Documentary Film: Heir to an Execution

One of the major political events of the “great red scare” of the early 1950s was the arrest, trial and 1953 execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for espionage, charged with passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union. Filmmaker and their granddaughter Ivy Meeropol explores the complexities and still-remaining questions of their case and the effect it had on her father and his brother to not just learn more about her family background but also the notorious case without polemics or an agenda. Her conclusion is that while the couple were likely involved in far more minor spying, they were largely railroaded by the justice system and compromised witnesses against them. Her determination to get at whatever truths can be divined is brave and largely free of sentimental bias while at the same time emotionally compelling.

Book: Everyone Loves You When You’re Deaf by Neil Strauss

This compendium of interview snippets by the former New York Times and Rolling Stone music and pop culture correspondent says on its back cover that “you can tell a lot about someone in a minute, if you choose the right minute.” The 220 of them Strauss gleaned from his work may not all be revelatory, but his glimpses of encounters with music superstars like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney, such legends as Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, actors, personalities and others are almost always entertaining. This is one of the best “bathroom books” I’ve encountered in some time that you can pick up, open to any page and enjoy a quick read.

Documentary Film: Casting By

The rise of the casting director in feature films from obscurity to formal recognition and their influence on a number of classic movies is traced from the work of pioneers Marion Dougherty and Lynn Stalmaster. As the studio system ended and the era of auteur directors arose, these unheralded creative forces had a profound effect on the rise of actors who are today stars and the films that brought them into the public eye. It’s a significant slice of film history that has yet to be told that reveals just how pivotal these behind-the-scenes forces have become in film and TV.

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2013


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