McNallyToday our 1915: Whatta Year! series turns to pop culture colossus Frank Sinatra, born on December 12 of that storied year in Hoboken, New Jersey. “Ol Blue Eyes” made his name with his voice, but he was a fixture on the silver screen beginning with the 1944 film Higher and Higher. Karen McNally’s When Frankie Went to Hollywood takes a look at the cinematic career of the pop icon. Recently, McNally answered a few questions about Sinatra’s movie roles and public persona for the UIP blog.

Q: As you note in When Frankie Went to Hollywood, the postwar era saw an ongoing negotiation of what it meant to be an American Man. While it’s easy to how Sinatra’s Danny Ocean-esque roles appealed to audiences, how did he influence that negotiation in other directions through his emotionally nuanced portrayals of vulnerability—say, in Some Came Running and even The Manchurian Candidate?

Karen McNally: Emotional vulnerability is something that’s essential to Sinatra’s post-war image. It’s very clearly evident in a number of the concept albums he recorded with Nelson Riddle and Capitol Records in the 1950s, for example In the Wee Small Hours (1955) and Only the Lonely (1958), through which Sinatra masters what he terms the ‘saloon song’. The album covers are a visual representation of the male loss and vulnerability Sinatra expresses musically and are also extremely cinematic. The cover for In the Wee Small Hours, for example, presents an image of Sinatra alone in a dark urban street with a lamppost in the background, cigarette in hand, as though he were in a 1940s film noir. So Sinatra develops an image across a variety of performances and characterizations which conveys a highly masculine sense of vulnerability. Continue reading

Monday marked the 75th anniversary of Bugs Bunny’s first appearance. Icon and Coyote-level mischief maker, tormentor of ducks and Fudds and violent cowboys, Bugs tapped into all kinds of pop culture in search of plots and laffs (as we spell it in the business). It takes true genius to mine laughs from Richard Wagner:

John Philip Sousa, subject of Patrick Warfield’s Making the March King, made it a point to introduce Wagner’s towering works to his American audiences. The Marine Band he led could draw on one of the deepest repertoires of any then-touring band, and Sousa loved to program both contemporary and well-known European pieces. Not that even he didn’t have missteps:

Sousa later wrote that he had been warned of the highbrow tastes that permeated Pittsburgh and so had programmed the best works of Brahms, Bach, Wagner, and Strauss. Expecting wild applause after the first number (the overture to Rossini’s William Tell), Sousa turned to the audience but was greeted with only silence.

After several repetitions of this cold reception, the bandmaster ordered his men to pull up “Annie Rooney,” and suddenly “strong men wept with delight, husbands threw their arms about their astonished wives and the rest of the evening was, without question, Annie Rooney’s!” This story might be taken for an exaggeration had it not been substantially confirmed by the press, one paper noting that the audience was so delighted to hear “Annie Rooney” just as the First Lady “hears it every time the band plays at the White House . . . that they had to have ‘Annie’ over again.”

Thus did Sousa learn a valuable lesson: as much as the band may want to play the new stuff, the audience will just want the hits.

JensenDirty Words: The Rhetoric of Public Sex Education, 1870-1924 by Robin E. Jensen has been awarded the 2015 NCA Health Communication Distinguished Book Award.

In the book, Jensen details the approaches and outcomes of sex-education initiatives in the Progressive Era.

The Distinguished Book Award recognizes research that has made, or offers the promise of making, a significant contribution to scholarship in Health Communication theory, research, or practice.

Books do not become eligible for the NCA Health Communication book award until five years after the original publication date. Dirty Words was first published in December of 2010.



The third in our series of posts on how university presses and other small publishing concerns can enjoy greater financial security by creating new revenue streams. The introductory post is here. The second post is here.

murnauStrategy No. 3: Going Hollywood
It’s no secret that reading books is in decline. People want throbbing emotions! Spectacle! Crossover promotions with a brand of applesauce! And more than any medium, movies give it to them in an easy-to-consume format that more often than not leaves human brain cells in a pristine, unused condition.

Faced with this inescapable transformation of public taste, the UIP has launched a new initiative. We’re making movies! Not the cinema you would expect from us. Movies, and the kind people line up to see. One of the world’s few non-profit studios, Low Priority Films will bring the compelling stories of our press library to the silver screen and its less historic, but still quite popular, digital counterparts.

To show you the width, breadth, and volume of this mission, we have asked our gifted staffers to present THEIR breathtaking visions of the blockbusters to come. Over the next several days, the Big Blog will run the synapse-snapping synopses. In the best moviemaking tradition, we present a few little teasers to get you ready:

St. Louis Rising!
History throws up a larger-than-life French soldier and settler to hang our mini-series on, complete with a Hollywood-ready name, Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, and an Indian slave concubine. Deadwood plus Pocahontas times French subtitles equals box office gold!

Japanese Foodways (a.k.a. Seven Fingers of Samurai Ramen)
Take chefs, add formal tables beautifully set, throw in war, wine, and Bento, and you have the savage story of ramen as never told before!

The Education of Hepzibah Dumville
Hepzibah Dumville must work as a domestic servant in the Land of Lincoln to make ends meet. With her quick and irreverent wit, Hepzibah—or Zibah, as her friends call her—struggles to find a balance between work, education, war, and love.

The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey
This summer on the UIP Network, follow young Alan as he grows up on the family dairy farm amidst cows and Jeff Goldblum’s narration.

Thunder Below!
The UIP wartime classic, directed by Quentin Tarantino. ‘Nuff said.

WhitmireS14Ethelene Whitmire has received  the 2015 Wheatley Book Award for First Nonfiction for her book Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian.

The Wheatly Awards are presented by QBR: The Black Book Review and the Harlem Book Fair and were awarded at a reception in New York City on July 18.


