Perhaps because of his strong Midwestern, especially Chicago, roots, it's not surprising that Sandburg wrote several biographies of Abraham Lincoln - one of which won a Pulitzer Prize (to go with the two he won for poetry). Uploaded by riverrunfilm.com.
California has its artists and writers, as does New York. Lots of writers are associated with the South and New England. For some reason, those born in the Midwest – the staid, stolid, hard-working Midwest – often move to a coast to practice their art. That’s one reason Carl Sandburg is celebrated, because he made his reputation in Chicago, and only moved to North Carolina to retire.
Here’s how he famously described his adopted hometown:
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
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During his lifetime, Sandburg published 22 books of poetry in addition to a number of biographies and children’s books. It’s probably no surprise, considering his Illinois heritage, that Sandburg wrote several books about Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize. He won two other Pulitzers for his poetry. He said, “Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”
David Mamet won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play/screenplay, Glengarry Glen Ross, a tour de force of brilliant and often profane dialogue. Uploaded by sonypictures.com.
David Mamet is one of the all-time masters of film/stage dialogue. His preference for natural conversation, in which characters often interrupt each other and sentences are left unfinished, has come to be known as “Mamet speak.” He has written fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and stage plays. He has written and produced. And though his isn’t a household name, he is well respected for his diverse talents.
Alec Baldwin was brilliant in Glengarry Glen Ross. Uploaded by dailyfill.com.
You’ll recognize a few of Mamet’s works, though they aren’t blockbusters. He received the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the adult play Glengarry Glen Ross, which waas also a remarkable movie. He also received Oscar nominations for The Verdict (Great American Things, Sept. 18, 2009) and Wag the Dog. Other movies he’s responsible for (as screenwriter) include The Untouchables, Ronin, and Hannibal. He’s also directed a couple of small gems: The Spanish Prisoner and State and Main.
I love this description of Mamet from his biography on FilmMakers.com:
Mamet makes few distinctions between working on the stage and the screen; He believes both involve putting the material on its feet and seeing how it plays. With movies, that’s done in the editing room or sometimes on the set. With plays, it’s done during rehearsals. In neither case does he see himself handicapped by being both the writer and the director. “There are two stages,” Mamet says. “First I write the best script I can and then I put on my director’s hat and say, ‘What am I going to do with this piece of crap?'”
You just look at Dave Barry, and you say, This is a funny guy. This isn't the face of a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. But he is. It is. Whatever. Uploaded by blogfinds.com.
Dave Barry is one funny guy. Okay, I suppose that’s like saying broccoli is one green vegetable. Still, he’s funny when he writes, he’s funny when he talks, and forgive me, he even looks funny. Not weird funny, but ha-ha funny. You look at him, and you know you’re not seeing the face of a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.
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Whoops! Yes you are. Or you would. Or whatever tense I was using. Which leads me to my favorite Dave Barry alter ego, Mr. Language Person. If I can find one (and if it’s legal wink-wink), I’m going to link to one of the Mr. Language Person columns. Dave was syndicated out of the Miami Herald for 25 years, but he retired from the weekly grind in 2004. We can point to that date, and to the date when Bill Watterston stopped producing Calvin and Hobbes (Great American Things, October 8, 2009) as the beginning of the end for America’s newspaper industry.
If you’ve read Dave’s columns or books, you don’t need me to tell you what a funny guy he is. But if you should not know his work, I’ve found an Ask Mr. Language Person column for you. You can then go to your local bookstore and purchase one of his books. Or visit the Miami Herald website, where you can also see some more of his work. Thanks, Dave Barry, for helping us all not to take ourselves so seriously.
The novel was published in 1939, and earned John Steinbeck the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. The movie followed the next year, and earned 7 Academy Award nominations. Uploaded by john mariani.com.
The Grapes of Wrath is the moving story of the Joad family, Okies forced from their farms due to the crop failures brought on by the Dust Bowl. Tom and the family make the pilgrimage to what they’ve been led to believe is the promised land — California. But when they arrive, they find that there are too many migrants, and too few jobs.
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Published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath earned John Steinbeck (Great American Things, October 24, 2009) the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1940. That’s the year the film version debuted, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. As often happens in adaptations, the movie had a slightly happier ending than the book. Part of that can be attributed to the natural inclination of film producers to want audiences to leave happy; part is likely due to the fact that Ford and executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck were more politically conservative than Steinbeck.
The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won two. The American Film Institute’s original “100 Years…100 Movies” named it the number 21 film of all time. As for the book, Modern Library honored it as the tenth-best novel of the 20th century.
Want the most comprehensive coverage of business and financial issues? Time to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. Uploaded by daveibsen.typepad.com.
Since 1889, Americans have turned to the Wall Street Journal for its comprehensive coverage of financial markets. Published by Dow Jones, and now owned by News Corporation, the Journal is the daily bible of American business.
Perhaps no American paper is as visually distinctive and iconic as the Journal. It’s known for its strict columns, the ink dot drawings, the “What’s News” digest. The front page says, You’re going to find serious information in this paper.
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The Journal has an outstanding reputation for journalistic excellence, demonstrated by its 33 Pulitzer Prizes earned since 1947. And it’s the editorial home of one of my favorite commentators on American life and politics, Peggy Noonan.
You may not know it, but the WSJ is America’s largest daily newspaper by size of circulation. It has more subscribers than number two (USA Today), and more than twice as many subscribers as number three (The New York Times).
Tennessee Williams's plays won Tony Awards, New York Drama Circle Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes. Photo by Evening Standard - Getty Images, uploaded by answers.com.
