Media Resource Guide
Distributors of Audio and Visual Supplements to Your American Literature Course
Many excellent films, videos, and audiocassettes on American literature are available for purchase through various commercial distributors. (Contact the distributors directly for possible rental options.) The list here is provided merely as a convenient resource. Reliable sources of media are listed, along with some of the more popular selections that are available. All descriptions included here are reprinted with permission from the distributors' own catalogues. The list is organized alphabetically by author name within each genre.
Index of Sources
CAED Caedmon 800/242-7737
FHS Films for the Humanities and Sciences
In New Jersey:
Outside New Jersey:
UIFC University of Illinois Film/Video Center
ING Ingram's Entertainment Inc.
Great American Poetry Performance by Vincent Price, Julie Harris, Eddie Albert, Helen Gahagan Douglas, Ed Begley
This collection of American poetry starts with the earliest lyrics of Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, written in the eighteenth century. It includes poems through the nineteenth century by poets as varied as Stephen Crane and Emily Dickinson.
Gwendolyn Brooks Reading Her Poetry Performance by Gwendolyn Brooks
Upon listening to Gwendolyn Brooks read her poetry, one immediately notices the forceful and quiet movement of her words. The black experience which reflects the writer's inner self, her total being, is exemplary in her poetry. A black woman of African descent, she is, as these poems show, constantly listening, learning, growing, and giving.
This self-portrait--told in the poet's own voice, poetry, paintings and notebooks--visits the scenes, people and events that shaped his vision and takes the viewer beyond the superficial complexities of the printed poetry to the simple joys and deep emotion of the poems. (24 min., color)
Emily Dickinson: A Self-Portrait
Performance by Julie Harris
This is a portrait of the gifted poet composed of selections from her letters and poems, including "To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,"
"I cautious scanned my little life" and others.
Poems and Letters of Emily Dickinson
Performance by Julie Harris
This collection of Emily Dickinson's best poems is interspersed with the letters she wrote to those close to her. In the letters one senses the sensitive, retiring nature which kept her almost a recluse, yet provided her with ample material for her poetry.
Authors: Emily Dickinson
A professional actress re-creates the personality of the famous poet, in a garden monologue scene. Recounting some of her attitudes regarding significant events and people in her life, she treats the viewer to the conversation she so rarely accorded anyone during her lifetime. Several of her poems are meshed into the monologue.
Robert Frost: A First Acquaintance
This film takes us through Frost's familiar woods on a snowy evening, past the birches, mending walls and pastures, down the road not taken. We see him reading his poems, and his daughter Lesley discussing his poetic theories with a class of intermediate-schoolers. (16 min., color)
The Poetry and Voice of Marilyn Hacker
Performance by Marilyn Hacker
Hacker's poetry is jarring, as great truths often are. Her words are meant to be heard, and she is a voice of truth. Ms. Hacker is the winner of numerous awards in poetry and has been widely published. She is another of a group of poets selected jointly with The Poetry Center of the YM-YWHA.
Sylvia Plath Reading Her Poetry
Performance by Sylvia Plath
Selections recorded at the Poetry Room, Harvard College Library, 1958-59 and at BBC Records, London, 1960-62
Sylvia Plath: Letters Home
A dramatic reading of the letters Plath wrote her mother during the years she was developing into a brilliant poet while descending into a psychological hell. With Anna Nigh and June Brown. (90 min., color)
This film captures Ezra Pound in his eighties, retracing his life from Idaho through Philadelphia to England, then Paris and his association with Joyce, Stein, Hemingway, and finally to Rapallo and Venice. The film highlights Pound reading some of his poems. (281/2 min., b&w)
Anne Sexton Reads Her Poetry
Performance by Anne Sexton
Many of Anne Sexton's poems are at least ostensibly about family history, personal and other intimate experience, mental collapse or sexual encounters. On this record the distinguished poet reads from a number of her books, including To Bedlam and Part Way Back, All My Pretty Ones and The Book of Folly.
Edna St. Vincent Millay Reading her Poetry
Performance by Edna St. Vincent Millay
These poems were recorded by Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1941, when she was forty-nine. The poems she chose to read spanned her creative life up to that moment, reflecting each of the many impulses under which she had written; love, compassion, spirituality, sophistication, tenderness and love of the world of nature.
Poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay
Performance by Dame Judith Anderson
The poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay in their bittersweet evocation of love and disappointment retain, many years after they were written, a distinctive freshness and charm. They are read by Dame Judith Anderson whose deep musical voice lends them new depth and meaning.
Lorraine Hansberry Speaks Out: Art and the Black Revolution
Edited by Robert Nemiroff
Performance by Lorraine Hansberry
Prior to her untimely death at the age of thirty-four, America's most distinguished black woman playwright discussed her own work and philosophy, the theater, the black experience and the challenge of the artist in mid-twentieth-century America.
A Raisin in the Sun
Performance by Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Leonard Jackson, Zakes Mokae, Sam Schacht, Harold Scott.
At the time of her death in 1965 at the age of thirty-four, Lorraine Hansberry was recognized as one of America's leading playwrights. That recognition rested primarily on her much-acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun. It is a drama about a very simple family's struggle to maintain its dignity, its self-respect and, above all, its sense of humanity. Directed by Lloyd Richards.
A Raisin in the Sun
Performance by Sydney Poitier
Videocassette CODE: 147290
Death of a Salesman
Performance by Dustin Hoffman
To be Young, Gifted and Black
Edited by Robert Nemiroff
Performance by James Earl Jones, Barbara Baxley, Claudia McNeil, Tina Sattin, Camille Yarbrough, Garn Stephens, John Towey
To Be Young, Gifted and Black is a portrait of a truly remarkable woman--the story of Lorraine Hansberry in her own words. No frozen or dated material, it is instead a glowing, vibrant celebration of the human spirit, the intense expression of her vision of the possibilities of humanity. Directed by Gigi Cascio and Robert Nemiroff.
The Glass Menagerie
American Short Story: I'm a Fool
How does a poor boy meet a rich girl? Ron Howard portrays a smitten young man who pretends to be wealthy in order to impress the girl of his dreams (Amy Irving). Based on a Sherwood Anderson story, with his favorite theme of young boys growing into manhood.
Willa Cather's America
This film shows Cather's places and characters--the wild American land and the people on it, her choice of characters and her preference for large, empty spaces-the red grass prairie of My Antonia, the New Mexico canyons of Death Comes to the Archbishop, the gray caverns of New York. (60 min., color)
American Short Story: Paul's Case
Henry Fonda provides biographical notes on Willa Cather and introduces her short story of a young man whose romantic vision of life is at odds with the reality of his existence. Paul tries desperately to escape this reality when he is expelled from school and is forced into an office job by his father. He steals money from the company and leaves Philadelphia for the "good life" in turn-of-the-century New York, the city of his dreams. With Eric Roberts as Paul.
Kate Chopin: The Joy that Kills
The setting is Kate Chopin's own late-19th century world--the upper-class Creole society of New Orleans in the 1870s, whose code of behavior required a wife to subordinate herself totally to her husband. Blue Ribbon, 1984 American Film Festival. (56 min, color)
Authors: James Fenimore Cooper
Recreates in the form of a dramatic monologue the personal background of the first American novelist to become a worldwide success.
Authors: Stephen Crane
Stephen Crane made a considerable literary reputation in a very short lifetime: he died at the age of 28. His youth, his learning experiences, his rebellion against his strict upbringing, his desire to convey the horror of the wars he witnessed, and his battle with the tuberculosis which killed him are all recreated.
American Short Story: The Blue Hotel
An adaptation of Stephen Crane's story about a Swedish immigrant and the senseless tragedy he may or may not have caused in a frontier Nebraska hotel. Directed by Jan Kadar. Stars David Warner and James Keach. Introduction by Henry Fonda.
American Short Story: Barn Burning
An introduction by Henry Fonda gives background information on William Faulkner--and sets the stage for the story which covers a few days in the life of a poor sharecropper family in the South of the late 1800's. A young boy comes to terms with his own conscience when he rejects his father's defiant and vengeful manner of settling disputes with rich landowners by stealthily setting fire to their farm buildings. Stars Tommy Lee Jones and Shawn Whittington.
