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What are you reading?

Films, TV shows, and books of the 'modern' era

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ChiO
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby ChiO » June 12th, 2013, 5:21 pm

Anything is good if you only spent a buck on it!

I tried that with an engagement ring. Mrs.ChiO rejected the argument.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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knitwit45
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby knitwit45 » June 12th, 2013, 5:34 pm

Wouldn't have happened if you had given her the CrackerJax, too. Just sayin'..
"Life is not the way it's supposed to be.. It's the way it is..
The way we cope with it, is what makes the difference." ~ Virginia Satir
""Most people pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." ~ Soren Kierkegaard

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 12th, 2013, 6:13 pm

Ha! Yes, it's quite the reverse as far as presents are concerned!

kingrat
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby kingrat » June 12th, 2013, 7:26 pm

Some of you who like your mysteries on the gentler side may appreciate Elizabeth Daly, whose novels are now being reprinted by Felony & Mayhem, which has an excellent list of authors who are not noir, who don't write about brutal serial killers, etc. Elizabeth Daly's first novel was published during WWII; she was over 60 at the time. Reportedly, she was Agatha Christie's favorite mystery writer.

Though some of her puzzles are good, what is perhaps more fascinating is the bygone way of life depicted. Her hero, Henry Gamadge, a bibliophile who plays amateur sleuth with great success, lives in a New York brownstone. Think of Edith Wharton's characters a generation later, with less money, a certain shabbiness, but with the social codes still intact. If these novels miss out on the changes New York was going through in the 1940s and 1950s, that's part of what makes them interesting reading. These are not the most exciting mysteries you will ever read, but if you like the flavor of, say, Arrow Pointing Nowhere or The Wrong Way Down or Somewhere in the House, there are about a dozen novels. At least a couple (The Book of the Crime, The Book of the Lion) are not whodunits at all, though there is an element of mystery in them.

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 13th, 2013, 6:08 am

They sound like just the sort of thing I like kingrat, thanks for the review.

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ChiO
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby ChiO » June 23rd, 2013, 11:50 am

Recently finished A Very Dangerous Citizen: Abraham Lincoln Polonsky and the Hollywood Left (Buhle, P. & Wagner, D. 2001).

In the 'fifties I discovered friendship. In the 'thirties I discovered myself. - Zenia's Way (novel by Polonsky)

This would fall into the Critical Biography category. The life and non-film writings of Polonsky were new to me and very interesting. Polonsky was a lifelong Communist, much admired by his fellow Leftists for his intellectualism, but not a Party follower, differing greatly on aesthetic matters and the freedom all writers should have. Having always wondered why he - one of the most open Communists in Hollywood - was not one of the Hollywood Ten, only some light was shed. He was called before HUAC and, like the Ten, he did not name names and exerted his Constitutional rights. During his questioning, a man walked in and whispered in the Chairman's ear. The Chairman said Polonsky was "a very dangerous citizen" and dismissed him. Was the thought that the government could get him on something more serious than contempt? Or, was it a fear that Polonsky, if convicted, might talk publicly about his WWII OSS experiences, something he had not done (and never did)? Polonsky was similarly silent throughout his life about who fronted for him while he was blacklisted. He considered that his "naming names" of his fronts would be a betrayal of trust and a disloyal act.

I found the cultural history - NYC, Yiddish culture, Jewish intellectualism, and political thought - about the coming together of the writers (and some producers, directors and actors) in Hollywood in the '30s and '40s to be even more interesting. The authors do walk that tight rope that others have tried: arguing that the Blacklist was a product of hysteria, overly imaginative exaggerations, and unnecessarily harsh while at the same time arguing that most of the best writers (and producers, directors and actors) were, if not Communists as intellectually astute as Polonsky, decidedly Leftists, generally sympathetic to Communism (though, in most cases, not the Stalinist variety) and doing as much as they could to send a message. Overall, a fascinating read.

One nit: After a while, the authors' general bias - if it was written by a Leftist, then it was good or, if in a few cases it wasn't good, it would have been if the writer had been left alone - gets tiresome and somewhat counter-productive. They couldn't all have been that good, could they? And, if not, which other parts of the authors' story are suspect?

One intriguing statement that was almost a throwaway aside and that I would love to read more about: The Golden Age of Television was the product of the blacklist; that the blacklisted writers (and others) and those sympathetic to their beliefs, but who were too young and uninvolved at that time to be a part of the blacklist (example: Sidney Lumet), migrated to TV due to the Hollywood blacklist.

