Category Archives: History & Political Science

Civil Rights Hero Receives International Recognition

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Bernard LaFayette Jr., taken at the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, standing in front of two photographs in 1963: one was when he was attacked in Selma, the other a mug shot of when he was arrested.

University Press of Kentucky author Bernard LaFayette Jr., whose memoir In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma was released in paperback earlier this year, has been awarded the 2016 Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace. He is also co-editor of The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North. The award is presented by the Gandhi Development Trust. The GDT was founded in 2002 by Ela Gandhi, the social activist granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. The Gandhi Development Trust’s mission is to promote a culture of peace, justice, non-violence, and ubuntu (human kindness); promoting Gandhian values of ahisma (non-violence), self-sufficiency, love, sarvodaya (good of all), compassion, and universality in order to reach their core vision of a peaceful, just, and non-violent world.

The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace was established in 2003 to honor people who have surmounted religious and ethnic obstacles to promote democracy, peace, and justice through non-violent measures. GDT believes that the award should not merely be seen as an annual event, but rather a catalyst for initiating non-violence, ubuntu, and nation building under the influence of non-violent leaders. LaFayette was chosen as this year’s winner in recognition of his outstanding work towards the promotion of peace, reconciliation, and justice both locally and internationally in his capacity as a civil rights activist.

peace and freedom.final.final.inddLaFayette’s memoir, In Peace and Freedom, recounts that career as an activist. He was a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign. At the age of twenty-two, he assumed the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma—a city that had previously been removed from the organization’s list due to the dangers of operating there.

LaFayette was one of the primary organizers of the 1965 Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and his memoir, written with Kathryn Lee Johnson, shares the inspiring story of his finley.final.inddstruggles there. When he arrived in 1963, Selma was a small, quiet, rural town. By 1965, it had made its mark in history and was nationally recognized as a battleground in the fight for racial equality and the site of one of the most important victories for social change in our nation.

The award was presented on November 7, 2016, in Durban, South Africa.

 

Join UPK Authors in Crestview Hills

Authors David J. Bettez and William A. Penn will discuss Kentucky’s role in key historical events and sign copies of their new books at 4 pm Saturday, October 22 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2785 Dixie Highway, Crestview Hills, KY 41017.

636052369773913058kentucky-and-the-great-war_webKentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front explores the impact of the conflict on women’s suffrage, child labor, and African American life. In particular, Bettez investigates how black citizens were urged to support a war to make the world “safe for democracy” even as their civil rights and freedoms were violated in the Jim Crow South. This engaging and timely social history offers new perspectives on an overlooked aspect of World War I.

In addition, Kentucky and the Great War was named this year’s Thomas D. Clark Medallion recipient at a ceremony at UK’s Maxwell Place. The book is considered the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Great War on Bluegrass society, politics, economy and culture,
contextualizing the state’s involvement within the national experience.

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Bettez was named this year’s Thomas D. Clark Medallion recipient at a ceremony at UK’s Maxwell Place.

The Thomas D. Clark Medallion is presented by the Thomas D. Clark Foundation, which was established in 1994 in honor of Thomas D. Clark, Kentucky’s historian laureate and founder of the University Press of Kentucky (UPK). Since 2012, the foundation has chosen one book each year that highlights Kentucky history and culture to be honored with a Clark Medallion.

 

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In his fascinating book, Penn provides an impressively detailed account of the military action that took place in this Kentucky region during the Civil War, drawing on dozens of period newspapers as well as personal journals, memoirs, and correspondence from citizens, slaves, soldiers, and witnesses to provide a vivid account of the war’s impact on the region. Kentucky Rebel Town: The Civil War Battles of Cynthiana and Harrison County provides an illuminating look at divided loyalties and dissent in Union Kentucky.

 

 

 

 

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Kentucky by Design Wins Alice Award

ky-by-designKentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture edited by Andrew Kelly and sponsored by the Frazier History Museum has been named the winner of The Alice Award, given by Furthermore Grants in Publishing. Furthermore is a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and is concerned with non-fiction book publishing related to art, architecture, and design; cultural history; conservation and preservation; the city; and public issues of the day. “It is a privilege to be in the company of the other distinguished publications shortlisted for the Alice Award,” said Kelly. “On behalf of all the outstanding scholars, experts and museum professionals nationwide who made this book possible, I am delighted that Kentucky by Design has been recognized by the Furthermore Foundation.”