American Short Story: Bernice Bobs Her Hair
Adapted from the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and introduced by Colleen Dewhurst, this film has as its setting a small midwestern town in the summer of 1919. Bernice (Shelley Duvall) is the dull country cousin who is the summer guest of the flirtatious Marjorie (Veronica Cartwright). Under Marjorie's tutelage, Bernice acquires the art of catching the eye of teenage males, and soon she is outdoing her instructor. She startles a dinner party by announcing that she is even going to bob her hair.
American Short Story: The Sky is Gray
Host Henry Fonda introduces background material for Ernest J. Gaines' portrait of a young black boy's visit to a small Louisiana town in the early 1940's to see a dentist. From the series of events that befall him and his mother he comes to a social and self awareness of what it means to be black in a white world. The boy learns that what he took for cruelty and a lack of caring in his mother are in reality her way of preparing him to survive in a world where it is hard to maintain pride and self-respect. Starring Olivia Cole, James Bond III, and Cleavon Little.
American Short Story: Rappaccini's Daughter
Rappaccini tricks a young man into his `garden of Eden' to be Adam to his daughter's Eve. The suitor, like the daughter who is ignorant of her father's scheme, becomes infected with the poison from the plants in the garden which renders both unfit to live outside the garden. Based on a tale by Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose biography is summarized by Henry Fonda.
The only major film biography of Hemingway, this program shows the relationship between Hemingway's life and works, and evaluates both. Containing old photographs, newsreel footage and clips from the big Hemingway features, it takes us to the neighborhood where Hemingway was born and grew up, to his home, school, and church, to Chicago, Kansas City, Paris, Pamplona, Venice, East Africa, London, Key West, Cuba and Idaho. (55 min., color)
American Short Story: Soldier's Home
Harold Krebs, a World War I soldier, is returning home after the greeting of heroes is over. He is in need of peace and time, while the rest of the world is hurrying on and his family and friends are pressing him to rejoin a community in which he feels alien. Now, wanting only to make his life run smoothly, to avoid lies and complications, he struggles to make sense of the past and to face honestly the uncertainty of the future. Adapted from the short story by Ernest Hemingway and introduced by Colleen Dewhurst. Stars Richard Backus and Nancy Marchland.
Authors: Henry James
James is portrayed by actor Rube Weiss, who delivers an autobiographical monologue among period settings in a deserted theater. He recounts his relationships with his famous family, his feelings about his own accomplishments, his observations about the differences in European and American character, formed by living in each culture during significant lengths of time.
American Short Story: The Jolly Corner
Adapted from a short story by Henry James and introduced by Colleen Dewhurst. After many years in Europe, Spencer Brydon returns to this native New York at the end of the nineteenth century. His nighttime visits to his now vacant family home, "the jolly corner," convince him that a ghostly presence residing there embodies the secret of what he might have been. He resumes a relationship with Alice Staverton, a young woman with whom he shared his youth, and becomes involved in the reconstruction of inherited property. Gradually becoming obsessed with the alter ego he senses in the jolly corner, his pursuit of his other identity leads up to the climactic confrontation with the ghost. Stars Fritz Weaver and Salome Jens.
American Short Story: The Golden Honeymoon
Host Henry Fonda provides commentary on Ring Lardner's life and work in this introduction to this account of an elderly couple who take a winter vacation to St. Petersburg, Florida in the 1920's to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. The "golden honeymoon" is marred when they happen to meet another couple. Old insecurities, jealousies, and defenses reappear in the husband when he finds out his wife had turned down the other gentleman's marriage proposal 52 years before. Stars James Whitmore and Teresa Wright.
To Be A Slave
Performance by Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Julius Lester
Thousands of slave autobiographies were published between 1830 and 1860 and used as propaganda in the Abolitionist struggle. In the narratives of the lives of these slaves, Julius Lester found much valuable information which he used to create his memorable book, on which this recording is based.
