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Pop Culture Roundup: This WeekRoundup
150 years of "Alice in Wonderland"
The American Civil War was the greatest period of internal strife in our nation’s history: North against South, brother versus brother. But there were places where the barriers blurred a little bit. PBS’ new Civil War miniseries Mercy Street focuses on one such place: Alexandria, Virginia, a Southern town occupied by Union forces in 1862.
The series focuses on the homefront of the Civil War, as various civilians in Alexandria, from Northern abolitionist Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to Southern belle Emma Green (Hannah James) get caught up in the war’s conflict and intrigue. The majority of the action revolves around Mansion House Hospital, where both Mary and Emma have volunteered as nurses. Other members of the extensive cast include How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor as plantation-raised civilian surgeon Dr. Jedediah Foster and Veep veteran Gary Cole as Emma’s father James Green Sr., a Southern patriarch who nonetheless appears in this exclusive new trailer warning against extremism.
Famed Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, played by actress Helen Mirren, is starring in the new movie Trumbo. Directed by Jay Roach and starring Bryan Cranston, the film is about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and the blacklist in Hollywood during the Cold War. Hopper is featured in the film as Trumbo’s political nemesis, as indeed she was. Rather than dismissing the conservative, anticommunist Hopper as “a crank” who engaged in “pinko purges”—as did earlier portrayals—the film takes her formidable role in mid-20th century American popular and political culture seriously.
Whether known as the “duchess of dish” or a “gargoyle of gossip,” Hedda Hopper was a powerhouse of Hollywood’s golden age. For 27 years, beginning in 1938, she wrote her movie gossip column. Her mass media gossip—or as she put it “snooping and scooping”—drew over 30 million readers to her column at its height in the 1950s. As a gossip, she publicized information about private lives. She focused mostly on the big stars, their movies and marriages, their secrets and scandals. But what made Hopper most stand out from the crowd of celebrity journalists—apart from her famous, flamboyant hats—was her political coverage and political conservatism.
Chances are, you've probably seen dozens of Disney movies throughout your life. If you're a particularly big fan of fairy tales and animation, you may even have seen all of them — or so you thought. Walt Disney was in the cartoon business from 1920 onwards, and it turns out, there's at least one of his works that proved rather elusive... until now. A researcher looking through the British Film Institute's online archives discovered the lost 1928 Disney film Sleigh Bells, which just so happens to start the first ever Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Imagine being the one to find it!
An unorthodox musical with a diverse cast about the life of Alexander Hamilton is creating waves on Broadway and beyond while it smashes box office records.
Dr. Maya Angelou was best known as a poet, author and civil rights activist. But—as Bob Hercules, one of the directors of the upcoming The Maya Angelou Documentary, fondly puts it—”she led the life of about 12 people.” That’s part of why Hercules and co-director Rita Coburn Whack were so surprised to learn that no documentary had been made about Angelou yet. “Dr. Angelou had done radio and television and had a well documented life,” says Coburn Whack. “I felt like everybody felt that there must be something out there.”
Over the course of nearly four years, the pair shot interviews with not only Angelou herself until her death in May 2014, but also with other prominent figures ranging from Oprah Winfrey to President Bill Clinton, who grew up about 25 miles away from Angelou’s hometown in Arkansas. Describing a “trust factor” Angelou had with Coburn Whack, they wanted the story to be told correctly and accurately. “She was going to have to go back over her life as she was approaching the end of her life,” Coburn Whack says. “So she had to decide, ‘Do I want to do this?'” They ended up capturing almost four hours of interviews with Angelou over different periods. “It’s like a Forrest Gump experience where she was at all these amazing moments,” says Hercules. “The scope of her life is astounding to me.”
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