Tag Archives: University Press of Kentucy

Happy 100th Birthday to Kirk Douglas!

One of the original leading men, Kirk Douglas came along in the final days of the major studio system, and he was one of the first box office stars to take charge of his own destiny by  becoming involved in the production and marketing of the films in which he appeared.

He was a vital force in such classics as Out of the Past (1947), Champion (1949), Detective Story (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Lust for Life (1956). He formed his own company, Bryna, and made such major films as Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are the Brave (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964).

Along the way, he distinguished himself in a number of westerns, including The Big Sky (1952), Man without a Star (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), and The War Wagon (1967), while also tackling several action roles in historical period pictures like 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1954), Ulysses (1955), and The Vikings (1958).

conversations_with_classic_film_stars_coverRenowned for his support of liberal causes, Douglas is often credited with helping break down the dreaded Hollywood anti-Communist “blacklist” by hiring blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (who also celebrates a birthday today!) to write the screenplay for Spartacus.
In a conversation with Douglas in conjunction with Draw!, a 1984 HBO TV western, Ronald Miller asked the iconic actor about his work with other leading actors and actresses, antiheroes, and working within the studio system. You can find a full transcript of their conversation in Conversations with Classic Film Stars—a perfect gift for the film buff this holiday season.

In the excerpt below, Miller and Douglas discuss the unique art of filmmaking, and its pitfalls, as well as Douglas’s involvement in the Oscar-winning, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Excerpted from Conversations with Classic Film Stars:

Miller: You’ve worked with every kind of movie director and you don’t have a reputation for getting into disputes with them, but you are known for demanding a collaborative atmosphere on the set. Explain that.

Douglas: I’ve worked with [Joseph] Mankiewicz, [Howard] Hawks, [Elia] Kazan, [William] Wyler, [Billy] Wilder. I’ve been very fortunate. All of them work differently. I’ve even directed a couple of pictures, so I have respect for the work. But no matter what anyone says, it’s a collaborative art form. No matter how much one person is a binding force, it’s still a collaboration.

I think the problem today is that we’ve been contaminated by the European concept of the auteur system. I’ve had movies where I bought the book, developed the script, and cast the whole picture, but then the director walks in and says, “It must be a John Smith film!” I think sometimes we emphasize that too much.

Miller: Though you’ve avoided big hassles with your directors, you’ve had a few disputes with studio managements, haven’t you?

Douglas: Let me give you an example of that: Lonely Are the Brave. You need the proper selling of a picture like that. I thought Universal just threw it away. They didn’t give it a chance. They took it out of circulation. Then there were all those great reviews and people said, “Where’s the picture?” Their ego prevented them from making a different campaign for the picture. The longer I’m in this business, the more amazed I am that a movie can be made, good or bad.

Miller: You’ve taken lots of chances in your career, but I imagine one of your greatest frustrations was not being able to play McMurphy on the big screen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest after acquiring the rights to the book from Ken Kesey and playing the part on the stage in New York.

douglas-kirk_03Douglas: It was way ahead of its time. When I took it to Broadway, the critics didn’t know what to make of it. The audience loved it, but it didn’t do very well. I tried for nearly twelve years to make it as a movie. I took it to every studio. But they wouldn’t do it, even with a limited budget. Finally, I went into partnership with my son, Michael, and we were able to find somebody outside of the industry to put up the money and we made a little picture that I never predicted would be a hit. So it did over $200 million! Nobody knows what will really be successful.

Miller: What do you think of Michael as a producer?

Douglas: I told him, “Michael, you’re the kind of producer I’d like to work with because you give everything to the other person even when you’re in the movie.” He did that in Romancing the Stone [1984]. He focused all the attention on the girl [Kathleen Turner]. I haven’t been that generous. I’ve been a producer, but I find a product like Spartacus or The Vikings or Seven Days in May or Paths of Glory and somehow there always seems to be a good part for me.

Advertisements

At the Oscars, Patricia Arquette Speaks Up for a Woman’s Wage

During a night jam-packed with the biggest names in Hollywood, it was one winner’s acceptance speech that made television viewers and award show attendees alike stand up and take notice.

After winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a single mother in BoyhoodPatricia Arquette took to the stage to send a message:

“To every woman who gave birth to every tax payer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

The spirited call-to-action was applauded by the audience and earned an enthusiastic reaction from the one and only Meryl Streep. streep Arquette’s speech comes at a moment when the issue of equal pay and rights for women is at the forefront of many minds, particularly after the Sony Pictures hack that released droves of emails some of which revealed dramatic pay inequality between leading women and their male counterparts, including even blockbuster stars like Jennifer Lawrence.

In the U.S., that pay gap is hardly restricted to Hollywood. A 2014 report from the World Economic Forum revealed that American women make only 66% of what their male equals do, ranking the U.S. 65th out of 142 countries when it comes to wage equality.

Kessler-HarrisCompF.inddLast year, the University Press of Kentucky released an updated edition of a path breaking classic: A Woman’s Wage by Alice Kessler-Harris. The book explores the meanings of women’s wages in the United States throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and explains the historical reasons behind the unequal treatment of women in the workforce and strips away the arguments in favor of this discrimination.

Kessler-Harris focuses on many of the same issues that Arquette pointedly raised in her speech as well as in other interviews including the battle over minimum wage for women, the argument for equal pay, and the debate over comparable worth, exposing the relationship between family ideology and workplace demands and how the notion of the traditional family has changed over time.

In a new chapter for the updated edition Kessler-Harris goes even further. “A Woman’s Wage, Redux,” argues for a social wage that responds to a working family’s needs. This new social wage would help relieve the so-called double burden on women and make it easier for both men and women to successfully balance work and family life.

