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The Eddie Cantor Story

A Jewish Life in Performance and Politics

David Weinstein

This absorbing biography chronicles the life and work of one of the most important entertainers of the twentieth century. Eddie Cantor (1892–1964) starred in theater, film, radio, and television. His immense popularity across a variety of media, his pride in his Jewish heritage, and his engagement with pressing political issues distinguished him from other headliners of his era. Paying equal attention to Cantor’s humor and politics, Weinstein documents his significance as a performer, philanthropist, and activist.

Many show business figures quietly shed their Jewish backgrounds or did not call attention to the fact that they were Jewish. Cantor was different. He addressed the vital issues of his times, including acculturation, national identity, and antisemitism. He was especially forceful in opposing Nazism and paid a price for this activism in 1939, when a sponsor cancelled the actor’s radio program. In this carefully researched book, Weinstein uncovers sketches and routines filled with Jewish phrases, allusions, jokes, songs, and stories. Cantor frequently did not mark this material as “Jewish,” relying instead on attentive audiences to interpret his coded performances.

Illustrated with thirty photographs, The Eddie Cantor Story examines the evolution, impact, and legacy of Cantor’s performance style. His music and comedy not only shaped the history of popular entertainment, but also provide a foundation for ongoing efforts to redefine Jewish culture and build community in contemporary America.

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Emir Kusturica

Giorgio Bertellini

Emir Kusturica is one of Eastern Europe's most celebrated and influential filmmakers. Over the course of a thirty-year career, Kusturica has navigated a series of geopolitical fault lines to produce subversive, playful, often satiric works. On the way he won acclaim and widespread popularity while showing a genius for adjusting his poetic pitch--shifting from romantic realist to controversial satirist to sentimental jester. Leading scholar-critic Giorgio Bertellini divides Kusturica's career into three stages--dissention, disconnection, and dissonance--to reflect both the historic and cultural changes going on around him and the changes his cinema has undergone. He uses Kusturica's Palme d'Or winning Underground (1995)--the famously inflammatory take on Yugoslav history after World War II--as the pivot between the tone of romantic, yet pungent critique of the director's early works and later journeys into Balkanist farce marked by slapstick and a self-conscious primitivism. Eschewing the one-sided polemics Kusturica's work often provokes, Bertellini employs balanced discussion and critical analysis to offer a fascinating and up-to-date consideration of a major figure in world cinema.

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The Epic Cinema of Kumar Shahani

Laleen Jayamanne

The Epic Cinema of Kumar Shahani examines the major works of leading Indian film director Kumar Shahani and explores the reaches of modernist film aesthetics in its international form. More than an auteur study, Laleen Jayamanne approaches Shahani's oeuvre conceptually, as films that reveal cinema's synesthetic capabilities. As the author illustrates, Shahani's cinematic project entails a modern reformulation of the ancient oral tradition of epic narration and performance in order to address the contemporary world, establishing a new cinematic expression. As evidenced by his films, constructing cinematic history entails more than an archival project of retrieval and is a living history of the present, which can intervene in the current moment through sensory experiences.

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Eric Rohmer

Interviews

Fiona Handyside

The 1969 film Ma Nuit chez Maud catapulted its shy academic film director Eric Rohmer (1920-2010) into the limelight, selling over a million tickets in France and earning a nomination for an Academy Award. Ma Nuit chez Maud remains his most famous film, the highlight of an impressive range of films examining the sexual, romantic, and artistic mores of contemporary France, the temptations of desire, the small joys of everyday life, and sometimes, the vicissitudes of history and politics. Yet Rohmer was already forty years old when Maud was released and had already had a career as the editor of Cahiers du Cinéma, a position he lost in a political takeover in 1963. The interviews in this book offer a range of insights into the theoretical, critical, and practical circumstances of Rohmer's remarkably coherent body of films, but also allow Rohmer to act as his own critic, providing us with an array of readings concerning his interest in setting, season, color, and narrative.


Alongside the application of a theoretical rigor to his own films, Rohmer's interviews also discuss directors as varied as Godard, Carné, Renoir, and Hitchcock, and the relations of film to painting, architecture, and music. This book reproduces little-known interviews, such as a debate Rohmer undertakes with Women and Film concerning feminism, alongside detailed discussions from Cahiers and Positif, many produced in English here for the first time.

