Writers on Film
Melanie Williams on A Taste of Honey
Melanie Williams is Professor in Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia, UK. A specialist in British cinema, her publications in this area include British Women’s Cinema (2009), Ealing Revisited (BFI, 2012), David Lean (2014), Female Stars of British Cinema: The Women in Question (2017) and Transformation and Tradition in 1960s British Cinema (2019).
A Taste of Honey (1961) is a landmark in British cinema history. In this book, Melanie Williams explores the many, extraordinary ways in which it was trailblazing. It is the only film of the British New Wave canon to have been written by a woman – Shelagh Delaney, adapting her own groundbreaking stage play. At the behest of director Tony Richardson and his company, Woodfall, it was one of the first films to be made entirely on location, and was shot in an innovative, rough, poetic style by cinematographer Walter Lassally. It was also the launchpad for a new type of young female star in Rita Tushingham.
Tushingham plays the young heroine, Jo, who finds she is pregnant after her love affair with Jimmy (Paul Danquah), a Black sailor. When Jimmy's ship sails away, Jo is comforted and supported by her gay friend Geoff (Murray Melvin), while her unreliable mother, Helen (Dora Bryan), has her own life to lead. Candid in its treatment of matters of gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality and motherhood, and highly distinctive in its evocation of place and landscape, A Taste of Honey marked the advent of new possibilities for the telling of working-class stories in British cinema. As such, its rich but complex legacy endures to this day.
View all episodes
127. Clint Eastwood by Ian Nathan01:06:44Clint Eastwood is Hollywood’s elder statesman and its conscience. He is the standard by which other films and filmmakers are judged. He represents both classical Hollywood and an entirely modern, uncompromising and unfussy directorial presence.There are those who adore him as a cowboy, a superstar, the rugged, unyielding yet introspective face of American machismo. There are those who read him as a great American auteur fashioning uncompromising, fascinating, intellectual films about his country, about life, about whatever the hell takes his fancy. No single figure in all of Hollywood, operates so freely outside of the strictures of commercial pressure. And yet, or perhaps that is because, he makes hit after hit. Separation of actor and director is almost impossible. They are intimately related, cross pollinating, but in the latter half of his career he has come to be viewed as one of the great American artists. While drawing connections from his wider work as an actor, and those who have influenced him, it is his identity as a director that this book will celebrate. This is not a career — it is a landscape.
126. Chris Yogerst talks The Warner Brothers58:44Friend of the podcast and cultural historian Chris Yogerst critically celebrates the century of Warner Bros by looking at the family behind the studio The Warner Brothers. You can buy your copy here (among other outlets). And Chris recommended Sam Wasson's The Big Goodbye and Scott Eyman's upcoming Charlie Chaplin biography.
125. Jem Duducu talks Hollywood and History01:22:42Jem Duducu talks Hollywood v History. Buy his new book here. And listen to his podcast here.Here's the blurb of his book:There is no shortage of Hollywood films about historical events, but what do the movies actually get right, and why do they get so much wrong?Hollywood loves a story: good guys versus bad guys, heroes winning the day, and the guy gets the girl. But we all know real life isn’t exactly like that, and this is even more true when we look at history. Rarely do the just prevail and the three-act story cannot exist over continents and decades of human interaction. So, when Hollywood decides to exploit history for profit, we end up with a wide array of films. Some are comedies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, others are little more than action films playing dress up like Gladiator, and many are Oscar contenders burdened with an enormous sense of self-importance. But very few are historically accurate.From Cleopatra to Da 5 Bloods, the reality is no matter what Hollywood’s intentions are, almost all historical films are an exaggeration or distortion of what really happened. Sometimes the alterations are for the sake of brevity, as watching a movie in real time about the Hundred Years War would literally kill you. Other additions may be out of necessity, since nobody thought to write down the everyday conversations between King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, for The Other Boleyn Girl. And some projects twist the facts to suit a more sinister purpose.In Hollywood and History, Jem Duducu takes readers through thousands of years of global history as immortalized and ultimately fictionalized by Hollywood, exploring many facets of the representation of history in movies from the medieval times to the wild west and both World Wars. Along the way, readers will also better understand Hollywood’s own history, as it evolved from black and white silent shorts to the multiplex CGI epics of today. As studios and audiences have matured through the years, so too have their representations of history. Armies will clash, leaders will be slain, empires will fall, and a few historical inaccuracies will be pointed out along the way. A must-read for film and history fans alike.
124. In conversation with Lawrence Grobel01:20:39Lawrence Grobel is a freelance writer who has written 31 books and for numerous national magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Newsday, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Reader's Digest, American Way, Parade, Details, TV Guide, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Penthouse, Diversion, Writer's Digest, and AARP. He has been a contributing editor at Playboy, Movieline, Hollywood Life, Autograph, New Zealand's World, Bulgaria's Ego, and Poland's Trendy magazines. Playboy called him "the Interviewer's Interviewer" after his interview with Marlon Brando for their 25th anniversary issue.Visit his Amazon Page here.
