The Simply Streep Archives has gathered details on all of Meryl Streep's feature films, television, theatre and voice narration, and also features an extensive library of articles, photographs and video clips. You can browse the collection by Ms. Streep's career or through a year-by-year summary.
Dec 02

“The Prom” is coming to Netflix next week, and the first review are in, as compiled by Broadway World. The feel good Broadway musical, adapted for the screen, will arrive on December 11th. Find out what the critics had to say about the Ryan Murphy-helmed film, starring Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Kerry Washington, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells, and Jo Ellen Pellman, below. Many thanks to Glenn for the heads-up.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: “Whenever [Streep is] center-screen, this Netflix adaptation of the disarming 2018 Broadway musical sparkles with campy humor. Elsewhere, the starry casting and heavy hand of director Ryan Murphy do the featherweight material few favors, with inert dramatic scenes and overblown musical numbers contributing to the general bloat. The movie’s most undeniable value is in the representation it provides to LGBTQ teens via a high school dance that is every emotionally isolated queer kid’s rainbow dream.”

Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly: “The Prom is narratively sloppy, emotionally false, visually ugly, morally superior, and at least 15 minutes too long (a strong case can be made for 30). It has good intentions, though; or at least it wants to have good intentions. Obviously – and positively! – the film preaches tolerance and inclusion, both of which the world needs more of.”

Owen Gleiberman, Variety: “There’s no denying that “The Prom,” like “Glee” and the “High School Musical” films, is on some level a knowingly assembled package of shiny happy film-musical clichés. Yet Murphy, working with the cinematographer Matthew Libatíque, gives the movie an intoxicating visual sweep, and there’s a beguiling wit to the dialogue.”

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair: “There’s little good elsewhere in The Prom, save for newcomers Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose as the winsome young couple at the center of the prom-troversy. They add dashes of bright theater-kid moxie to the film, conjuring up a bit of what it feels like to sit in a Broadway house and watch a bunch of lovable goobers belt their hearts out.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: “The Prom is an outrageous work of steroidal show tune madness, directed by the dark master himself, Ryan “Glee” Murphy, who is to jazz-hands musical theatre what Nancy Meyers is to upscale romcom or Friedrich Nietzsche to classical philology.”

Ben Travis, Empire: “In recent years, there’s been a spate of musicals that you’ll enjoy ‘even if you don’t like musicals’, like Hamilton with its astonishing word-wizardry, or the retro-cool La La Land. The Prom is no such musical. It is intensely, unabashedly, razzlingly, dazzlingly Broadway, a musical for people who love musicals, in which many of the songs are about musicals. Anyone allergic to such things need not apply.”

Tim Robey, The Telegraph: “The whole thing drips with garish insincerity and preaching to the choir. Irony of ironies, that a show about out-of-touch luvvies swanning down to wave their magic wands at red-state intolerance has become… the spitting image of that, as a home cinema offering from Murphy and team.”

Lewis Knight, Mirror: “With glitz and glamour, Ryan Murphy offers a fun and lightweight musical that will certainly not win over the sort of people who detest the genre but will likely entertain those who do.”

Nov 29

Three remarkable actress – Academy Award-winners Meryl Streep and Dianne Wiest, and Emmy Award-winner Candice Bergen – share the screen in a new film by director Steven Soderbergh, “Let Them All Talk,” an exercise in improvisation, in which its actors were required to create much of the dialogue themselves. Correspondent Rita Braver talks with the trio about the rarity of starring in a major Hollywood film about three women in their 70s.

Related Media:

Video Archive – News Segments – CBS Sunday Morning (November 29, 2020)
Photo Gallery – Television Appearances – CBS Sunday Morning (November 29, 2020)

Nov 29

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills”. This is how Karen Blixen starts “Out of Africa”, her probably most famous novel, first published in 1937. It’s her account on living in – and falling for – Africa for 17 years, written under her well-known pen name Isak Dinesen. The trademark line also opened Sydney Pollack’s 1985 Oscar-winning film of the same name, which introduced Karen Blixen’s life and love story to a new generation of moviegoers and readers.

Isak Dinesen was the pseudonym used by the Danish author Karen Dinesen Blixen-Finecke (1885-1962). Her stories place her among Denmark’s greatest authors. Isak Dinesen was born on April 17, 1885, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, adventurer, and author. In 1914 she went to Africa, married, and bought a coffee plantation. After her divorce in 1921 she managed the plantation alone until economic disaster forced her to return to Denmark in 1931, where she lived the rest of her life on the family estate, Rungstedlund, near Copenhagen. The years in Africa were the happiest of Dinesen’s life, for she felt, from the first, that she belonged there. Had she not been forced to leave, she wrote later, she would not have become an author. In the dark days just before leaving, she began to write down some of the stories she had told to her friends among the colonists and natives. She wrote in English, the language she used in Africa. Her books usually appeared simultaneously in America, England, and Denmark, written in English and then rewritten in Danish.

