Category Archives: Books

The Nazi Officer’s Wife

Dear Friends,

Today rather than recommend a play, we are going to tell you about a marvelous book called The Nazi Officer’s Wife.

It is a terrific read that tells the story of a young Jewish woman.  It is the story of her life in Vienna just before Hilter came to power through the end of the Second World War.

This book takes you on her journey—as a young woman at university to the slow demoralization and loss of everything familiar to her—including her family—as Hilter escalated his anti-Semitic laws in Germany, Austria, and conquered countries.

Even if you are not interested in WWII, this is an amazing tale about one woman’s journey and struggle to survive against all odds.

You can order it from Amazon by clicking on this link.

Best regards—and reading!
Philip & Marilyn

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An American Theatre

Dear Friends,

Today we want to tell you about a book that we absolutely love!

It’s called An American Theatre: The Story of the Westport Country Playhouse by Richard Somerset-Ward.  It has a forward by Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.

american theatre book

We are absolutely amazed by this book because it has thousands of details about the Westport Country Playhouse.  We cannot imagine how anyone could have found so many events that happened over a 70-year period!  It even tells a story about how one certain Philip Langner forgot his lines in The Girl of the Golden West, which starred June Havoc!

While we certainly have an emotional tie to the Westport Country Playhouse, we think that anyone interested in theatre or theatre history will appreciate how detailed this book is about the story of summer theatre from the second oldest summer playhouse in the country.

You can order your copy from Amazon.

Westport was wonderful—the most fun we’ve ever had!

Also if you’re interested in visiting the Playhouse this summer, here is their list of shows:

The Invisible Hand (July 19-August 6)

What the Butler Saw (August 23-Sepember 10)

Camelot (October 4-10)

Click here to order tickets!

Happy summer theatre-ing!

Philip & Marilyn Langner

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Hamilton Rising!

Dear Friends,

Hamilton continues to be perhaps the most stunningly successful play of our lifetimes!

hamilton official

The big news yesterday was that it received 16 Tony Award Nominations—the largest number in Tony History, which goes back 70 years!

For all of us in the theatre, we don’t recall any initial success as big as this.

The closest that come to mind are Fiddler on The Roof and My Fair Lady.  Of course, it is hard to compare these plays accurately, as all of the great hits prior to Hamilton occurred in the pre-social media/internet world and did not have the instant world-wide publicity and acclaim that Hamilton enjoys.

Today we wanted to share with you another manifestation of Hamilton’s popularity:

The book “Hamilton Revolution,” which is a behind the scenes look at making the musical and written by Hamilton author Lin-Manual Miranda and cultural critic Jeremy McCarter, is flying off the shelves!

In fact, the New York Times quips (quite correctly) that getting the book isn’t any easier than getting a ticket!  The book, which came out on April 12th, is now in its second printing and it estimated to have 400,000 copies in print by the summer!

It seems we just can’t get enough!  Congrats to Miranda and the entire cast and crew of Hamilton on their 16 Tony nominations!

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

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The Secret Life of the American Musical

Dear Friends,

We wanted to tell you today about a wonderful book that we’ve read about in The Washington Post.

The book is called THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN MUSICAL: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Vietal.

secret life of american musical

According to The Post:

Viertel offers such examples throughout, making related but different points. His close analysis of craft doubles nicely as an account of the American musical’s evolution over the past century.

We know Jack—and have worked with him on plays in the past.  His backstage anecdotes are what really bring this book to life!

It is currently on sale at Amazon.  If you love Broadway musicals or Broadway history, then we think that this is a book you will absolutely love!

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn Langner

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Book Update

Dear Friends,

Back in July, we told you about a book coming out this October written by dear family friend, John C. Wilson called Noah, Tallulah, Cole and Me: A Memoir Of Broadway’s Golden Age.

It’s getting rave reviews and has nearly sold out on Amazon!  It really is quite spectacular—and something that everyone who loves Broadway should read!

john c wilson

One reviewer commented:

Readers of Broadway history might well remember the name John C. Wilson: longtime manager, gatekeeper and comrade of Noël Coward; producer of plays with Gertie, Kit, Tallulah and the Lunts, as well as Olivier and Gielgud; and director, within a year, of the original “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Little has been known of Jack Wilson until now, with the discovery of his unpublished and forgotten 1958 autobiography, “Noël, Tallulah, Cole, and Me.” Thomas Hischak has put the pages in order and filled in the gaps, resulting in an absorbing and fascinating description of thirty years of Broadway and West End history, guided by an unassuming fellow from Trenton who was thrilled and surprised to be in the center of it all.

—Steven Suskin, author of Show Tunes and The Sound of Broadway Music

You can go online and order from Amazon—but hurry before they run out! With the holidays around the corner, it would also make a fantastic gift for the Broadway lover in your life!

 —The Theatre Guild

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We Still Give A Damn!