The Alice Award was established in 2013 by Joan Davidson, president of Furthermore, in honor of her mother Alice Kaplan. Alice, vice-president of the Kaplan Fund, was a well-known patron, scholar, and activist in the arts, who urged the foundation to support music, dance, libraries, and the visual arts. She loved and collected illustrated books as works of art and considered them essential documents in a civilized society. The Alice Award is dedicated to recognizing and cherishing the lasting values of the well-made illustrated book, and the special sense of intimacy it affords. Each year a jury of distinguished leaders in publishing and the arts selects the winning Alice book from the hundreds of eligible titles that have been supported by Furthermore.

Kentucky by Design celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Federal Art Project’s (FAP) Index of American Design. The FAP was established at the height of the Great Depression under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. One of the aims of this project was to collect and record the history of American material culture, and it culminated in the creation of the Index of American Design. This work, while intended for a wide audience, was never published.

Now, after eighty years, Kentucky’s contributions to the Index of American Design have at last been compiled in Kentucky by Design. Kelly has gathered the contributions of experts to catalog prime examples of the state’s decorative arts that were featured in the index, pairing the original FAP watercolors with contemporary photographs of the same or similar artifacts. He provides information surrounding the history and current location (and, often, the journey in-between) of each piece, as well as local or familial lore surrounding the object. In addition to a wealth of Shaker material, the objects featured include a number of quilts and rugs as well as a wide assortment of everyday items, from powder horns and candle lanterns to glass flasks and hand-crafted instruments.

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The Frazier History Museum will be presented with a $25,000 grant at a reception in the Rare Book Room at Strand Books on Tuesday, October 25. “The Frazier History Museum is dedicated to sharing the stories of Kentucky, her people, heritage, industries, and culture. Kentucky by Design is a wonderful representation of that commitment to Kentucky’s unique story,” said President and CEO Penelope Peavler. “The Frazier is deeply honored to be the recipient of the 2016 Alice Award and is very grateful to Joan Davidson and Furthermore.” An exhibition featuring over 85 original and facsimile watercolor renderings paired with the actual objects and artworks depicted in the book is on display at the Frazier through February 12, 2017.

Andrew Kelly trained at Sotheby’s New York, is a Helena Rubinstein Fellow of the Whitney Museum of American Art and has authored and edited numerous monographs and catalogs on the fine and decorative arts. He has worked in association with many institutions, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, McNay Art Museum, Harry Ransom Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Lisbon Ajuda National Palace Museum, Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation Palma de Mallorca, Russian State Museum at the Marble Palace, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, and the Tate Gallery London.

Two Score and Three Years Ago…

Today marks the forty-third anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War.  This twenty-day war was fought over the territory lost during the third Arab-Israeli War in 1967 between Egypt, Syria, and Israel.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and Egypt and Syria used this to their advantage when they decided to attack Israel.  While most of the Israeli guard were away from their posts in observance of the holiday, Egyptian troops swept deep into the Sinai Peninsula while Syria struggled to overthrow the occupying Israeli in Golan Heights.  Not too long after Syria’s siege did Israel counterattacked and recaptured the area.

After less than a month of fighting, the Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire was secured by the United Nations on October 25, 1973.

The following two books are fantastic resources for anyone who is wanting to learn more about the Yom Kippur War.

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Inside Israel’s Northern Command by Brigadier General Dani Asher is a personal account from the war, relaying stories of war strategies used to fight off the Syrians during the Yom Kippur War.  Established as the successor of the 1948 Northern Front, the Northern Command was in charge of the operational routine, ongoing defensive activities, and the preparation for war with regards to Israeli borders with the three Arab nations: Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.  The crushing victory of the Six-Day War served as the basis for the concept of security, the doctrine building, and for the way we view the enemy in the six years’ period from the end of the Six-Day War to the onslaught of the Yom Kippur War.

