Strange bedfellows I suppose, but that’s the wonderful thing about culture of the popular variety, you never know who’s going to show up!

Hope : entertainer of the century by Richard Zoglin

Simon & Schuster, 2014

Simon & Schuster, 2014

Few entertainers at any time have scaled quite such heights of success as Bob Hope did throughout a large chunk of the 20th century, and whilst much has been written on him over the years this major new biography by Time theatre critic Richard Zoglin is likely to prove definitive, at least for the foreseeable future. Starting off in vaudeville in the 1920s, Hope methodically worked his way through any and all branches of the entertainment industry; theatre, radio, television, film, Bob Hope was king of them all for most of his working life. If his fame has waned in the 21st century that process had already begun in his later years as the world changed around him and his old-school style of comedy fetched up hard against the new in-your-face, politically and socially subversive humour of the 1960s and 70s. Managing to remain enormously private and secretive even at the height of his fame, this immensely readable new biography manages to capture the essence of both the public and the private man.

Time and place are nonsense : the films of Seijun Suzuki by Tom Vick

Smithsonian Institution, 2015

Smithsonian Institution, 2015

If you know and love the classically beautiful films of Japanese directors such as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujirō Ozu, then fasten your seatbelts for the seriously disruptive cinema of Seijun Suzuki. Working largely in the popular B-movie world of the yakuza film (Japanese gangsters), his wonderfully offbeat visual style, coupled with an increasingly bizarre and surreal sense of narrative, led finally to his dismissal from the Nikkatsu production company in 1967, but not before he had become a cult figure amongst younger Japanese film goers. This is the first major study in English to look at this amazing director’s life and work, and I for one will be hunting out Tattooed Life, Youth of the Beast and Branded to Kill at the first available opportunity!

 

Patti Smith : America’s punk rock rhapsodist by Eric Wendell (ebook)

Rowman & Littlefield, 2015

Rowman & Littlefield, 2015

The “Punk poet-laureate” or the “godmother of Punk”, however you want to define her Patti Smith’s influence on music, and culture more generally, is undeniable. This overview of her life and career is a good place to start if you want to find out where she came from and how she came to redefine the role of women in one of the tougher corners of popular culture. You can read this ebook here at the Library,  or at home if you’re one of our registered Victorian members.

 

Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975 (eresource)

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Breaking news! State Library Victoria has recently purchased this marvellous online resource which covers what are, arguably, some of the most significant decades of the 20th century. The changes that were happening socially, politically and culturally across this period make it one of the most important eras for the world we now live in, and this remarkable collection of documents, photos, film clips, magazines and memorabilia allows you to step back in time and see where, how and why it all began. You can explore this vast treasure trove here in the Library, or at home if you’re one of our Victorian registered members.

 

An interview with the delightfully understated Seijun Suzuki

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