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Publication Date: New York: Public Affairs/Perseus Books, 2014. xvi, 343 p.
Description: In 1915, two men–one a journalist agitator, the other a technically brilliant filmmaker–incited a public confrontation that roiled America, pitting black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against civil rights. Monroe Trotter and D. W. Griffith were fighting over a film that dramatized the Civil War and Reconstruction in a post-Confederate South. Almost fifty years earlier, Monroe’s father, James, was a sergeant in an all-black Union regiment that marched into Charleston, South Carolina, just as the Kentucky cavalry–including Roaring Jack Griffith, D. W.'s father–fled for their lives. Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation, included actors in blackface, heroic portraits of Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and a depiction of Lincoln’s assassination. Freed slaves were portrayed as villainous, vengeful, slovenly, and dangerous to the sanctity of American values. It was tremendously successful, eventually seen by 25 million Americans. But violent protests against the film flared up across the country. Monroe Trotter’s titanic crusade to have the film censored became a blueprint for dissent during the 1950s and 1960s. (publ.)
Reviewed: PW 22 July 2019 p. 196. Description: Television comedy has long been on the frontline in how America evolves on social issues. There is something about comedy that makes difficult issues more palatable–with humor an effective device for presenting ideas that lead to social change. From “I Love Lucy” which introduced the first television pregnancy to “Will & Grace,” which normalized gay characters, the situation comedy has challenged the public to revisit social mores and reshape how we think about the world in which we live. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Basic Books, 2018. xvii, 252 p.
Reviewed: TLS 1 Feb. 2019 p. 3. Description: As much as we may enjoy Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, for many of us ballet is a foreign language. It communicates through movement, not words, and its history lies almost entirely abroad–in Russia, Italy, and France. In this book, dance critic Laura Jacobs makes the foreign familiar, providing a lively, poetic, and uniquely accessible introduction to the world of classical dance. Combining history, interviews with dancers, technical definitions, descriptions of performances, and personal stories, Jacobs offers an intimate and passionate guide to watching ballet and understanding the central elements of choreography. (publ.)
Reviewed: NPR “Pop Culture Happy Hour” 14 Dec. 2018. Description: From such cult hits as Raising Arizona (1987) and The Big Lebowski (1998) to major critical darlings Fargo (1996), No Country for Old Men (2007), and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Ethan and Joel Coen have cultivated a bleakly comical, instantly recognizable voice in modern American cinema. In this book, film critic Adam Nayman carefully sifts through their complex cinematic universe in an effort to plot, as he puts it, “some Grand Unified Theory of Coenness.” The book combines critical text–biography, close film analysis, and enlightening interviews with key Coen collaborators–with a visual aesthetic that honors the Coens’ singular mix of darkness and levity. Featuring film stills, beautiful and evocative illustrations, punchy infographics, and hard insight, this book will be the definitive exploration of the Coen brothers’ oeuvre. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: NYU Pr., 2019. vii, 225 p.
Reviewed: Choice (Aug 2019 vol. 56 no. 12); Essential; Recommended for community college libraries. Description: Maryann Erigha tells the story of inequality, looking at the practices and biases that limit the production and circulation of movies directed by racial minorities. She examines over 1,300 contemporary films, specifically focusing on directors, to show the key elements at work in maintaining “the Hollywood Jim Crow.” Unlike the Jim Crow era where ideas about innate racial inferiority and superiority were the grounds for segregation, Hollywood’s version tries to use economic and cultural explanations to justify the under-representation and stigmatization of Black filmmakers. Erigha exposes the key elements at work in maintaining Hollywood's racial hierarchy, namely the relationship between genre and race, the ghettoization of Black directors to black films, and how Blackness is perceived by the Hollywood producers and studios who decide what gets made and who gets to make it. Erigha questions the notion that increased representation of African Americans behind the camera is the sole answer to the racial inequality gap. Instead, she suggests focusing on the obstacles to integration for African American film directors. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Harper, 2018. ix, 927 p.
Reviewed: NYRB 8 Nov. 2018 p. 45. Description: Although a major Hollywood studio still bears William Fox’s name, the man himself has mostly been forgotten by history, even written off as a failure. Now Vanda Krefft corrects the record, explaining why Fox’s legacy is central to the history of Hollywood. At the heart of William Fox’s life was the myth of the American Dream. His story intertwines the fate of the nineteenth-century immigrants who flooded into New York, the city’s vibrant and ruthless gilded age history, and the birth of America’s movie industry amid the dawn of the modern era. Drawing on a decade of original research, this book offers a rich, compelling look at a complex man emblematic of his time, one of the most fascinating and formative eras in American history. Growing up in Lower East Side tenements, the eldest son of impoverished Hungarian immigrants, Fox began selling candy on the street. That entrepreneurial ambition eventually grew one small Brooklyn theater into a $300 million empire of deluxe studios and theaters that rivaled those of Adolph Zukor, Marcus Loew, and the Warner brothers, and launched stars such as Theda Bara. Amid the euphoric roaring twenties, the early movie moguls waged a fierce battle for control of their industry. A fearless risk-taker, Fox won and was hailed as a genius–until a confluence of circumstances, culminating with the 1929 stock market crash, led to his ruin. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2019. xi, 239 p.