GradelS15A federal appeals court has overturned some of former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s convictions

On Tuesday, July 21st, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out convictions on five of Blagojevich’s 18 counts of corruption charges.

Many of these charges related to a scheme Blagojevich created to exchange an appointment to President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat for campaign cash or a job.

Blagojevich appears on page 1 of Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality by Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson.  “Blago” also appears on page 2, and 3, and 7, and 49, and many other pages of the book.

In Corrupt Illinois, Gradel and Simpson introduce the former Governor as such:

Blagojevich. . . . has become the face of Illinois corruption. Even before he was convicted, he was impeached by the Illinois legislature and thrown out of office. Similar to former Governor Ryan, he was convicted on multiple counts. He had established a corrupt network of businessmen, political appointees, and politicians. He shook down businessmen and institutional leaders for bribes. He appointed corrupt individuals to various boards and commissions to shake down hospitals, racetracks, road builders, and government contractors.

The appeals court found the five overturned convictions invalid on technical grounds. Blagojevich will be re-tried on the charges and will not be released from his current home in a Colorado federal prison any time soon.



BerryS15Chad Berry, Phillip Obermiller, and Shaunna L. Scott are the editors of the collection Studying Appalachian Studies.

The editors collaborated to answer some questions about the book, which takes a global approach to the perspectives of Appalachian Studies.

Q: In the introduction it is stated that the book is not only intended for the Appalachian studies audience. Who else do you see in the readership?

Editors: Well, Appalachian studies is not unique. Similar questions, perspectives, and trends that have spurred growth in other areas, especially other interdisciplinary fields that focus on either regional geography or identity and oppression, inform it.

Furthermore, Appalachian studies, like other scholarly approaches, is a product of time and place. In the book, we take comparative meaning from trajectories in women’s studies, African American studies, Pacific Islands studies, and New West studies. While we have been informed about the growth, the questions pursued, and the questions unasked by scholars from these other fields, we would hope humbly that they might learn from our analysis of Appalachian studies. As we say in the book, “The histories and politics of a variety of interdisciplinary projects reveal the problems and potentials of Appalachian studies and interdisciplinary area studies generally” (p. 3). Likewise, if other scholars read about the histories and politics of Appalachian studies, they too may learn more about their own field. Doing so is the essence, and value, of comparative inquiry. Continue reading

Seeing, for many, is believing.

Authors Matthew C. Ehrlich and Joe Saltzman have taken a look at how we see news gatherers and the news business in television, film, radio, novels, comics, plays, and other media.

In the introduction to their book Heroes and Scoundrels: The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, the Ehrlich and Saltzman write,

Journalists have been ubiquitous characters in popular culture, and those characters are likely to shape people’s impressions of the news media at least as much if not more than the actual press does. . . . popular culture is a powerful tool for thinking about what journalism is and should be.

On television and in the movies we’ve seen depictions of the intrepid truth-seeking reporter who dodges peril and threats to bring the big story to the public. We’ve also seen the ruthless, glory-seeking villain who will cross all ethical boundaries to get a scoop. Rarely do we see the newshound sitting and jotting down notes during a town council meeting.

The authors have also used these examples in their teaching, going right to the source, compiling a video of the wide ethical range of journalistic behavior they’ve seen dramatized.

When it comes to the image of the journalist in popular culture, click on the video below and see for yourself.

Journalist Marlene Sanders passed away earlier this week at age 84.

In 1964, Sanders was the first woman to anchor an evening network news program when she substituted for Ron Cochran on ABC. This was just one of the many groundbreaking moments in a career that ranged from field reporting in Vietnam to the upper reaches of programming management.

In the late 80s Sanders wrote, along with Marcia Rock, the University of Illinois Press book Waiting for Prime Time: The Women of Television News.  Feminist icon Betty Friedan called the book “a groundbreaking first history of the ‘underground’ women’s movement at the networks.”

The book celebrates the female broadcasters who broke into the heavily male-dominated profession of television and radio news.

In the book Sanders mentions the glass ceiling she, herself, pushed hard to shatter.

I have been lucky to witness so many of the major events of the past thirty years and to have reported them on radio and television. It is one of the greatest rewards of this business to do so. It has also been a struggle to gain a foothold, and to hand on to it, in a still mainly male-dominated profession.

Sanders went on to add, in an afterward published in a 1994 edition of Waiting for Prime Time:

It is hard, demanding, competitive work. It’s worth a try, though, if you care enough. Despite the many disappointments I have had, the political battles I fought and sometimes lost, and the disruption to my own life and to my family’s, it is something I would do over again in an instant.

ida b wellsAs Google has reminded many of you, today marks the birthday of civil rights pioneer, suffragette, anti-lynching activist, and sociologist Ida B. Wells. This remarkable woman participated in many crusades in the Progressive Era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

She also cuts a strong figure in the UIP catalog. In The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition, she joins Frederick Douglass, Irvine Garland Penn, and Ferdinand L. Barnett in critiquing the racism and denigration that went along with the too-appropriately-named White City. The eloquent statement of protest and pride reminds us that struggles over cultural representation are nothing new in American life.

John Hope Franklin and August Meier chose to include Wells in their classic book Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century alongside Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Mary McLeod Bethune. “The Lonely Warrior,” Thomas C. Holt’s chapter on Wells, remains must reading for anyone interested in Wells’s life and times.

In Dark Victorians, Vanessa D. Dickerson delves into travel narratives by Wells and other African Americans to illuminate the cross-cultural influences between white Britons and black Americans during the Victorian age. Black America’s romance with Victorian Britain and Britons’ knowledge of black Americans, Dickerson argues, was largely the result of travelers who crossed the Atlantic and then shared their experiences—often by publishing them in nonfictional or fictional forms—with their compatriots.