Thursday, May 31, 2007

A New Bay Area Architecture Title

Architecture lovers should check out Architecture of the San Francisco Bay Area: History and Guide, a new survey of Bay Area architecture by local author Mitchell Schwarzer (Professor of Art and Architectural History at California College of the Arts)

Dubbed an “evolved successor” to Architecture and Design: SF, a small traveler's companion published in 1998, this guidebook covers both classic and contemporary architecture of the Bay Area with the author’s unique and unvarnished perspective. His coverage ranges from the sublime – the Phelan Building “could stand-in for the white city that San Francisco was becoming during the City Beautiful Era – to the ridiculous and sublime – the spiral ramp of the Downtown Center Garage designed by George Applegarth “adds enough movement to take the composition from simplicity to sublimity.”

His take on the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Library? Schwarzer remarks that architect James Ingo Freed “compresses and changes the Beaux-Arts classical language of its neighbors” in the Civic Center. He regrets, however, that the building fails “to cohere into a greater whole.” (Please do come and see our building anyhow).

Such is a sampling of Schwarzer’s terse informational gems, which dot his tour of this man-made landscape we call home. A history of the Bay Area and easy to read maps are also included in this colorful pocket tome published by esteemed local publishing house William Stout Publishers.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Dude" Martin Songbooks

Recently the library has received gifts of two songbooks by Bay Area country music performer and broadcast celebrity Dude Martin. Born John Steven McSwain on a farm in Plainsburg, Merced County, California on March 21, 1915, Dude Martin grew up in Oakland and Berkeley. His first band, The Nevada Nite Herders, first appeared on KLX radio on April 15, 1932 (KLX was the predecessor at 910 AM to KNEW). One of our songbooks, Songs of the Nite-Herders, was published in Oakland by F. E. Cox and Staff in 1936. It consists entirely of Martin’s original compositions as well as photographs of the band, their radio studio, and of Dude Martin roping a steer. It also features a glossary of “cowboy lingo” and signatures of the band’s members.

By the mid-1930s, Martin’s show was known as the “Round-up” and was in syndication. Our other song collection, “Dude” Martin’s Folio of Original Songs of the Plains, was published in 1939 by American Music, Inc. in Portland Oregon. This songbook only includes a handful of Martin’s original songs like “Yodel Mountain” and the “Night Herder’s Lullaby.” It shows photos of his group, then called the Wild West Show Revue Gang, at the Columbia Studios in San Francisco and at the World’s Fair on Treasure Island. By this time Martin had moved to KYA in San Francisco at 1260 AM (today known as KOIT).

"Dude" Martin's Band with audience, photographed by Dorothea Lange (image from the Oakland Art Museum)

In the mid-1940s, during World War II, photographer Dorothea Lange took a series of photographs of Richmond, California, then bursting to the seams with newly arrived shipyard workers. This collection includes photographs of Martin entertaining the Richmond audience. This photographs are available to view from the Oakland Museum's collection at the Online Archive of California. Martin’s various bands performed music ranging from country music, cowboy songs to Western swing. Some of his band members, like Carolina Cotton, Sue Thompson and Rusty Draper, went onto to have successful careers on their own.

Martin was also a pioneer of Bay Area television, hosting a variety show in 1949-1950 called the Hoffman Hayride. His success – the Hayride was voted by San Francisco Examiner readers as their favorite television program – led to his move to the more lucrative Los Angeles market where he broadcast from KTTV. Martin died on February 11, 1991 in Orange California. Jim Goggin has written a book The Dude Martin Band Story that includes interviews with band members and is replete with photographs and newspaper clippings.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Printed Indexes for Film Reviews

In this time of search engines and databases it’s easy to forget that there are important reference books that have not yet been superceded by the internet. One important research tool is the Film Review Index. This two volume source indexes films from Muybridge’s earliest experiments in 1882 up through 1985. It includes citations for reviews in popular magazines like Time, Life, Newsweek, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, as well as motion picture magazines like Sight and Sound and Photoplay. With these citations you can look up the actual magazine reviews in the library’s Magazines and Newspapers Center. But beyond the coverage of these periodicals, the Film Review Index also indexes other print sources like Magill’s Survey of Cinema, a number of film dictionaries, as well as books about film directors, actors and actresses that discuss a given film. Other helpful features of this set include an index of directors, as well as indexes for when and where a film was produced.

The Film Review Annual is another important reference tool. This work has been published annually since 1981 and includes full text film reviews from more than a dozen popular and scholarly film magazines. While it’s coverage is relatively limited, reprinting reviews of a few hundred films for each year, it provides an in-depth cross-section of critical opinion about each film. Each volume also includes a list of award winners as well as indexes for cast members, producers, directors, cinematographers, editors, composers and crew members.

Other excellent resources for film reviews include the New York Times Film Reviews (1913 to 2000) and Variety Film Reviews (1907-1996). These multi-volume sets reprint the complete film reviews of both these publications in chronological order. The Motion Picture Guide by Jay Robert Nash and Stanley Ralph Ross is also a useful source. This multi-volume set provides a detailed plot summary, production anecdotes, full credits (including music), and criticism of films through 1998.

As always, if you need help working with these tools, come and ask for assistance at the Art, Music and Recreation reference desk.