123. Molly Haskell talks film criticism, feminism and cinephilia56:19Molly Haskell is a legend of film criticism. A critic for the Village Voice, she also is one of the earliest most powerful voices in feminist film criticism, with her ground-breaking work From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies as well as books on Spielberg and Gone with the Wind.
122. James Peaty on Summer Blockbusters and Oppenheimer01:25:20James Peaty and John Bleasdale talk about the summer release and particularly the success of Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer.Peaty has written for publishers including Marvel Comics, DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics in the US as well as Rebellion Publishing and Titan Comics in the UK. During that time he has written for titles including The Batman Strikes!, X-Men Unlimited, Green Arrow. Supergirl, Justice League Unlimited and Doctor Who. For 2000AD he wrote and co-created Skip Tracer (with artist Paul Marshall), while for The Judge Dredd Megazine he wrote and co-created Diamond Dogs (with artist Warren Pleece).
121. Jeanine Basinger talks film history, Hollywood and the Star Machine01:22:23Clint Eastwood called her “Truly one of my favorite people.” Her former students include Michael Bay, Joss Whedon, Laurence Mark, Akiva Goldsman, Paul Weitz, Marc Shmuger and Alex Kurtzman. She's written a dozen books and recently co-authored Hollywood: An Oral History with Sam Wasson (friend of the podcast, read his essay on Jeanine here). Jeanine Basinger is legendary and it is a true honor to have her on Writers on Film. Buy here books here.
120. Josh Winning Burns the Negative01:00:15Josh Winning is a writer and film critic. Bur the book here. The BlurbABOUT BURN THE NEGATIVEIn this incendiary mash-up of horror and suspense, a notorious slasher film is remade…and the curse that haunted it is reawakened.Arriving in L.A. to visit the set of a new streaming horror series, journalist Laura Warren witnesses a man jumping from a bridge, landing right behind her car. Here we go, she thinks. It’s started. Because the series she’s reporting on is a remake of a ’90s horror flick. A cursed ’90s horror flick, which she starred in as a child—and has been running from her whole life. In The Guesthouse, Laura played the little girl with the terrifying gift to tell people how the Needle Man would kill them. When eight of the cast and crew died in ways that eerily mirrored the movie’s on-screen deaths, the film became a cult classic—and ruined her life. Leaving it behind, Laura changed her name and her accent, dyed her hair, and moved across the Atlantic. But some scripts don’t want to stay buried. Now, as the body count rises again, Laura finds herself on the run with her aspiring actress sister and a jaded psychic, hoping to end the curse once and for all—and to stay out of the Needle Man’s lethal reach.
119. Jason Isralowitz and Hitchcock's Wrong Man58:00Nothing To Fear: Alfred Hitchcock And The Wrong MenTo buy click on this link. Alfred Hitchcock is not often associated with a social justice movement. But in 1956, the world’s most famous director focused his lens on an issue that cuts to the heart of our criminal justice system: the risk of wrongful conviction. The result was The Wrong Man, a wrenching and largely overlooked drama based on the real-life arrest of Queens musician Christopher “Manny” Balestrero for two robberies he did not commit. With documentary-like authenticity, Hitchcock and his team meticulously re-created Manny’s journey through the corridors of justice and the devastating effect of the arrest on his wife, Rose. In so doing, the director cast a damning light on New York’s history of mistaken identity cases. The Balestreros fell victim to the same rush to judgment and suggestive eyewitness identification procedures that had doomed innocent defendants in earlier cases. Their ordeal is part of a larger story of the state’s failure to reckon with its role in other wrongful prosecutions in the first half of the twentieth century. Attorney Jason Isralowitz tells this story in a revelatory book that situates both the Balestrero case and its cinematic counterpart in their historical context. Drawing from archival records, Isralowitz delivers a gripping account of Manny’s trial and new insights into an errant prosecution. He then examines how Hitchcock fused striking visual motifs with social realism to create a timeless work of art. The film bears witness to issues that animate the contemporary innocence movement, including the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, the need for police lineup reforms, and the dangers of investigative “tunnel vision.” Given the hundreds of exonerations of the wrongfully convicted in recent years, The Wrong Man remains as timely as ever.“Nothing to Fear is a fascinating history, not only for fans of Hitchcock but for anyone interested in how our justice system works (and sometimes doesn't). The story of ‘the wrong man' continues to resonate well into the twenty-first century, and will make you question your assumptions about innocence and guilt.” Dawn Raffel, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Couney, named by NPR as one of 2018’s Great Reads and winner of a 2019 Christopher Award. “Thanks to Jason Isralowitz for finally writing a book about Hitchcock’s most under-appreciated movie. Isralowitz brilliantly contextualizes the movie and the true-life story of Manny Balestrero, preceded by an eye-opening prologue detailing the justice system’s long history of indicting ‘the wrong man’ (and, in a few cases, ‘the wrong woman’). A must for both cinephiles and true crime buffs.” Bruce Goldstein, Repertory Artistic Director, Film Forum, New York.ISBN: 9781949024425