O.K. YOU MUGS

WRITERS ON MOVIE ACTORS

A heartfelt if uneven collection on the stars and zhlubs worth remembering. Embracing a personal, not theoretical, approach to film (where it’s “just you and that mug up there on screen”), Sante (Low Life, 1991, etc.) and Pierson (The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles, 1997) undertake a “proper investigation of the screen’s ordinary Joes” and the stars who “render themselves ordinary” to viewers. Readers who spent childhoods awash in The Million-Dollar Movie will be pleased with the homages to the scene-stealing character actors who ensured that the story ahead would be jake. Sante does a cheery roundup of worthy (and half-forgotten) male suspects like Andy Devine, Ralph Bellamy, and Raymond Burr, who, Sante posits, “would have made a better Goldfinger.” In a lovely ode to “Warner Bros. Fat Men,” Dana Gioia bemoans the current cinematic world where “even the heavies are skinnies” and honors past corpulent heroes Sydney Greenstreet and Eugene Pallette, both of whom require a citation from Thomas Aquinas to define their beauty. Charles Simic conveys the erotic hold Gene Tierney had on postwar viewers, including himself, on the strength of one film, Laura. John Updike does likewise for his heartstopper, Suzie Creamcheese—a.k.a Doris Day. Elsewhere Day’s Pillow Talk co-star Thelma Ritter is given her due as an alternative persona for any non-heartstopping female viewer. For those who accept that good films have been made since The Godfather, there’s a tidy analysis of Robert Carlyle’s appeal and an enlarging look at J. T. Walsh. But some of the appreciations don’t convince, such as those for Timothy Carey, Jeanne Moreau, and Jean Arthur. Like an old drive-in double bill of Bananas and Kotch, the works here span the memorable and the middling. But the faces invoked will remain, sending readers running to Blockbuster for Casablanca or Rear Window—and not just to see the stars. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40101-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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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