Karen Blixen is shown in front of her farm in Kenya in 1930. A file photo, dated 1908, of the real Denys Finch-Hatton (1887-1931), who was portrayed by Robert Redford in the film. In 1914, Blixen poses with dead lions and a rifle on a safari in Kenya.

Dinesen’s first collection, Seven Gothic Tales, appeared in America in 1934, where it was a literary sensation, immediately popular with both critics and public. The Danish critical reaction was cool. Danish literature was still dominated by naturalism, as it had been for the past 60 years, and her work was a reaction against this sober, realistic fiction of analysis. Dinesen’s second book, Out of Africa (1937), a brilliant recreation of her African years, was a critical and popular success wherever it appeared. Although it has little in common, stylistically and formally, with her stories, it describes the experiences which formed her views about life and art. The third central work in her authorship, Winter’s Tales, appeared in 1942. A characteristic of Dinesen’s works is the sense that the reader is listening to a storyteller. She wanted to revive in her “listeners” the primitive love of mystery that she found in her African audience, which she felt was like the audiences that listened to Homer, the Old Testament stories, the Arabian Nights, and the sagas. She attempted to reawaken the sense of myth and, with myth, the sense of man’s tragic grandeur, which she felt had been lost.

Fifteen years after Winter’s Tales, Dinesen published Last Tales (1957), containing some of her finest stories. This volume includes “The Cardinal’s First Tale,” an excellent defense of her art and a critique of naturalism. In 1958 appeared Anecdotes of Destiny. Her last book, Shadows on the Grass (1961), is a pendant to Out of Africa. Dinesen was the first Danish author to achieve world fame since Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard. Her influence on Danish literature was especially strong in the 1950s when, through her stories and personal contact, she was an inspiration to younger authors searching for new means of expression. She died on September 6, 1962.

The Character

Sydney Pollack based his epic 1985 film “Out of Africa” on Karen Blixen, from Judith Thurman’s book “Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller”. While Meryl Streep didn’t speak much about the real-life Karen Blixen while promoting the film, she gave some insight into the script in an interview with Wendy Wasserstein in 1988: “I thought it was a great script, but there was this one line that I thought was just preposterous, and I didn’t know how I was going to get it out. I didn’t want to say it. I didn’t mind being proprietary about “my” Africans, or Karen Blixen’s other sort of grande-dame pretensions; but when Dennis suggests taking their young friend along on one of his flights and she rises up from her chair and syas, “I won’t allow it, Dennis,” I though it sounded like a mother admonishing her child, which did not reflect their relationship at all. It felt like a little vehicle, like a car that he could get into and slam the door and peel out in. Without that line, did he have enough reason to storm out of her life in a big huff? I though this was a really good argument. When we came to do the scene, I said, “All right, you know, I’m a good sport, I’ll say it, and I’ll try to make it work, but it won’t.” And, of course, when we played it, it was the easiest and freest thing she said in the scene, because all the reason had been used up; there was nothing left to argue with but her desperation, and it was so preposterous and pathetic that it was right. It was a key to the woman. I hate it when they’re right.”

Isak Dinesen: Life of a Storyteller by Judith Thurman (1995)
Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (1937)

Nov 29

Was Karen Silkwood, a nuclear plant employee at Kerr McGee, just a trouble maker? Or did she really had sensitive information collected that would prove a contaminating of plutonium, based on security holes that her bosses knew of? Through her untimely death in 1974, which will most probably remain mysterios forever, there are no answers to this question. Her story was made into a film in 1983 in which, for the first time, Meryl portrayed a person that has really lived.

On the night of November 13, 1974, Karen Silkwood, a technician at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron River nuclear facility in Crescent, Oklahoma, was driving her white Honda to Oklahoma City. There she was to deliver a manila folder full of alleged health and safety violations at the plant to a friend, Drew Stephens, a New York Times reporter and national union representative. Seven miles out of Crescent, however, her car went off the road, skidded for a hundred yards, hit a guardrail, and plunged off the embankment. Silkwood was killed in the crash, and the manila folder was not found at the scene when Stephens arrived a few hours later. Nor has it come to light since. Although Kerr-McGee was a prominent Oklahoma employer whose integrity had never been challenged, as a part of the nuclear power industry it had many adversaries.

Silkwood was born in Texas, went through one year of college and had three children by a common-law husband, whom she left when she moved to Crescent, Okla., to work in Kerr-McGee’s Cimarron Plutonium Recycling Facility there. At Cimarron, she earned a reputation as someone who couldn’t be pushed around. She lived for a while with a young co-worker named Drew Stephens and was known to drink and to pop pills. At the same time, she grew increasingly troubled by the sloppy safety conditions under which she and the other Cimarron employees worked when handling dangerous, highly radioactive plutonium. One result was that she threw herself into union work and was herself “contaminated” by radioactive materials, though in ways that have never been satisfactorily explained. At the time of her death, she was alleged to have gathered evidence that would force the plant to close.