We were reading in our AARP Magazine a fabulous article about Gone With The Wind.   This incredible movie from 1939 still holds the title of the best movie ever made!  We salute Gone With The Wind on 75 years of amazing and unparalleled entertainment!
Here’s another great article from the LA Times by Susan King that we thought we’d share with you about this iconic American movie:
Audiences still frankly give a damn about the lavish Civil War epic “Gone With the Wind” 75 years after its release.When adjusted for inflation, the Oscar-winning romance remains the domestic box-office champ with a gross of $1.6 billion. The 220-minute Technicolor film received a record 13 Oscar nominations, winning eight competitive Academy Awards, including best film, actress (Vivien Leigh), supporting actress (Hattie McDaniel) and director (Victor Fleming). With a production cost estimated between $3.85 million and more than $4 million, it was the longest and most expensive Hollywood sound film of the time.More than 30 million copies of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, on which the film was based, have been sold. The film has been re-released eight times, been a staple on television since the 1970s and a bestseller on video, DVD and now Blu-ray.

Celebrations of the film’s diamond anniversary include an exhaustive exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, a new collector’s edition Blu-Ray and several books including Life’s “Gone With the Wind: The Great American Movie 75 Years Later.”

Despite criticism and controversy over the film’s racial stereotypes — the slaves in the film are happy, and McDaniel’s Mammy is a welcome member of the family and loyal servant — “Gone With the Wind” continues to have a special, if troubling, place in the hearts of American filmgoers.

“The film was and I think continues to be a pop cultural phenomenon,” said Richard Jewell, professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Art. “It’s one of the few movies that lived up to the book.”

Long before social media, the buzz surrounding the film version of “GWTW” was astonishing. After independent producer David O. Selznick brought the rights to the book, “GWTW” fans waited on every story coming out of Hollywood about the production, particularly about who would play the willful and beautiful Scarlett O’Hara, the belle of the Tara plantation.

Though such stars as Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard and Katharine Hepburn were among those considered to play Scarlett — about 1,400 actresses were interviewed — Selznick chose British actress Vivien Leigh, who had made a few films, to play the lead role.

Fan favorite Clark Gable was selected to play Rhett Butler, the rakish Charlestonian who pursues her, and British actor Leslie Howard was cast as Scarlett’s obsession, the glum Ashley Wilkes. Olivia de Havilland, best known for ingenue roles opposite Errol Flynn, landed the plum role as Wilkes’ sweet cousin and wife, Melanie, and McDaniel was chosen to play the O’Haras’ beloved and opinionated Mammy.

Jewell noted the film was brilliantly cast. “Clark Gable was absolutely the right person to play Rhett Butler. Every actress in Hollywood wanted to play Scarlett. The fact that they went with a relatively unknown and she turned out to be the incarnation of Scarlett. It’s like a baseball team when one day every one gets a hit.

“It’s a testament to the old studio system where producers were the most important factor in most cases. Selznick kept that film together. It was Selznick’s vision more than Victor Fleming’s. To me he is one of the greatest producers of all time.”

But as Missy Schwartz, editor of the Life “GWTW” book and a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly, pointed out, “you can’t watch it without 21st century eyes. You have to address race. It’s problematic, there is no question. It is just not the reality [of slavery].”

The conversation about “GWTW’s” treatment of slavery, race and a benign antebellum South was particularly heated over the last year with the release of 2013 best picture Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave,” which depicted the brutality of slavery.

Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, told The Times this year that “the entirety of the history of African Americans in Hollywood has been problematic, and I think in some ways still is. A lot of people looked at those movies as sort of an authentic representation of what African Americans were like.”

Jim Crow laws were in full force in the South 75 years ago. McDaniel and the other black cast members couldn’t attend the premiere in Atlanta on Dec. 15, 1939. Gable had threatened to boycott the premiere but was persuaded by McDaniel to attend. The Life book reveals that during production, Gable had also protested when he learned there were segregated toilets on one of the sets, promising not to return if they were still there the next day. They weren’t.

African Americans protested the film when it opened in major cities. Black playwright Carlton Moss stated in the Daily Worker found Mammy’s love for the white family “that has helped to keep her people enchained forever” particularly reprehensible.

Jewell noted that a lot of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood make one “uncomfortable” because of depictions of race and other issues. “But they need to be screened and talked about, as a way to measure the kind of attitudes that existed at that point, which was 75 years after the end of the Civil War. These kind of stereotypical depictions of black people need to be put in a historical context so people will have a better appreciation of how far we have come.”

TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne believes “GWTW” has endured because of its emotional resonance.

“It’s about survival,” he said. “It hit the world in the ’30s when Europe was going to war and just before we went into the war. Also, everybody has had somebody in their life that they loved more than they loved them back.

“I think the brilliant thing about the story is that there are little samplings of every part of us in it. It doesn’t matter if it was set during the Civil War. It’s a relevant movie about emotions.”

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The Magic Curtain

The Magic Curtain is the autobiography of my father, Lawrence Langner, founder of The Theatre Guild. It is filled with great stories about the theatre, his life, the world as he saw it, and of course, there are tons of pictures!

We found it recently on Amazon (of course—you can find everything there!) and I thought I’d pass along the link (click on the book below), if you were interested!

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