Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13th, 2010 by kokoro

Since we didn’t get to hear any music in class when we talked about Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, here they are!

Ma Rainey – Southern Blues (1923)

Ma Rainey – Farewell Daddy Blues (1924)

Ma Rainey – See See Rider Blues (1924)

Ma Rainey – Slave to the Blues (1925)

Ma Rainey – Little Low Mama Blues (1926)

Ma Rainey – Trust No Man (1926)

Ma Rainey – Ma and Pa Poorhouse Blues (1928)

Bessie Smith – ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do (1923)

Bessie Smith – Woman’s Trouble Blues (1924)

Bessie Smith – Money Blues (1926)

Bessie Smith – Young Woman’s Blues (1926)

Bessie Smith – Washwoman’s Blues (1928)

Bessie Smith – Black Mountain Blues (1930)

History 325 Proposal: The Zipper

Posted in HIST 325, Uncategorized on February 12th, 2009 by kokoro

EDIT: Visit the completed project and learn about the background, development, adoption, and impact of the zipper.

I intend to investigate the history of the zipper for my American History and Technology class project. My project will be divided into several parts, discussing the zipper’s antecedents, its invention, its possible alternatives, and its adoption and interaction with American culture.

Why the zipper? “The zipper,” according to Robert Friedel, author of Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty, “is the perfect vehicle for exploring how and why men and women seek to create new things and how difficult it in fact can be to change the ways of the world, no matter how clever and ingenious our inventions are” [1]. The zipper may seem like an uninteresting topic of exploration, but it has a rich history that makes it a perfect artifact of discussion. It is likely no one has ever waxed poetic about the zipper as a validation of industrialization and capitalism like the railroad. Maybe there has never been a zipper on display in an important American building as a reminder of strength like a hunk of steel. Perhaps the zipper had not changed the very basics of our society. But like those behemoth innovations, the zipper has become such a part of our daily lives and identities that we take it for granted. And to be fair to the poor, neglected zipper, there are probably a fair number of Americans who can say they have never ridden a train, but how many Americans can say that they have never used a zipper?

Background:

The U.S. Patent Office approved several early designs that only vaguely resembled today’s zipper. One of these devices was an “automatic, continuous clothing closure,” patented by Elias Howe in 1851. However, Howe’s design never reached market, likely because Howe was concerned with promoting one of his other inventions, the sewing machine.

The first patent to use a slide device, which enabled the fasteners to be brought together in a semiautomatic way, belonged to Whitcomb Judson. While Judson’s design used recognizable fastening devices like clasps, hooks, and eyes, the addition of a slide proved to be innovative. Judson’s first patent was issued in 1893, and he continued to work on simplifying his design.

Despite Judson’s proclivity for overly complicated inventions, he found a partner in Harry L. Earle and his manufacturing company. Earle tired to raise money to put Judson’s device into production, but he met with little success. Despite Judson’s constant improvements, his design did not work particularly well. Nonetheless, Judson designed and patented machinery to make his fastener. Finally, in 1904 he created a design using hooks and eyes connected to a fabric tape, which could then be attached to shoes and garments. Judson’s new design made the first commercial introduction of the fastener possible.

The Automatic Hook and Eye Company of Hoboken was created to produce and sell Judson’s new design, called the C-curity fastener. The fastener went to market in 1905, mostly marketed towards women, but it was mostly unsuccessful. Swedish born, Gideon Sundback was hired to work for the company, and there he perfected the design of the zipper. He first made modifications to Judson’s design, making the hook-and-eye connection more secure. The Plako, as it was called, was marketed towards dressmakers and for men’s trousers, where it enjoyed some success. However, the Plako also proved to be unreliable, not being flexible enough to stay closed when bent or twisted.

Sundback continued to work on the device, and in 1912 he created a new design for the product, abandoning the hook-and-eye system. His Hookless #1 design used a slide to force one side of the fastener, made of cloth tape, into metal clamps on the other side. However, the wear on the fabric tape proved to be too much, and the fastener could only be used a few times.

Nevertheless, the company reorganized into the Hookless Fastener Company. In 1913, Sundback designed the Hookless #2, which introduced the interlocking system used in the modern zipper. He changed the fasteners from hooks and eyes to small interlocking scoops. These scoops fit together tightly when joined by the slide and were easily released when separated by it. New mechanical innovations allowed Sundback device to be mass produced.

While a workable slide fastener had finally been invented, it still needed a market if it was to be adopted. The zipper found its first widespread success in 1918 when the United States joined World War I. The Hookless Company added zippers to soldiers’ money belts, Navy flying suits and life vests, and fuselage coverings. While the end of the war also ended the company’s military sales, thousands of Americans had been exposed to the zipper. By 1937 the zipper had become a common addition to men’s and women’s fashions, and it quickly gained popularity outside the apparel market as well. After nearly half a decade, the zipper was no longer considered a novelty.

