Hollywood History, Home Economics, and Other Letters to the Editor

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For the editor:

To J. Hoberman’s Roundup of Hollywood History Books (June 13), add “The Movie Musical!” 2019 by Jeanine Basinger! Beginning with Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, it’s all there – Eddie Cantor, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Busby Berkeley, Lena Horne, Shirley Temple, Barbra Streisand and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, among so many others. Plus: musical directors, Broadway shows turned into movies, biopics about composers, singers and dancers, operettas, animated musicals and a look at why some stars of Broadway musicals aren’t never became famous in Hollywood.

Donald Nawi
Scarsdale, NY

For the editor:

I was disappointed that no books about Latinos and Latinas in Hollywood were mentioned in J. Hoberman’s list.

Since Hispanics have been part of the Dream Factory for over a hundred years (from Dolores del Rio to Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn, Rita Moreno and Raquel Welch, among many others), I would highly recommend Clara Rodriguez’s 2004 book , “Heroes, Lovers, and More: The History of Latinos in Hollywood.”

Alexander Lugo
ParkForest, Illinois.

For the editor:

I enjoyed reading J. Hoberman’s list of Hollywood chronicles, but would like to suggest an additional title, particularly in honor of Pride month: “The Celluloid Closet”, by Vito Russo, from 1981.

Steven Ripley
Seattle

For the editor:

On May 18, a review of my book “Proof of Life: Twenty Days in Search of a Missing Person in the Middle East” appeared on the New York Times website. Originally titled “How do you find an American missing in Syria?” – then corrected to “How do you find a man who disappeared in Syria?” after my editor pointed out that the missing person’s nationality is not disclosed in my book – Theo Padnos’ review contained troubling errors.

Padnos initially claims that a dinner companion mentioned in the book, whom I had approached for information, was “an intelligence agent in the service of the Emir of Qatar”. He is neither. It was only after my editor and I drew attention to the error that the copy was edited to identify him as “an extremely well-connected Saudi”.

Much of Padnos’ comment implies that I have never been to Syria. On the contrary, I regularly worked and spent time in Syria, including during Padnos’ period of captivity in Aleppo.

Finally, I am intrigued by the doubts expressed by Padnos that the person I helped to save may not exist. As he knows, many kidnapping victims and their families prefer not to maintain a public profile. The fact that Padnos cannot find a reference to the person online is irrelevant.

Daniel Levin
new York

For the editor:

I was delighted to see Virginia Postrel’s June 13 review of Danielle Dreilinger’s “The Secret History of Home Economics,” but it pained me to read the author’s questioning of the academic relevance of domestic economy. The discipline sheds light on how families are organized and how they interact with other institutions in and across time. Covid-19 has brought a whole new generation to these questions. During its circulation, the At Home section of this document was a weekly reminder of the relevance of home economics.

Sara Gable
Colombia, Mo.

For the editor:

Reviewing “The Secret History of Home Economics” reminded me of my eighth grade sewing class at PS 139 in Brooklyn in 1947.

Each girl in the school sewed her own graduation dress by hand. We all used the exact same pattern (in our particular size) but could choose any white material. During each sewing period we were taught the next step and returned the following week to continue the process. We were truly a vision on graduation day.

Since then, I love to sew. My only regret was that while all the girls were in sewing class, all the boys were in boutique class. Although I enjoyed making my graduation gown and other sewing projects, I envied the boys in the shop. How I wanted to make bookends!

Jane Feder
Long Beach, New York

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