Meet Tyrus Wong, this pioneering artist and his impact on American art and popular culture

Tyrus Wong  has always been dear to us.

Make the “deer.”

People worldwide have seen the Disney animated classic Bambi and have been deeply moved by it, but few can tell you the name of the artist behind the film. Even fewer are aware of this pioneering artist’s impact on American art and popular culture. Until his death at the age of 106, Tyrus Wong was America’s oldest living Chinese American artist and one of the last remaining artists from the golden age of Disney animation. The quiet beauty of his Eastern-influenced paintings caught the eye of Walt Disney, who made Wong the inspirational sketch artist for Bambi. Filmmaker Pamela Tom corrects a historical wrong by spotlighting this seminal, but heretofore under-credited, figure.

Learn the truth, witness his genius, in American Masters: Tyrus (PBS Distribution).

Born in Canton (now Guangzhou), China, right before the fall of the Chinese Empire, Wong and his father immigrated to America in 1919, never to see their family again. The film shows how he overcame a life of poverty and racism to become a celebrated painter who once exhibited with Picasso and Matisse, a Hollywood sketch artist and Disney Legend.

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Previously unseen art and interviews with Wong, movie clips and archival footage illustrate how his unique style–melding Chinese calligraphic and landscape influences with contemporary Western art–is found in everything from Disney animation (Bambi) and live-action Hollywood studio films (Rebel Without a CauseThe Wild BunchSands of Iwo JimaApril in Paris) to Hallmark Christmas cards, kites and hand-painted California dinnerware to fine art and Depression-era WPA paintings. The film also features new interviews with his daughters and fellow artists/designers, including his Disney co-worker and friend Milton Quon and curators and historians of Wong’s work.

Gossip galore: Immerse yourself in “Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Lee Radziwill”

I’ve seen Jackie Kennedy at a Broadway theater, explaining to her then-lover Maurice Tempelsman what a CD was. (That item ran in Liz Smith’s column.) I’ve seen Ethel Kennedy go nuts on Hyannis’ Main Street. Now I am getting closer to other Kennedy kin with Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99).

To truly understand Jackie, one of the most iconic women of the 20th century, is to understand the powerful bond she shared with her mother Janet Auchincloss, and younger sister, the enormously complex Lee Radziwill. The relationship between the three women and how it came to impact Jackie’s life as one of the most famous of America’s First Ladies has never before been revealed in its entirety, until now. J. Randy Taraborrelli breaks through the mystery surrounding the lives of these enigmatic women and takes readers into the big and small moments of their lives, weaving a captivating psychological portrait of two famous sisters and their ferociously protective and ambitious mother.

Jackie Kennedy, JFK, and Princess Lee Radziwill at the christening of Lee’s daughter, Anna Christina Radziwill, Crypt Chapel, Westminster Abbey, 1961.

Janet Lee Bouvier was a formidable woman from a wealthy family who, in 1928, married the dashing but unpredictable Jack “Black Jack” Bouvier.  Though she had two children with him—Jackie and Lee—Janet’s marriage was far from a happy one as she had to cope with her husband’s infidelity. She flouted convention by defying her powerful, religious father James T. Lee and chose divorce at a time when it was taboo. Janet would then make the ultimate sacrifice for her daughters when she wedded the well-heeled Hugh Auchincloss. Though he could guarantee financial stability, he also made it clear to Janet that he could never consummate the marriage. A woman stunningly ahead of her time, Janet bore a daughter—Jackie’s and Lee’s half-sister, Janet— using her own version of artificial insemination, a science practically unheard of in the 1940s.

The story continues with Jackie’s marriage to Senator Jack Kennedy, (who becomes President of the United States in 1960), and Lee’s royal union to the dashing Prince Stanislaw Radziwill.  But soon, the Greek shipping mogul Aristotle Onassis enters Lee’s life and begins an affair with her. Rather than allow Lee to bring scandal to the steps of the White House, Janet forces her to choose family over her love for Onassis.