Primary Sources:

Many of my primary sources will come from a free patent website, http://www.freepatentsonline.com/, which provides files of original United States patents. The patents include drawings, technical descriptions, and possible uses for the inventions.

There are some early devices that vaguely resemble an early design of the zipper, including Elias Howe’s automatic, continuous clothing closure, U.S. Patent No. 8,540 (1851).

+ “Fastening for Garments.” United States Patent Office No. 8,540, patented Nov. 25 1851. FreePatentsOnline. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/0008540.pdf (accessed January 31, 2009).

Whitcomb Judson designed a device based on pervious clasps and hooks, but he added a slide that allowed the fasteners to be brought together in a semiautomatic way. Judson constantly worked on improving his design to make it more practical. Some of his patents include a hook-and-eye shoe fastener, U.S. Patent No. 504,037 (1893), and a clasp locker/unlocker for shoes, U.S. Patent No. 504,038 (1893).

+ “Shoe Fastening.” United States Patent Office No. 504,037, patented Aug. 29 1893. FreePatentsOnline. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/0504037.pdf (accessed January 31, 2009).

+ “Clasp Locker or Unlocker for Shoes.” United States Patent Office No. 504,038, patented Aug. 29 1893. FreePatentsOnline. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/0504038.pdf (accessed January 31, 2009).

Gideon Sundback streamlined Judson’s fastener and designed the interlocking teeth system used in zippers today. He also constantly worked on improving his device. One of his patents includes a separable fastener, U.S. Patent No. 1,219,881 (1917).

+ “Separable Fastener.” United States Patent Office No. 1,219,881, patented Mar. 20, 1917. FreePatentsOnline. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/1219881.pdf (accessed January 31, 2009).

Secondary Sources:

Friedel, Robert D. Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1994.

+ Friedel’s book will likely be my most crucial secondary source, as it is entirely dedicated to a history and discussion on the zipper, including its place in American culture.

Friedel, Robert. “The History of the Zipper,” Invention and Technology Magazine 10, no. 1 (Summer 1994). http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1994/1/1994_1_8.shtml (accessed January 31, 2009).

+ Friedel further discusses the history of the zipper in this article.

Friedel, Robert, and Alexander Horniman. “Zipper!” Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Web site. With Good Reason Archives. http://www.virginiafoundation.org/media/wgr/archives/2007/jan07wgr.html (accessed January 31, 2009).

+ Robert Friedel and Alexander Horniman discuss how the zipper illustrates the limitations and expectations of technology and the meanings we place on technology.

Lienhard, John H. The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

+ It is somewhat difficult to think of the zipper as a machine, but Lienhard’s perspective as an engineer when discussing the zipper will keep that distinction in mind.

Petroski, Henry. The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts- From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers- Came to be as They Are. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1994.

+ Much like Friedel, Petroski also discusses the history of the zipper, as well as other ordinary artifacts, and how it came to be ordinary rather than novel.

Petroksi, Henry. Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.

+ Petroski spends a section discussing the zipper from the scientific thinking required for its invention to the concerns of creating a market for the invention.

Smith, Vaclav. Transforming the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations and Their Consequences. Oxford University Press, USA; illustrated edition edition (April 13, 2006

+ Smith writes on 20th Century inventions, including the zipper, and how they have integrated into society.

“The ABC of Zip Fasteners.” COATS Industry Web site. http://www.industrie.coats.de/zip/zipabc/ (accessed January 31, 2009).

+ This website provides technical aspects of the zipper. It describes zipper models, types, components, and length definitions.

Notes:

[1] Robert Friedel, “The History of the Zipper,” Invention and Technology Magazine 10, no. 1 (Summer 1994), http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1994/1/1994_1_8.shtml (accessed January 31, 2009).

Tags:

The Zipper

Posted in HIST 325 on February 2nd, 2009 by kokoro
Image from seattlefabrics.com

Image from seattlefabrics.com

I plan to do my American Technology and Culture project on the one, the only… zipper! Exciting, no?

Image:
Seattle Fabrics, Inc., “Zippers,” JPG file, http://www.seattlefabrics.com/zippers.html (accessed February 2, 2009).

Tags:

Gentleman’s Agreement Part 3: Bibliography and Pledge

Posted in 2008hist329 on November 11th, 2008 by kokoro

Bibliography:

Bronski, Michael. “Remembering Gregory Peck, and a Not So Gentlemanly Agreement.” Forward, June 20, 2003. http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

“By the Flank.” Time.com, January 15, 1945. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,775364,00.html (accessed November 8, 2008).