Review: LJ Feb. 2019 p. 90; Choice (Jul. 2019 vol. 56 no. 11); Recommended for community college libraries. Description: Best remembered for his role as the Scarecrow in the 1939 MGM musical The Wizard of Oz, Ray Bolger led a rich and extraordinary career in the decade before and more than four decades after the creation of the film. This is the first biography of this classic American entertainer, covering the luminous and forgotten career of the eccentric dancer outside of his burlap mask. The product of a fragmented, working-class Boston Irish family, Bolger learned tap and eccentric dance steps as solace for a difficult life be-fore running away to repertory theater and Vaudeville. …Using unprecedented access to Bolger's papers and many never-before-published photo-graphs, Van Leuven pieces together the lost story of an itinerant hoofer who survived and thrived during the major media changes of the twentieth century and established himself as a staple of American pop culture. (publ.) Note: Author Holly Van Leuven is the inaugural winner of the Biographers International Organization’s Hazel Rowley Prize for first-time authors.
Publication Date: Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2019. vi, 234 p.
Reviewed: Choice (Jul 2019 vol. 56 no. 11); Top 75 Titles recommended for community college libraries. Description: Hollywood films have been influential in the portrayal and representation of race relations in the South and how African Americans are cinematically depicted in history, from The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) to The Help (2011) and 12 Years a Slave (2013). With an ability to reach mass audiences, films represent the power to influence and shape the public’s understanding of our country’s past, creating lasting images–both real and imagined–in American culture. This collection analyzes films through the lens of religion, politics, race, sex, and class, building a comprehensive look at the South as seen on screen. (publ.)
Publication Date: Honesdale, Penn.: Calkins Creek/Highlights Pr., 2018. 139 p.
Reviewed: PW 18 June 2018 p. 107. Description: Describes the panic induced when listeners believed Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” to be news of an alien invasion, dis-cussing the context in which the broadcast was aired and why it was so convincing. Note: YA audience/reading level.
Publication Date: Austin: U.Texas Pr., 2018.173 p.
Reviewed: TLS 17 Aug. 2018 p. 10. Description: When Lieutenant Uhura took her place on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek, the actress Nichelle Nichols went where no African American woman has ever gone before. Yet several decades passed before many other black women began playing significant roles in speculative (i.e. science fiction, fantasy, and horror) film and television--a troubling omission, given that these genres offer significant opportunities for reinventing social constructs such as race, gender, and class. Challenging cinema's history of stereotyping or erasing black women on-screen, Denison University professor Diana Mafe showcases twenty-first-century examples that portray them as central figures of action and agency. (publ.)
Publication Date: Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017. 137 p.
Description: Since the first films played in nickelodeons, controversial movies have been cut or banned across the United States. Far from Hollywood, regional productions such as Oscar Micheaux’s provocative race films and Nell Shipman’s wildlife adventures were censored by men like Major M.L.C. Funkhouser, the terror of Chicago’s cinemas, and Myrtelle Snell, the Alabama administrator who made the slogan “Banned in Birmingham” famous. Censorship continues today, with Utah’s case against Deadpool (2016) pending in federal court and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills (2013) versus the Texas Film Commission. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Penguin Pr., 2017. 320 p.
Reviewed: PW 1 May 2017 p. 51; WSJ 1/2 July 2017 p. C5; NPR 2 July 2017 ("How Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood Off The Cliff") Note: When this film was made in 1992, then little-known actor Brad Pitt had a bit part in the movie. Guess he showed promise.
Publication Date: Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books, 2017. 306 p.
Reviewed: PW 14 Aug. 2017 p. 62 Description: Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the land-mark film that turned Hollywood and American culture on their heads, the inside story of how The Graduate came to be, how it worked its magic, and how it continues to influence us today. (publ.) Note: Film available at NICC Calmar campus; call no. 791.4372 Gra (DVD).
Publication Date: New York: Columbia UP, 2018. xiv, 406 p.
Reviewed: PW 12 Feb. 2018; LJ 1 Apr. 2018 p. 76 Description: Thomas Doherty takes us behind the scenes at the first full-on media-political spectacle of the postwar era, a courtroom drama starring glamorous actors, colorful moguls, on-the-make congressmen, high-priced lawyers, single-minded investigators, and recalcitrant screenwriters, all recorded by newsreel cameras and broadcast over radio. Doherty explores the deep background to the hearings and details the theatrical elements of a proceeding that bridged the realms of entertainment and politics. (publ.)
