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As If

An Autobiography

Herbert Blau

"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.

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Barbara Kopple

Interviews

Edited by Gregory Brown

With a career spanning more than forty years, Barbara Kopple (b. 1946) long ago established herself as one of the most prolific and award-winning American filmmakers of her generation. Her projects have ranged from labor union documentaries to fictional feature films to an educational series for kids on the Disney Channel. Through it all, Kopple has generously made herself available for a great many print and broadcast interviews. The most revealing and illuminating of these are brought together in this collection.

Here, Kopple explains her near-constant struggles to raise money (usually while her films are already in production) and the hardships arising from throwing her own money into such projects. She makes clear the tensions between biases, objectivity, and fairness in her films. Her interviewers raise fundamental questions. What is the relationship between real people in documentaries and characters in fictional films? Why does she embrace a cinéma vérité style in some films but not others? Why does she seem to support gun ownership in Harlan County, U.S.A., only to take a decidedly more neutral view of the issue in her film Gun Fight?

Kopple’s concern for people facing crises is undeniable. So is the affection she has for her more famous subjects—Woody Allen playing a series of European jazz concerts, Gregory Peck on tour, and the Dixie Chicks losing a fan base but making a fresh start.

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Barbara Stanwyck

The Miracle Woman

Dan Callahan

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Baz Luhrmann

Interviews

edited by Tom Ryan

Though he has made only five films in two decades—Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and the Oscar-nominated films Moulin Rouge!, Australia, and The Great Gatsby—Australian writer-director Baz Luhrmann is an internationally known brand name. His Christian name has even entered the English language as a verb, as in “to Baz things up,” meaning “to decorate them with an exuberant flourish.” Celebrated by some, loathed by others, his work is underscored by what has been described as “an aesthetic of artifice” and is notable for both its glittering surfaces and recurring concerns.

In this collection of interviews, Luhrmann discusses his methods and his motives, explaining what has been important to him and his collaborators from the start and how he has been able to maintain an independence from the studios that have backed his films. He also speaks about his other artistic endeavors, including stage productions of La Bohème and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his wife and collaborative partner Catherine Martin, who has received two Academy Awards for her work with Luhrmann.

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Being Hal Ashby

Life of a Hollywood Rebel

Nick Dawson

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.

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The Bennetts

An Acting Family

Brian Kellow

" 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.

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Beyond the Epic

The Life and Films of David Lean

Gene D. Phillips

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.

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Brian De Palma's Split-Screen

A Life in Film

Douglas Keesey

Over the last five decades, the films of director Brian De Palma (b. 1940) have been among the biggest successes (The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible) and the most high-profile failures (The Bonfire of the Vanities) in Hollywood history. De Palma helped launch the careers of such prominent actors as Robert De Niro, John Travolta, and Sissy Spacek (who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress in Carrie). Indeed Quentin Tarantino named Blow Out as one of his top three favorite films, praising De Palma as the best living American director. Picketed by feminists protesting its depictions of violence against women, Dressed to Kill helped to create the erotic thriller genre. Scarface, with its over-the-top performance by Al Pacino, remains a cult favorite. In the twenty-first century, De Palma has continued to experiment, incorporating elements from videogames (Femme Fatale), tabloid journalism (The Black Dahlia), YouTube, and Skype (Redacted and Passion) into his latest works. What makes De Palma such a maverick even when he is making Hollywood genre films? Why do his movies often feature megalomaniacs and failed heroes? Is he merely a misogynist and an imitator of Alfred Hitchcock? To answer these questions, author Douglas Keesey takes a biographical approach to De Palma’s cinema, showing how De Palma reworks events from his own life into his films. Written in an accessible style, and including a chapter on every one of his films to date, this book is for anyone who wants to know more about De Palma’s controversial films or who wants to better understand the man who made them.

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The Brief, Madcap Life of Kay Kendall

Eve Golden

" Comedic film actress Kay Kendall, born to a theatrical family in Northern England, came of age in London during the Blitz. After starring in Britain's biggest cinematic disaster, she found stardom in 1953 with her brilliant performance in the low-budget film, Genevieve. She scored success after success with her light comic style in movies such as Doctor in the House, The Reluctant Debutante, and the Gene Kelly musical Les Girls. Kendall's private life was even more colorful than the plots of her films as she embarked on a series of affairs with minor royalty, costars, directors, producers, and married men. In 1954 she fell in love with her married Constant Husband costar Rex Harrison and accompanied him to New York, where he was starring on Broadway in My Fair Lady. It was there that Kendall was diagnosed with myelocytic leukemia. Her life took a romantic and tragic turn as Harrison divorced his wife and married Kendall. He agreed with their doctor that she was never to know of her diagnosis, and for the next two years the couple lived a hectic, glamorous life together as Kendall's health failed. She died in London at the age of 32, shortly after completing the filming of Once More with Feeling!, her husband by her side. The Brief, Madcap Life of Kay Kendall was written with the cooperation of Kendall's sister Kim and includes interviews with many of her costars, relatives and friends. A complete filmography and numerous rare photographs complete this first-ever biography of Britain's most glamorous comic star. Eve Golden is the author of several biographies of actresses, Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway, as well as a collection of essays on silent film stars.

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Britton on Film

The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton

Edited by Barry Keith Grant With an Introduction by Robin Wood

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.

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