Crowther, Bosley. “Anti-Semitism Assaulted Boldly on the Screen.” New York Times, November 16, 1947. http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

Crowther, Bosley. “‘ Gentleman’s Agreement,’ Study of Anti-Semitism, Is Feature at Mayfair — Gregory Peck Plays Writer Acting as Jew.” New York Times, November 12, 1947. http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

“Display Ad 18 — No Title.” The Washington Post, April 13, 1947. http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

Fishgall, Gary. Gregory Peck: A Biography. New York: Scriber, 2002.

“Film Critics Hold ‘Agreement’ Best:Hollywood Picture Wins Out Over ‘Great Expectations’ by 2 Votes on 6 Ballots William Powell Honored He Tops Actors, Deborah Kerr Leads Actresses and Elia Kazan Heads Directors.” New York Times, December 30, 1947, http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

Gabler, Neal. An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1988.

Gentleman’s Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan, 20th Century Fox, 1947.

Kaplan, Lewis A. “The House Un-American Activities Committee and its Opponents: A Study in Congressional Dissonance.” The Journal of Politics 20, no. 3 (August 1968): 647-671, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2128799 (accessed November 8, 2008).

Kaplan, Ron. “Historic ‘Agreement’.” Jewish News, January 3, 2008. http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

Langdon, Jennifer E. Caught in the Crossfire: Adrian Scott and the Politics of Americanism
in 1940s Hollywood
. Columbia University Press, 2008. http://www.gutenberg-e.org/langdon/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

Lewis, Jon. “’We Do Not Ask You to Condone This’: How the Blacklist Saved Hollywood.” Cinema Journal 39, no.2 (Winter 2000): 3-30, http://www.jstor.org/pss/1225550 (accessed November 8, 2008).

Lipkin, Steven N. “Real Emotional Logic: Persuasive Strategies in Docudrama.” Cinema Journal 38, no. 4 (Summer 1999): 68-85. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1225663 (accessed November 8, 2008).

Michael, Robert. A Concise History of American Antisemitism. Landam, Maryland: Roman & Littlefield Publisher’s, Inc., 2005.

More, Deborah Dash. “Jewish GIs and the Creation of the Judeo-Christian Tradition.” Religion and American Culture 8, no. 1 (Winter 1998): 31-53. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/stable/pdfplus/1123913.pdf (accessed November 8, 2008).

Poore, Charles. “Books of the Times.” New York Times, February 27, 1947. http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

Shapiro, Edward S. A Time of Healing: American Jewry Since World War II. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

Schickler, Eric, and Andrew Rich. “Controlling the Floor: Parties as Procedural Coalitions in the House.” American Journal of Political Science 41, no. 4 (October 1997): 1340-1375, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2960492 (accessed November 8, 2000).

Sorin, Gerald. Tradition Transformed: The Jewish Experience in America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

“Will Soldier’s Vote?” Time.com, Febuary 14, 1944. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,885334,00.html (accessed November 8, 2008).

Pledge:

I pledge the work for my project on Gentleman’s Agreement. –Taylor Brann

Gentleman’s Agreement Part 2: Analysis

Posted in 2008hist329 on November 11th, 2008 by kokoro

Poster from http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/gentlemansagreement.html

Gentleman’s Agreement was one of the first films to deal directly with anti-Semitism. It primarily examines a more covert, subtle kind of bigotry that sometimes exists in people without them even realizing it. The movie depicts and discusses the social discrimination against Jews on several levels, including exclusion from employment and housing, as well as the verbal abuse most often expressed between children. There is also the subject of Jewish self-loathing, often expressed by film moguls themselves, in which the more successful Jews disparage those who haven’t made it or “make it harder for the rest of us.” Phil’s Jewish secretary, who has been on the end of employment discrimination, expresses dislike towards “the kikey ones who cause trouble” [33]. Gentleman’s Agreement truly pushed the envelope in 1947, when ten years prior to the film the word “Jew” couldn’t be uttered on the screen [34].

While the movie does many things right, there are several fair critiques that can be made against it. In the movie, as in the book, Phil’s investigation of anti-Semitism is limited to the upper-crust Northeastern society. He does not go much further than experiencing petty snubs from rich people, and as a result he does not search for the roots of racism or see the violence and hatred that arises from anti-Semitism. Another issue, as described by New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther, regards the protagonist’s extreme naivety, “it is amazing that the writer who undertakes this probe should be so astonished to discover that anti-Semitism is cruel” [35].

