978-1-56584-553-4 / 9781565845534

The Spectator: Talk About Movies and Plays With Those Who Made Them


Publisher:New Press, The



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About the book:

In earlier oral histories such as Working, The Good War, and Hard Times, Studs Terkel showed a virtuoso talent for absorbing the small talk of regular Joes and Janes and turning it into a literary cross-hatch--Robert Browning and Herodotus, Margaret Mead and Steinbeck. It turns out all this was prologue. In The Spectator, Terkel reveals that if he loved the waitresses and hockey players of earlier books, it wasn't in "the way, nor to the same degree, as those in the world of the lively arts." You can tell, reading this book. The Terkel touch is all here, but in 50-plus interviews with the likes of Buster Keaton and Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Simone Signoret, Jacques Tati, and (weirdly) Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's Studs's range that astonishes. He has textured memories of remote stage productions of Arthur Miller's plays--which you might expect. But when he remembers Kanchenjungha with the Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Ray laughs out loud: "Where did you see that?" There are lovely little fender benders, too: in a basement apartment in Paris in 1963, Simone Signoret extravagantly praises Françoise Rosay and Agnes de Mille, characters we know from earlier chapters--de Mille especially. A choreographer who brought ballet to Broadway musicals, she explains that African rhythms and English clog dancing married to beget tap; with a shift from up to down beat, she says, "syncopation and jazz were born." Reading The Spectator, you marvel once again at Terkel's facility with people of all kinds--and his deep familiarity with the American century. --Lyall Bush

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