An enthusiastic close-up of movie history.



A celebration of a beloved movie.

Fans of The Sound of Music will find plenty to please them in Santopietro’s (The Godfather Effect: Changing Hollywood, America, and Me, 2012, etc.) history of the sweeping musical. In the 1950s, two German movies about the von Trapp family came to the attention of director Vincent Donehue, who imagined a Broadway version with Mary Martin in the role of Maria. After complicated negotiations with the German film company and Maria herself, Donehue signed Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to write the play and the renowned Rodgers and Hammerstein to produce an original score. The show opened on Nov. 16, 1959, won five Tony awards and ran for three years. Soon, 20th Century Fox optioned the story; William Wyler agreed to direct, replaced by Robert Wise when Wyler decided to move to another project; and Ernest Lehman was brought in to rewrite the script. Casting Julie Andrews for the starring role was not inevitable. Although a hit on Broadway, Andrews “was a completely unknown quantity on film,” scaring investors who wanted “a real movie star with box office clout.” With support from Wise and the composers, Andrews was offered the role and grabbed it. Among contenders to play Capt. von Trapp were Rex Harrison, David Niven, Peter Finch and even Bing Crosby. Wise, though, opted shrewdly for Christopher Plummer. During filming, Andrews was exemplary, exuding “nonstop good cheer” and endless patience with the “seven potentially scene-stealing children” in the cast. The author details the painstaking complexities of producing a big-budget extravaganza, reprising every song and dance step, and the considerable task of generating buzz about the movie before it opened. All those efforts paid off: Warmly received by critics (except for Pauline Kael), it earned 10 Oscar nominations and was the highest-grossing film of 1965.

An enthusiastic close-up of movie history.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1250064462

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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