 

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Soldier in the Sinai is another personal account from the Yom Kippur War that describes the impact of the security concept on Israel’s defensive doctrine in Western Sinai after the Six-Day War, especially during the War of Attrition and the following cease-fire. Sakal examines the performance of the ground troops on October 6-15, 1973 (especially October 6-9) and their total dependence on airpower. Major General Emanuel Sakal, IDF (Ret.) focuses on a tactical and operational analysis of the defensive battle on the southern front from early morning October 4, 1973 to the evening of October 15.  Within this range of events, the book surveys the operational and strategic decisions made by the chief of staff and the defense minister, mainly regarding the defensive campaign, the preemptive or parallel air strike, and the counterattack.

 

Peace and Freedom

“Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality; to build a greener planet; and to make sure no one is left behind.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

Today is the International Day of Peace, a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples, and a day to acknowledge those who have made significant sacrifices to help end conflict and injustice for the betterment of the entire human race.

peace and freedom.final.final.inddDedicated to working toward social change through nonviolence and peace since his teens, Bernard LaFayette Jr. has been a civil rights activist for over fifty years. He was a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign. At the age of twenty-two, Lafayette assumed the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign in Selma—a city that had previously been removed from the campaign’s list due to the dangers of operating there.

In his compelling memoir, written with Kathryn Lee Johnson, LaFayette shares his experience as one of the primary organizers of the Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. When he arrived in 1963, Selma was a quiet, rural town. By 1965, it had made its mark in history and was recognized as the site of one of the most important victories for social change in the nation.

In honor of the International Day of Peace, here is an excerpt from In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma. Important and powerful, LaFayette’s account presents a necessary perspective on the civil rights movement in the 1960s from one of its greatest leaders.

 


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Selma, Alabama. What was it about this little southern town that sparks the question from so many people, “Why go to Selma? You can’t bring about any change there.” I wondered about this sentiment as I made plans to spend the next couple of years there as Director of the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, commonly referred to as “snick”). The Southern Regional Council’s (SRC) “Voter Education Project” headed by Randolph Blackwell, was a recipient of grants from the Field Foundation and Taconic Foundation. They sponsored projects aimed at increasing the number of voters in primarily black populated counties throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Georgia. The SRC was an organization founded in 1919 that was committed to fighting for racial justice and informing public policy on issues of democratic rights and equality.

President John F. Kennedy’s administration had an influence in funding the voting project, “deliverables” as they called it. Because Kennedy was elected unquestionably by the marginal votes from blacks, his administration was committed to increasing support to help blacks vote. In President Kennedy’s inaugural address he said, “We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change” and also quoted from the Bible, to “undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.”

President Kennedy’s address gave the black people in America hope. His leadership inspired and motivated a new generation of blacks to press for change since we had White House support for the first time. I met President Kennedy while he was campaigning in New York. I was at a SNCC meeting and our entire group went to hear him speak. After the speech he shook our hands and gave SNCC recognition and support. So I felt a personal connection with this young president. The way that he spoke out for civil rights and recognized Dr. King authenticated what the Movement was doing. Although many black citizens had lived in segregation in second class conditions, now, as a result of President Kennedy’s stand against discrimination, we felt that we were doing the right thing, the real American way. We were ready to continue our struggle, to accomplish as much as possible under President Kennedy’s leadership.

Many southern blacks had two pictures on the wall, one was Jesus and one was Kennedy. Even though most were Baptists, they didn’t care that Kennedy was Catholic. Although his voting record on civil rights as a senator was not strong, he did recognize that blacks were supporting him and he looked at ways to gain more black votes.

I felt that Kennedy, as president of the United States, should advocate for the idea of the government as a democracy of the people and for the people. It is the president’s responsibility to take action to remove those impediments that prevent citizens, particularly disenfranchised people, from participating in government. Kennedy certainly voiced his support to protect those rights, as citizens most prominently remembered in his “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” speech. He challenged us as young people to have a commitment. As a civil rights activist, I never considered myself a rebel against the nation, never anti-American. I was proud of my country and wanted to work to help it be the best, and for it to live up to its creed and purpose. I felt what I was doing was of service to my country. I would have volunteered in the military, and considered becoming a Chaplain in the Air Force. However, the nonviolence movement gave me a way to serve my country in a better way, a positive way, a more peaceful way.