A file photo of Karen Silkwood with her children Kristi, Dawn and Michael. Sherri Ellis, who was Karen Silkwood’s roomate, served as an inspiration for Cher’s character, so did Karen’s boyfriend, Drew Stephens. Bill Silkwood and his wife Merle talk with reporters outside the federal courthouse after a three-man, three-woman jury awarded their family $10.5 million damages for the radiation contamination of their daughter.

On the night of the car crash, she was driving alone to Oklahoma City to meet David Burnham, a reporter for The New York Times, to tell her story. Because of these circumstances, there are those who contend that she was murdered to keep her silent. At this point she had become almost as unpopular with many employees, who didn’t want to lose their jobs, as she was with management. There are others who are certain further that her contaminations were, in fact, not accidents but self-inflicted, in an attempt to dramatize the true gravity of conditions at the Cimarron facility, which, subsequently, was shut down. The controversy ignited by Silkwood’s death regarding the regulation of the nuclear industry was intense, with critics finally finding an example around which to focus their argument. The legacy of the Silkwood case continues to this day in the on-going debate over the safety of nuclear technology. Since then, her story has achieved worldwide fame as the subject of many books, magazine and newspaper articles, and even a major motion picture. Silkwood was a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee’s plutonium fuels production plant in Crescent, Oklahoma, and a member of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers’ Union. She was also an activist who was critical of plant safety.

During the week prior to her death, Silkwood was reportedly gathering evidence for the Union to support her claim that Kerr-McGee was negligent in maintaining plant safety, and at the same time, was involved in a number of unexplained exposures to plutonium. The circumstances of her death have been the subject of great speculation. Speculation about foul play in Silkwood’s death has never been substantiated. However, some independent investigators at the time inferred that her vehicle had been hit from behind and forced off the road. Public suspicions led to a federal discussion into plant investigation security and safety, and a National Public Radio report about 44 to 66 pounds of misplaced plutonium. Silkwood’s story emphasized the hazards of nuclear energy and raised questions about corporate accountability and responsibility. According to the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, the Kerr-McGee plant had manufactured faulty fuel rods, falsified product inspection records, and risked employee safety. Eventually, Kerr-McGee closed the plant. In 1986, Silkwood’s family, represented by Gerry Spence, settled an $11.5 million plutonium-contamination lawsuit against Kerr-McGee for $1.38 million.

The Character

In an interview to promote the theatrical release of “Silkwood”, Meryl Streep said: “I was attracted to the character. No matter what I think in my real life, in order to effectively play a part or make my imagination go, I have to be presented with a certain challenge and a character with problems. What I liked about Karen was that she wasn’t Joan of Arc at all. She was unsavory in some ways and yet she did some very good things. This doesn’t feel like an antinuclear movie. There are lots of those around, and I’ve stayed away from them quite purposefully because I don’t like polemics. This film is more complicated, it seems to be, and evenhanded in a funny, real-life way. The people on both sides of the question are all pretty recognizable. It has the feeling of real working life, and I think it’s about that more than anything nuclear. It was interesting to me that some of the people who were playing party in this movie, mainly Kurt, met the people they were playing. I was meeting no one; all I had were pieces of information from different pieces of information from different sources. I had details from five or six people that all described a different woman. It made me think I really ought to write my autobiography before I go, because once you’re gone, everybody has a different version of you”.

The Killing of Karen
Silkwood: The Story Behind the Kerr-McGee Plutonium Case
by Richard Rashke (1981)

Nov 29

In 1980, Lindy Chamberlain’s case and the story of her infant daughter’s disappearance shocked Australia. Through disbelief that a wild dog could be responsible, Lindy was sentenced to life for murdering her child and pardoned years later after new evidence was found. One the worst cases of crime injustice in the history of Australia, Lindy’s story was made into a documentary-style film, and starring Meryl Streep in a performance as the woman who still divides a continent.

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain’s first daughter, Azaria, was born on June 11, 1980. When Azaria was two months old, Michael and Lindy Chamberlain took their three children on a camping trip to Uluru, arriving on August 16, 1980. On the night of August 17, Chamberlain reported that the child had been taken from her tent by a dingo. A massive search was organised, but all that was found were remains of some of the bloody clothes, which confirmed the death of baby Azaria. Her body has never been discovered, and it is thought that the baby’s body was consumed by the dingos. Although the initial coronial inquiry supported the Chamberlains’ account of Azaria’s disappearance, Lindy Chamberlain was later prosecuted for the murder of her child on the basis of the finding of the baby’s jumpsuit and of tests that appeared to indicate the presence of blood found in the Chamberlains’ car. She was convicted of murder on October 29, 1982, and sentenced to life imprisonment; the theory was that she slit the child’s throat and hid the body. Michael Chamberlain was convicted as an accessory to murder. Shortly after her conviction, Lindy Chamberlain gave birth to her fourth child, Kahlia, on November 17, 1982, in prison. An appeal against her conviction was rejected by the High Court in February, 1984.

