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By David Zurawik and The Baltimore Sun | January 21, 2014
"American Masters" drills deep tonight on the life of J.D. Salinger, author of "The Catcher in the Rye. " While it is filled with literary worship for the 1951 novel, it also takes a hard look at a troubled personal life that included a nervous breakdown, a marriage to a German woman believed to have been raised a Nazi and an attraction to adolescent girls that he acted on more than once. Check out this podcast from my radio preview for WYPR-FM. "Salinger" airs at 9 tonight on MPT (channels 22 and 67)
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By David Zurawik and The Baltimore Sun | January 21, 2014
"American Masters" drills deep tonight on the life of J.D. Salinger, author of "The Catcher in the Rye. " While it is filled with literary worship for the 1951 novel, it also takes a hard look at a troubled personal life that included a nervous breakdown, a marriage to a German woman believed to have been raised a Nazi and an attraction to adolescent girls that he acted on more than once. Check out this podcast from my radio preview for WYPR-FM. "Salinger" airs at 9 tonight on MPT (channels 22 and 67)
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ENTERTAINMENT
By David Zurawik and The Baltimore Sun | May 14, 2012
From Norman Rockwell and Leonard Bernstein to Baltimore's Cab Calloway, no one does biography like "American Masters" on PBS. I've been reviewing these superb productions for all of the 26 seasons that "American Masters" has been on the air, and have written some variation of that line for at least 25 of them. And tonight's "Johnny Carson: King of Late Night" is one of the 10 greatest biographies this sublime series has delivered. Maybe one of the five best. But let's not quibble.
ENTERTAINMENT
By David Zurawik and The Baltimore Sun | May 20, 2013
You cannot understand American humor in the second half of the 20th Century without appreciating the crazed genius of Mel Brooks. And "American Masters" does an all-out appreciation at 9 p.m. Monday (May 20) on PBS. Here's a podcast of my preview from WYPR (88.1).   #sigshell { float: left; width: 320px; height: 52px; margin: 20px 0px; display: block; } #sigheadshot{ float: left; margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px; } #sigtwitter { margin-right: 5px; } #sigtooltip { padding: 5px; border-radius: 5px; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; }
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | February 25, 2004
No one on television does show business biography better than PBS' American Masters series. Tonight, American Masters revisits the life of Judy Garland, one of the greatest concert hall performers we have ever known, and it is two hours of pop culture bliss. It's not a perfect biography. In fact, some might argue it's not even a biography if the word is meant to include a critical study of a life or career. There is little criticism here. American Masters' Judy Garland: By Myself is an appreciation of her fabulous career from vaudeville to MGM films, and the concert stages of America and Europe.
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | February 2, 2000
Nobody does profiles of performers and artists like PBS' "American Masters." Compared to this series, the History Channel's "Biography" portraits are cut-and-paste jobs. "Sidney Poitier: One Bright Light," which airs tonight on public television, isn't in a league with the great "American Masters" profiles like last year's "Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note." But it is close enough that it is well worth going out of your way to see. No matter how much you know about Poitier, I guarantee you will wind up knowing more and seeing him in new ways.
ENTERTAINMENT
By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic | December 3, 2000
NEW YORK -- It is 9:30 a.m. on what looks to be a fine fall day in the life of Susan Lacy, the 51-year-old creator and executive producer of the PBS TV series "American Masters." The sun is shining brightly on her first day back at work after a two-week vacation at Sag Harbor, Maine. She has the relaxed, almost serene, glow of someone who thoroughly enjoyed her holiday. There's a huge stack of folders and papers sitting on her desk, but they are flanked by a vase of spectacular lavender flowers and a shiny, gold Emmy statue recently awarded to "American Masters" as the Best Non-Fiction Series on television for the second straight year.
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | February 24, 1999
In a month marked by an unusual number of outstanding documentaries on aspects of African-American history, PBS' "Paul Robeson: Here I Stand" seems like a near-perfect grand finale.The "American Masters" documentary tells the story of a brilliant and horribly persecuted black man who comes closer, perhaps, than any other American of the century to fulfilling the definition of Renaissance Man.This is, as PBS claims, the first definitive biography of Robeson, and more's the shame on us as a culture that it took this long.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Glenn McNatt and Glenn McNatt,Sun Art Critic | May 16, 2004
Among the more arcane torments I endured as a New York City elementary school student in the 1950s was a weekly art appreciation class, taught by a lady with a lilting Eastern European accent who showed us slides of great paintings. From week to week I struggled mightily to remember which painters went with which pictures (is that a Monet or a Manet?) -- except when she showed paintings of New England seascapes. Then, I could raise my hand confidently and call out, "Winslow Homer!" Even then, Homer, the former Civil War illustrator turned painter, was recognized as a great 19th-century American master.
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | September 27, 2000
Go ahead, let Clint make your night. Eastwood that is, tonight on PBS as "American Masters," Emmy winner the past two years as best non-fiction series on television, kicks off its 15th season with "Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows." No one on television does biography and popular culture like "American Masters," and Eastwood gets the full treatment. That's one of the earmarks of this splendid series: It treats popular artists such as Eastwood and Paul Simon as seriously as it does Leonard Bernstein or Martha Graham.