I had spent the last two years participating in Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, riding busses across the south as a Freedom Rider, working with the Jackson Mississippi Nonviolent Movement and was editor of the Jackson Movement Newsletter. I went to get my assignment as director of a campaign from James Forman, the executive secretary of SNCC. I had always had a great respect for Jim and recognized that he was effective in his work with SNCC. He had maturity and experience, and most important he had a great rapport with students. He knew the importance of students taking leadership, to challenge injustices and to bring about change. Not only was he an administrator, but he joined us on the front line because of his personal passion for the cause. He was a leader who truly forged the way. In some instances Jim was more radical than the students. He had both the southern experience of Mississippi and the northern exposure of Chicago.

But that day Jim told me, “I’m sorry, Bernard, but we don’t have any directorships available at this time.”

I simply couldn’t believe that all the directorships had been assigned, especially since Jim knew I was waiting for one. I said, “Now Jim, remember I helped to raise the $30,000 bond money for three SNCC workers. You promised me a directorship position when I returned, but now you’re insisting that nothing is available? This isn’t right.” Dion Diamond, Chuck McDew, and Bob Zellner, were in jail in Louisiana for helping blacks register to vote. I was sent to Detroit and Chicago to raise money to help get them released.

He said, “You could work with Charles Sherrod in southwest Georgia, Bob Moses in Mississippi or Bill Hansen in Arkansas.” Even though I was only 22, I was determined and made it clear, stating emphatically, “I don’t want to be an assistant director, I’m ready to be a director of a project and you should keep your promise.”

Jim said, “Bernard, the only project left is the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign in Selma, but we just removed Selma from the list. So, it’s out of the question. Two groups of SNCC workers just returned from scouting the city and reported, ‘The white folks are too mean and the black folks are too afraid.’”

Despite the fact that Selma was centrally located in Alabama, they marked a bold black X across Selma on the wall map of Alabama. However, Jim said, “Even though we’ve rejected Selma, if you want to, you can go there, check it out and see what you think.” Alabama was infamous for the suppression of black voting rights and with its central location and large numbers of blacks, it seemed to me like the perfect location to headquarter the state office for voter registration.

I enthusiastically responded, “I’ll take Selma, sight unseen.” That is how I became director of the Alabama Voter Registration Campaign.

ROCKS

The Bourbon Capital of the World

Whether you’re a lover of history or just a bourbon enthusiast, Bardstown, Kentucky is the perfect place to spend a weekend.  In the second edition of Kentucky Bourbon Country, The Essential Travel Guide, Susan Reigler points out the many historic and cultural attractions this small Kentucky town has to offer, including the annual six-day Kentucky Bourbon Festival which will be wrapping up this weekend.

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The historic Old Talbott Tavern

Not only is it home to more than 300 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places — including Federal Hill, the inspiration for the state’s anthem residing at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, and the Old Talbot Tavern — Bardstown is also within a half hour of six famous  bourbon distilleries. The newest edition to these is the Bardstown Bourbon Company, which just opened its doors this summer.

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The Bardstown Bourbon Company

 

 

Bring on the Bourbon

Delicious food, entertainment, as well as some great events will be offered in Bardstown this weekend during the festival, where bourbon will be savored, sampled, discussed and celebrated! In this excerpt from her travel guide, Reigler provides a detailed description of the event:

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival began in 1992 with a dinner and tastings. Today it has grown into a six-day event with concerts, races, a golf tournament, a cocktail contest, cooking and drink-mixing classes, expert panel discussions, an auction of bourbon memorabilia, a gala black-tie dinner, and more. In 2014 some 53,000 people attended the festival, traveling from forty-four states, the District of Columbia, and fourteen countries.

