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The Life of John Jacob Niles
Louisville native John Jacob Niles (1892–1980) is considered to be one of our nation’s most influential musicians. As a composer and balladeer, Niles drew inspiration from the deep well of traditional Appalachian and African American folk songs. At the age of sixteen Niles wrote one of his most enduring tunes, “Go ’Way from My Window,” basing it on a song fragment from a black farm worker. This iconic song has been performed by folk artists ever since and may even have inspired the opening line of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe.” In I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles, the first full-length biography of Niles, Ron Pen offers a rich portrait of the musician’s character and career. Using Niles’s own accounts from his journals, notebooks, and unpublished autobiography, Pen tracks his rise from farm boy to songwriter and folk collector extraordinaire. Niles was especially interested in documenting the voices of his fellow World War I soldiers, the people of Appalachia, and the spirituals of African Americans. In the 1920s he collaborated with noted photographer Doris Ulmann during trips to Appalachia, where he transcribed, adapted, and arranged traditional songs and ballads such as “Pretty Polly” and “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” Niles’s preservation and presentation of American folk songs earned him the title of “Dean of American Balladeers,” and his theatrical use of the dulcimer is credited with contributing to the popularity of that instrument today. Niles’s dedication to the folk music tradition lives on in generations of folk revival artists such as Jean Ritchie, Joan Baez, and Oscar Brand. I Wonder as I Wander explores the origins and influences of the American folk music resurgence of the 1950s and 1960s, and finally tells the story of a man at the forefront of that movement.
A Biographer’s Memoir
The Early Years
Originally published as Jack Nicholson: Face to Face in 1975, Jack Nicholson: The Early Years is the first book written about the enigmatic star and the only one to have Nicholson's participation. In 1975 Nicholson was just becoming a household name in spite of having already starred in, written or produced 25 films including classics such as Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Last Detail (1973) and Chinatown (1974). To date, Nicholson has been nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won three, has garnered seven Golden Globe awards, and took home the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award at the age of 57.
Authors Robert Crane and Christopher Fryer interviewed Nicholson for what began as a thesis for a University of Southern California film class but which quickly morphed into a larger portrait of Nicholson's unique craft. Crane and Fryer conducted their interviews with Nicholson with the intent of showcasing the young star as he saw himself, while also interviewing many of Nicholson's close friends and fellow filmmakers, including Dennis Hopper, Roger Corman, Hal Ashby, Ann-Margret, Robert Evans and Bruce Dern, providing a comprehensive profile of the actor's early years in the industry. The result is a true insider's look at Nicholson not only as a writer, director and actor, but also offers insights into a private man's private life. Jack Nicholson: The Early Years stands as a testament to his incredible success in Hollywood.
James Cameron (b. 1954) is lauded as one of the most successful and innovative filmmakers of the last thirty years. His films often break records, both in their massive budgets and in their box-office earnings. They include such hits as The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Titanic, and Avatar. Part scientist, part dramatist, Cameron combines these two qualities into inventive and captivating films that often push the boundaries of special effects to accommodate his imagination. James Cameron: Interviews chronicles the writer-director's rise through the Hollywood system, highlighted by his "can-do" attitude and his insatiable drive to make the best film possible.
As a young boy growing up in Canada, Cameron imagined himself an astronaut, a deep-sea explorer, a science fiction writer, or a filmmaker. Transplanted to southern California, he would go on to realize many of those boyhood fantasies.
This collection of interviews provides glimpses of the filmmaker as he advances from Roger Corman's underling to "king of the world." The interviews are drawn from a number of sources including TV appearances and conversations on blogs, which have never been published in print. Spanning more than twenty years, this collection constructs a concise and thorough examination of Cameron, a filmmaker who has almost single-handedly ushered Hollywood into the twenty-first century.
Legendary jazz ambassador Dr. Billy Taylor's autobiography spans more than six decades, from the heyday of jazz on 52nd Street in 1940s New York City to CBS Sunday Morning. Taylor fought not only for the recognition of jazz music as "America's classical music" but also for the recognition of black musicians as key contributors to the American music repertoire. Peppered with anecdotes recalling encounters with other jazz legends such as Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and many others, The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor is not only the life story of a jazz musician and spokesman but also a commentary on racism and jazz as a social force.