Scenes from the Chamberlain trials: Michael and Lindy hold a photograph of their baby daughter on the steps of the Alice Springs Courthouse following the first coronial inquest that found a dingo took their baby. Lindy is pictured in the Coroner’s Court during the second inquest in February 1982. The couple arrives at the Alice Springs Courthouse during the second inquest in September 1982.

New evidence emerged on February 2, 1986 when a remaining item of Azaria’s clothing was found partially buried near Uluru in an isolated location, adjacent to a dingo lair. This was the matinee jacket which the police had maintained for years did not exist. Five days later, Chamberlain was released. The Northern Territory Government publicly said it was because “she had suffered enough.” In view of inconsistencies in the earlier blood testing which gave rise to potential reasonable doubts about the propriety of her conviction and as DNA was not as advanced in the early 1980s it emerged that the ‘baby blood’ found in her car could have been any substance, Lindy Chamberlain’s life sentence was remitted by the Northern Territory Government and a Royal Commission began to investigate the matter in 1987. Chamberlain’s conviction was overturned in September, 1988 and another inquest in 1995 returned an open verdict. The cause of Azaria’s disappearance has not been officially determined. The last and final official inquest listed the cause of her death as “undetermined.” A body has never been found, only various items of bloodstained clothing. The Chamberlains, who were originally convicted, have been officially exonerated by the Court and eventually received some financial compensation. It is estimated that their legal fees exceeded five million Australian Dollars. In August 2005, a 25-year old woman named Erin Horsburgh claimed that she was Azaria Chamberlain, but her claims were rejected by the authorities and the ABC’s Media Watch program, who stated that none of the reports linking Horsburgh to the Chamberlain case had any substance. The Chamberlains divorced in 1991 and Lindy Chamberlain has since remarried.

In 2012, over 30 years after the disappearance, the case was finally solved. Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris found evidence from the case proved a dingo or dingoes were responsible for Azaria’s death and ruled that her death certificate should read “attacked and taken by a dingo”. In an emotional finding, Morris offered her condolences to the Chamberlains, who were in the Darwin court room. “Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your special loved daughter and sister Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss,” she said to the family. “Time does not remove the pain and sadness of the death of a child.”

The Character

When “A Cry in the Dark” was in pre-production, Lindy Chamberlain was still imprisoned, and there was no sign of her exoneration in 1987. So by the time of its filming, Meryl Streep not only portrayed another real-life character, but a convicted murderer. With the new-found evidence and Miss Chamberlain’s exoneration, the already heavily debated case became even more current. As Streep told Entertainment Weekly in 2000, “there were enormous legal considerations over every line I said, because Lindy Chamberlain was pressing the government to be exonerated. Along with all the other challenges of making a movie, to have lawyers sitting there… There was no doubt in my mind that she was innocent. And they did exonerate her. But because of her manner, she was condemned. She wasn’t the weeping, screaming, bereaved mother – she was more like ‘None’a your fucking business how I feel!’ There are people you just want to tell, ‘You know, you’ll get further in life if you just…’ She was vilified for the shape of her eyebrows, because they pointed down and she looked mad all the time.”

Through My Eyes by Lindy Chamberlain (1991)
Lindy Chamberlain: The Full Story by Ken Crispin (1989)
Evil Angels by John Bryson (1987)

Nov 29

Roberta Guaspari’s story had Hollywood written all over it: A mother of two young sons emerges from a failed marriage and finds her calling teaching violin at a New York City public school in East Harlem. When budget cuts threaten to close her program, she fights City Hall and wins. In 1999, eight years after Guaspari’s efforts were first chronicled by the media, Roberta’s story was brought to the screen in Wes Craven’s Oscar-nominated drama “Music of the Heart”.

Roberta Guaspari began studying violin in fourth grade. She eventually graduated with a music education degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 1969. While working on her master’s at Boston University, she met George Tzavaras, a Navy officer studying at MIT. “I was 24, Italian and not married,” she says. “The pressure was on from my family.” They wed in 1971. As George rose through Navy ranks – with postings in Honolulu and Newport, R.I. – the family was always on the move. Teaching violin and persuading school administrators to invest in musical instruments proved a dauntingly tough career choice, especially after the birth of the couple’s two sons. Finally, when the family moved to Greece in 1977, Roberta devised a solution. Withdrawing $5,000 from the family savings, she bought 50 tiny violins and persuaded the headmaster of the British-run Campion School to hire her. No sooner had Guaspari-Tzavaras established herself there than George asked for a divorce. “It was the lowest point of my life,” she says.

Roberta Guaspari’s passionate struggle to keep music instruction alive in Harlem’s public schools has inspired two films: Small Wonders, a 1996 documentary produced by Susan Kaplan and directed by Allan Miller, and Miramax’s 1999 feature film, Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep.