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Escape Artist

The Life and Films of John Sturges

Glenn Lovell

Escape Artist—based on Glenn Lovell’s extensive interviews with John Sturges, his wife and children, and numerous stars including Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, and Jane Russell—is the first biography of the director of such acclaimed films as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and Bad Day at Black Rock. Lovell examines Sturges’s childhood in California during the Great Depression; his apprenticeship in the editing department of RKO Pictures, where he worked on such films as Gunga Din and Of Human Bondage; his service in the Army Air Corps in World War II; and his emergence as one of the first independent producer-directors in Hollywood.
Chronicling the filmmaker’s relationships with such luminaries as Spencer Tracy, James Garner, Yul Brynner, and Frank Sinatra, Escape Artist interweaves biography with critical analyses of Sturges’s hits and misses. Along the way, Lovell addresses the reasons why Sturges has been overlooked in the ongoing discussion of postwar Hollywood and explores the director’s focus on masculinity, machismo, and male-bonding in big-budget, ensemble action films. Lovell also examines Sturges’s aesthetic sensibility, his talent for composing widescreen images, and his uncanny ability to judge raw talent—including that of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, all of whom began their careers in Sturges’s movies.
            This long overdue study of a major Hollywood director will find a welcome home in the libraries of film scholars, action movie buffs, and anyone interested in the popular culture of the twentieth century.

Best Books for Special Interests, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Association

"Pick up a copy of film critic and scholar Glenn Lovell's terrific new Sturges biography, Escape Artist. . . . I can't urge you enough to check out this interview-rich, aesthetically and culturally perceptive look at the filmmaker and his work."—Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Daily News

“Lovell’s list of interviewees reads like a who’s who of Hollywood and they obviously provided rich source material for this full-scale biography and career survey.”— Leonard Maltin

“This long overdue study of a major Hollywood director will find a welcome home in the libraries of film scholars, action movie buffs, and anyone interested in the popular culture of the twentieth century.”—Turner Classic Movies (TCM.com)
 

 

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Fernando Alonso

The Father of Cuban Ballet

Toba Singer

Written records of Alonso’s work are scarce, yet Toba Singer’s quest to spotlight his seminal role in the development of the modern ballet canon yields key material: pre-blockade tapes from Lincoln Center, Spanish-language sources from the Museum of Dance in Havana, and interviews with the ballet master himself alongside a broad range of friends, relatives, and collaborators from throughout his long career, including his ex-wife, Alicia, a famous ballerina in her own right.

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The Films of Hal Ashby

By Christopher Beach

Analyzes the films and filmmaking career of director Hal Ashby, placing his work in the cultural context of filmmaking in the 1970s.

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Finding the Jewish Shakespeare

The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin

by Beth Kaplan

An illluminating inside look at the life and times of playwright and author Jacob Gordin, a central presence in the Golden Age of Yiddish theater

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Flying Funny

My Life without a Net

Dudley Riggs

Dudley Riggs didn’t have to run away from home to join the circus. Home was the circus. Son of the acclaimed aerial flyers Riggs and Riggs, he made his circus debut as a polar prince parading in a wagon pulled by a polar bear. At the age of five, he graduated to a risqué vaudeville act during the circus off- season; at eight, he outgrew his cutes (and his child stardom) and joined his high-flying parents on the trapeze. Eventually he had to learn to “fly funny” because he grew too tall to fly straight. In one way or another, Riggs has been flying ever since.

The rest, as they say, is history. And what a story it is. In Flying Funny, Riggs shares many highs and lows while describing circus life and the evolution of America’s popular entertainment during the twentieth century. From his early life in circus and vaudeville to his creation of the Brave New Workshop, we see how his show business experience and instincts helped him create in Minneapolis what became the “next wave” in American entertainment—improvisation.  

As a young man, Riggs lost everything in a tornado, got an education on the fly, and sailed with the All American circus to post–war Japan. On a slow boat home and restless about his future, he developed the idea of Word Jazz—creating a script on stage as it is being performed—and shortly after he opened the Instant Theater in New York. Later, he moved to Minneapolis where he founded the Brave New Workshop, launching the careers of comic greats such as Penn and Teller, The Flying Karamazov Brothers, Louie Anderson, Peter Tolan, Pat Proft, Nancy Steen, Liz Winstead, Al Franken and many others. Today, the Brave New Workshop thrives as the longest running improvisational theater in America.  

From flying funny on the trapeze to theater without a net, Dudley Riggs’s story is filled with hearty laughs and eyebrow-raising insights. With a wry sense of humor and infectious warmth, he shares the exhilaration of flying whether through the air or on the stage.

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