Nothing is better; perhaps revolution, but there you have to succeed and be right, dangers which never attach themselves to making movies, and dreaming. - Polonsky upon returning to film directing with TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE

Selected Filmography
Body and Soul (1947 - Screenwriter)
Force of Evil (1948 - Director & co-Screenwriter)
I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951 - Screenwriter)
You Are There (various episodes 1953-54, outro - Screenwriter)
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959 - Screenwriter)
Madigan (1968 - co-Screenwriter)
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969 - Director & Screenwriter)
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 23rd, 2013, 3:23 pm

I like Polonsky, in theory. As a screenwriter very much. I certainly have no problem with Leftists, I'm quite left of center myself. But when I've seen him in documentaries, I'll admit I can't stand him. Would this book give me a different picture, something I could hang onto and like in the man? I like that he was honest, and loyal to his fronts, but it almost seems like a disease with him. :D

I am really curious how he got such a massive reputation on the basis of two, maybe three particular movies (well, maybe more but we'll never know) and some TV credits. I think he's probably the best known blacklisted writer. Certainly the most memorable. Granted, those early movies are great, very strong. And Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here is one of my favorite under-appreciated films of the 60's. Is he well known because he was extremely vocal? Is it wrong of me not to like him because he was extremely vocal? I come from a viewpoint of empathy with the blacklisted artists. But I also feel that there has to be an end to the recriminations and the bitterness. I might feel just as Polonsky did about Kazan, years later, had I gone through his ordeal, lost work and fame because of the blacklist. Perhaps I lack understanding. But I dislike seeing that he really held a grudge. Nothing gracious about him, not that there should be. So I'm torn.

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ChiO
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby ChiO » June 23rd, 2013, 6:10 pm

Bitterness? Maybe. Dismissive of shmucks (his description)? Certainly.

Maybe of some interest is this segment from about a 1:30 interview
with him on July 6, 1999. He died on October 26, 1999. This
segment is about the Blacklist and some of his TV work.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIY54NaclFI[/youtube]

How can you not love him?
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 23rd, 2013, 6:19 pm

I don't know! I'll watch and see if my attitude towards him changes.

It was a long time ago that I saw him in some documentaries, and maybe I had a skewed opinion of him for some reason. it's possible that with age I will see a totally different man. Or maybe I watched a documentary that was put together in such a way that it made him look bad. I'll give him another try.

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 23rd, 2013, 6:30 pm

I'm having trouble hearing this interview on the computer, it's quite buzzy, I can hear the first word or so that he says in answer to a question, when his voice rises, remembering, but that's about all. I'm going to try it tomorrow on the TV and see if I can hear it any better.

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charliechaplinfan
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 24th, 2013, 5:43 am

I've come across a great service for me, I suffer from word blindness with this malady and I found a UK charity that provides unlimited listening books for me. Which is great but it crashed the whole computer and Chris spent the whole weekend rebuilding the computer so I missed our guest star. Still I've got my listening books, I'm a happy girl.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 24th, 2013, 10:45 am

Ooh, that's great, Alison! I know how much you like to read so this is a great thing, especially when the audio books on the kindle are always at least 20 bucks a throw.

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 24th, 2013, 5:41 pm

Hey, I watched the Polonsky interview and liked it so much I watched all the other parts! except for part 3 which came up with no sound, dang it! I must revise my opinion of him. He seems like a genuine guy.

The doc I saw years ago was on PBS I believe and they intercut different writers, actors and directors of the time, and every time Polonsky was on he was ranting. This is the problem with the newer sound byte style documentaries and shows - you don't really get a good feel for what a person is like, or what that person really thinks. You only get what the EDITOR thinks is exciting. For me, in the documentary he came off as vindictive and hateful, whereas in this archive interview, he is obviously thoughtful and capable of sincere forgiveness, as witness what he said about Sterling Hayden. Thanks for clearing that up. I'll try not to be so judgmental in future.

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ChiO
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby ChiO » June 24th, 2013, 6:03 pm

Sterling Hayden. That captured me, too. Polonsky accepted one who did wrong (in his view), but who repented. He didn't accept one who did wrong (in his view) and made excuses.

Did my bias show?

Thank goodness the interviewer (who was pretty lame, wasn't he?) didn't ask about Nicholas Ray. I hate cognitive dissonance.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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JackFavell
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Re: What are you reading?

Postby JackFavell » June 24th, 2013, 6:24 pm

Ha! I know what you mean.

Yes, the remarks about Sterling Hayden tipped me over the edge in Polonsky's favor. He really was a fair man, a human man, not judgmental except when he thought wrongs were left standing, or he thought dishonesty was swept under the rug. I was way wrong about him.


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