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On December 22, 1953, Mort Sahl (b. 1927) took the stage at San Francisco's hungry i and changed comedy forever. Before him, standup was about everything but hard news and politics. In his wake, a new generation of smart comics emerged-Shelley Berman, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, Dick Gregory, Woody Allen, and the Smothers Brothers. He opened up jazz-inflected satire to a loose network of clubs, cut the first modern comedy album, and appeared on the cover of Time surrounded by caricatures of some of his frequent targets such as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, and John F. Kennedy. Through the extraordinary details of Sahl's life, author James Curtis deftly illustrates why Sahl was dubbed by Steve Allen as the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy. Sahl came on the scene the same year Eisenhower and Nixon entered the White House, the year Playboy first hit the nation's newsstands. Clad in an open collar and pullover sweater, he adopted the persona of a graduate student ruminating on current events. It was like nothing I'd ever seen, said Woody Allen, and I've never seen anything like it after. Sahl was billed, variously, as the Nation's Conscience, America's Only Working Philosopher, and, most tellingly, the Next President of the United States. Yet he was also a satirist so savage the editors of Time once dubbed him Will Rogers with fangs. Here, for the first time, is the whole story of Mort Sahl,America's iconoclastic father of modern standup comedy. Written with Sahl's full cooperation and the participation of many of his friends and contemporaries, it delves deeply into the influences that shaped him, the heady times in which he soared, and the depths to which he fell during the turbulent sixties when he took on the Warren Commission and nearly paid for it with his livelihood.
One American in 560 becomes a doctor . . . Only one black American in 3800 does. Why? The answers and what can be done about them are presented in this succinct and important book by Dr. James L. Curtis. Blacks, Medical Schools, and Society provides an insightful history of the black physician in America from colonial times to the present as well as an incisive analysis of contemporary trends and future prospects in black medical education. Examining high school programs and premedical workshops such as the Cornell Medical School-Hampton Institute collaboration, the author evaluates the impact of current approaches and suggests practical steps to increase the quality and quantity of trained black doctors and dentists. At a time when physicians are in short supply, and when for the first time more than half of the country's black medical students are attending predominantly white schools, this book offers a significant and straightforward commentary on the medical practices of a multiracial society.
During his lifetime, Spencer Tracy was known as Hollywood's 'actor's actor'. Critics wrote that what Olivier was to theatre, Tracy was to film. Over his career he was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won two. But there has been no substantial, intimate biography of the man, until now. From his earliest days in stock theatre, Tracy was a publicist's trial, guarding his private life fiercely. Most of the people associated closely with him shunned the limelight - notably his wife, his children and the great actress Katharine Hepburn, with whom he had an affair that lasted over 26 years. Although his screen roles often depicted a happy, twinkling Irishman, Tracy struggled with alchoholism to the end, a fact which the studios managed to keep out of the papers. With the help of Tracy's daughter, Susie, and access to previously unseen papers, James Curtis has now produced the definitive biography of a tortured, complex and immensely talented man. The book contains 124 integrated photos, many published for the first time.
The basis for the Academy Award winning film Gods and Monsters Starring Ian McKellan and Brendan Fraser. James Curtis is the author of a well-received biography on Preston Sturges and a new book, W.C. FIELDS, just published by Knopf and favorably reviewed in the NYTBR.
James Whale directed some of the most stylish and unusual movies of the 1930s but he was most successful in a genre he virtually invented. For it was Whale who, in 1931, took a lanky, middle-aged actor and sometime truck-driver named Boris Karloff and cast him as the tragic, patchwork creature of the original Frankenstein. But Whale's success was short-lived. His career faltered and, being openly gay, he found work increasingly hard to get. He quit just ten years after the triumph of Frankenstein, and died a suicide only months before the film's eventual release on television. James Curtis has written the definitive account of the life of this innovative and stylish director.
In 1938, Warner Brothers production chief Hal Wallis grudgingly described David Lewis-one of his six supervisors and a veteran of 15 feature films-to director Michael Curtiz: That Lewis is a genius at getting scripts out of people who can't write! Wallis knew that writing ultimately defined the job of the creative producer and that David Lewis had an uncanny talent for coaxing the best filmic material from the screenwriters he supervised. In this memoir, Lewis describes his development as a production executive and how the associate producer helped make the famed studio system work. It was the producer (or supervisor , at Warners) who saw the script budgeted, cast the film, helped choose the director, and gently influenced the filming itself. Once shooting was complete, it was the producer who stayed with the project through editing and previews. David Lewis (1903-1987) was an associate producer at RKO and later at MGM. He hit his stride at Warner Bros., where, between 1937 and 1942, he produced twelve films with such popular stars as James Cagney (Each Dawn I Die), Humphrey Bogart (It All Came True), Bette Davis (Dark Victory), Ronald Reagan (Kings Row), Errol Flynn (Four's a Crowd), and Charles Boyer (All This and Heaven Too). His films were nominated for a total of 15 Academy Awards, including three for Best Picture. Some of Lewis's films have rightfully become classics; all reflect an unerring instinct for character and structure, part of the filmmaking process he describes in The Creative Producer.
In May 1936, Farm Security Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein was sent to the Badlands of South Dakota to document the persistent drought that ravaged the Great Plains. He came upon a sun-bleached steer's skull on a parched alkali flat and took several photographs of the scene. Then he moved the skull a few feet to achieve more dramatic contrast and deeper shadow detail. It was this photo that would rank among Rothstein's most famous images, but when the story of his artistic manipulation was discovered by the press, the resulting outrage and charges of fakery threatened to shut down the FSA's documentary project. Rothstein spent the rest of his career explaining the skull photographs. In Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth , James Curtis challenges the pervasive belief that documentary photographs are realistic because they are not consciously arranged images.The 82 photographs considered in this book evidence the deliberate arrangement of elements and subjects that are the hallmarks of art and, as such, are forbidden to documentary photographers. Curtis argues that this manipulation was not intended to deceive but to persuade. Roy Stryker, who headed the FSA documentary project, and his photographers wanted to enlist the sympathies of an urban, middle-class audience in the cause of reform and so they fashioned images that conformed to the values of their viewers. Thus, the bitter realism portrayed in the FSA collection was deliberate, calculated, and highly stylized. Curtis focuses his analysis on four well-known FSA staff photographers whose work gained widespread recognition and did much to influence America's vision of rural poverty.In considering revered and unknown photographs by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Tee, and Arthur Rothstein, as well as personal papers, memoirs, interviews, and the FSA file, Curtis reconstructs the methods the photographers used to create the images that defined the Depression in the public's imagination. James Curtis is Professor of History and Director of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture at the University of Delaware.