A capacious celebration of film’s potential to show us the world.



A documentary filmmaker examines the history of conveying truth on screen.

Drawing on his own career and extensive research (including viewing every film he discusses), Wilkman (Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles, 2016, etc.), whose series Moguls and Movie Stars was nominated for three Emmys, offers an illuminating, encyclopedic history of nonfiction film, from Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 images of a galloping horse to the virtual reality of the 21st century. While Westerns, comedies, mysteries, and romances dominated the entertainment industry in its early days, in 1908, in order to meet audiences’ demand for “glimpses of the real world,” the French film company founded by Charles Pathé and his brothers began distributing newsreels: short films recording events such as a daredevil’s fall from the Eiffel Tower and a suffragette march in Washington, D.C. In addition to showing current events, including images of military activities during wars, nonfiction movies became a popular means of education. Henry Ford, diving into movie production, offered films on topics such as pottery making, newspaper production, and, not surprisingly, “Ford’s way of doing business.” Wilkman creates vivid profiles of significant documentarians: photographer Edward S. Curtis, who filmed Native peoples of British Columbia; the daring Osa and Martin Johnson, who filmed expeditions in Africa and the South Pacific; and Robert Flaherty, whose Nanook of the North, a lyrical celebration of Inuit culture, became an unlikely box office success. During World War II, the Army enlisted acclaimed director Frank Capra to produce documentaries “to show Americans what they’re fighting for and why.” TV ensured new audiences for revelations about public issues, society, and culture, on such programs as See It Now, CBS Reports, Frontline, Ken Burns’ histories, and a groundbreaking PBS series, An American Family, that filmed daily life in the Santa Barbara home of the Louds. The author also underscores the importance of documentary film “at a time when the foundations of evidential inquiry are under attack and virtual reality promises to change perceptions of what is accepted as real.”

A capacious celebration of film’s potential to show us the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-103-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?