There is also an issue with the premise of Phil disguising himself as a Jew. For one, the story is not as strong with a Gentile “passing” as a Jew as it could be with a Jewish main character. More importantly, the movie suggests that there is “no difference” between Gentiles and Jews, which removes the history, experience, and identity of Jewish culture and inadvertently supports ultra-assimilation of Jews. The message of the movie can also be confused as a result of Phil’s undercover investigation. As one critic put it, the moral of the story is that you should never be rude to a Jew because he might turn out to be a Gentile [36].

Though Gentleman’s Agreement remains a strong human drama, it’s relevance as a social film has waned. Even the director Elia Kazan has distanced himself from the movie, calling it “the perfect example of that day’s ‘liberal’ films,” as well as “patronizing” [37]. Nevertheless, despite its issues and datedness, the larger issues of bigotry and hatred expressed in Gentleman’s Agreement remain problems today. No doubt, discrimination and segregation are less common (or less apparent) in America today, but hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion persists. Perhaps the most important lesson of the movie is that bigotry does not only exist in cross burning, bald headed, hate crime perpetrating extremists. It also exists in the nicest, most ordinary people who perpetuate hatred simply by refusing to speak against it.

Gentleman’s Agreement trailer from Youtube:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/iJBFAKP8jmY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I want to end with a quote I found particularly striking from Phil’s mother, Mrs. Green:

You know something, Phil? I suddenly want to live to be very old. Very. I want to be around to see what happens. The world is stirring in very strange ways. Maybe this is the century for it. Maybe that’s why it’s so troubled. Other centuries had their driving forces. What will ours have been when men look back? Maybe it won’t be the American century after all… or the Russian century or the atomic century. Wouldn’t it be wonderful… if it turned out to be everybody’s century… when people all over the world – free people – found a way to live together? I’d like to be around to see some of that… even the beginning. I may stick around for quite a while [38].

This quote from Mrs. Green seems like an eerie premonition in retrospect, as it was made prior to the pinnacle of the political and social unrest that plagued much of the world for the last half of the 20th century. In America, the development of youth culture, the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s liberation movement, anti-war and anti-government protests, and more all led the nation towards a freer, more equal state.

However, this quote still seems so appropriate and relevant as we enter the 21st century. Issues of war, terrorism, economic security, bigotry, and globalization continue to create unrest throughout the world. Yet, at the same time America takes a great step in electing its first African American president. So, the question still remains, what will this century be remembered for when people look back?

Footnotes:
[33] Gentleman’s Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan, 20th Century Fox, 1947.
[34] Fishgall, Gregory Peck, 126.
[35] Bosley Crowther, “‘ Gentleman’s Agreement,’ Study of Anti-Semitism, Is Feature at Mayfair — Gregory Peck Plays Writer Acting as Jew,” New York Times, November 12, 1947, http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 10, 2008).
[36] Micheal Bronski, “Remembering Gregory Peck, and a Not So Gentlemanly Agreement,” Forward, June 20, 2003, http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).
[37] Fishgall, Gregory Peck, 126.
[38] Gentleman’s Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan, 20th Century Fox, 1947.

Images/video:
[1] History Department at the University of San Diego, “Gentleman’s Agreement,” JPG file, http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/gentlemansagreement.html (accessed November 8, 2008).
[2] Youtube.com, “Movie Trailer— ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ (1947),” Youtube file, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJBFAKP8jmY (accessed November 8, 2008).

Gentleman’s Agreement Part 1: Context

Posted in 2008hist329 on November 11th, 2008 by kokoro

From http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare/gentlemansagreement.htm which compares the old film release to the new

Anti-Semitism has existed in America since it’s very founding. The prejudice towards Jews based on religious differences, economic jealousy, social competition, and political conflict found in Europe came with Europeans to their colonies in North America [1]. In the mid-19th century there was an influx of immigrants, including Jews, coming to America. Around this time, German Jews created relatively successful communities, while also creating and maintaining a unique Jewish cultural world [2]. They moved to the American interior, where they were often involved in commerce and business enterprises [3]. Though these Jews became more acceptable to Americans, they were denied social acceptance through exclusion from clubs, hotels, private schools, college fraternities, and neighborhoods [4]. In the last quarter of the 19th century there was an increase in American anti-Semitism, which the German Jews blamed on the influx of new immigrants from Eastern Europe [5]. Eastern European Jews flocked to Northeastern cities, particularly New York, where they often worked as laborers [6]. These urban Jews were subjected to verbal abuse, most viciously expressed between children, as well as physical violence.