For well over a decade, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have produced highly original and ethically charged films that immerse their audience in an intense, embodied viewing experience. Their work has consistently won international recognition, including the rare feat of two Palmes d'or at Cannes._x000B__x000B_In this first book-length study, Joseph Mai examines the career of the influential Belgian brothers, providing sophisticated close analyses of their directorial style and exploring the many philosophical issues dealt with in their films (especially the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas). In films such as La promesse, Rosetta, The Son, and The Child, the brothers have recast their filmmaking through what Mai calls a "sensuous realism?--realism capable of touching their viewers with the social problems and moral dilemmas of contemporary society. This volume also features an interview in which the Dardennes discuss their approach to film production and directing._x000B_
A Life between Takes
Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes is the first major biography of the effervescent, scene-stealing actress (1906-1979) who conquered motion pictures, vaudeville, Broadway, summer stock, television, and radio. Born the child of vaudevillians, she was on stage by age three. With her casual sex appeal, distinctive cello voice, megawatt smile, luminous saucer eyes, and flawless timing, she came into widespread fame in Warner Bros. musicals and comedies of the 1930s, including Blonde Crazy, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade. Frequent co-star to James Cagney, Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart, friend to Judy Garland, Barbara Stanwyck, and Bette Davis, and wife of Dick Powell and Mike Todd, Joan Blondell was a true Hollywood insider. By the time of her death, she had made nearly 100 films in a career that spanned over fifty years. Privately, she was unerringly loving and generous, while her life was touched by financial, medical, and emotional upheavals. Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes is meticulously researched, expertly weaving the public and private, and features numerous interviews with family, friends, and colleagues. Matthew Kennedy teaches anthropology at the City College of San Francisco and film history at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is the author of Marie Dressler: A Biography and Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory: Hollywood's Genius Bad Boy. Read more about his work at http://www.matthewkennedybooks.com/ Hear Matthew Kennedy on WNYC!
The Last of the Silent Film Stars
Charming and classically handsome, John Gilbert (1897--1936) was among the world's most recognizable actors during the silent era. He was a wild, swashbuckling figure on screen and off, and accounts of his life have focused on his high-profile romances with Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, his legendary conflicts with Louis B. Mayer, his four tumultuous marriages, and his swift decline after the introduction of talkies. A dramatic and interesting personality, Gilbert served as one of the primary inspirations for the character of George Valentin in the Academy Award--winning movie The Artist (2011). Many myths have developed around the larger-than-life star in the eighty years since his untimely death, but this definitive biography sets the record straight. Eve Golden separates fact from fiction in John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars, tracing the actor's life from his youth spent traveling with his mother in acting troupes to the peak of fame at MGM, where he starred opposite Mae Murray, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and other actresses in popular films such as The Merry Widow (1925), The Big Parade (1925), Flesh and the Devil (1926), and Love (1927). Golden debunks some of the most pernicious rumors about the actor, including the oft-repeated myth that he had a high-pitched, squeaky voice that ruined his career. Meticulous, comprehensive, and generously illustrated, this book provides a behind-the-scenes look at one of the silent era's greatest stars and the glamorous yet brutal world in which he lived.
The films of John Waters (b. 1946) are some of the most powerful send-ups of conventional film forms and expectations since Luis Bu-uel and Salvador Dali's Un Chien Andalou. In attempting to reinvigorate the experience of movie-going with his shock comedy, Waters has been willing to take the chance of offending nearly everyone. His characters have great dignity and resourcefulness, taking what's different or unacceptable or grotesque about themselves, heightening it and turning it into a handmade personal style. The interviews collected here span Waters's career from 1965 to 2010 and include a new one exclusive to this edition.
Waters began making films in his hometown of Baltimore in 1964. Demonstrating an innate talent at capturing the hideous and crude and elevating it to art, he reached international acclaim with his outrageous shock comedy Pink Flamingos. This landmark film redefined cinema and became a cult classic. Appearing in this and many of Waters's early films, his star Divine would consistently challenge gender definitions.
With Polyester, Waters entered the mainstream. The film starred Divine as an unhappy housewife who romances a former teen idol played by Tab Hunter. Waters's commercial breakthrough, Hairspray, told the story of Baltimore's televised sock-hop program, The Corny Collins Show, and how one brave girl (Ricki Lake) used her platform as a dancer to end segregation in her town.
From Serial Mom and Pecker to Cecil B. Demented, Waters continued to infiltrate the mainstream with his unique approach to filmmaking. As a visual artist, he was given a retrospective at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2004, which was shown at galleries around the world.
Besides being a great actor and the friend and associate of Dickens, Bulwer Lytton, Browning, and most of the principal figures in the drama and literature of his time, William Charles Macready (1793-1873) was a compulsive diarist. His journal of twenty-one years, during most of which he was at the head of the English stage, is a candid and absorbing self-revelation.