The First Lady and her sister Lee Radziwill ride a camel in India. Jackie’s agent, Clint Hill, signaled to them to cross their legs, to avoid any embarrassing photos being taken.

Taraborrelli breaks astonishing new ground by also telling the story of Jackie’s war with Bingham Morris, her mother’s third husband. After she realizes that Janet is the victim of shocking elder abuse, it becomes the greatest battle of Jackie’s life to vanquish Morris from her mother’s home. As the 1980s came to a close and Janet slips into Alzheimer’s disease, Jackie continues to care for her daily while Lee finds herself emotionally ill-equipped to do so, causing significant turmoil between the sisters. This stunning family story is based on never-before-published letters from Jackie, herself.\

Wow.

“Up in Smoke” is 40! The film “started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time” says Cheech

Fire up the home entertainment system and call your buds because the ultimate stoner comedy is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  The high-larious cannabis cultural epic  breakthrough Up in Smoke will “grab you by the poo poo” all over again when it arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD April 10 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  A special Deluxe Collector’s Edition, pairing the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl LP in deluxe packaging, will arrive the following week from Rhino, featuring a newly recorded 2018 version of the title song “Up In Smoke.”

In 1978, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong made their feature film debut in Up in Smoke, the outrageously funny classic inspired by their now legendary comedy routines of the early ’70s.  Following massive success with more than 10 million comedy albums sold, four Grammy nominations and a win for Best Comedy Recording for Los Cochinos, Cheech and Chong took Hollywood by storm when Up in Smoke became a smash hit, establishing the pair as the reigning comedy duo of a new generation.  Today, the film still has viewers rolling in the aisles and maintains surprising cultural relevance four decades after its original release.

“The greatest thrill is making your first movie and this one has been seen and been influential all over the world for over forty years,” says Richard “Cheech” Marin.   “Up in Smoke started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time.”

Adds Thomas Chong: “Where did the time go? Fortyyears ago we made low budget movies that grossed over 100 million and are still being watched all over the world. And it also helped legalize an important medicine.  I am so proud that a movie bearing a title of a simple song I wrote would be so influential for so many years.”

Cheech and Chong play wannabe musicians and stoners who unwittingly smuggle a van made of marijuana from Mexico to L.A.  Their drug-laced humor keeps their spirits high as they unknowingly elude the police and meander their way to an outrageous finale at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong plays drums in a red body suit with a Quaalude logo.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack features a brand new short-form documentary entitled “How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40,” which chronicles the duo’s comedy history, as well as the origins and impact of the film itself. Capturing a complex and fascinating pop culture odyssey, the documentary incorporates new interviews with Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong and producer/director Lou Adler along with archival footage.  The Combo Pack is also loaded with previously released bonus material including deleted scenes, commentary, a music video and more.

The Deluxe Collector’s Edition is presented in a 12 x 12 package, limited to 5,000 copies.

The set pairs the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl, as well as a 7-inch picture disc, oversized “Up In Smoke” rolling papers, a film poster and booklet with new essays by both Cheech and  Chong, along with rare and unseen photos. In addition to the new version of “Up In Smoke,” the CD also features another previously unreleased version of the song from 1978 with an additional Spanish verse by Cheech.

“FRONTLINE: Exodus: The Journey Continues” tells the intimate, firsthand stories of refugees and migrants caught in Europe’s tightened borders

Over one-and-a-half million refugees and migrants have smuggled themselves to the West since 2015, fleeing countries besieged by violence and poverty in search of safety and a better life. But the countries these refugees dreamed of reaching have changed.

FRONTLINE: Exodus: The Journey Continues is a stunning sequel to the  2016 documentary FRONTLINE: Exodus and tells the intimate, firsthand stories of refugees and migrants caught in Europe’s tightened borders, facing heightened nationalism and rising anti-immigrant sentiment. As this global migration and refugee crisis continues, with countries becoming less and less welcoming to those seeking refuge, this documentary is an eye-opening look at the evolving crisis that draws on footage filmed by the refugees themselves.

