This is FRESH AIR. With so much contention in air around holiday get-togethers, jazz critic Ken Whitehead wonders if music might help bring together folks with opposing views. He has some listening and viewing recommendations for seasonal dinners.
"I have a host of memories which I see very clearly," actor Peter O'Toole told Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 1993. "And though I'm very aware of the tricks of memory, I'm also aware of the concrete nature of these brilliantly lit pictures in my mind. They're ineradicable."
O'Toole, who died Saturday at the age of 81, was instrumental in making many "brilliantly lit pictures" for movie lovers during his decades-spanning career. Nominated for eight Oscars, the tall, blond, blue-eyed actor captivated audiences, on-screen and onstage.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of lyricist Sammy Cahn, who was born Samuel Cohen, on the Lower East Side of New York City, on June 18, 1913. We didn't want the year to end without celebrating this centennial.
Cahn had his most successful and enduring partnerships with composers Saul Chaplin, Jule Styne and Jimmy Van Heusen. Several of his songs were written for Frank Sinatra. Cahn died in 1993, at the age of 79.
Jazz guitarist, composer and arranger Jim Halldied in his sleep Tuesday; he was 83. Hall was known for a subtle, lyrical playing style, a gift for innovation and collaborations with a host of talented musicians in a career that stretched more than seven decades.
David O. Russell hovers at the top of my list of favorite directors. He captures the messy collision of self-interests that for him defines America. In American Hustle, he whips up a black comedy based on Abscam, the late-'70s FBI sting that centered on a bogus sheik and led to the bribery convictions of sundry U.S. politicians. But he doesn't tell the real Abscam story; he adapts it to fit his theme, which is that most of us are busy reinventing ourselves and conning one another.
Robert Redford isn't merely the star of the movie All Is Lost — he plays the only character. He plays a man stranded alone on a small yacht in the Indian Ocean, and New York Times film critic A.O. Scott says it's "the performance of a lifetime."
We don't know the man's name, why he's there, or anything about his background — but when disaster strikes, we learn that he's resourceful and doesn't succumb to panic. After a stray shipping container rams his vessel and leaves a gaping hole in the hull, he must make the boat seaworthy again in order to survive.
Michael Sheen's show may be called Masters of Sex, but ultimately, he says, it's a study of intimacy. It's about: "How do we deal with being vulnerable with each other?" he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "How do we deal with the challenges of intimacy and the kind of games we play and the defenses we have?"
Drummer Chick Webb's 1930s orchestra terrorized competitors in band battles and sent dancers into orbit at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. They could be similarly explosive on record, but only rarely. Early on, they did have some hot Edgar Sampson arrangements that Benny Goodman would soon turn into hits, like "Blue Lou" and "Don't Be That Way." But the Webb band also had an old-school crooner, Charles Linton, with pre-jazz-age enunciation.