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A Death in the Family
Masterpiece Theatre A Death in the Family
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James Agee

The Nation: Agee reviews Hitchcock's Lifeboat, January 22, 1944
James Agee reviewed Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat for The Nation in 1944. Agee's respect for the director shines through his disappointment with the film.

I Hear America Singing: Poet
I Hear America Singing explores the history of the American concert song. Read a short biography of Agee and the text of his poem "Sure on This Shining Night." The verse was set to music by Samuel Barber; listen to an excerpt.

TVA: The Great Experiment
In 1933, Congress created the Tennessee Valley Authority primarily to provide flood control, navigation, and electric power in the Tennessee Valley region. Fortune magazine sent 23-year-old James Agee back to his hometown of Knoxville to cover FDR's newest program. Jack Neely, a Knoxville-based writer and historian, describes Agee's unlikely and poetic foray into business reporting.

New York State Writers Institute: The Night of the Hunter
After panning Robert Mitchum's performance in his review of Out of the Past for The Nation, Agee must have been surprised by Mitchum's performance as Harry Powell in Agee's own adaptation of The Night of the Hunter, by Davis Grubb. Kevin Hagopian of Penn State wonders if Agee could relate to the intensity of Mitchum's performance.

Agee Films: Agee Chronology
Agee Films, founded by award-winning filmmaker Ross Spears in 1974, presents this chronology of the organization's namesake. Included are major events in Agee's life, career paths, and posthumous publications by and about Agee, including biographical films.

Metro Pulse/Secret History/Masterpiece Theatre doesn't make it quite all the way home
What a difference a "ville" makes. Writer Jack Neely describes the Knoxville Agee knew -- and the one American Collection viewers may or may not see -- in his smartly written column from an alternative Knoxville weekly.

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Every Picture Tells a Story: Documentary Photography and the Great Depression
Between 1935 and 1943, photographers for the Resettlement Administration (later the Farm Security Administration) documented "the problems of the Depression so that we could justify the New Deal legislation that was designed to alleviate them." Unlike other art forms, which require human manipulation of pencil or brush to convey an image, photographs impart an air of objectivity. But as is any artist, the photographer is always aware of his or her audience, and can exert a personal interpretation of a situation by shooting one image instead of another or cropping a picture to achieve a desired effect. For Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Walker Evans often took several different pictures, but chose only one for publication. Examine a selection of his photographs, and see which you would have chosen to publish. You will need to download Shockwave for this activity.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Agee and Evans' Great Experiment
Suzanne Austgen's article argues that Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was an experiment akin to the New Deal's "alphabet agencies," addressing the challenges of social responsibility in the face of the Great Depression's degradation and poverty. Published in Volume 1 of the Hanover Historical Review, Spring 1993.

The Historical Significance of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Unlike earlier efforts to expose social injustice, Agee and Walker Evans presented a complicated world without imposing on it an artificial order or a predetermined set of values. In their profiles, the men sensitively described the plight of the Alabama tenant farmers while respecting their dignity, compared to the often bitter social invective Jacob Riis employed when revealing New York City's tenement reality in his groundbreaking How the Other Half Lives. Was this change a conscious rejection of Victorian order? Also published in Volume 1 of the Hanover Historical Review, Spring 1993.

Today in History: July 16: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Walker Evans took a leave of absence from the Farm Security Administration on July 16, 1936, to accept the assignment with Fortune magazine which eventually became Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Luckily for us, his leave was granted on the condition that his photographs remain government property. For "Today in History," July 16, the Library of Congress presents a brief history of the work as well as links to the FSA's archival collection of photographs by Evans and other Depression-era government photographers.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men | James Agee | Walker Evans
Agee's poetic visual images nearly rival the humanistic detail of Evans's exquisite photographs. This review of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men explores the intimate nature of Agee's descriptions. From RALPH: The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities, Volume XXVI, Number 2, Late Summer 2001.

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Agee, James. Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies. New York: Modern Library, 2000.

---. A Death in the Family. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

Agee, James, and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1941.

Doty, Mark A. Tell Me Who I Am: James Agee's Search for Selfhood. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.

Larsen, Erling. James Agee. University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers, No. 95. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971.

Madden, David, and Jeffrey J. Folks, eds. Remembering James Agee. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1997.

Spiegel, Alan. James Agee and the Legend of Himself: A Critical Study. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1998.

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