The program will be available on DVD April 17. The program is also available for digital download.

Let us steer you to Ryan Brutt’s “Muscle Car Barn Finds”

It’s no secret among car collectors and enthusiast that the pursuit of “lost” cars is what drives many gearheads. Finding an abandoned, restorable car is one of the most common dreams among collectors and a touchstone for the hobby. Top shows like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Chicago’s Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals have added special classes devoted to original and barn find vehicles.

Muscle Car Barn FindsAuthor and photographer Ryan Brutt has the muscle. He is the “automotive archaeologist”, author of the CarsInBarns blog and a monthly columnist for Hot Rod magazine.

We switch gears and steer you to the fact that  Brutt has selected his best muscle car images for Muscle Car Barn Finds: Rusty Road Runners, Abandoned AMXs, Crusty Camaros and More! (Quarto Drives, $35). No searching the back roads required–just kick up your feet and begin your barn-finding adventure by turning the page.

 

Hugh Bonneville offers a revolutionary new telling of the son of God in “Jesus: Countdown to Calvary”

Praise the Lord! Hugh Bonneville offers a revolutionary new telling of the story of an itinerant Jewish healer and preacher, who went from hero to victim in a single week, 2000 years ago, and ended up dead on a cross. In this documentary, Hugh Bonneville sets out to discover why that one execution, in a century when as many as 500 people were killed in a single day by the Romans, had such seismic, lasting and global impact, for better and for worse.

Jesus: Countdown to Calvary (Public Media Distribution) will be available on DVD April 24. The program is also available for digital download.

For the first time on television, world-renowned actor and Cambridge theology graduate, Hugh Bonneville reveals how a perfect storm of political intrigue, power struggles and clashing religious passions combined, in a single week, to cause the event that changed the world: the killing of Jesus.

Bonneville uses all the investigative and storytelling tools at his disposal to reveal the context, characters and chain of events behind  that tumultuous week. In the process, he finds that this is no dusty religious story, but a political thriller, shot through with intrigue, spin, conspiracy, power battles, betrayal and terror.

She is an important woman who remains unknown. Until now. Welcome “Victorian Rebel: Marianne North”

She is an important woman who remains relatively unknown, Until now. Smithsonian Channel’s Victorian Rebel: Marianne North remembers one of the most adventurous female explorers and botanists of all time in a story of obsession, tragedy and ultimately triumph in Victorian England. At a time when women barely left their parlor rooms, Marianne North’s daring documentation of the world’s rarest plants propelled her to the top of a male-dominated world. Facing down Amazonian mudslides, starvation in Japan, and delirium in the Seychelles, North left an astounding legacy complete with new discoveries and records of now extinct species.

The program tracks the footsteps of a feminist icon living at the height of the British Empire–reliving her jaw-dropping adventures and recognizing her unbelievable achievements in the face of adversity. It will be available on DVD from Public Media Distribution on April 10. The program is also available for digital download.

Actress and North-admirer Emilia Fox takes viewers to the awe-inspiring locations of some of North’s greatest moments. The film uses stunning drama reconstructions, as well as North’s personal memoirs, letters and paintings to retell her amazing story–one of a Victorian rebel who rejected marriage and social convention to lead a pioneering life of conservation and exploration.

PBS’ “Little Women” remake marches along with Angela Lansbury, Michael Gambon and Emily Watson

One of Louisa May Alcott’s most beloved novels is being adapted and remade again, this time for PBS. Save the date:  MASTERPIECE: Little Woman premieres on May 13 and May 20; the Blu-ray and DVD hit stores May 22. The program will also be available for digital download.

 Set against the backdrop of a country divided, the story follows the four March sisters on their journey from childhood to adulthood while their father is away at war. Under the guidance of their mother Marmee, the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman: from gender roles to sibling rivalry, first love, loss and marriage. Accompanied by the charming boy next door Laurie Laurence, their cantankerous wealthy Aunt March and benevolent neighbor Mr. Laurence, Little Women is a coming-of-age story that is as relevant and engaging today as it was on its original publication in 1868.