The center of the festival’s activities is the Spalding Hall lawn, just outside the entrance to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History (114 North Fifth Street). Almost all the distilleries set up exhibits on the lawn, and merchants display and sell all kinds of bourbon-related items there, from books to foodstuffs. There are also demonstrations of barrel making, and the lawn is well within hearing range of the outdoor concerts taking place on a nearby stage. Not surprisingly, the Spirit Garden, where visitors can purchase bourbon drinks and beer, is one of the most popular sites.

[. . .] The festival is a good time to meet many of the people involved in the bourbon industry. All the master distillers are on hand for many of the events, and they will certainly be in attendance at Saturday night’s Great Kentucky Bourbon Tasting and Gala.

While at the festival, swing by the University Press of Kentucky booth, check out some of our fantastic book offerings, and say hello! native

In Memory of Screen Legend Dorothy McGuire

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Dorothy McGuire, circa 1945. James Bawden collection.

Stage-trained actress Dorothy McGuire, whose credits include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), Old Yeller (1957), and A Summer Place (1959), was one of the most interesting leading ladies of the 1940s and 1950s. She was extremely versatile, always bringing style and grace to every performance. But she didn’t build a large cult following of fans despite a solid legacy of truly memorable screen performances. Perhaps that’s due to her general aversion to publicity and a life lived without a breath of scandal or notoriety.

In honor of this talented stage actress, who passed away 15 years ago today at the age of 85, we’re sharing an excerpt from Ron Miller’s interview from the release Conversations with Classic Film Stars.


Setting the Scene

Dorothy McGuire’s disdain for publicity always brings a smile to my face because I remember how severely I was warned about that subject when she agreed to do an interview with me in 1983 in connection with the ABC TV movie Ghost Dancing. The publicist insisted, “Don’t ask her about anything except the new movie. She hates talking about the past. If you try asking her about the ‘good old days,’ she may get up and walk out on you!”

Well, I certainly didn’t want that to happen, yet…how could I ignore those “good old days” that included so many movie classics? So, here’s what I resolved to do: Concentrate hard on getting the bare essentials about Ghost Dancing, then damn the torpedoes and go full speed ahead into all the really good stuff. If she bolted on me, then I’d still have enough for a story on the current project, even if she dumped her soup over my head when I asked about her earlier work.

It turned out to be a pretty decent plan. McGuire issued no new rules when she arrived for our luncheon date at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, so I hot-footed it through the Ghost Dancing questions, then waltzed her right down memory lane without giving her a chance to catch her breath.

If she knew she’d been scammed, she didn’t let on. McGuire turned out to be a relaxed and friendly lunch companion, still a handsome woman with genuine class. My guess is she did like to talk about the earlier stuff–as long as the questions were fair ones. She also seemed to appreciate the fact that I actually knew what she’d accomplished before meeting her.

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Dorothy McGuire with Gregory Peck in Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement, the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 1947. Courtesy of 20th Century-Fox.

The Interview

MILLER: From what I’ve read about the beginnings of your acting career, I’d say there was a blessing on you from the start.

McGUIRE: Maybe so. I had such extraordinary breaks–from the moment I entered the theater. I made my stage debut at age 13 at the Omaha Community Playhouse in James Barrie’s A Kiss of Cinderella. My leading man was the young Henry Fonda!

MILLER: I’m guessing the breaks continued when you finally headed for New York and the Broadway stage.

McGUIRE: I arrived on Broadway in 1938 and began as the understudy to Martha Scott for the role of Emily in the original production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.  When Martha was signed to star in the movie version, I took over for her.

MILLER: Getting to play the leading female role in a play destined to become an American drama classic was certainly a big career plus for a young actress. So, that made you a pretty hot property in theater?

McGUIRE: It certainly led to my getting the title role in Claudia, the play based on Rose Franken’s novel and stories about a young woman who marries and starts learning about adult life in the 1940s. That was in 1941. The producers had rejected 208 other actresses before picking me.

MILLER: I guess their faith in you was justified when you won the New York Drama Critics Circle award for your performance.

McGUIRE: I think it also justified Leland Hayward’s faith in me. (Hayward, her agent, was the most influential Broadway agent at the time.)