Lots of writers are eager to write their breakthrough novel, for fame or riches. Some want to tell their family’s story, or their own. Some enjoy the lesser commitment involved in short stories. Lots enjoy the challenge of telling a story through the expressive language of poetry. But you don’t find many writers who make writing plays their primary medium. But it definitely worked for Tennessee Williams.
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While in college, Williams wrote a play called Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay! which was produced by a community theater in Missouri. He said of the experience, “The laughter…enchanted me. Then and there the theater and I found each other for better and for worse. I know it’s the only thing that saved my life.”
Although Williams wrote close to 30 major plays, the period between 1944 and 1961 saw his most celebrated and honored writing. Some of the works created during that period include:
The Glass Menagerie (1944) • A Streetcar Named Desire (Pulitzer Prize for Drama – 1947) • Summer and Smoke (1948) • The Rose Tattoo (Tony Award – 1952) Camino Real (1953) • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony Award – 1955) • Suddenly, Last Summer (1958) • Sweet Bird of Youth (1959) • The Night of the Iguana (1961).
Jimmy Carter presented Tennessee Williams with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.
Hemingway was a big game hunter, a world-class fisherman - oh, and he could write a pretty good novel, too. Uploaded by jfklibrary.org.
He was a great writer, called the greatest writer since Shakespeare by John O’Hara. And he had a larger-than-life personality. You can call him a lot of things, but I don’t think you can call a man who drank too much, married four times, and eventually committed suicide, “Papa.”
What do you say about a man who wrote some of the greatest novels and short stories in the history of American literature, but who never actually realized his true potential? He drove an ambulance in Italy during World War I…lived in the amazing Paris arts community along with Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, and Ezra Pound…covered the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance, landed with the Allies at D-Day and was present at the liberation of Paris…all while writing the occasional novel or short story. What could he have accomplished if he’d given himself completely to novels?
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Just look at what he accomplished when he did focus. In order of publication, his novels include “The Sun Also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “To Have and Have Not,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “The Old Man and the Sea.” This last book won the Pulitzer Prize (Great American Things, February 19, 2010) for fiction, and also influenced his selection for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Hemingway had four rules for writing: 1. Use short sentences. 2. Use short first paragraphs. 3. Use vigorous English. 4. Be positive, not negative. Hemingway elaborated on his method to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I write one page of masterpiece to 91 pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
This miniseries was perfectly cast, starting with Robert Duvall as Capt. Augustus McCrae and Tommy Lee Jones as Capt. Woodrow Call. Uploaded by blogs.amctv.com.
Roots is probably the most influential miniseries in television history. But I think you can make the case that the best miniseries ever was Lonesome Dove, based on Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It received an amazing eighteen Emmy awardnominations, and won seven.
The casting of this series was inspired, beginning with Robert Duvall (Great American Things, August 21, 2009) and Tommy Lee Jones as former Texas Rangers who decide to take a herd of cattle to Montana. Neither of those two actors seems to ever make a false move, they’re entirely believable in whatever role they undertake. And they were flawless here. They were both nominated for Emmys, as were supporting characters Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, Danny Glover, and Glenne Headly. Others who made this one of the best casts ever include Rick Schroder, Robert Urich, and Chris Cooper.
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In a recent interview, Robert Duvall said the part of Augustus McCrae was his favorite of all he’s had throughout his illustrious career. “I don’t mind doing television,” Duvall said. “Some people don’t do it, but Lonesome Dove was my favorite part ever…You know, it was fun. My ex-wife said don’t let them, they were trying to talk me into playing the other part, and I wanted this part, you know, because it was more like certain aspects of me that people didn’t know. But it was just fun to play, and when I look back on it, it makes me feel good. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. You know, it’s like let the English play Hamlet and King Lear. I’ll play Augustus McCrae.”
Interestingly, McMurtry wrote Lonesome Dove as a screenplay first. He intended for John Wayne to play McCrae, Jimmy Stewart (Great American Things, April 8, 2009) as Call, and Henry Fonda (Great American Things, February 1, 2010) as Jake Spoon. Wayne turned it down, and it was ten years later that the novel received publication.
It may have been a “miniseries,” but that’s all that was mini about it. Consider that the series had 89 speaking parts, 1000 extras, 30 wranglers, 100 horses, 90 crew and 1400 cattle. That’s as big as the West, which was barely big enough to capture the epic that we appreciate today as Lonesome Dove.
Hoke tries to talk Miss Daisy back into the car so he can drive her to the Piggly Wiggly. Uploaded by fujishobo.np.infoseek.co.jp
Can’t you see the pitch meeting in Hollywood for this movie? WRITER: “It’s about an old Jewish woman in Atlanta and how she comes to respect her black chauffeur.” MOVIE EXEC: “Does something blow up? Do they have to run from the fireball?”
Miss Daisy was a 72-year-old woman who’d had an accident, and her son felt it was no longer safe for her to drive. So he hires a chauffeur to take her around town. She resists the idea, even telling her driver, “This is not the way to the Piggly Wiggly!”
Uploaded to Flickr by Web 2.
Although Driving Miss Daisy was a successful play before being adapted to the screen, I think the film’s success depends almost entirely on the performances of Jessica Tandy as Miss Daisy Werthen and Morgan Freeman as Hoke. Morgan Freeman was nominated for an Oscar (he lost to Daniel Day-Lewis’s wonderful performance in My Left Foot), and Jessica Tandy was named Best Actress, becoming the oldest winner (81) of that honor.
Speaking of awards, this movie has a couple of unusual distinctions. Alfred Uhry wrote the screenplay, based on his own Pulitzer award-winning play. It’s only the second Pulitzer winner that was adapted and became Best Picture, following Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take it With You (1937). Driving Miss Daisy is also the first film since 1932 to win Best Picture without its director (Bruce Beresford) even being nominated.
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.