Anti-Semitism continued well into the next century. In 1915, the Ku Klux Klan revived, preaching racism, anti-Communism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism, and nativism as a reaction to immigration. In the 1920s, while the KKK was at its peak and employing violence to back up its ideology, the government was also passing laws to decrease the levels of immigration into the country [7]. In the 1930s, anti-Semitism continued to rise in the United States and well as in the rest of the world as a result of the Great Depression. There was a widespread belief that Jews ran the banking business and caused the stock market to crash, despite the fact that Jews actually held few positions in the business and had little influence on it [8]. At the start of World War II, anti-Semitism grew even stronger, and Jews were once again used as a scapegoat. Jews were stereotyped as warmongers and manipulators, and Americans blamed them for bringing the country into the war.

In the 1940s anti-Semitism reached its peak in America. Wartime public opinion surveys revealed that Chinese immigrants were more desirable than Jewish immigrants, and in 1940 a survey showed that over a quarter of Americans did not want to even work with Jews [9]. During the war and in the following postwar period, economic and social opportunities remained constricted for Jews. They were excluded from jobs in heavy industry, utilities, and banking, as well as from universities, and medical and law schools [10]. Even the Jewish run New York Times ran help wanted ads seeking Christians only [11]. Nevertheless, over 500,000 Jews joined the armed forces during the war [12], and though they faced discrimination, the military helped them forge confidence in themselves and create a stable self-identity [13].

While American anti-Semitism has never been as strong as anti-Semitism in Europe, American prejudices and refusal to react helped determine the fate of European Jews during the Holocaust. The government took no steps to end the suffering of European Jews, and in fact suppressed the information it learned regarding Nazi death camps [14]. Media distanced itself from the Jewish plight, and editors often stopped reporters from attempting to follow Jewish stories [15]. Perhaps the most damning of all was that many Americans believed that whatever was going on in Europe, it was the Jews themselves who were at fault [16].

Along with many Americans following the war, Jews also suburbanized and prospered; however, anti-Semitism still continued as Jews were excluded from private clubs, resorts, and cooperative apartment houses and neighborhoods [17]. Jews also came under fire from government organizations. Mississippi House representative John Rankin restored the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and set the tone and agenda of the committee [18]. Rankin, known for his racist and bigoted attacks in House meetings, insisted on a link between Judaism and Communism, and he instigated an investigation into one of the biggest Jewish industries in America, the film industry [19].

The American film industry was founded by Jews, and nearly every level of production, directing, acting, writing, and ownership and control, involved Jews [20]. All but one of the six major studios was started by Eastern European Jewish immigrants: Carl Laemmle (Universal), Adolph Zukor (Paramount), Louis B. Mayer (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner (Warner Brothers), Harry Cohn (Columbia), and David Sarnoff (RKO). All of these men grew up in destitution, were mistreated in their homeland, and grew an intense devotion towards and need to assimilate to their adopted home of America [21]. While Hollywood was often targeted for undermining traditional American values, the studio heads most wanted to be seen as American [22], and that was reflected in their products and in their self-loathing and despairing comments towards Jews [23]. Nonetheless, Hollywood Jews were forced to testify before HUAC and concede the presence of communists in the industry in order to avoid losing their American respectability [24]. In 1947, ten people, referred to as the Hollywood Ten, refused to testify and were blacklisted, fired, and jailed. Further blacklisting resulted in many entertainment professionals being barred from employment in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Poster from a John Garfield image gallery, http://themave.com/Garfield/gallery/

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the only non-Jewish run studio, 20th Century Fox, was more willing to tackle “liberal” and controversial social issues in its productions. The late 1940s saw a series of “social problem dramas” or “documdramas.” Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, led a movement towards greater realism in film, including stories drawing on contemporary social issues [25]. While Paramount and RKO released The Lost Weekend (1945) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) which dealt with alcoholism and the problems of returning veterans, Zanuck produced The Snake Pit (1948) and Pinky (1949), which dealt with mental illness and race relations and racism, respectively. RKO also released Crossfire (1947), a well received film noir that investigates the murder of a Jewish veteran and the violence of anti-Semitism. Zanuck also felt passionately about the subject of anti-Semitism, and in 1947 he bought the film rights to Laura Z. Hobson’s book, Gentleman’s Agreement.

Hobson was inspired to write Gentleman’s Agreement after coming across an article in Time that reported on John Rankin’s anti-Semitic remarks in the House. While she was not surprised by the bigoted Rankin’s remarks, she was surprised to find that no one objected to his use slurs [26], including hateful phrases like “dirty little kike” [27]. In her novel, she examines how bigotry persists and is accepted in “polite society.” The protagonist, Phil Green, is assigned to write a magazine article on anti-Semitism. He wants to truly understand it, so he poses as a Jew in order to experience bigotry first hand. He finds that anti-Semitism and prejudice exist in places and people he never expected, including the supposedly unbigoted woman he’s fallen in love with. Hobson’s novel was critically acclaimed and was a bestseller for months [28][29].