But Guaspari-Tzavaras rebounded. With her sons – and violins – in tow, she moved to New York City in 1980, subletting an East Harlem apartment from a couple whose children attended Central Park East schools, a city-run alternative program. That led to an introduction to the school’s music-loving principal, Deborah Meier, and a part-time job. Three years later, when she was hired full-time, Guaspari-Tzavaras had fallen in love again – this time with her gritty new neighborhood, where she lovingly restored the townhouse she lives in with Sophia, a 5-year-old from El Salvador, whom she adopted in 1991. “My mother really needs to come home and be a mother,” says Alexi. “She is just as passionate about mothering as she is about teaching.”

And there are those who are passionate about her. In 1993, world-class violinists, including Itzhak Perlman and Arnold Steinhardt, helped organize a Carnegie Hall benefit concert that raised nearly $300,000 for her program. “This woman has an incredible, demonic amount of energy,” says violin virtuoso Isaac Stern. “She draws things out of the kids. And from her they gain a sense of self.” That’s certainly true for Guaspari-Tzavaras alum Melia Crumbley, 15. When kids who hang out on the street mock her for spending so much time practicing, says Melia, “I just look them right back in the eye and say, ‘What are you doing with your life?” A documentary film about Roberta called Small Wonders was nominated for an Academy Award in 1996. Further developments inspired by this teacher include a feature film, released in October 1999. Music of the Heart starred Meryl Streep as real-life violin teacher Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras.

The Character

Meryl Streep was a literally last-minute replacement for Wes Craven’s “Music of the Heart”, after Madonna dropped out of the project. Streep was given six weeks for preparation in order to play the violin. “I had to beg them to give me some more time for the violin part of it.” Streep, aside from having the daunting task of learning the violin while acting like a professional, also had the burden of playing a real person. She found this to be particularly challenging. “Playing a real person carries with it a whole other set of responsibilities than you would have when creating a fictional character,” Streep continues, “So, I did as much research as I could and then I just sort of threw it away because I can’t think of the real Roberta. I had to make it our Roberta, our movie Roberta. The real woman is a sizable phenomenon of energy, inspiration, hard work, irascibility. I tried to capture little parts of her and put it together in the film.”

Nov 29

“I came here to forgive, but all I can do is taking pleasure in your misery. Knowing that I would get to see you die, more terribly than I did”. In an Emmy-winning performance in “Angels in America”, Meryl Streep played the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, visiting – and haunting – lawyer Roy Cohn on his deathbed. What lies behind this tragic-coming episode of the award-winning mini-series is a tragic and still controversial episode of the 1950’s anti-communist hysteria.

Ethel Rosenberg was born September 28, 1915 in New York City. She attended a religious school and then Seward Park High School, where she graduated at the age of only 15. Ethel became a clerk for a shipping company immediately after finishing school. She remained at this job for the next four years until she was let go because of her role as the organizer of a strike of 150 women workers. Ethel was not just an activist at work, she was also interested in politics. Ethel joined the Young Communist League and eventually became a member of the American Communist Party. In addition to her clerk job, Ethel enjoyed singing, alone as well as with a choir. Ethel was waiting to go on stage to sing at a New Years Eve benefit when she first met Julius Rosenberg. The couple was married not long afterwards in the summer of 1939. Although mentally tough, Ethel Rosenberg’s body was weak. She was not healthy enough to work after the Rosenberg’s were married. Instead, Ethel stayed home with their two sons Michael and Robert. By the summer of 1950, Ethel’s younger brother, David Greenglass, had named Julius as a participant in the spy ring. The FBI questioned her husband and eventually placed him under arrest. On August 11, 1950, Ethel Rosenberg was herself arrested.

In this 1951 file photo, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are shown during their trial for espionage in New York City. The third picture shows Ethel and Julius after their conviction.

Ethel Rosenberg and her husband, Julius were convicted of passing nuclear weapons secrets to the Soviet Union and were executed in 1953. Since then, decrypted Soviet cables have appeared to confirm that he was a spy, but doubts have remained about her role. At the Rosenbergs’ trial, the key testimony against Ethel Rosenberg came from her brother and sister-in-law, David and Ruth Greenglass. They testified that Ethel Rosenberg had typed stolen atomic secrets from notes provided by David Greenglass. The testimony provided the direct involvement that the jury needed to convict and that the judge needed to sentence Ethel to death. In recent years, David Greenglass recanted his testimony about the typing. Historians spotted a major omission in Ruth Greenglass’ pretrial grand jury testimony: She did not testify that she saw Ethel Rosenberg type up the secrets. In fact, Ruth Greenglass testified that she herself wrote out the secrets in longhand. Soviet cables described material received from the Rosenbergs as being in longhand. Ruth Greenglass’ pretrial testimony confirms that her husband’s trial claim was a fabrication, said Georgetown University law professor David Vladeck, who helped gain release of the transcripts.

