ACF Critic Series #9: Paul Cantor

 

We’re adding a new critic to the ACF podcast: America’s eminent Shakespearian, Paul Cantor! He’s a writer I admire and from whom I have learned much on Shakespeare–much to my surprise and delight, he’s getting into film criticism in a big way and he’s in the mood to talk about it. We have a long interview to offer you, the first in a series of discussions about pop culture in America. We go from Godfather to Breaking Bad, we get to super-hero movies and ancient mythic heroes–to tragedy in Greece and in Shakespeare’s England–and lots of other things about TV and movies in-between. Also, we do more than a little talking about Mark Twain. Listen and share friends, join the conversation in the comments, and read more Cantor!

Here are Prof. Cantor’s books on Shakespeare and Rome, which I recommend lovingly, and which are almost bookends of his long career as a scholar. Shakespeare’s Rome and Shakespeare’s Roman trilogy! They’re both great and both worth reading, especially together. America’s all about lifelong learning and few do more to help it along than the Prof. Read and enjoy, friends!

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  1. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Such an enjoyable conversation.

    Thanks for letting us listen in.

    • #1
  2. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Re @52 minutes in — not only can money buy respectability in America, but that’s the pretty much the only way one is able to attain it. There is no other American pedigree.

    • #2
  3. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Just finished it — I agree with Paul Cantor that I learned so much from this conversation!

    • #3
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Glad you liked it! There will be more!

    • #4
  5. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Good. Looking forward.

    [Little Berry and I are finishing a story (King of the Wind) with a character named Titus Twickerham.

    Because he’s not a good Titus, I pronounce his name the wrong (English/American) way. ]

    • #5
  6. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Evening Titus,

    Lovely conversation.  Two nits to pick,  Concerining wine, immigrants, and Prohibition, wine was not a major target in Prohibition, one could make wine for home use legally, as well as beer.  Gallo became a giant because they produced a concentrate which was sent across the country and could be easily reconstituted into wine.  The grapes used for this purpose were not, of course, the finest wine grapes.  So prejudice against an immigrant group was a sde issue, if it was an issue at all.  It was the massive consumption by males with its negative consequences which lead to the closing of the saloon culture.  Second, does the average Joe aspire to be Henry Ford, in short no.  In my life on the factory floor, or foundry floor, or in hot tar roofing, I never met a fellow worker who voiced hopes of owning the best x.  I think workers in the trades know how complicated success is, men, materials, contracts, clients, and the ups and downs of the economy.  Workers have worked to have small one to ten men crews doing roofing, concrete, trim work, they were not planning on being the next Rockefeller.  In the arts or in sports, I have met young dreamers who thought they were training for the nationals or who hope to be the next Chuck Close or whoever.  In these realms the artist and the young athelete often do no know what it takes to get to the top either in raw talent or work, in the trades the workers at least know how hard the work is and how when the economy goes south work can dry up.  In a sense the trades workers are more like the farmers, not dreaming to own the biggest farm just be one of the best in the county.

    • #6
  7. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Hey, Jim!

    I dunno about the wine issue; as for anti-immigrant sentiment, since lower class drinking was very much tied up with immigrants–though not exclusively…

    As for the average Joe, we do not deny your point. But the success of stars even in old Hollywood, especially the idealized everymen–e.g. John Wayne– suggests more than you seem to allow.

    I’d say Americans know & sometimes exaggerate the role that luck plays in success. The successful aren’t all that special.

    Also, at any point a number of people who come from nothing make it–if they can, why not others?

    • #7
  8. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Jim Beck (View Comment):
    Concerining wine, immigrants, and Prohibition, wine was not a major target in Prohibition, one could make wine for home use legally, as well as beer.

    Beer brewing was not legally permitted, although wine and cider production were allowed.

    Jim Beck (View Comment):
    So prejudice against an immigrant group was a side issue, if it was an issue at all. It was the massive consumption by males with its negative consequences which lead to the closing of the saloon culture.

    I don’t think this is correct either. Nativism, the dislike of immigrants, was a big part of the prohibition movement. Prohibition and the Klan were hand-in-hand. The rhetoric against alcohol spoke of Germans as dirty pigs rooting about and corrupting clean Americans. 

    Catholic immigrants were especially disliked by the prohibitionists. “…the Italians, the Sicilians, the Poles, the Jews. That kind has given us a stomach ache. We have been unable to assimilate such people in our national life, so we shut the door on them,” said Bishop James Cannon of the Anti-Saloon League.

    • #8
  9. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Morning Mama Toad,

    Immigrants from all over Europe were against Prohibition.  Drink was part of life, it played a role in religion, food, social life.  It is easy to see that for the new European immigrants prohibition was absurd/stupid.  However anti-immigrant sentiment was not a major force in driving prohibition.  Yes there was the KKK, and it was from the south to Boston, to Indiana, and there were progressives who wanted to remake immigrants into proper tea totallers, but the temperance movement was almost from the start taken over by charismatic women.  One saloon decoration said “All nations welcome but Carrie”.  The emotional ads for prohibition showed women and children in rags, their husbands drunk in the saloon, the poor wife having her house repossessed.  Prohibition was a women’s movement, either a proxy for suffrage or an indication of a change in the relations of men a women.  Concerning the problem of drinking, the per capita drinking was 90 bottles of liquor which is three times the amount Americans drink today.  The WCTU was protesting the saloons which in San Francisco were so numerous that there was one (legal) saloon for every 96 persons and 2,000 unlicensed saloons, plus the drug stores that sold liquor by the glass.

    Conerning beer, I thought you could brew your own beer at home, I might be wrong.  As an aside, I worked in a foundry, Meierjohn-Wengler, which for many years allowed their workers to drink beer at lunch.  Vas you effer in Cincinnnati?

    Morning Titus,

    It is certainly true that humans look to successful models, even strong models.  It is also true that Shane is not quite fit for the life of sod busters.  There is an interesting tension about who we would like to invite into our home, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, and who we admire and find heroic.  There is a threatening quality to strong men that accompanies the attraction.  You mention that the mobs were often populated by Jews, Italians, and Irish, as a curious side issue during this same time our comics were either Jewish or Irish.

    • #9

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