The Spectator: Talk About Movies and Plays With the People Who Make Them By Studs Terkel

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Studs Terkel is great no matter the subject. This was a great book. It had interviews with a lot people who I did not know anything about since they were theater people from the 1960's and such.
Paperback My first exposure to Studs was back in 1999 when the musical based on his book Working was produced by the Austin College theater department. I hadn't read Working (still haven't) but the premise of the show was that we'd see several musical vignettes, each focusing on an actual person Turkel had interviewed about their jobs. The show was a big success and introduced me to an interesting new writer to look into. A copy of Working soon sat on my bookshelf. And like a lot of books I buy, it sat there for a really long time.

You see, when given the freedom to choose anything in the world to read (yes, the selection at HalfPrice Books is THAT GOOD!), I just couldn't get myself too worked up to read what were essentially transcribed interviews. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but flipping through the book, I saw that the text mostly consisted of Studs asking a few questions followed my long passages of his subjects answering at great length. How exactly does that constitute 'writing' a book?

So, much to my detriment, Working went unread longer still. And because I have a serious mental illness and cannot resist purchasing new books based solely on the basis that it would look nice on a shelf next to other books by the same author even though I've never read that author, I picked up The Spectator, which at least had the side benefit of being about theater, which is my chosen profession.

Anyway, every book in my apartment, no matter how little I may have considered reading it, has a bit of a gravitational tug at my attention. So inevitibility overtook me, and I finally decided to read Studs. Not having read any theater history or texts recently, I thought I'd take a look at The Spectator.

And as is typical, I felt like an ass for having let this book sit on the shelf for so long.

Yes, it is basically Studs asking a few questions while his subjects answer at length. But what I didn't realize when I flipped through Working was that the answers given my the interviewees are greatly dependant on the interviewer asking the right questions. And Studs Terkel knows how to ask the right question. It didn't matter if he was talking to Buster Keaton or Tennessee Williams, Moms Mabley or Marcel Marceau, Tallulah Bankhead or even Arnold Schwarzenegger, Studs is so extraordinarily knowledgable about these people and their histories and their connections to the entertainment world, that he draws from them all sort of interesting little nuggets of wisdom.

If you printed the transcript of any interview I might conduct with James Cagney or Uta Hagen, that would be one really stupid book.

I'm really glad I picked this one up, and I look forward to digging into Terkel's volumes on World War II and the American 20th Century. And maybe, one of these days, I'll even get around to reading Working. Paperback The Studs Terkel Interviews: Film and Theatre

I found this on a traveller bookshelf at a Tourist Information in Outback Queensland some time ago. It was a Library discard copy.
Contains sixty-five interviews. I haven't read them all as yet. I pencil the ones I have, all interesting while reading but as they are mostly five to ten pages in length the memory information fades. It is a book to dip into anywhere, and also reread.
Topics covered are:
Act One
1. Beginning
2. Say It with Music
3. Hard Times
5. War
6. O Death
7. Kindness of Strangers
Act Two
1. Ways of Seeing
2.Ways of Doing
3. Ways of Seeing II
4. A Touch of Shaw
5. Bert and Sam: Brecht and Beckett
Act Three
1. Solo Flight
2. Out of the Shadows
3. Success
4.Winners and Losers
5. The Clowns

Some that I've read are, Tennessee Williams, Geraldine Page, Marlon Brando, Arnold Schwarzenegger, William Saroyan, Edward Albee, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Simone Signoret, René Char, Federico Fellini. Paperback The construction of this book is a departure from the solid chapter work I've noticed in other books by Terkel. In The Spectator he weaves reminiscences of a wide variety of theater and film artists (both in front and behind the scenes) together within chapters, sometimes breaking away from one interview for a brief excerpt of an interview with someone else entirely. Terkel's passion about the art of theater is as far removed from Entertainment Tonight as possible. He's not concerned with gossip, and while he shows great appreciation for his subjects, he doesn't fawn over them. At times, the technical aspects of these craftsmen was beyond my grasp, and that's a good feeling. I like being challenged by a book instead of being bored with it. The Spectator allows the marriage of both what an attentive audience experiences, and the method and motive behind the creators of that experience; the magic lies in where the two meet. Paperback A snotty, dismissive piece about Studs in the NY Times which said paper of the establishment's record reserves for effective radicals [] prompted me to both throw the damn paper across the room and vow to read a Terkel volume as soon as possible. Glad I started with this one, it's a treat. Studs's enthusiasm and love of life and art is infectious, and unlike too many interviewers, he came prepared. The interviewees span an impressive gamut of film and theatre people, from Zero Mostel to Fellini to Jacques Tati to Arthur Miller. Not a bad lineup.

I don't know why I've never read other books by Studs, as I've been listening to him on the radio for years. I loved him when I saw him onstage with Jessica Mitford in the 1990s, what a pair.

Here's to Studs. I'm looking forward to his Great Depression and WWII books. Paperback

The Studs Terkel Interviews: Film and Theater collects the Pulitzer Prize–winning oral historian’s remarkable conversations with some of the greatest luminaries of film and theater. Originally published under the title The Spectator, this “knowledgeable and perceptive” (Library Journal) look at show business presents the actors directors, playwrights, dancers, lyricists, and others who created the dramatic works of the twentieth century.

Among the many highlights in these pages, Buster Keaton explains the wonders of unscripted silent comedy, Federico Fellini reflects on honesty in art, Carol Channing reveals that she is far more serious than she lets on, and Marlon Brando turns the tables and wants to interview Terkel. We learn about crucial artistic decisions in the lives of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee and hear from a range of film directors, from Vittorio De Sica and King Vidor to Satyajit Ray. We even get to witness Terkel playing straight man to a wildly inventive Zero Mostel. Because Terkel knows his subjects’ work intimately, he asks precisely the right questions to elicit the most revealing responses. As the New York Times Book Review noted, “Terkel’s knowledge and force of personality make him fully a player alongside his famous guests.”

The Spectator: Talk About Movies and Plays With the People Who Make Them


Not really so interesting. Paperback With insight to spare, this collection of film and theater interviews is second to none. Seriously, if you're interested in the performing arts this is book comes with strong recommendation. Paperback A collection of interviews with creators and performers in film and stage. Several of the pieces were recycled from othe Terkel books. I much prefer many of the other books by the same author. These short pieces were only mildly interesting as they traced old radio conversations between Terkel and an artist temporarily in Chicago for publicity or performance. Paperback Includes his great takedown of the truly awful Deer Hunter. Paperback