Zanuck went to Moss Hart to write the screenplay, and he hired Elia Kazan to direct. Kazan had previously directed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) and Boomerang (1947), as well as several theatre productions including The Skin of Our Teeth, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Death of a Salesman. Zanuck was approached by fellow movie moguls who did not want Hollywood to be accused on making “Jewish pictures” because it might cause more anti-Semitism. They asked him not to “rock the boat” and to shelf the movie [30]. But Zanuck wouldn’t be dissuaded from going ahead with production. Gregory Peck was eager to take on the role despite some less than enthusiastic responses from several of his fans and his agent [31]. Dorothy McGuire takes on the role of Phil’s WASPish love interest. Anne Revere and Dean Stockwell play Phil’s mother and son respectively. Celeste Holm plays Phil’s colleague and friend, and John Garfield is Phil’s best friend and a Jewish WWII veteran. The movie was well received and critically acclaimed as Fox’s top grossing film of the year [32], and in 1948 it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress (Holm).

Footnotes:
[1] Robert Michael, A Concise History of American Antisemitism (Landam, Maryland: Roman & Littlefield Publisher’s, Inc., 2005), 6.
[2] Gerald Sorin, Tradition Transformed: The Jewish Experience in America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 31.
[3] Sorin, Tradition Transformed, 105.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., 185.
[8] Michael, A Concise History of American Antisemitism, 145.
[9] Edward S. Shapiro, A Time of Healing: American Jewry Since World War II (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 3 and 44.
[10] Shapiro, A Time of Healing, 6.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., 197.
[13] Deborah Dash More, “Jewish GIs and the Creation of the Judeo-Christian Tradition,” Religion and American Culture 8, no. 1 (Winter 1998): 31-53, http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/stable/pdfplus/1123913.pdf (accessed November 8, 2008).
[14] Sorin, Tradition Transformed, 189.
[15] Michael, A Concise History of American Antisemitism, 151.
[16] Ibid., 145.
[17] Shapiro, A Time of Healing, 50.
[18] “By the Flank,” Time.com, January 15, 1945, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,775364,00.html (accessed November 8, 2008).
[19] Neal Gabler, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1988), 356.
[20] Sorin, Tradition Transformed, 165.
[21] Gabler, An Empire of Their Own, 5.
[22] Ibid., 2.
[23] Ibid., 279.
[24] Ibid., 367.
[25] Steven N. Lipkin, “Real Emotional Logic: Persuasive Strategies in Docudrama,” Cinema Journal 38, no. 4 (Summer 1999): 68-85, http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/stable/pdfplus/1225663.pdf (accessed November 8, 2008).
[26] Gary Fishgall, Gregory Peck: A Biography (New York: Scriber, 2002), 123.
[27] “Will Soldier’s Vote?” Time.com, Febuary 14, 1944, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,885334,00.html (accessed November 8, 2008).
[28] Charles Poore, “Books of the Times,” New York Times, February 27, 1947, http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 8, 2008).
[29] “Display Ad 18 – No Title,” The Washington Post, April 13, 1947, http://www.proquest.com.ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/ (accessed November 10, 2008).
[30] Fishgall, Gregory Peck, 123.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid., 124.

Images:
[1] DVD Beaver.com, “DVD Comparison,” JPG file, http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare/gentlemansagreement.htm (accessed November 8, 2008).
[2] The Mave.com, “John Garfield Image Gallery,” JPG file, http://themave.com/Garfield/gallery/ (accessed November 8, 2008).

Jo Mielziner, Designer

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20th, 2008 by kokoro

“The theatre artist has been called a jack-of-all-trades. Perhaps a better name would be hijacker-of-all-trades, for no man’s lifetime is long enough to learn all about ‘drama’ if he also has to learn about design and the history of art, if he has to master the intricacies of color and light, if he is to understand form in sculpture and line in architecture, if he must have a working knowledge of music and dance. Any one of these is a career in itself. The designer’s danger is that he may become an amateur of all the arts and crafts and a professional in none.” – Jo Mielziner in his 1965 book, The Theatre: A Memoir and a Portfolio

The following biography of Jo Mielziner and his design style was written by Mary Henderson and can be found here.