Roy Cohn, as portrayed by Al Pacino in “Angels in America”, was an American conservative lawyer who became famous during the investigations by Senator Joseph McCarthy into alleged Communists in the U.S. government, and especially during the Army-McCarthy Hearings. He was also an important member of the prosecution team for the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Cohn’s direct examination of Ethel’s brother David Greenglass produced the testimony (in which the brother later claimed he perjured himself) that was mostly responsible for the Rosenbergs’ conviction and execution. Cohn took great pride in the Rosenberg case, and claimed to have played an even greater part than his public role: he said in his autobiography that his own influence had led to both Saypol and Judge Irving Kaufman (a family friend) being appointed to the case, and that Kaufman had imposed the death penalty on Cohn’s personal advice. A homosexual in the closet, Cohn was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984 and attempted to keep his condition secret while receiving aggressive drug treatment. He insisted to his dying day that his disease was liver cancer. A controversial man in life, Cohn inspired many dramatic fictional portrayals after his death. Probably the most famous is his role in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, in which Cohn is portrayed as a self-hating, power-hungry hypocrite who is haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg.

The Character

While not a biopic or an in-depth look at Rosenberg’s life, Meryl Streep played “the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg” in Mike Nichols’ acclaimed television adaptation of “Angels in America” in 2003. While speaking to Interview Magazine to promote its release, Streep said “I just thought her story was so horrific that there had to be something else. Plus she had God on her side, so there’s something to smile about there. But I don’t know where these things come from. She was just there at the first reading.”

Nov 29

The making of the cultural phenomenon that was Julia Child had three key ingredients: a man, a meal, and a TV camera. Five years after Child’s death, as Meryl Streep plays the woman who revolutionized America’s relationship with food, cinema audiences learned more about the wartime romance between Julia and her husband Paul, the television appearance that turned her into “The French Chef” – and her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” into a kitchen bible.

Born Julia McWilliams, on August 15, 1912, in Pasadena, California. The eldest of three children, Julia was educated at San Francisco’s elite Katherine Branson School for Girls, where – at a towering height of 6 feet, 2 inches – she was the tallest student in her class. Upon her graduation from Smith College in 1930, she moved to New York, where she worked in the advertising department of the prestigious home furnishings company W&J Sloane. In 1941, at the onset of World War II, Julia moved to Washington, D.C., where she volunteered as a research assistant for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a newly formed government intelligence agency. She and her colleagues were sent on assignment to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), an island off the coast of India. In her position, Julia played a key role in the communication of top secret documents between U.S. government officials and their intelligence officers. In 1945, she was sent to China, where she began a relationship with fellow OSS employee Paul Child. Following the end of World War II, the couple returned to America and were married. In 1948, when Paul was reassigned to the U.S. Information Service at the American Embassy in Paris, the Childs moved to France. While there, Julia developed a penchant for French cuisine and attended the world-famous Cordon Bleu cooking school.

Following her six-month training – which included private lessons with master chef Max Bugnard – Julia banded with fellow Cordon Bleu students Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle to form the cooking school L’Ecole de Trois Gourmandes. With a goal of adapting sophisticated French cuisine for mainstream Americans, the trio collaborated on a two-volume cookbook titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). Published in the U.S., the 800-page book was considered a groundbreaking work and has since become a standard guide for the culinary community. Then living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Julia promoted her book on the Boston public broadcasting station. Displaying her trademark forthright manner and hearty humor, she prepared an omelet on air. The public’s response was so enthusiastic that she was invited back to tape her own series on cookery for the network. Premiering on WGBH in 1962, The French Chef TV series, like Mastering the Art of French Cooking, succeeded in changing the way Americans related to food, while also establishing Julia as a local celebrity. Shortly thereafter, The French Chef was syndicated to 96 stations throughout America. For her efforts, Julia received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 1964 followed by an Emmy Award in 1966.

Julia Child with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle cooking fish at L’école des Trois Gourmandes (courtesy The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts). A production still from her famed television show “The French Chef”. With husband Paul in their kitchen of their home in Cambridge in 1966. Child donated her kitchen to the National Museum of American History in 2001.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Julia made regular appearances on the ABC morning show Good Morning, America. Her other endeavors included the television programs Julia Child and Company (1978), Julia Child and More Company (1980), and Dinner at Julia’s (1983), as well as a slew of bestselling cookbooks that covered every aspect of culinary knowledge. In 1993, Julia was the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. Her most recent cookbooks were In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs (1995), Julia’s Delicious Little Dinners (1998), and Julia’s Casual Dinners (1999), which were all accompanied by highly rated television specials. In November 2000, following a 40-year career that has made her name synonymous with fine food, Julia received France’s highest honor: the Legion d’Honneur. And in August 2002, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History unveiled an exhibit featuring the kitchen where she filmed three of her popular cooking shows. Child died in August 2004 of kidney failure at her assisted-living home in Montecito, two days before her 92nd birthday. After her death Child’s last book, the autobiographyMy Life in France, was published with the help of Child’s great nephew, Alex Prud’homme. The book, which centered on how Child discovered her true calling, became a best seller.

