Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Saturday Review’:

50 Years Since Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’

Writer Betty Friedan in 1974

A lot of media attention last week marked the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, written by Betty Friedan. And so time flies, since it was forty years ago, on the book’s 10th anniversary that I photographed Ms. Friedan for The Saturday Review, a magazine for which I shot many stories and a lot of covers. Working for SR was always interesting, and my range of assignments covered the arts, politics, even professional sports.

At the time of its publication, and for years to come, the book and author were household words. Here’s a very well-written appreciation of both, from New York Times critic Janet Maslin. Speaking personally, I can remember working in television at CBS in the ‘60s, when women were not permitted to wear pants, and I’m not talking about jeans …. Tailored. Wool . Pants. There were no women on the studio floor, except as makeup artists (and men were as common in that role). As women emerged into television production, I remember working with one technical director who after a difficult live broadcast (with a number of glitches) broke into tears once we were ‘dark.’ When I asked her why, her answer wasn’t about the mistakes she had made, but it was that I hadn’t yelled at her. There are a number of web sites featuring print ads from the post-war era that will give you a clear idea of how women were regarded by advertisers. Or, you can just watch Mad Men or reruns of Leave it to Beaver.

After you read through Janet Maslin’s piece, you may be drawn to the book, now much easier to find, since it has been reissued. In the past week, I’ve asked a number of women in their 30s and 40s if Betty Friedan’s name and The Feminine Mystique are recognizable to them… not one positive reply.

Edwin Newman: Newsman and Defender of the English Language

Watching NBC Nightly News last evening, I learned of the death, in England at age 91, of Edwin Newman. Whether or not his name rings a bell will have have much to do with your age. Mr. Newman was certainly a great NBC newsman, in roles as diverse as Today show anchor, drama critic, foreign bureau chief, and moderator of presidential debates.

But just as importantly, at least for me, he was a strong defender of the English language and its correct usage, both spoken and in print. In reading the New York Times obituary, I saw that his first job in journalism was as a “dictation boy” in the Washington bureau of one of the wire services. That resonated for me, since my first New York broadcast news job was as a “copy boy” at NBC News. They called us “desk assistants,” but copy boys is what we were – clearing the AP and UPI teleprinters, running for coffee, answering phones, being as helpful as we could without getting in the way, and being paid 60 dollars a week in the process. Of course, in those days of the early ’60s, that meant I could afford my own apartment.

Edwin Newman was one of the people I delivered copy to during the few months I worked at NBC, before moving to CBS where I stayed for several years, eventually directing a number of broadcasts. Long after I left broadcast news for print photojournalism, I shot many cover stories for the magazine Saturday Review, and one of them, in 1975, was on Edwin Newman.

Edwin Newman atop Rockefeller Center

I photographed him for the cover on the observation deck of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, then (as now) the headquarters of NBC News. We probably were together, at various locations, for no more than a couple of hours, but I do remember that we talked mostly about his love of words and the books he had published and was currently working on. His earliest experiences, starting at the lowest possible rung of the journalism ladder, were still important memories for him; and as I write this, I can absolutely remember the look and feel of the NBC newsroom, on the 5th floor at 30 Rock. Everyone wore suits and ties (it was an overwhelmingly male environment), and most smoked. And when I was sent to chase down an errant writer or reporter, the first place to look was Hurley’s bar, downstairs at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 49th Street (also known at ‘Studio 1H’).

Now, Hurley’s is long gone, and there are network correspondents on the air every night who have no memory of Edwin Newman. Take the time to read his obituary, and look for his books at the library or at Amazon.

James Earl Jones at Shakespeare in the Park

New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park has been a summer tradition for more than 50 years. The performances — which can be enjoyed free of charge, if you manage to queue up early enough — have starred many great actors. In August 1973, I was assigned by Saturday Review (no longer published, but for decades, one of America’s best cultural magazines) to photograph James Earl Jones, who was starring in the title role of King Lear.

This was one of those really rare occasions where the picture just gave itself to me, with no heavy lifting required. On a fine August afternoon, Jones, then 42, was rehearsing, alone, on the stage of the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. No need for additional lighting, no makeup or wardrobe assistance — only a superb actor framed by the pattern of the boards.

James Earl Jones seated at the Shakespeare in the Park festival, where he performed the title role in King Lear

I do remember that after finishing the pictures, I sat at the edge of the stage, listening and watching, an audience of one. Today being another fine August day (almost 40 years later), I thought it a good time to share the image.

For Sale: Ansel Adams’ Negatives (Cheap!)

Ansel Adams at his MoMA gallery opening in New York, 1974

The only time I met Ansel Adams was in 1974, at the opening of his retrospective show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I was there to photograph him for the late (and lamented) Saturday Review, a magazine for which I shot many covers and inside stories. I don’t think we spent more than 10 minutes together while I made this picture, and I wish I could remember more about that moment other than his graciousness while I needed “just one more.”

Of course, I was as surprised as anyone when I first saw and heard the story of the collection of Ansel Adams glass plate negatives bought 10 years ago at a garage sale in California for $45. If you’ve seen the story, you know that some experts have put the value of these photographs at as much as $200 million (factoring in all the print and publishing sales that could take place over a period of many decades).

It may not be that simple. Already, Adams’ grandson has said he’s skeptical about the authenticity of the images, and the director of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust has called the attribution to Adams an “unfortunate fraud.” But according to CNN, a number of experts in various fields have concluded that the 65 plates are indeed the work of Adams, dating from 1919 to the early 1930s. The images are mostly scenes of Yosemite, California, where Adams did much of his best-known work.

Shifting gears, so to speak — back in 1965 I was just out of the army and found a truly wonderful brownstone apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, on a street so quiet and safe that I could leave my Alfa Romeo convertible (top down) out front with no worries at all. My neighbor, Martin Gordon, had recently opened an art gallery in New York, and he was selling a number of vintage prints by Adams. In those days, the going price was $350, so buying one was well out of my league (by comparison, my rent in that great apartment was $200 a month.) But I had previously bought, from the Leo Castelli Gallery, a signed and numbered print by someone named Roy Lichtenstein for $5 — but that’s another story…