As the twentieth century wanes, it is generally conceded that American theater came of age in the years following the first World War. With the emergence of Eugene O’Neill, the spread of the experimental theater movement, and the introduction of the “new stagecraft,” the attention of the world was focused on the remarkable achievements in the American theater during a period beginning in the early 1920’s and continuing for the next fifty years. No one better represented and reflected this era than the stage artist and designer, Jo Mielziner, whose entire career almost exactly coincided with the flowering of American theatre during those years.

Beginning as a disciple of Robert Edmond Jones, whose theories shook the established stage practices of his time, Mielziner matured into the finest scene and lighting designer of his time—and perhaps, of all time. For a while, he elevated scene design and the designer to an almost transcendent position in the creative theatrical collaboration without, however, distorting the function of either. His perception that the designer must penetrate the fabric of the play to provide its visual metaphor was his most important contribution. As proof of this, he worked in no set style, giving each play and musical its unique scenic image. In many cases, his perfectly realized visual interpretations for such plays as Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire and such musicals as Guys and Dolls and The King and I have made it almost impossible for designers who succeeded him to avoid imitation. Directly and indirectly, Mielziner trained an entire generation of designers and the reverberations of his vision are still being felt. He created scenery and lighting (and often costumes) for almost three hundred productions, ranging from Shakespeare to the lightest farce, from O’Neill to Tennessee Williams, and for musicals, opera, and ballet.

Mielziner’s dissatisfaction with the theatrical architecture of his period led him to formulate his own conceptions of workable theatrical plants, which in turn brought him commissions to design, co-design, or serve as consultant on such theatres as the Vivian Beaumont in New York, the Denver Center Theater, and the Wake Forest University Theatre in North Carolina. He also received commissions for industrial and commercial projects and for such special events as the convention site in San Francisco for the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 and the lighting of the PIETÁ in the Vatican Pavilion of the 1964 Worlds’ Fair in New York.

All of the following pictures of scenic examples and descriptive text come from here.

Seed of the Brute
SEED OF THE BRUTE [1926]
This play, called “a fair-to-middling play” by the NY Times critic, was by Knowles Entrikin. It was a rather heavy handed melodrama which had little stage life after the initial production. Mielziner’s design shown here is the only one he ever executed in grattage, a method of rendering a design by scraping away the dark wax surface covering the plate to reveal the lighter color beneath.

Anatol
ANATOL [1931]
Mielziner was interested in the complete look of the productions he designed. He frequently designed not only the settings and lights but also the costumes. This is the costume design for the title character, a Viennese playboy, for the 1931 Broadway production.

The Wookey
THE WOOKEY [1941]
Frederick Brennan wrote this play about a tugboat skipper, played by Edmnd Gwenn, who hates war but changes his attitude after rescuing men at Dunkirk. Mielziner’s sets, lights and special effects won universal praise. A room broke into flames, a house is bombed and the terrifying mayhem of war was created through collapsing scenery, lights, special effects and sound. This design is for the basement setting of the Wookey’s bombed house.

Death of a Salesman
DEATH OF A SALESMAN [1949]
The set of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman evolved in Mielziner’s mind over a period of months. He submitted his ideas, sketched on any available paper and sent them to the director, Elia Kazan, for his reactions. These sketches show some of his early ideas for this, one of his most highly praised sets.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN [1951]
The musical, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn based on Betty Smith’s novel, was written by Betty Smith and the remarkable George Abbott. The music was by Arthur Schwartz and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Brooks Atkinson called it “a darlin’ show in a hospitable mode with a liking for its people and locale. Of Mielziner’s settings he writes that “they derive from nostalgic sentiment for a neighborhood and its people.” This design if for the laundry scene set on the roof.

Top Banana
TOP BANANA [1951]
Mielziner created this rendering of a ballet scene which was ultimately cut from the final production. The dark background emphasizing the brightly lighted dancers shows his intense interest in the effects of lighting on scenery and actors.

The Lark
THE LARK [1955]
For The Lark. Jean Anouilh’s version of the Joan of Arc legend, Mielziner designed a series of low randomly-placed platforms covered in blue plush set against a backdrop (or cyclorama) of thin muslin stretched on a frame. On it, he projected a rose window and other images including this battlefield to signal changes of scene. Lighting was the principal element in this production

Possibilities
POSSIBILITIES [1968]
Possibilities by Arthur Pittman takes place over three decades. The play was an unqualified failure but the two designs for projections which silhouette fire escapes and fences against the evening and night sky, although telling us little about the play, are both haunting and evocative.

Susan Hilferty, Costume Designer

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20th, 2008 by kokoro

The following biography was written for Susan Hilferty’s personal website.