Little Women is one of the most-loved novels in the English language, and with good reason,” says writer and executive producer Heidi Thomas. “Its humanity, humor, and tenderness never date, and as a study of love, grief, and growing up it has no equal. There could be no better time to revisit the story of a family striving for happiness in an uncertain world.”

Heading the cast are Emily Watson as Marmee, the devoted mother of the four adolescent March girls; Michael Gambon as Mr. Laurence; and Angela Lansbury as the March family matriarch, Aunt March.

The March sisters—the “little women” of the title—feature newcomer Maya Hawke as the willful and adventurous Jo; Willa Fitzgerald as the eldest and most virtuous, Meg; Annes Elwy as the shy sister, Beth; and Kathryn Newton  as Amy, the youngest of the family.

Also appearing are Jonah Hauer-King  as Laurie, the loveable boy next door; Dylan Baker  as Mr. March, who is serving as a chaplain with the Union Army; Julian Morris as John Brooke, Laurie’s cultured and handsome tutor; and Mark Stanley  as the charming Professor Bhaer.

A celebration of family as much as it is a recognition of the challenges of growing up and forging an individual identity, the program remains relevant due to the universal themes at its core. Backed by a nearly all-female creative team, Thomas’ adaptation doesn’t shy away from tackling the darker, more complex emotions the March family experiences. Drawing from a novel that was well ahead of its time the show speaks to current issues as much as it does to the issues women faced at the turn of the 20th century.

Devotees of the original novel will relish the book’s indelible scenes in this MASTERPIECE production: the cruel fate of Jo’s manuscript, Amy’s accident on the ice, Meg’s first ball, Beth and the forbidden piano, the pickled limes affair, and many other cherished episodes in a journey to a bygone time.

Although modern society would be disorienting in the extreme to the March sisters, Thomas notes that even today “girls are still confused about their desires and their desirability, and the passage from innocence to experience is more turbulent than ever.”

“We need hope, and we need empathy,” Thomas adds. “We need laughter, and we need catharsis, we need joy and inspiration. Little Women gives us all of these things.”

Ann Curry explores important issues with dignity and grace in “Well Meet Again”

Ann Curry spices up important issues. That’s one of the reasons we love We’ll Meet Again (PBS Distribution), her program that explores some of history’s most dramatic events through the personal stories of those who experienced them and brings together people whose lives intersected at pivotal moments. Executive produced and reported by  Curry, each episode reveals the powerful bonds forged among people who now, against the odds, have the chance to reunite with someone who transformed their life.

The tides of history can disrupt lives, throwing strangers together or tearing loved ones apart. We’ll Meet Again reveals these moving personal stories of hope, courage and love: From a Vietnam War baby desperate to find the American father she last saw 40 years ago to the military chaplain who helped a stranger through the trauma of 9/11, from a Japanese-American girl interned in 1942 who never forgot the classmate who helped her during her darkest hours, to civil rights workers whose lives were forever changed by the deep relationships they formed in the ’60s South.

The program takes viewers on a journey of hope, searching for clues in marriage records and war and immigration documents, and combing archives to reunite those separated by time and distance.

“This series helps people separated by conflict, war and humanitarian disasters find each other again and reveals untold stories of courage, survival, friendship and even love,” says Curry. “This is human history—not from the point of view of kings or politicians or generals—but of everyday people on the front lines of massive events they have no way to control. Their stories tell us something about what we are made of.”

Episodes include:

“Children of WWII”
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II. Two children whose lives were forever changed by the war search for lost friends. Reiko, a Japanese-American woman sent to an internment camp as a child, hopes to find the classmate who stood by her in the face of anti-Japanese sentiment. Peter, who fled the Nazis with his parents in 1938, searches for the family who befriended him in the last refuge open to the German Jews: the Shanghai Ghetto.

