Monday, August 12, 2019

Charlottesville

Two years ago today (August 12, 2017), the two-day "Unite the Right" rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, attended by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Klan members, and others from the far-right, culminated in the murder of Heather Heyer, age 32, a counter-protester.

The act of terrorism which killed Ms. Heyer (and injured many others) remains a deeply sad and terrible moment in America's history.

I have mentioned, in previous posts, that I lived in Charlottesville--a beautiful, wonderful city--for several years. I moved there in 1995, to host a radio program; the program ended in 1997, but I stayed in the city until the beginning of 2001.

I think about Charlottesville often.  There are a great many things I enjoyed about living there--including getting to know (because of the radio program) a number of the city's excellent print and broadcast journalists.

One was Hawes Spencer, who during my time in the city was editor of a popular Charlottesville newspaper, the C-Ville Weekly.  He later founded and edited another local weekly, The Hook.  More recently, as a Charlottesville-based freelance writer, his byline has appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast and other publications.  He also reports for Virginia public radio, and teaches journalism at Virginia's James Madison University.

In 2018, he brought out an impressive book about what took place in Charlottesville in 2017, titled Summer of Hate: Charlottesville, USA (University of Virginia Press).

https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Hate-Charlottesville-Hawes-Spencer/dp/081394208X/

Friday, August 9, 2019

August 9, 1974

Forty-five years ago today, Richard Nixon's presidency ended.  During a televised speech, the night before, he had announced he would he leaving office the next day. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The podcast "On Mic with Jordan Rich"

Jordan Rich, a terrific radio talk show host, has been heard on Boston radio since the late 1970s. For twenty years, he was the very popular weekend overnight host at the news and talk station WBZ-AM. He retired from his WBZ weekend hosting duties in 2016, but continues to appear on the station--periodically, as a guest host, and, each week, through recorded features (including the food/wine/restaurant-oriented "Connoisseurs Corner").  His decades-long work in voice-overs also continues.

I have known Jordan (about whom I've written previously in this space) for a number of years, have for years listened (with great pleasure) to his radio shows, and have been his guest, on the air, in the past. 

As an interviewer, as a conversationalist, he is warm, witty, knowledgeable, insightful.  

Since 2017, he's been the host of an excellent podcast, "On Mic with Jordan Rich." On July 21st, the podcast's 100th episode appeared. The programs are recorded at Chart Productions, the audio and video production house, outside of Boston, that he co-owns with broadcaster Ken Carberry. They founded the production facility in 1978.

I was recently interviewed by Jordan for the podcast; it was an enormous pleasure talking with him. We spoke about my book about early television (the revised edition of which was released at the end of January).  

Here is a brief promotional video concerning our recent conversation, from the "On Mic" Facebook page:


Here, too,  is the full interview:


Lastly, here is the "On Mic with Jordan Rich" page, at the Chart Productions website:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

"Twelve Angry Men," CBS-TV, 1954

On his "It's About TV" blog (referred to, previously, a number of times in this space), Mitchell Hadley writes about various aspects of television--including the relationship between television and the culture at-large, and television history (see, for example, his recent four-part examination of the history of television opera).

A central feature of the blog concerns TV Guide. Such posts appear weekly; they provide overviews of, and commentaries about, decades-old issues of the magazine.

A post last month focused upon the magazine's June 20, 1964 issue (the edition covering New York City and environs)--and referred to an airing, that week (on a Connecticut TV station), of the 1957 film 12 Angry Men.
 
https://www.itsabouttv.com/2019/06/this-week-in-tv-guide-june-20-1964_22.html

In the post, Mitchell wrote of his preference for Robert Cummings' starring performance (as Juror #8), in the original, 1954 live television production of Twelve Angry Men, over that of Henry Fonda, who played the same role in the 1957 film. (The television production, incidentally, spelled out the number in its title: Twelve Angry Men.  The film version used the number 12.)