ENTERTAINMENT
By David Zurawik and The Baltimore Sun | May 14, 2012
From Norman Rockwell and Leonard Bernstein to Baltimore's Cab Calloway, no one does biography like "American Masters" on PBS. I've been reviewing these superb productions for all of the 26 seasons that "American Masters" has been on the air, and have written some variation of that line for at least 25 of them. And tonight's "Johnny Carson: King of Late Night" is one of the 10 greatest biographies this sublime series has delivered. Maybe one of the five best. But let's not quibble.
ENTERTAINMENT
By David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun | February 24, 2012
It's not often in judging the biography of a great artist that you can just pick up the phone and call one of the people who knew him best - and remains a principal keeper of the historical flame. But that is exactly the case with Cab Calloway, the Baltimore-raised jazz bandleader, singer and actor who is profiled in TV's "American Masters" series at 10 p.m. Monday on PBS. Camay Calloway Murphy, the performer's daughter, lives here and is happy to talk about her late father and how she feels he is treated in "American Masters Cab Calloway: Sketches.
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By DAVID ZURAWIK and DAVID ZURAWIK,david.zurawik@baltsun.com | September 23, 2008
Nobody on TV does biography like PBS' American Masters - and that goes for the life history of institutions as well as individuals. Tonight, the series looks at one of Hollywood's founding motion picture studios in You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story. This three-night exploration of the film kingdom of Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack L. Warner is directed by historian Richard Schickel, and it is not to be missed. Beyond telling backstage stories about memorable films ranging from The Jazz Singer (1927)
FEATURES
November 5, 2007
Critic's Pick -- The zany life of actress and comedian Carol Burnett is profiled in American Masters (9 p.m., MPT, Channels 22/67).
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic | October 29, 2007
No one does biography better than American Masters. And the long-running PBS series outdoes even itself tonight with Good Ol' Charles Schulz, a clear-eyed look at the creator of the Peanuts comic strip. If American Masters has a flaw, it is the tendency to confuse biography with appreciation - and consistently ignore the shadows in celebrated lives. Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note is one of the most powerful TV biographies ever made, but it soft-pedals the acclaimed conductor's drug use and marital infidelity.
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July 19, 2006
After Hearst blows a gasket, Bullock and Swearengen (Ian McShane) figure their best bet is a pre-emptive strike in Deadwood (9 p.m.-10 p.m., HBO). Network CRIMINAL MINDS -- 9 p.m.-10 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13 / Fearing the loss of tourism, a town tries to wish away apparent serial killings. CBS. AMERICAN MASTERS -- 9 p.m.-10 p.m., MPT, Channels 22, 67 / "Marilyn Monroe: Still Life" looks at one of the most photographed stars in history through the eyes of the picture-takers. PBS. EVE -- 9 p.m.-9:30 p.m., WUTB, Channel 24 / J.T.'s new girlfriend wants him all to herself.
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC | November 24, 1999
What a nice piece of scheduling by PBS -- an "American Masters" portrait of Norman Rockwell on Thanksgiving eve.Is there a more representative image of the idealized Thanksgiving than the one found in Rockwell's "Freedom from Want"? You know the painting: It shows several generations gathered around a long, food-laden dinner table while Mom places a platter with a perfectly browned turkey before them and Dad looks on approvingly."Norman Rockwell: Painting America" attempts to take us behind such images and inside the man who created them.
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By Glenn McNatt and Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC | April 16, 2001
Alfred Steiglitz almost single-handedly invented modern photography. Before Stieglitz, photography had been an amateur pastime, a commercial business and a sometime scientific tool. After him, it was an art as well. How that happened is the story told by "Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye," the PBS "American Masters" series biography that airs tonight at 10 on channels 22 and 67. Stieglitz, born into a wealthy German-Jewish family in Hoboken, N.J., in 1864, was a phenomenon, a force of nature with a temperament as Napoleonic as his ego. He felt constantly embattled in the "fight" for photography's acceptance as art, which he waged with the relentless, take-no-prisoners determination of a military campaign.
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By David Zurawik and David Zurawik,[sun television critic] | September 26, 2005
The measure of the greatness of No Direction Home -- Martin Scorsese's impressionistic two-night portrait of Bob Dylan as a young man -- is how much the director's grand aspiration is realized in a film that feels more like a poem than a TV documentary. A less ambitious biographer might have been content to tell viewers that Dylan captured the times in which he lived better than any other popular artist of his era, and leave it at that -- plus or minus stock archival images of social protest and bits of Dylan's most widely known songs.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Glenn McNatt and Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC | May 19, 2005
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) was one of the most gifted, colorful - and eccentric - American artists of the 19th century, though for most of his career he lived abroad, traveling extensively in France, Italy and the Netherlands before finally settling in London. Everything about Whistler was slightly oversized: his personality, his feuds, his love affairs and his wildly original artistic temperament. He loved the grand gesture, as when he lavishly redecorated the "Peacock Room" in the London residence of British shipping tycoon Frederick R. Leyland without the owner's permission (and then entertained his friends in the opulent chamber while Leyland was away)
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