A crisply written academic investigation of the politics of the Hollywood cartoon from roughly 1930 to 1960. Smoodin (English/American University) uses ``politics'' in the fashionably extended sense to cover such diverse topics as the construction of female sexuality in Betty Boop; the place of cartoon shorts in the design of entertainment programs that also included newsreels, live short subjects, and feature films; the use, for a military audience, of cartoon heroes like Private Snafu ``to make any one person's discontent seem aberrant, and to create consensus about U.S. goals during wartime''; the mass media's noncoverage of the 1941 strike at the Disney studio; and the FBI's championing of Walt Disney as an emissary for America even as it was investigating him for possible un-American activities. At times, the range of topics gives the book an air of a miscellany of essays, but its central premise is clear: Cartoons do not simply reflect popular social taste or impose an ideological consensus on their audience but operate within a constantly changing series of social, economic, and political frames. Despite a few comically abrupt descents into academic jargon (``The shift in production...from Betty Boop to Gabby demonstrates the epistemological shift throughout the 30s and early 40s in discourses about the body''), Smoodin generally deploys the insights of recent textual and political film theory without sinking into incoherence. Only his chapter on the politics of programming—in which there turns out to be a political agenda behind every possible relation, including no relation, between cartoon shorts and the features they introduce— is disappointing. Persuasive support for Smoodin's claim that cartoons—precisely because they are so anonymous and interchangeable compared to the potential masterworks of the Hollywood studios—offer an unrivaled field to study the shifting fields of force in the entertainment industry. (Thirty b&w illustrations)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)