able to escape the ghosts of his troubled childhood. The divorce of his parents, his father’s suicide, and his own marriage and divorce—all before the age of nineteen—led to a lifelong struggle with drugs for which he became infamous in Hollywood. And yet, contrary to mythology, it was not Ashby’s drug abuse that destroyed his career but a fundamental mismatch between the director and the stifling climate of 1980s studio filmmaking. Although his name may not be recognized by many of today’s filmgoers, Hal Ashby is certainly familiar to filmmakers. Despite his untimely death in 1988, his legacy of innovation and individuality continues to influence a generation of independent directors, including Wes Anderson, Sean Penn, and the Coen brothers, who place substance and style above the pursuit of box-office success. In this groundbreaking and exhaustively researched biography, Nick Dawson draws on firsthand interviews and personal papers from Ashby’s estate to offer an intimate look at the tumultuous life of an artist unwilling to conform or compromise.
An Acting Family
" The Bennetts: An Acting Family is a chronicle of one of the royal families of stage and screen. The saga begins with Richard Bennett, a small-town Indiana roughneck who grew up to be one of the bright lights of the New York stage during the early twentieth century. In time, however, Richard’s fame was eclipsed by that of his daughters, Constance and Joan, who went to Hollywood in the 1920s and found major success there. Constance became the highest-paid actress of the early 1930s, earning as much as $30,000 a week in melodramas. Later she reinvented herself as a comedienne in the classic comedy Topper , with Cary Grant.. After a slow start as a blonde ingenue, Joan dyed her hair black and became one of the screen’s great temptresses in films such as Scarlet Street . She also starred in such lighter fare as Father of the Bride . In the 1960s, Joan gained a new generation of fans when she appeared in the gothic daytime television serial Dark Shadows . The Bennetts is also the story of another Bennett sister, Barbara, whose promising beginnings as a dancer gave way to a turbulent marriage to singer Morton Downey and a steady decline into alcoholism. Constance and Joan were among Hollywood’s biggest stars, but their personal lives were anything but serene. In 1943, Constance became entangled in a highly publicized court battle with the family of her millionaire ex-husband, and in 1951, Joan’s husband, producer Walter Wanger, shot her lover in broad daylight, sparking one of the biggest Hollywood scandals of the 1950s. Brian Kellow, features editor of Opera News magazine, is the coauthor of Can’t Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell . He lives in New York and Connecticut.
The Life and Films of David Lean
Two-time Academy Award winner Sir David Lean (1908–1991) was one of the most prominent directors of the twentieth century, responsible for the classics The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965). British-born Lean asserted himself in Hollywood as a major filmmaker with his epic storytelling and panoramic visions of history, but he started out as a talented film editor and director in Great Britain. As a result, he brought an art-house mentality to blockbuster films. Combining elements of biography and film criticism, Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean uses screenplays and production histories to assess Lean’s body of work. Author Gene D. Phillips interviews actors who worked with Lean and directors who knew him, and their comments reveal new details about the director’s life and career. Phillips also explores Lean’s lesser-studied films, such as The Passionate Friends (1949), Hobson’s Choice (1954), and Summertime (1955). The result is an in-depth examination of the director in cultural, historical, and cinematic contexts. Lean’s approach to filmmaking was far different than that of many of his contemporaries. He chose his films carefully and, as a result, directed only sixteen films in a period of more than forty years. Those films, however, have become some of the landmarks of motion-picture history. Lean is best known for his epics, but Phillips also focuses on Lean’s successful adaptations of famous works of literature, including retellings of plays such as Brief Encounter (1945) and novels such as Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), and A Passage to India (1984). From expansive studies of war and strife to some of literature’s greatest high comedies and domestic dramas, Lean imbued all of his films with his unique creative vision. Few directors can match Lean’s ability to combine narrative sweep and psychological detail, and Phillips goes beyond Lean’s epics to reveal this unifying characteristic in the director’s body of work. Beyond the Epic is a vital assessment of a great director’s artistic process and his place in the film industry.
The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton
For fifteen years before his untimely death, Andrew Britton produced a body of undeniably brilliant film criticism that has been largely ignored within academic circles. Though Britton’s writings are extraordinary in their depth and range and are closely attuned to the nuances of the texts they examine, his humanistic approach was at odds with typical theory-based film scholarship. Britton on Film demonstrates that Britton’s humanism is also his strength, as it presents all of his published writings together for the first time, including Britton’s persuasive readings of such important Hollywood films as Meet Me in St. Louis, Spellbound, and Now, Voyager and of key European filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein, Jean-Luc Godard, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Renowned film scholar and editor Barry Keith Grant has assembled all of Britton’s published essays of film criticism and theory for this volume, spanning the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The essays are arranged by theme: Hollywood cinema, Hollywood movies, European cinema, and film and cultural theory. In all, twenty-eight essays consider such varied films as Hitchcock’s Spellbound, Jaws, The Exorcist, and Mandingo and topics as diverse as formalism, camp, psychoanalysis, imperialism, and feminism. Included are such well-known and important pieces as “Blissing Out: The Politics of Reaganite Entertainment” and “Sideshows: Hollywood in Vietnam,” among the most perceptive discussions of these two periods of Hollywood history yet published. In addition, Britton’s critiques of the ideology of Screen and Wisconsin formalism display his uncommon grasp of theory even when arguing against prevailing critical trends. An introduction by influential film critic Robin Wood, who was also Britton’s teacher and friend, begins this landmark collection. Students and teachers of film studies as well as general readers interested in film and American popular culture will enjoy Britton on Film.
In this revision of her earlier book, Buffalo Bill, Actor, Sandra Sagala chronicles the decade and a half of Cody's life as he crisscrossed the country entertaining millions. She analyzes how the lessons he learned during those theatrical years helped shape his Wild West program, as well as Cody, the performer.