The 1954 telecast of Twelve Angry Men aired on CBS's Studio One program.  It was directed by Franklin Schaffner, and the script, written for Studio One, was by Reginald Rose; both Schaffner and Rose were leading figures in the live television era. Rose adapted his Studio One script for the subsequent film version, directed by Sidney Lumet.

In his post, Mitchell provided a YouTube link to the 1954 Studio One production.  The YouTube channel featuring the link presents restored kinescopes, from the live television period; the channel's administrator produces the restorations, and writes that the Twelve Angry Men kinescope was "cleaned and restored to the original frame rate of live television, so you may see what it looked like when originally broadcast live."
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlaXebUi72A

I'd never seen the live TV version of Twelve Angry Men (had only seen the film, which is superb), and watched the program, due to Mitchell's comments about it. The television version is excellent--and the restored kinescope is outstanding, in its clarity.

The YouTube page made note of instances, in the television production, in which TV cameras were accidentally seen.  Before watching the program, I also looked up the production on IMDB.com.  Mention was made, on IMDB, of a moment during the 1954 telecast, in which a camera--with its CBS "eye" logo--was glimpsed.

The IMDB page referred to the line of dialogue which preceded the appearance of the TV camera.  The words--angry, sarcastic--were spoken by the actor Edward Arnold (Juror # 10) to Robert Cummings' Juror # 8: "You're a pretty smart young fella."  Had I not been aware, beforehand, of the words from the script, I likely would have missed seeing the camera; it appears, and disappears, quickly.

The camera is seen at approximately 12:55, in the kinescope. It is visible at the right of the screen, in the distance.  Seated to the left of the camera is actor Joseph Sweeney (Juror # 9).

Twelve Angry Men, 1954; CBS camera, to the right of the screen.

A second appearance of a camera--a much more prominent intrusion--takes place at 29:41, at the forefront of the screen.  A side view of the camera's front apparatus appears, for a rather startling amount of time--more than three seconds.  Robert Cummings is on-screen, while the camera is seen; seated to Cummings' right (our left) is actor George Voskovec, Juror # 11.  (Voskovec, and the aforementioned Joseph Sweeney, were the two actors who were featured in both the live television and film versions.)

Robert Cummings (center), George Voskovec (seated, left), CBS camera, at lower right.
                                              
                                                    **********
When experiencing a work of fictional art--when, say, reading a novel, watching a film, a play, seeing a television program (such as Twelve Angry Men)--one wishes to become fully absorbed by, immersed within, the fictional realm.

And so, if TV cameras are inadvertently seen, the realm is breached; one is, at least momentarily, taken out of the sphere of the drama.

And yet: the unintended images, in Twelve Angry Men, were, to me, riveting.

That cameras appeared, on the TV screen, was, certainly, a reminder of the precarious nature of early TV presentations. Performers had to co-exist with, work around, the large, moving, imposing cameras. (And in this particular production, the possibility of technical mishaps was no doubt increased by the confines of the setting: the telecast, for the most part, was rooted in one space:  the relatively small jury room.)

I don't know, of course, what viewers in 1954 might have thought of such visual intrusions--witnessing, on the TV set, some of that which was intended to be invisible. Perhaps it would have been jarring, or captivating, or, as in the second instance, above, perplexing (What was that, at the side of the screen?).  Perhaps there would simply have been the understanding that such imperfections were a part of the new medium.

There is, certainly, a significant advantage, watching such programs today; one has the ability--which viewers in 1954 obviously did not have--to watch a show's scenes repeatedly, when seeking to apprehend what took place in them.

Indeed, from the vantage point of decades after-the fact:  witnessing the specific technical accidents of Twelve Angry Men  (seeing, on-screen, cameras which transmitted the program, live, to viewers in 1954), makes the program, today (for me, at least), that much more exhilarating.

(Please note: significant changes have been made to this post since it first appeared.)

(Above images: CBS-TV, 1954)