My Jack London
A daughter's remembrance of the man behind the much-loved action stories whose rugged plots and realistic style influenced writers from Hemingway to Orwell. (25 min., color)
Herman Melville: "Bartleby the Scrivener"
Melville's great sardonic and symbolic story of a law copyist who refuses to conform, responding to all requests with, "I prefer not to." (59 min., color)
Authors: Herman Melville
The spirit of Melville is captured with an autobiographical narration beginning, appropriately, on the rigging of a ship. Melville tells of his early adult years as an adventuring seaman, the mysterious rejection of his greatest work, and his years of discouragement and poverty.
American Short Story: The Displaced Person
In the late 1940's, Mrs. McIntyre, widowed owner of a Georgia dairy farm, welcomes a new hired hand and his family, Polish refugees from Europe. An elderly priest has arranged for the new family's placement, but obsessed with preaching the scriptures, he does not succeed in integrating the refugees with the people on the farm. Suspicion and hostility grow until all are brought together in a tragic act of complicity. Adapted from a short story by Flannery O'Connor and introduced by Colleen Dewhurst. Featured in the film are John Houseman, Irene Worth, Shirley Stoler, and Lane Smith.
Katherine Anne Porter
Dramatizations of the stories based on her childhood and commentary by Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren and Eleanor Clark mark this portrait of one of the giants of modern American short fiction. (56 min., color)
The Downward Path to Wisdom
Performance by Katherine Anne Porter
This complete short story by one of America's finest short story writers is an account of the first hardship in the life of a little boy. It is heartbreaking, but enchanting.
Performance by Katherine Anne Porter
This moving and terrifying short novel by Katherine Anne Porter reveals why she is considered a consummate stylist and outstanding storyteller. With a mixture of compassion and detachment, she tells the tale of murder and revenge in a small American town.
American Short Story: Noon Wine
Dramatizes Katherine Anne Porter's hauntingly rich and mysterious tale about a Swedish immigrant who begins a new life as a hired hand on a Texas farm at the turn of the century. Unwittingly and through no fault of his own, he causes the downfall of his newfound employer when a suspicious visitor comes to call.
American Short Story: The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
Dramatization of one of Katherine Anne Porter's short stories is preceded by a brief biographical sketch of the author, presented by Henry Fonda. Geraldine Fitzgerald stars as "Granny" who suffers all her life from flashbacks of the rejection on her wedding day.
Pale Horse, Pale Rider
Performance by Katherine Anne Porter
One of Katherine Anne Porter's finest stories, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, is a story of young love, with tragic complications of war and illness. Toward the end, when the heroine is at death's door, she has a unique vision of immortality.
Gertrude Stein Reads From Her Works
Performance by Gertrude Stein
The place of Gertrude Stein in American letters rests upon her brilliant reexamination of the English languages. Using words as the Cubists used line and color, she found new ways of expressing reality.
ISBN: 0-694-50039-9 LC: R56-659
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin
A work of enduring popularity-very much worth examining.
(45 min., color)
American Short Story: The Greatest Man in the World
James Thurber's style and background are discussed by Henry Fonda in the introduction to this satire about a man who is the first to fly non-stop around the world but is an illiterate lout. The news media and government officials fail dismally in their attempt to present him to the public as an international hero. Cynically illustrates the difference between truth and information shaped and distorted by the media to suit its own requirements. Stars Brad Davis, Carol Kane, and John McMartin.
American Short Story: The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg
Dramatizes Mark Twain's vision of hypocrisy in a small midwestern town of the late 1800's. Piqued by the sign "Lead us not into temptation," outside the village, a stranger decides that the local virtuousness needs to be tested. Host Henry Fonda reviews Mark Twain's background and literary accomplishments as well. Stars Robert Preston, Tom Alderedge and Frances Sternhagen.
American Short Story: Parker Adderson, Philosopher and the Music School
A pair of literary adaptations from PBS. Ambrose Bierce's Parker Adderson is an absorbing tale about a confrontation between a Confederate general and a Yankee spy. John Updike's "The Music School" is an intelligent telling of the liberating effect a pressured writer experiences while taking his child to music school.
American Short Story: Pigeon Feathers
Dramatizes the short story by John Updike concerning the seeking of a growing young boy as his family returns to a contemporary farm. David, dealing with a mother and father who were reluctant to return, Grandmother, who wanted very much to return, and the emotional meanings of the move for himself and others, finds no help in the advice of the adults, but a breakthrough in the beauty of nature.