MILLER: With Leland Hayward going to bat for you, you were in good shape for theater work–and you had a pretty good spokesman for your movie career, too, didn’t you?

McGUIRE: If you mean David O. Selznick, you’re right. He signed me to a movie contract after Claudia became a Broadway hit and he was then the most successful producer in Hollywood after Gone With the Wind and Rebecca had won back to back Best Picture Oscars.

MILLER: What did he have in mind for your movie debut?

McGUIRE: He really didn’t have anything for me and, as it turned out, I never made a movie with him!  But he decided to make some money off me by loaning me out to other studios, who did have things they wanted me to do. I think he needed to pay off some of the enormous sums he spent on Gone With the Wind and that was one way to do it.

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Dorothy McGuire in her most famous “mom” role, with Tommy Kirk i Disney’s 1957 Old Yeller. Courtesy of the Walt Disney Corp. and NBC.

MILLER: Did you resent that?

McGUIRE: No. That turned out to be perfectly OK. David watched over what scripts were sent to me and things like that. He was a man of great integrity.

MILLER: Where did he send you first?

McGUIRE: Fox and RKO.  They both were making good pictures in those days. Twentieth Century-Fox had the movie rights to Claudia, so they had me reprise my stage role, playing opposite Robert Young as my husband, David.

MILLER: Claudia (1943) turned out to be a big hit for Fox, especially among women who identified with the young wife as she learns how to grow up at the same time she’s learning how to be a wife. It was such a hit that they immediately decided to continue the story in a sequel, Claudia and David. That was a phenomenal start for a young actress with no film experience.

McGUIRE: I took it all for granted, I’m sorry to say. I thought it was just the way it is.

MILLER: While the sequel was being written, Fox put you into another prestige picture, the film version of Betty Smith’s best-seller A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Your reaction?

McGUIURE: I was terrified. I didn‘t think I‘d be convincing in the challenging role of teenage star  Peggy Ann Garner’s pregnant mother.

At that exact moment in my life, I’d never had a child. I wasn’t quite sure about the whole mechanism, about what really happened to you. Being a very serious-type actress, I was very upset by this.

MILLER: Your director was Elia Kazan, who was making his debut as a movie director after years on the stage as an actor and director. Did you get much help from him?

McGUIRE: I went to him and told him I had no such experiences in life and didn’t know where to get the emotions I’d need. He was very patient with me and let me ramble on about my misgivings and anxieties. What he did, in a sense, was lock up all this intensity inside me so it wouldn’t be dissipated. He was marvelous. There are intangible things about actors like that which he just instinctively knew.

MILLER: The film was a big success and put both you and Kazan on the map as the hot new prospects in Hollywood. James Dunn, who played your alcoholic husband, won the supporting actor Oscar and Peggy Ann Garner won a special Oscar as best child actress of 1945. That’s when RKO stepped up with another wonderful role for you.

McGUIRE: They gave me the part of the mute servant girl who’s menaced by a serial killer in The Spiral Staircase.

MILLER: That was a real acting challenge because you had to play virtually the entire film in pantomime. How did that go?

McGUIRE: Robert Siodmak was a brilliant director and he lifted the film out of the ordinary. You know those creepy close-ups where we just see the eye of the strangler, watching me? That was Robert’s eye! He was that vain!

Conversations_With_Classic_Film_Stars_CoverAfterword

Our interview finally ended when the waiter brought our lunches. “Turn off your recorder,” she told me. “Now we’re going to eat.”

Which is what we did, all right, just chatting about nothing in particular from then on. With the recorder off, Dorothy McGuire was just a handsome middle-aged lady having lunch with a friend in Beverly Hills. And, unless I put one of her films on the TV for a reminder of how good she was on screen, that’s the way I’ll always remember her, too.

McGuire was married for 35 years to Life magazine photographer John Swope and had two children with him. Her last film role was in a 1990 TV movie (The Last Best Year) and she spent the last decade of her life in retirement. She died of cardiac arrest in 2001, just a few days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, so there was little news space devoted to her death. She was eighty-five.