Happy May, American Masters fans!
This month, American Masters is proud to present documentaries about American cook, cookbook author, and television personality James Beard to honor his birthday on May 5, American singer-songwriter Carole King in light of the musical about her life on Broadway and Chinese-born American Tyrus Wong in honor of Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.
America’s First Foodie: The Incredible Life of James Beard tells the story of the Portland, Oregon native, who had the first cooking show on television (1945); who was the author of 22 cookbooks along with a syndicated newspaper column and countless magazine pieces; and who ran an acclaimed cooking school out of his townhouse in New York City. James Beard introduced Julia Child to New York, boosting her place as a culinary grande dame. Child in turn once said, “I may have brought French cooking to America, but Jim brought American cooking to America.” He was a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, consulting on menus for iconic restaurants such as The Four Seasons, promoting seasonally driven dining.
The career of singer-songwriter Carole King (b. February 9, 1942) is unparalleled. She is a four-time Grammy Award-winner, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a 2015 Kennedy Center Honoree and the first woman to be awarded The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. To date, more than 400 of her compositions have been recorded by more than 1,000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles, including songs co-written with Gerry Goffin: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (The Shirelles), “Up on the Roof” (The Drifters) and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin).
People worldwide have seen the Disney animated classic Bambi and been deeply moved by it, but few can tell you the name of the artist behind the film. Even fewer are aware of this pioneering artist’s impact on American art and popular culture. Until his death at the age of 106, Tyrus Wong (1910-2016) was America’s oldest living Chinese American artist and one of the last remaining artists from the golden age of Disney animation. Born in Canton (now Guangzhou), China, right before the fall of the Chinese Empire, Wong and his father immigrated to America in 1919, never to see their family again. American Masters: Tyrus shows how he overcame a life of poverty and racism to become a celebrated painter who once exhibited with Picasso and Matisse, a Hollywood sketch artist, and ‘Disney Legend.’