A collection that will have readers scurrying to the video store.



A stimulating look at American films of the 1950s.

In this conversational yet highly lucid collection of essays, Harvey (Romantic Comedy in Hollywood, 1987) discusses the ways movies shaped—and were shaped by—the cultural changes that followed in the wake of WWII. Mercifully, these are not the musings of a social historian but of a movie nut—and the loving detail lavished on each of the films analyzed at length, beginning with Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past and ending with Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life, reflects Harvey’s infatuation with the medium. Although he is clearly a sophisticated guide to the decade and its movies, the author has little time for voguish theories borrowed from literary criticism and instead offers refreshing, common-sense insights. Typical of his style is his take on Brando’s portrayal of Stanley Kowalski: he “felt at times like the kind of explosive truth-teller the culture will occasionally produce just when the cant and the banality seem most unchallengeable, someone who cuts through all the bullshit and to hell with it.” Despite his enthusiasm for certain of Brando’s early performances, Harvey recognizes the profound contrast between the emerging “boy” stars of the ’50s—Brando, Dean, Clift—and their predecessors. While male leads had previously embodied the “antinarcissist idea of maleness,” these new stars “instead of inviting us to grow up, were commiserating with us about failing to.” In that respect, Harvey contends that the movies reflected the inward-turning mood of Americans during the Cold War. However, while the collection draws parallels between American society and its films, the primary focus remains on the movies themselves and the people who made them: Orson Welles, Nicholas Ray, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Robert Siodmak, to name a few.

A collection that will have readers scurrying to the video store.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2001

ISBN: 0-394-58591-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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