May (Screening Out the Past, 1980) begins his account with Will Rogers in the 1930s and ends it somewhere between Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando in the 1960s. His quest to show how the movies, through their erection of idealized images of self and home, influenced American nationalism. Needless to say, this is a pretty broad canvas, and May finds no lack of material to consider—especially during the war years, when Hollywood became a kind of Ministry of Propaganda serving the Allied High Command. The House on 92d Street, Back to Bataan, This Is the Army, and The Fighting 69th are just a handful of the suspects he rounds up to support his case. In his examination of the McCarthy years, May relates the many ways in which the US government worked hand-in-glove with Hollywood to root out communist influence from the industry. Curiously enough, however, May stops short of labeling such efforts “propaganda.” More interesting are his comments on some of the more memorable films by respected directors, such as Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity), Mark Hellinger (High Sierra) and John Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre). May sees these efforts as attempts made by the more radical elements in Hollywood to counter the trend toward succumbing to the political pressures emanating from Washington. May, of course, is not the first cultural historian to point to Hollywood’s political impact on American society, but he does, however, give greater recognition than usual to minorities and the role they have played in the public consciousness (as expressed through popular films), both before and immediately after the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. He also points to a certain cross-cultural fertilization in American entertainment that perhaps is inevitable given the nature of our heritage.
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)