Pola Negri, Femme Fatale


Pola Negri was a poor child, playing in the streets of Warsaw, when two singers from the Polish Imperial Opera encouraged her to try out for the Imperial Ballet. Her natural grace and elegance won her the role and she danced for many years. From there, under the influence of the work of poet Ada Negri, she took the name Negri and auditioned and became a part of the drama academy under the same Imperial Theater. Her first film was called in English Slave to Her Senses (1914) and was the first feature film made in Poland. From Poland came the news of Negri’s talent and soon production companies in Germany and later in Hollywood, wanted her in their films. Her most famous works were Madame DuBarry (1919), The Woman He Scorned (1929), and A Woman Commands (1932).



Above(left) : Pola Negri in Madame DuBarry
Above (right): An American advertisement for the movie featuring the same scene


A movie poster for A Woman Commands


Negri was also famous for her celebrity lovers, including Charlie Chaplin, Rod La Rocque, and Rudolph Valentino.


Above: Pola Negri and Charlie Chaplin


From stage to silver screen, she was beloved for her talent and beauty. For more about Negri’s life, films, and loves, pick up a copy of Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale by Mariusz Kotowski, chief executive officer of Bright Shining City Productions.


Hollywood’s Most Celebrated Director


From the snarky man who said, “If anybody doubts my loyalty to my country, I’ll punch him in the nose, and I don’t care how old he is” came also some of the greatest American films of all time. William Wyler was a directing legend not only for his personality, but for his talent. Famous for such movies as Jezebel (1938), Roman Holiday (1953), and Ben Hur (1959), the description “classic” fits acutely and justly to his body of work. He worked with celebrated actors and gave some of them their big break, like Audrey Hepburn who, after working with Wyler in Roman Holiday, went on to star in Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


William Wyler and Audrey Hepburn


Wyler also won three Oscars for Best Director for his films Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959).


From left to right: Samuel Goldwyn, Best Supporting Actor Harold Russell, and Best Director William Wyler (The Best Years of our Lives)


If you’re interested in reading more about this movie-making master, check out William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood’s Most Celebrated Director by Gabriel Miller. According to the New York Journal of Books, Miller’s work on Wyler is a massive success; “For the true movie lover, the only pleasure that can come close to matching that of steeping oneself, Norma Desmond-like, in the flickering images of a great movie is wallowing a long, exhaustive, in-depth biography of a beloved filmmaker. And in terms of all the things that matter – research, organization, access, industry and adulation – William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood’s Most Celebrated Director by Gabriel Miller hits the mark.”


Pick up your copy today!


Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master

Victor Fleming receiving his Oscar for Gone with the Wind


Do you love to watch timeless masterpieces like Casablanca or Ben-Hur? If you answered something like “Totally!” then get excited because tomorrow is the first day of the TCM Classic Film Festival! They’re celebrating in Hollywood with screenings of classic movies every day, and here at the University Press of Kentucky, we’re celebrating by recognizing the great directors, screenwriters, and actors that made these movies the successes that they were!

One movie that is just as big a hit today as when it was released in 1939, is Gone with the Wind. A tour de force in the world of cinema, it portrays the life of the pretty southern belle Scarlett O’Hara who manipulates the people around her. And though Vivien Leigh danced and huffed her way to stardom portraying the snooty belle, the real talent behind the scenes of this film came in the form of its director, Victor Fleming.


Above: (seated from left) Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Victor Fleming and others on set of Gone with the Wind

Famous for Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Victor Fleming is responsible for some of the most beloved American films of all time. Interestingly, as discussed by Michael Sragow in his book Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master, Fleming himself was the inspiration for the characters of some of his lead male stars including Rhett Butler played by Clark Gable, Pilon played by Spencer Tracy, and the Virginian played by Gary Cooper.



Above: Clark Gable (left) and Victor Fleming

The book makes the persuasive argument that Fleming was a directing titan in his era and according to Time magazine, this book “illuminat[es] the many famous lives that Fleming touched (and helped to shape) and the ways in which sets, casts, contracts, and careers worked during Hollywood’s grand glory days .”

If you want to read about Fleming’s influence on Hollywood and why Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz are still so popular, then pick up Sragow’s book today!


Kentucky Agate Giveaway!

Do you have an appreciation for art? Agate is one of the most unique, all-natural forms of artwork. Surprisingly, Kentucky is home to some of the most exquisite agate stones in the world. The key is to know where to find them though.

Fortunately for you, we are giving away one free copy of Kentucky Agate, in which experts Roland L. McIntosh and Warren H. Anderson map out where you can find some of the most colorful specimens in the Bluegrass state. Not only that, but they have also compiled hundreds of professional color photographs, showcasing the rare treasure in all its glory.

Be sure to click the link below and enter our giveaway for your chance to receive a free copy! Our giveaway ends at the end of the day on Tuesday, April 15! The winner will be notified by e-mail the following Wednesday.


A Word of Advice From Professor Porkbelly!

In light of the warm weather that is slowly dawning upon us, let us turn to our guest blogger, WKU Professor Wes Berry, aka Professor Porkbelly, for some words of wisdom on how to satisfy your warm weather cravings.


“April is the cruelest month, said T.S. Eliot, the American poet who became an Englishman. I doubt Eliot would’ve scribbled that famous line if he’d been living in Kentucky, where April brings Red Bud and Dogwood blooms, the return of Purple Martins, and the sweet smell of animals cooked over wood coals. That’s right. It’s barbecue time.

In 2009 Professor Porkbelly (yours truly) officially hit the blue highways of Kentucky determined to eat at every barbecue joint from the Mississippi River to Appalachia, and a few years later and 25 pounds heavier I published the results in The Kentucky Barbecue Book.