While there is still an unreasonably difficult battle ahead, Arquette’s speech is another reminder that while the arc of history may bend toward progress, it only does so at the behest of those who fight for it.

Q&A with Amy Clark

With all of the excitement about the upcoming Appalachian Studies Association conference, we decided to get in touch with UPK author Amy Clark. Check out our question and answer session to learn about the University of Virginia professor:

UPK:       What first prompted you to think about and study Appalachian Englishes?

AC:           I grew up in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, and my first education in vernacular dialects had to be my upbringing. Voice was at the center of everything, like how my family told stories, the cadence of a preacher’s sermon, and music…always music. My dad sang in a quartet on weekends so I grew up traveling and listening to old-style mountain music, which is full of vernacular grammar, accent, and words.

 

UPK:       Who are some of your role models in the Appalachian community?

AC:           I grew up with three living generations of family, so I have to say they were my first role models because they were my first teachers, historians, sociologists…you name it. Everyone who came after simply added on to that foundation they gave me. I know everyone says this but it’s true of me, as well: I discovered Appalachian literature when I was introduced to Lee Smith’s and Denise Giardina’s books. And seeing my own voice on the printed page was a revelation, because it meant there was artistic integrity in the way we speak. I continue to be inspired by other writers like those I’ve gotten to know through the Appalachian Writer’s Workshop at Hindman. Helen Lewis has inspired me because of her service and activism. And so many scholars who have done good work…too many to name.

 

UPK:       Have you ever been a victim of linguistic bigotry?

AC:           I’ve experienced regional bigotry, which likely had a great deal to do with my accent because that’s the first indicator of where I’m from. It surprises me that denigrating Appalachia is still not taboo, and it surprises me when the bigotry comes from highly-educated or high-ranking people.

 

UPK:       What are your responsibilities as the founding director of the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           My primary responsibility is growing a network of teachers who are good role models for their colleagues in progressive ways to teach writing in all disciplines, at all levels. I write grants to support my leadership team of teachers, who train a new batch of teachers every summer to develop workshops that we offer in public schools. We also have Young Writer’s Camps and Writing Retreats. As co-founder/Director of our new Center for Appalachian Studies, I’m including the AWP as part of the CAS outreach, and there will be more opportunities for teachers to integrate Appalachian studies into their curriculums.

 

UPK:       What have you learned from working with the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           I was a public school teacher at the beginning of my career, so I know how hard it can be. There are so many excellent, hard-working teachers in our system who-if given the resources, support, and time-are willing to go beyond the call of duty in the classroom and share their good practices with colleagues. So many of them are good writers, too, but like their students, they have trouble acknowledging it. We spend time in our writing institutes working on that insecurity. Several of our teachers, like Rebecca Elswick, author of Mama’s Shoes, have gone on to publish their work.

 

UPK:       What do you most look forward to at the 2014 Appalachian Studies Conference at Marshall University?

AC:           I’m doing a workshop on Friday about teaching writing to vernacular speakers, which is based on my chapter in the book, so I’m excited to have that opportunity (see my answer to 7 for more about that.) I’m looking forward to catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, and hearing about the new work that’s being done.

 

UPK:       What advice would you give a teacher from outside of the Appalachian region who might be teaching in Appalachia for the first time?

AC:           Come with your cup empty and learn as much as you can about our histories. And because most teachers aren’t well-versed in sociolinguistics, I would urge them to learn more about the dialects-where they come from, why people speak them, and how best to teach bi-dialectal speakers. Contrary to institutionalized ideas about a “right” and “wrong” English, we speak on a continuum of Englishes. So I would advise them not to simply dismiss what is nonstandard as wrong or incorrect, but instead, appreciate the historical significance of it and then teach students how to sensitively shift into a standard spoken and written version when they need it, but understand that they don’t have to deny their “first” voices.

 

UPK:       What was it like to have your co-edited book, Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community, be used as a dialect resource for actors during the filming of Big Stone Gap?

AC:           It was thrilling. Adriana Trigiani called me when she saw a piece I had written about Appalachian dialects and she said she wanted to use the book. She also asked me to do a phonetic rendering of the script so actors would know how to pronounce some of the words, so we met and talked about that once the movie was underway. I was able to watch Patrick Wilson and Ashley Judd (who Tweeted about the book) as they filmed a scene, and our dog, Sadie, ended up in the scene with them.

 

UPK:       What other successes has Talking Appalachian seen in the past year? Has it been used as a resource in other areas?

AC:           It is being taught in several university classrooms, such as University of Kentucky and UVa.’s College at Wise, and it was recently nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction. I’ve received some wonderful feedback from readers, especially after a recent piece I published in the New York Times about writing in a vernacular voice. I’m also happy to report that it will be released in paperback this fall.

 

UPK:       Did you have any favorite Appalachian traditions or pastimes growing up in Virginia?

AC:           My family made and sold molasses on my great-grandmother’s farm, and I have good memories of participating every fall. They harvested the cane, which was crushed in horse-drawn mill. We boiled it in pans flanked by benches that someone had taken out of old school buses. The kids used hole-punched pie pans nailed to broomstick handles to skim the batch as it cooked. Then, the pan would be hoisted on chains so the molasses could be poured into mason jars. My family took orders and sold out before a batch was even finished. I can still remember the smell of smoke in my hair every night, and the older folks sitting on the bus benches near the evaporating pan, smoking and listening to the high school football game on the radio. I’m quilting now with my mother and grandmother, and my four-year old daughter watches and pretends to help. I’m eager to start new traditions with my own children that they will carry forward.

To delve deeper into the life of Appalachia and Amy Clark, check out her book Talking Appalachia!