The Character

Meryl Streep talked about Julia Child in length while promoting “Julie & Julia” in 2009. “When you talk about passion, Julia Child just didn’t have it for her husband or cooking; she had a passion for living. What was compelling about her was her joie de vivre and her unwillingness to be bogged down in negativity. She loved being alive and that’s inspirational in itself. I saw her cooking shows when I was a kid. She was a pioneer because she was one of the first women on television who wasn’t an entertainer and she was already 50 years old, with her personality indelibly created by her own life experience. There was no focus group telling her how to dress and look, and her generous nature was what drew people to her. Julia’s personality was so much like my mother’s that I felt very familiar with it. My mother had an undeniable sense of how to enjoy her life, and she made every room she walked into brighter. She really was something, and all my life I wanted to be more like my mother. So this is my little tribute to that spirit. Unfortunately, in my own life I can be a real whiner. The cookbook my mother used was Peg Bracken’s I Hate To Cook. I remember when I was 10 going over to a friend’s house and she and her mom were seated at the kitchen table and they were doing something with what looked liked tennis balls, these big white things. They said, ‘We’re making mashed potatoes.’ I went, ‘What do you mean? Mashed potatoes come in a box.’ I’d never seen a peeled potato. My mother’s motto was, ‘If it’s not done in 20 minutes, it’s not dinner.’ She had a lot of things that she wanted to do and cooking was not one of them.”

Here’s a list of Julia Child’s many books. A link on the title will forward you to Amazon. Most of the books are still available and can be ordered.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two (1970) with Simone Beck
The French Chef Cookbook (1968)
From Julia Child’s Kitchen (1975)
Julia Child & Company (1978)
Julia Child & More Company (1979)
The Way To Cook (1989)
Julia Child’s Menu Cookbook (1991), one-volume edition
Cooking With Master Chefs (1993)
In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs (1995)
Baking with Julia (1996)
Julia’s Delicious Little Dinners (1998)
Julia’s Menus For Special Occasions (1998)
Julia’s Breakfasts, Lunches & Suppers (1999)
Julia’s Casual Dinners (1999)
Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home (1999)
Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom (2000)
My Life in France (2006, posthumous), with Alex Prud’Homme

Nov 29

From her first days in power, Margaret Thatcher developed and refined ways of circumventing political protocol and procedure. Serving three consecutive terms in office until 1991, Thatcher remains one of the dominant political figures of 20th century Britain- and one of the most controversal in history. Her life and career was portrayed in fragments and flashbacks by Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on 13 October 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, the daughter of a grocer. She went to Oxford University and then became a research chemist, retraining to become a barrister in 1954. In 1951, she married a wealthy businessman, Denis Thatcher, with whom she had two children. Thatcher became Conservative member of parliament for Finchley in north London in 1959, serving as its MP until 1992. Her first parliamentary post was junior minister for pensions in Harold Macmillan’s government. From 1964 to 1970, when Labour were in power, she served in a number of positions in Edward Heath’s shadow cabinet. Heath became prime minister in 1970 and Thatcher was appointed secretary for education. After the Conservatives were defeated in 1974, Thatcher challenged Heath for the leadership of the party and, to the surprise of many, won. On 19 January, 1976, Thatcher made a speech in Kensington Town Hall in which she made a scathing attack on the Soviet Union. “The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen.

Margaret Thatcher, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science, speaks from the platform at the Tory Party annual conference in Brighton, England in October 1967. With husband Denis, Thatcher waves to well-wishers outside Number 10 Downing Street following her election victory, on May 4, 1979. Seen at the end of the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool on Ocotber 13, 1989.

The men in the Soviet Politburo do not have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns.” In response, the Soviet Defence Ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) gave her the nickname “Iron Lady”. Thatcher took delight in the name, and it soon became associated with her image. Despite an economic recovery in the late 1970s, the Labour government faced public unease about the direction of the country and a damaging series of strikes during the winter of 1978–79, popularly dubbed the “Winter of Discontent”. The Conservatives attacked the Labour government’s unemployment record, using advertising with the slogan Labour Isn’t Working. A general election was called after James Callaghan’s government lost a motion of no confidence in early 1979. The Conservatives won a 44-seat majority in the House of Commons, and Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s first female Prime Minister.

If our people feel that they are part of a great nation and they are prepared to will the means to keep it great, a great nation we shall be, and shall remain. So, what can stop us from achieving this? What then stands in our way? The prospect of another winter of discontent? I suppose it might. But I prefer to believe that certain lessons have been learnt from experience, that we are coming, slowly, painfully, to an autumn of understanding. And I hope that it will be followed by a winter of common sense. If it is not, we shall not be—diverted from our course. To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the ‘U-turn’, I have only one thing to say: “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning. (Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Party Conference, 10 October 1980)