What did I discover? We Kentuckians are like the big-souled poet Walt Whitman–large, containing multitudes of barbecue. We cook an impressive variety of God’s creatures on numerous contraptions, using diverse mops, sops, sauces and different types of hardwoods. And heck, some of the best places just serve up long-smoked meats naked—just meat, smoke, and time. Maybe some salt and pepper, which is nearly naked.

In a few-county region in southcentral Kentucky, you can eat “Monroe Co. Style,” thin-sliced pork grilled over hickory coals and sopped with a vinegary-lardy-peppery sauce. This short video of R & S Bar-B-Q in Tompkinsville in Monroe County showcases this sweat-inducing BBQ treat. You like Buffalo style wings? Then you’ll probably dig the heat of Monroe Co. style. Get it “dipped” if you like a tingly tongue. The Kentucky Barbecue Book includes an old recipe of this distinctive microregional barbecue dip.

In Hopkinsville and in several counties stretching all the way to the Mississippi River, you can fill up on mutton and whole pork shoulders cooked on traditional masonry pits at places like The Woodshed, a family owned joint who just celebrated their 30-year anniversary. In this video, we get a behind-the-scenes look at their barbecue pits. Warning: it might make you hungry.

Or you might want to take in one of our great barbecue festivals, all described in detail in The Kentucky Barbecue Book, like Owensboro’s International Barbecue Festival in May where you’ll see and smell thousands of pounds of mutton and chickens smoking up the downtown streets, or check out The Kentucky State BBQ Festival in Danville or the state’s largest festival, Paducah’s Barbecue on the River, in September.

And there’s much more to explore, many kinds of microregional flavors of barbecue—all within a daytrip of Bowling Green, my current hometown and ideal location from which to venture for a sampling of our various regional styles of smoky meaty delights. And when you hit the highways, you should have as your co-pilot a copy of The Kentucky Barbecue Book, which includes reviews of 115 of my favorite Kentucky barbecue places + 16 pages of colored photos + over 30 recipes + a regional BBQ map). I’m delighted to send a signed copy right to your mailbox from my website.

So come on down, or up, or over and explore this lovely place on earth. The Red Bud trees are already popping this first week of April, the spring peepers peeping, the lambs bleating—and someday those lambs will grow into mutton, which is oh-so delicious when cooked for many hours over wood coals. Oh, and do try burgoo if eating at one of the 18 barbecue places in the state that make it.

Love and peace and smoky treats, and MAY THE PORK (or mutton, chicken, beef, bologna, city ham, goat—we cook it all in KY) BE WITH YOU!”

Twitter: KYBBQProf
Facebook: Wes Berry’s Kentucky Barbecue Adventures

A big thanks to Professor Porkbelly! Be sure to pick up a copy of The Kentucky Barbecue Book to eat your way into the Spring and Summer!

How well do you know Kentucky flowers?

Spring is in the air! The warm weather is starting to set in and now the flowers can finally start blooming. Kentucky’s gorgeous landscape is home to many of these beauties. Can you tell which Kentucky flowers belong to which season? Take our quiz and find out.

1)      Fragrant water lilly (Nymphaea odorata)


This is a showy aquatic plant that has 6-8 in –wide, roundish leaf blades floating on the water; the blades are often red or purple beneath. The multiple-petaled flowers float on the water and range in size from 3-8 in. in diameter.

Habitat: Shallow wetlands and ponds.

Region: Appalachian Plateaus, Bluegrass, Shawnee Hills, Jackson Purchase.

Frequency: Rare.

2)      Field Pansy (Viola rafinesquii)


This is a slender, delicate, 4 in – 10 in annual with small round to spoon shaped leaves. Note that ½ in. wild flowers arise on leaflike stipulates that are deeply lobed or divided. Flower color varies from white to lavender.

Habitat: Fields, roadside, disturbed soil.

Region: Statewide.

Frequency: Common.

3)      Tickseed Sunflower (Bidens aristosa)


This medium-size plant reaches 2 to 3 ft. tall. It has 1 ¾ – 2 in – wide flower heads with a yellowish to brownish or greenish center and 6 to 9 rays. The upper, toothed leaves are divided into 3 segments and the lower leaves are divided into 5 to 7 segments.

Habitat: Wet meadows, roadsides, fields, stream banks.

Region: Statewide.

Frequency: Abundant.


Answers: 1) Summer, 2) Spring, 3) Fall


Learn about more regional flowers in Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky.


Poetry Spotlight: George Ella Lyon

Many-Storied House

As you know, April is National Poetry Month, so let’s continue to honor some of Kentucky’s great poets. George Ella Lyon is an award-winning poet and novelist from eastern Kentucky. Her latest book of poetry, Many-Storied House, was inspired from an assignment Lyon gave her writing students to write a poem based on memories from a house where they had lived. Lyon worked on the assignment as well, and wrote several poems for each room in her home as a way to answer questions about herself and her family. Her poems explore the nature of memory and relationships as well as the foundations of love, family, and community. Below is an excerpt from the “Downstairs” section:


This is the window
they put a kid through
when they lock their keys
in the house. It was
my brother till he got
too big, then my wiry
cousin David, then me.
No screen or storm window,
so once they haul up
the sash, somebody (not
Daddy because of
his back) puts hands on
both sides of your waist
and lifts you straight up
like a post hole digger,
then eases you through
the slot. Your task is
to find the linoleum
with your Keds, steady
yourself, go out the
bathroom door—avoiding
the scary faces in
the varnished pine—
step into the hall,

turn the latch left (that’s
toward the train track),
and let your keepers
back in the zoo.