Susan Hilferty has designed over 300 productions from Broadway to the Bay area- and internationally including Japan, London, Australia, Germany and South Africa. Recent designs include Wicked (2004 Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk awards and Olivier nomination), Spring Awakening (Tony nomination) August Wilson’s Radio Golf and Jitney, Lestat (Tony nomination) Assassins, Into the Woods (Tony and Drama Desk nominations; Hewes Award), Manon at LA opera and Berlin Staatsoper, Richard Nelson’s Conversations in Tusculum, Caryl Churchill’s Drunk Enough to Say I Love You and Chris Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo. She works with such well-known directors as Joe Mantello, James Lapine, Michael Mayer, Walter Bobbie, Robert Falls, Tony Kushner, Robert Woodruff, JoAnne Akalaitis, the late Garland Wright, James MacDonald, Bart Sher, Mark Lamos, Frank Galati, Des McAnuff, Christopher Ashley, Emily Mann, David Jones, Marion McClinton, Rebecca Taichman, Laurie Anderson, Carole Rothman, Garry Hynes, Richard Nelson and Athol Fugard (the South African writer with whom she works as set and costume designer and often as co-director since 1980). Hilferty also designs for opera, film, and dance, and chairs the Department of Design for Stage and Film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She was awarded a 2000 OBIE for Sustained Excellence in Design.

As the chair of the Department of Design for Stage and Film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Hilferty discuses what she looks for in a student here.

… She is not the only student whose background has left them woefully unprepared for life as a designer. I often get stunned expressions from candidates when I make suggestions about what they should be taking. They are shocked when I say that a student with a strong liberal arts background who has taken drawing classes in the art department and has had only a small amount of time in the theatre is better prepared to be a designer. “But I have worked on over 25 productions!” they wail. How do I tell them that they have been trained to be technicians, not built the foundations to be designers? Without taking history, political science, languages, English literature, all of the liberal arts; without taking even one pure art class, not even a figure drawing class; without having seen any of the current practitioners of this art form, how can they even know if they want to be designers?

… First, I took a critical look at what I was looking for in a member of my incoming class. I am looking for a student who is passionate about the theatre; who understands that it is a living, breathing thing directly connected to contemporary life and at its best helps us wrestle with an understanding of our own lives. The student I am looking for does not have to be highly skilled in the theatre arts, but must have a broad-based liberal arts background on which he or she can depend as a resource for his or her designs. The student must understand that we are designers and must be able to speak the language of design, which means the student should come equipped with some drawing background. The most basic requirement is that the student can understand and communicate proportion. I want someone who is insatiably curious about everything and is willing to risk and embrace failure in his or her desire to explore.

… For me, drawing is an essential tool, because it allows the designer to explore proportion, the keystone to any design idea. I feel that the student needs to speak the language of design to truly be a designer. I do not believe a student has to draw like Michelangelo, just to be able to put an idea down on paper in proportion to see the idea and then make a choice about the design. I believe that drawing is important as a way to explore a design rather than to present an idea.

Hilferty’s personal website also provides a portfolio with costume sketches and photos of her work, including Wicked, Into the Woods, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

An interview with Hilferty discussing the costumes of Wicked.

Glory

Posted in 2008hist329 on October 8th, 2008 by kokoro

As a secondary source Glory certainly has some issues, especially with smaller details, and even some not so small details (shouldn’t the recruits of the 54th Regiment have been mostly free blacks?), but overall the movie depicts a fair representation of the Northern opinions towards blacks, as well as blacks’ opinions of themselves. I think the movie does a better job than Amistad in showing a larger historical context. Amistad seemed to suggest the case was an important cause of the Civil War and a great step in abolition, which is simply not true. In Glory, the black regiments help to change Northern views toward the black race and help to give the blacks a sense of self-respect and confidence, which is a fairly accurate account. Also, the battle scenes are well done. They were filmed with the help of actual Civil War re-enactors, which supports the accuracy of the battles.

As a primary source of the time when Glory was made, it is quite clear that Hollywood was out of its romanticizing of slavery and the Old South period. The movie portrays slavery as bad, plain and simple, but it does tend to play up Northern goodness to a degree, especially with Shaw. Then again, Shaw’s goodness has been played up in real life. It’s important to note that the movie also shows Northerners who are nasty to the blacks. Even Shaw has some moral ambiguity, like when he allows Trip to be whipped. I think Glory shows the generally accepted and more accurate view of slavery and Civil War that replaced the old ideas of benevolent white masters with loyal slaves. Of course, there will probably always be people who want to believe that history…

The Carol Burnett Show

Posted in 2008hist329 on September 28th, 2008 by kokoro

And now for something completely different. Carol Burnett’s classic Gone with the Wind parody, Went with the Wind

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Vicki Lawrence makes this sketch.

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