“Rescued From Mt. St. Helens”
When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, 57 people were killed and hundreds more injured. Volcanic ash was scattered across 11 states. In this episode, two people who survived the disaster reveal how the experience influenced their lives. Mindy, a trainee scientist whose inspirational team leader was killed by the blast wants to find his family to let them know he saved her life. Sue hopes to find the brave helicopter pilot who risked his own life to rescue her.

“Lost Children of Vietnam”
The war in Vietnam may have ended in 1975, but its impact lingers in countless lives today. Two children who became refugees after the war tell their stories. Tina, born in Saigon, searches for the American father she last saw more than 40 years ago, and Nam hopes to find Gary, the Texas cowboy he met as a 12-year-old refugee and who inspired his dream of coming to America.

“Heroes of 9/11”
During the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, strangers were thrown together in unimaginable situations. Patrick, a businessman visiting New York, searches for Emily, the photographer’s assistant who comforted him after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Timothy, a military chaplain plunged into chaos at the Pentagon, hopes to thank the fellow chaplain who gave him the courage to carry on.

“Freedom Summer”
During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Fatima, a teenager from New York, volunteered to register voters in Louisiana. Now, she returns to the South, hoping to find Thelma, the daughter of her host family, whose courage in the face of racism was unforgettable. Sherie searches for Lefty, the charismatic civil rights activist whose commitment to nonviolence inspired her own lifelong involvement with social justice causes.

 “Coming Out”
For decades, gay Americans did not have equal protection under the law; many faced prejudice, possible imprisonment and rejection from their families and society. Two stories of the struggle for acceptance are told in this episode. Tom longs to find Maria, the friend he trusted with his secret and who saved him from brutal electroshock conversion therapy in the ’60s. Paul, who was University of New Hampshire student body president in 1973, searches for Wayne, who organized the first gay student organization on campus. Wayne’s courage to take the fight to court against overwhelming opposition from the state’s conservative governor changed Paul’s life and ultimately helped him accept his own sexuality.

William Howard Taft: He who never wanted to be president, had sleep apnea and would have hated Herr Adolph Frump . . . yes!

We loathe Herr Adolph Frump.Yet William Howard Taft, who never wanted to be president and yearned instead to serve as chief justice of the United States, would have despised him even more.  Taft was the anti-Frump. He approached every decision as president in constitutional terms and believed the president could only do what the constitution explicitly allowed. He criticized Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson for ruling by executive orders and circumventing Congress on issues
ranging from the environment to economic policy. He criticized Roosevelt and Wilson for endorsing populism, criticizing judges by name, and arguing that the people had the right to overturn judicial decisions. He is a model of a pro-free trade, anti-protectionist, pro-environment, pro-immigration Republican–the opposite of Frump.

William Howard Taft

God bless the man who Taft had sleep apnea; he weighed more 300 pounds as president and, unable to sleep through the night, he would fall asleep in public
throughout the day, prompting his wife to prod him awake with a kindly prod. But after he lost 75 pounds on his paleo diet, he was alert and productive for the rest
of his happy life.

In the provocative assessment William Howard Taft (Times Books, $26), Jeffrey Rosen reveals Taft’s crucial role in shaping how America balances populism against the rule of law. Taft approached each decision as president by asking whether it comported with the Constitution, seeking to put Roosevelt’s activist executive orders on firm legal grounds. But unlike Roosevelt, who thought the president could do anything the Constitution didn’t forbid, Taft insisted he could do only what the Constitution explicitly allowed. This led to a dramatic breach with Roosevelt in the historic election of 1912, which Taft viewed as a crusade to defend the Constitution against the demagogic populism of Roosevelt and Wilson.

President William Howard Taft throws out the first pitch to start the season for the Washington Senators in 1912. | AP Photo
President William Howard Taft throws out the first pitch to start the season for the Washington Senators in 1912.

Nine years later, Taft achieved his lifelong dream when President Warren Harding appointed him chief justice, and during his years on the Court he promoted consensus among the justices and transformed the judiciary into a modern, fully equal branch. Though he had chafed in the White House as a judicial president, he thrived as a presidential chief justice.

The book is filled with wonderful detail, a feast for those who loathe the Herr.

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