An advocate of privatisation of state-owned industries and utilities, reform of the trade unions, the lowering of taxes and reduced social expenditure across the board, Thatcher’s policies succeeded in reducing inflation, but unemployment dramatically increased. In 1982, the ruling military junta in Argentina ordered the invasion of the British Falkland Islands and South Georgia, triggering the Falklands War. The subsequent crisis was “a defining moment of Thatcher’s premiership”. She set up and chaired a small War Cabinet (formally called ODSA, Overseas and Defence committee, South Atlantic) to take charge of the conduct of the war, which by 5–6 April had authorised and dispatched a naval task force to retake the islands. Argentina surrendered on 14 June and the operation was hailed a success, notwithstanding the deaths of 255 British servicemen and 3 Falkland Islanders. Thatcher was criticised for the neglect of the Falklands’ defence that led to the war, but overall she was considered a highly talented and committed war leader. The “Falklands factor”, an economic recovery beginning early in 1982, and a bitterly divided Labour opposition contributed to Thatcher’s second election victory in 1983. In 1984, she narrowly escaped death when the IRA planted a bomb at the Conservative party conference in Brighton. In foreign affairs, Thatcher cultivated a close political and personal relationship with US president Ronald Reagan, based on a common mistrust of communism, combined with free-market economic ideology. Critics have accused Margaret Thatcher of lacking a unified set of policies for much of her rule, but a set of practices and ideals have become identified with both her and her government: these are known as Thatcherism. The Thatcher government set about privatising most of the industries run by the government, including water, electricity and the trains, selling them off relatively cheaply to new private companies. She also clamped down heavily on trade unions, passing laws designed to curb strikes, closed shops and sympathy strikes.

1974: Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative environment spokeswoman, with party chairman William Whitelaw at the Conservative conference. With Ronald Reagan at The Chamber Of Communes in London on November 28, 1978. And in 1983, Thatcher engages with the personell aboard the HMS Antrim during her visit to the Falkland Islands.

One of the pivotal events of her government occurred in 1984: the Miners Strike. Britain’s miners protested the government closure of “uneconomic” pits. Thatcher organised Britain around the striking miners and forced them back into work with no concessions. Other aspects of Thatcherism included selling council houses to tenants, reducing social service expenses, limits on print money and a dislike of growing European federalism. She also lowered taxes. A fierce, combative approach, a strong individualism and other aspects of her personal style became closely identified with her politics. In the 1987 general election, Thatcher won an unprecedented third term in office. But controversial policies, including the poll tax and her opposition to any closer integration with Europe, produced divisions within the Conservative Party which led to a leadership challenge. In November 1990, she agreed to resign and was succeeded as party leader and prime minister by John Major.

Not long after leaving office, Thatcher was appointed to the House of Lords, as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in 1992. She experienced her experiences as a world leader and a pioneering woman in the field of politics in two books, The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995). In 2002, Thatcher’s book, Statecraft, was published and offered her views on international politics. Around this time, Thatcher had a series of small strokes. She suffered a great personal loss in 2003 when her husband Denis died—the couple had been married for more than 50 years. In 2005, Thatcher celebrated her eightieth birthday. A huge event was held in her honor and was attended by Queen Elizabeth, Tony Blair, and nearly 600 other friends, family members, and former colleagues. Two years later, a sculpture of the strong conservative leader was unveiled in the House of Commons. While her policies and actions are still debated by detractors and supporters alike, Thatcher has left an indelible impression on Britain and world politics.

The Character

Upon Margaret Thatcher’s passing in 2013, Meryl Streep released a statement on the Former Prime Minister: “Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics. It is hard to imagine a part of our current history that has not been affected by measures she put forward in the UK at the end of the 20th century. Her hard-nosed fiscal measures took a toll on the poor and her hands-off approach to financial regulation led to great wealth for others. There is an argument that her steadfast, almost emotional loyalty to the pound sterling has helped the UK weather the storms of European monetary uncertainty. But to me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit. To have come up, legitimately, through the ranks of the British political system, class bound and gender phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement. To have won it, not because she inherited position as the daughter of a great man, or the widow of an important man, but by dint of her own striving.

To have withstood the special hatred and ridicule, unprecedented in my opinion, leveled in our time at a public figure who was not a mass murderer; and to have managed to keep her convictions attached to fervent ideals and ideas – wrongheaded or misguided as we might see them now – without corruption – I see that as evidence of some kind of greatness, worthy for the argument of history to settle. To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable. I was honored to try to imagine her late life journey, after power; but I have only a glancing understanding of what her many struggles were, and how she managed to sail through to the other side. I wish to convey my respectful condolences to her family and many friends.”

Margaret Thatcher: The Autobiography by Margaret Thatcher (April 2013)
Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World by Margaret Thatcher (2002)
Messages from Croatia by Margaret Thatcher (1998)
The Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher by Margaret Thatcher (1998)
The Path to Power by Margaret Thatcher (1995)
The Downing Street Years by Margaret Thatcher (1993)
The Revival of Britain by Margaret Thatcher and Alistair Cooke (1989)
Britain and Europe by Margaret Thatcher (1988)
In Defence of Freedom: Speeches on Britain’s Relations With the World by Margaret Thatcher (1987)
Margaret Thatcher in Her Own Words by Macdonald Daly and Alexander George (1987)
Let Our Children Grow Tall: Selected Speeches, 1975-77 by Margaret Thatcher (1977)