Support Your Local Sheriff. A wide-gauge western spoof written and directed by William Bowers and Burt Kennedy, who between them made more than their share of dead-serious horse operas. All but forgotten today, Support Your Local Sheriff was one of the sleeper hits of 1969, partly because of the irresistible charm of James Garner as the Maverick-like sort-of-anti-hero and partly because of the perfect supporting cast (Walter Brennan, Bruce Dern, Joan Hackett, Harry Morgan). And guess what? It’s as funny today as it was when I saw it in the theater as a boy (TT).
Archives for April 13, 2011
At last, there’s some new stuff in the Top Five and “Out of the Past” modules of the right-hand column. Take a peek.
Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley. This is the first installment of a two-volume biography originally published in 1995. In it, Guralnick follows Presley through the death of his mother in 1958. Last Train to Memphis might just be the best book ever written about an American musician, and it definitely belongs at the top of the short list of first-rate rock biographies, not just because Guralnick’s research is impeccable but because his gifts as a storyteller are extraordinary. I reread it before starting work on Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong in order to remind myself of how good a musical biography can be (TT).
Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology (Smithsonian Folkways, six CDs). No “canonical” collection of important jazz recordings can hope to be definitive, but this one, which contains 111 tracks and is accompanied by a two-hundred-page book, comes as close as you’re likely to get, certain startling omissions notwithstanding (mostly, I regret to say, of such important white instrumentalists as Bobby Hackett, Red Nichols, Pee Wee Russell, Red Norvo, and Dave Tough). The accompanying notes are by a cross-section of well-known jazz scholars and commentators, myself among them. Several distressing flaws notwithstanding, this is a serious and largely admirable piece of work (TT).
The Motherf**ker with the Hat (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45, closes June 26). Don’t be put off by the dumb title–Stephen Adly Guirgis’ new play is a smart, tightly written comedy of working-class manners, crisply staged by Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County) and performed by a superlative ensemble cast led by Bobby Cannavale (Win Win). Chris Rock, who is making his stage debut, is the draw, and he’s pretty good, too, for the most part. The play’s the thing, though, and it won’t let you down, not even for a split-second (TT).
Car 54 Where Are You?: Complete First Season (Shanachie, four DVDs). All thirty episodes of the 1961-62 season of one of the most clever and well-made situation comedies ever to appear on American television. Nat Hiken, who made Phil Silvers a TV star, did the same for Fred Gwynne and Joe E. Ross in this zany portrait of a squad-car team who troll the Bronx in search of trouble–all of which happens to them. An absolute must for golden-age TV buffs (TT).
Romare Bearden Collage: A Centennial Celebration (Michael Rosenfeld, 24 W. 57, up through May 21). Twenty-one richly colored, rewardingly complex, and beautifully hung collages made between 1964 and 1983 by one of the great American modernists. Essential viewing (TT).
Zero Mostel sings Stephen Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight” (from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) at the 1971 Tony Awards:
(This is the latest in a weekly series of arts-related videos that appear in this space each Wednesday.)
“Teachers tend to form opinions about music, and these are always getting in the way of creation. The teacher, like the parent, must always have an answer for everything. If he doesn’t he loses prestige. He must make up a story about music and stick to it. Nothing is more sterilizing.”
Virgil Thomson, The State of Music