“In the current era of legislative upheaval, Doherty’s vital, impressive history feels both relevant and urgent.” (PW)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2017. viii, 220 p.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 3 Sept. 2017 p. 12 Description: Behind the scenes at the legendary Warner Brothers film studio, where four immigrant brothers transformed themselves into the moguls and masters of American fantasy Warner Bros charts the rise of an unpromising film studio from its shaky beginnings in the early twentieth century through its ascent to the pinnacle of Hollywood influence and popularity. The Warner Brothers–Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack–arrived in America as unschooled Jewish immigrants, yet they founded a studio that became the smartest, toughest, and most radical in all of Hollywood. David Thomson provides fascinating and original interpretations of Warner Brothers pictures from the pioneering talkie The Jazz Singer through black-and-white musicals, gangster movies, and such dramatic romances as Casablanca, East of Eden, and Bonnie and Clyde. He recounts the storied exploits of the studio's larger-than-life stars, among them Al Jolson, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Doris Day, and Bugs Bunny. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: NYU Pr., 2016. xi, 247 p.
Reviewed: Choice Oct 2016 vol. 54 no. 2 (Essential; Top 75 Titles Recommended for Community College Libraries; Outstanding Academic Title). Description: Among the most well-known YouTubers are a cadre of talented Asian American performers, including comedian Ryan Higa and makeup artist Michelle Phan. Yet beneath the sheen of these online success stories lies a problem–Asian Americans remain sorely underrepresented in mainstream film and television. When they do appear on screen, they are often relegated to demeaning stereotypes such as the comical foreigner, the sexy girlfriend, or the martial arts villain. The story that remains untold is that as long as these inequities have existed, Asian Americans have been fighting back–joining together to protest offensive imagery, support Asian American actors and industry workers, and make their voices heard. Providing a cultural history and ethnography, Asian American Media Activism assesses everything from grassroots collectives in the 1970s up to contemporary engagements by fan groups, advertising agencies, and users on YouTube and Twitter. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Bloomsbury, 2017. xvi, 379 p., 16 p. of plates.
Reviewed: NPR (1) Fresh Air 21 Feb. 2017: "What A Classic '50s Western Can Teach Us About The Hollywood Blacklist"; (2)"High Noon Takes Aim At The Hollywood Blacklist." [Book Review; 2 March 2017]; TLS 2 June 2017 p. 4. Description: What has been often overlooked is that High Noon was made during the height of the Hollywood blacklist, a time of political inquisition and personal betrayal. In the middle of the film shoot, screenwriter Carl Foreman was forced to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his former membership in the Communist Party. Refusing to name names, he was eventually blacklisted and fled the United States. (His co-authored screenplay for another classic, The Bridge on the River Kwai, went uncredited in 1957.) Examined in light of Foreman’s testimony, High Noon’s emphasis on courage and loyalty takes on deeper meaning and importance. Holdings: Library has movie (DVD) in collection; call no. 791.4372 HIG.
Publication Date: London: I. B. Taurus, 2017. xiii, 316 p.
Reviewed: Jul 2017 vol. 54 no. 11 (Highly Recommended; Top 75 Books for Community College Library Collections) Description: Edited by two of the leading experts in the field, this title analyzes fictional and semi-fictional portrayals of genocide, focusing on, amongst others, the repression of indigenous populations in Australia, the genocide of Native Americans in the 19th century, the Herero genocide, Armenia, the Holodomor (Stalin’s policy of starvation in Ukraine), the Nazi Holocaust, Nanking and Darfur. (publ.)
Publication Date: Toronto: U. Toronto Pr., 2017. viii, 174 p.
Reviewed: Choice Sep 2017 vol. 55 no. 1 (highly recommended; recommended for community college libraries) Description: Despite a desire to showcase the diversity of Muslims in Canada, the makers of Little Mosque had to erase visible signs of difference in order to reach a broad audience. This paradox of 'saleable diversity' challenges conventional ideas about the ways in which sitcoms integrate minorities into the mainstream. (publ.)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2017. x, 328 p.
Reviewed: Choice Aug 2017 vol. 54 no. 12 (highly recommend-ed; general readers+) Description: There are dozens of studies that show effects, an equal number that show no effect, and a smattering of studies that show it is impossible to determine whether there are any effects. About the only definitive conclusion that can be drawn after analyzing thousands of studies is that some media have some effect on some children. The book analyzes over 50 years of studies collected internationally.
Publication Date: New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2017. xi, 208 p.
Reviewed: CHE 6 Jan. 2017 (new books) Description: Not only are #OscarsSoWhite, but white male gatekeepers dominate Hollywood, breeding a culture of ethnocentric storytelling and casting. Reel Inequality examines the structural barriers actors of color face in Hollywood, while shedding light on how they survive in a racist industry. Through nearly a hundred interviews with working actors, Nancy Wang Yuen reveals the biases they experience in talent agents' offices, at auditions, and on sets, yet also provides vital insights from actors of color who have succeeded on their own terms. (publ.)