Dorothea Lange

I watched most of the documentary on PBS about Dorothea Lange, the photographer renowned for her powerful photographs of the misery in the Dust Bowl. It was very interesting. I don’t think I ever saw a photograph of her. The documentary showed her a s young and old woman. Her voice was remarkably youthful in old age. Less well known was her assignment from the uS Govt. to take photos of the Japanese internment at one particular camp, to use as  propaganda that the Japanese we happy there. But she took photos that told the true story, of the stoicism , the misery and the unfairness of it all. I had seen some of them from my research for my first novel, “The Wrong Face”. There were many more in the documentary. The photos were so disturbing to the govt. that they were impounded and not released until years later.

The suffering subjects of her work didn’t mind her hanging around, taking many photos because they felt her empathy.

The documentary mentioned a few times that she was not good at mothering, of her children and the stepchildren of her two marriages. Aside from her personality, a working mother’s life required compromise. She spent months away from home at a time to pursue her vision, of documenting social ills of the time. One year, she farmed her children to families so she could be on the road.  That was in the 1930s and 40s. The problem is still the same for working mothers today.

I hope PBS shows the documentary again. I recommend it highly.

The Madding Crowd movies

I watch movies on the airplanes and not in theaters because I just don’t that much leisurely time. I watched the 2015 Far from the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan. I enjoyed it very much. The acting was good, the vistas of Dorset beautiful.  It prompted me to read the book. Then I checked out the older version, starring Julie Christie, probably from the early 1970s. To me, it’s a better film. Bethsheba was supposed to be a great beauty. Julie Christie fitted the bill more than Mulligan. The other leads were also better, especially Peter Finch as Boldwood. The landscape of Dorset was more sumptuously  shot.  The older version contains more scenes from the book, which I would not have missed if I hadn’t read the book.Try to catch the two versions if you can. And read the book.

The book is typical of 19th century writing, full of exposition and an oomniscient  point of view. Of course, i’ve been taught not to write like that for children!


When I watched Gigi when I was in my late teens, I had no idea that Gigi was being groomed to be a high price prostitute. Raised in a protective home and taught by nuns for thirteen years, I just didn’t get it. I thought that Louis Jordan singing “GiGI” at night by the water fountain was so romantic!  I was in my thirties, or even forties when I watched it again. What a shock ! I had compared Gigi’s getting dressed up in splendor to Eliza’s( of My Fair Lady) introduction to society, when there was no comparison! Now,the new Broadway’s musical excised the song “Thank Heavens for Little Girl” from an old man’s mouth. A creepy pedophile? I really should rewatch some old favorite movies to see whether I had misinterpreted them in my youthful innocence.

Jewel in the Crown

It was over 20 years ago that I was mesmerized by the TV series Jewel in the Crown. By chance, I found it on Channel 21 two Mondays ago. It’s still an impressive production. This time, I have to read the books. Now that I’m writing historical fiction for young readers, I appreciate all the historical details that bring to life a time  and place long gone (Queen Victoria’s empire). The setting of India in Ghandi’s time is as important as the characters. Oh, the acting! Charles Dance who is not yet in the repeat episodes so far, is now in the movie, The imitation Game. British romantic leads tend to age into good character actors.