Kurt Vonnegut: A Self-Portrait
Vonnegut shows us where he came from and how and why he writes as he does. The film examines his sources, the connections between satire and science fiction, and the intertwinings of experience, nightmare, fantasy and humor that comprise his principal works. (29 min., color)
American Short Story: D.P.
Dramatizes the Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., story set in the barren wasteland of post World-War II Germany. A lonely black orphan discovers the only other black he has ever seen--a soldier, and wistfully dubs him "papa." The soldier is then emotionally torn between duty and compassion.
Powerhouse and Petrified Man
Performance by Eudora Welty
In "Powerhouse", the story of a jazz pianist, the theme is the artist and the risks and humiliations he must venture and suffer. This story was inspired by many of the great black musicians of the 30s and 40s who toured the Deep South playing for white dances. "Petrified Man" was inspired by Welty's work for the WPA traveling the small towns of the South taking photographs of, among other subjects, carnival posters advertising "freaks" of various kinds.
Eudora Welty Reading
Performance by Eudora Welty
Among American writers of importance, Eudora Welty stands alone in her ability to create men and women of good raw earth. Crammed with animal vitality, her characters are, in the best stories, lusty, erratic, instinctive creatures, whose five senses open wide on the world.
American Short Story: The Revolt of Mother
Dramatizes Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's tale of an 1890's farm wife whose husband promised 19 years and four kids ago to build a house for her on the spot where he is now building a barn. Brings into focus the chasm between the thinking of the two sexes, and how one man assumed women can't think and plan. Stars Benjamin Bernouy, Frank Hamilton, Katherine Hiler, Amy Madigan, Jay Sanders, Rob Walker.
Thomas Wolfe: Look Homeward, Angel
An examination of Wolfe's Asheville roots--the sights and formative sounds to which he looked back in his first great novel, Look Homeward, Angel, but to which he could not go home again. (45 min., color)
Black Boy (Richard Wright)
Performance by Brock Peters
Black Boy, first published in 1945, tells the agonized story of Richard Wright growing up in the South, finding pleasure in reading and torment in making his way in a race-conscious and often cruel society. This is an abridged version of the autobiography.
American Short Story: Almos' A Man
Set in the sharecropper's South during the 1930's this is the story of a sixteen year old black boy who is determined to prove his manhood. David acquires a six shooter and, with wavering aim, accidentally kills a mule. His father demeans him in front of the landowner, who demands that he work 25 months to pay for the animal. At nightfall, armed with his gun and vague notions of manhood and independence, David hops aboard a passing freight train. Adapted from the short story by Richard Wright, with an introduction by Colleen Dewhurst. Features LeVar Burton as David.
Great American Indian Speeches Edited by Arthur S. Junaluska
Performance by Vine Deloria Jr., Arthur S. Junaluska
In the field of oratory the American Indian can show clear mastery. The eloquence of the speeches of Geronimo, Standing Bear, Cochise, Ten Bears and many others are preserved here, for listening and contemplation. Speeches by Powhatan; Canassatego; Chief Logan; Chief Buckangahelas; Pontiac; Red Jacket; Chief Tecumseh; Pushmataha; Red Eagle; Metea; Chief Patalesharo; Senachwine; Black Hawk; Arapooish; Chief John Ross; Chief Seattle; Little Crow; Cochise; Lone Wolf; Chief Ten Bears; Chief Satanta; Chief Manuelito; Chief Red Cloud; Little Raven; Chief Charlot; Chief Joseph; Geronimo; Black Elk; Standing Bear.
Great American Women's Speeches
Edited by Sharon Donovan
Performance by Eileen Heckart, Claudia McNeil, Mildred Natwick
When they spoke in public, these famous American women--Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone and others--did far more than call for their rights. They committed a political act that challenged the very roots of established sex prejudice.
Great Black Speeches
Edited by John Graham
Performance by Claudia McNeil, Norman Matlock
This recording includes speeches by four famous black Americans, written and delivered in the nineteenth century. Frederick Douglass appeals to the British people to examine their feelings about slavery and Booker T. Washington discusses the problems after Emancipation.