Tag Archives: film/television/photography

Leave It to Beaver

OK, for some reason, here is a reading on “Leave It to Beaver” along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I haven’t the faintest idea why I produced these documents on this late-1950s and early-1960s television show. A friend of mine extolled its virtues in the past; the one episode I saw nauseated me–a sitcom vision of a placid, indeed complacent, ultra-White America produced during the depths of Jim Crow–and I never watched another episode.

So again, I can’t imagine why I wrote this worksheet other than, perhaps, to help students understand how often popular media, particularly fictional narratives, are at variance with reality.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Tomas Gutierrez Alea

“Tomas Gutierrez Alea: (1928-1996) Cuban film director. After earning a law degree in Cuba, he studied filmmaking in Rome (1951-53). A supporter of Fidel Castro, he helped develop Cuba’s film industry after 1959 and made the Communist regime’s first official feature film, Stories of the Revolution (1960). Later he worked within the restrictions of the regime to satirize and explore various aspects of life in postrevolutionary Cuba in such internationally acclaimed films as Death of a Bureaucrat (1966), Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), The Survivors (1978), and Strawberry and Chocolate (1993). He is regarded as the finest director Cuba has produced.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Nighthawks

“Nighthawks: A painting (1942) by the US artist Edward Hopper (1882-1967), showing people at an all-night coffee stand. A nighthawk is the same as a ‘night owl,’ i.e. someone who likes to stay up all night. A nighthawk—also called a mosquito hawk or bulbat—is also the name for any of a group of American nightjars. Nighthawks has also been used as the title of two films, one (1978) about the night-time cruising of a gay British schoolteacher, and the other (1981) about American policemen pursuing a terrorist.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

National Velvet

“National Velvet: A novel (1935) by Enid Bagnold (1889-1981). Velvet, a butcher’s daughter, win a piebald horse in a raffle. Disguised as a boy, she rides it in the Grand National, Britain’s premier steeplechase. Although she is past the winning post, she is disqualified for dismounting before the weighing-in. A popular film version (1945), directed by Clarence Brown, starred a 14-year-old Elizabeth Taylor.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Of Mice and Men

“Of Mice and Men: A novella (1937) by John Steinbeck (1902-68). It centers on two casual labourers, Lennie, a simple, sentimental giant who loves small animals but does not know his own strength, and his friend George. In a tragic ending, George’s efforts are not enough to keep Lennie out of the trouble that he has unwittingly brought upon himself. The title is from ‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns (1759-96):

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,

And lea’e us nought but grief and pain,

For promised joy.

A film version (1939) was directed by Lewis Milestone.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: An autobiographical account by the British soldier, archaeologist, Arabist, classical scholar and writer T(homas) E(dward) Lawrence (1888-1935) of his adventures in Arabia during the First World War. Lawrence too his title from the Bible:

‘Wisdom had builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.’

Proverbs 9:1

It is not clear why seven, although seven is commonly a mystical or sacred number and crops up frequently in the Bible. Lawrence famously mislaid the first draft of his manuscript in 1919 while changing trains at Reading.

The book formed the basis for the Oscar-winning epic film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) directed by David Lean (1908-1991) with a screenplay by Robert Bolt (1924-95), starring Peter O’Toole in the title role.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A play (1962) by the US playwright Edward Albee (1928-2016) depicting the tense relationship between a sharp-tongued college professor and his embittered wife. Filmed in 1966 with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the two main roles, the play owed its memorable title to a line of graffiti scribbled in soap on a mirror in a bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village that the author happened visit in the 1950s. The quip, evidently derived from the song title ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ from the Disney cartoon The Three Little Pigs (1933), was later redefined by Albee as meaning ‘who’s afraid of living without false illusions.’”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002. 

Salvador Dali

Here is a reading on Salvador Dali along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

It is a good general introduction to the artist’s life, containing both personal and professional biographical material. Of particular interest to students, perhaps (I saw Un Chien Andalou as a high school junior and found it both horrifying and compelling; in any case, it is a cultural product that is de rigueur if one is to count oneself among the a certain strand of the cognoscenti), are Dali’s collaborations with Luis Bunuel.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

William Randolph Hearst

Here is a reading on William Randolph Hearst along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

If you have Netflix, the service’s recently released film Mank deals with William Randolph Hearst (played in the film with blithe and subtle villainy by the great Charles Dance), inasmuch as the subject of the film, the legendary screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (whose friends called him “Mank” at his insistence, hence the film’s title), wrote Citizen Kane about Hearst. The film delves into one of the most hotly contested issues in film history: Who wrote Citizen Kane? Or, if Orson Welles and Herman Mankiewicz co-wrote it, whose voice, political sensibilities, and artistic vision predominates? A great deal of ink has been spilled over this issue, including the storied book-length essay Raising Kane by the late, eminent film critic Pauline Kael, which appeared in two consecutive issues of The New Yorker early in 1971.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that this is relatively timely material, especially if you have a precocious cinephile (I knew quite a few back in the day) on your hands.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful to your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Mina Loy

“Mina Loy: (Born Mina Gertrude Lowy; 1882-1966) English poet and painter. Daughter of a Hungarian Jewish father and English Protestant mother, her first avocation was art. During her years in Florence (1906-1916) she was immersed in Italian Futurism. Loy gradually disassociated herself from the movement as it became increasingly fascist; a number of early satires take aim at the ‘Futurist genius’ as an example of male suprematism. Her first published work appeared in Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Work and Carl Van Vechten’s Trend (1914). Her controversial work ‘Love Songs for Johannes’ were considered shocking for their frank expression of female sexuality. In New York, she met Arthur Cravan, an infamous Dadaist “poet-boxer.” Divorcing her first husband, she married Cravan in Mexico City, with whom she had one child. Cravan later disappeared in Mexico and was never found. Her first collection of poems, Lunar Baedeker, appeared in 1923, and she did not publish another one until 1958 (Lunar Baedeker and Time Tables). Her work is distinguished by a satiric and feminist sensibility, an unusual polysyllabic and abstract diction, alliteration, internal and slant rhymes, and a combination of the image with the with the epigram. Some of her poems convey rage at the injustices done to women, the poor, and the homeless. Late in life she became more and more reclusive. Her collected poems, The Last Lunar Baedeker, appeared in 1982.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.