More American Icons

American Icons: The Wizard of Oz

Friday, November 29, 2013

It's been over seventy years since movie audiences first watched The Wizard of Oz. Meet the original man behind the curtain, L. Frank Baum, who had all the vision of Walt Disney, but none of the business sense. Discover how Oz captivated the imaginations of Russians living under Soviet rule ...

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American Icons: The Scarlet Letter

Friday, November 01, 2013

One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors was a judge in the Salem witch trials. In his novel of early America, Hawthorne explores the tension between our deeply ingrained Puritanism and our celebration of personal freedom. Hester Prynne was American literature’s first heroine, a fallen woman who’s not ashamed of her sin ...

Bonus Track: Tom Perrotta on Nathaniel Hawthorne's influence

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American Icons: Uncle Tom's Cabin

Friday, October 25, 2013

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to promote the abolitionist cause. So how did Uncle Tom become the byword for a race traitor — a “shuffling, kowtowing, sniveling coward”? A scholar traces Tom’s unfortunate journey through pop culture, and a controversial writer who’s been called an Uncle Tom decides to own it ...

Slideshow: Uncle Tom in popular culture

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American Icons: The Disney Parks

Friday, October 18, 2013

Generations of Americans have grown up with Walt Disney shaping our imaginations. We’ll tour Disneyland with its art director, a second-generation Imagineer, who explains why even the trash cans are magic. In Florida, urban planner Andres Duany shows how a theme park helped reimagine city life; Tom Hanks, the first person to play Walt Disney on screen, and futurist Cory Doctorow explain how Disney made them kids for life.

Bonus Track: Cory Doctorow on the Disney theme parks

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American Icons: Untitled Film Stills

Friday, October 11, 2013

In the 1980s, Cindy Sherman began taking self-portraits that showed her in costumes and scenarios that looked just like movie stills, although they were her own inventions. In a media-saturated age, Untitled Film Stills have influenced a generation of artists as well as pop stars who play with identity as a kind of performance.

Slideshow: Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills

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American Icons: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Friday, October 04, 2013

How do you memorialize a war that was more tragic than triumphant? Inscribed with the name of every fallen soldier, Maya Lin’s granite wall became a sacred place for veterans. 

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American Icons: Leaves of Grass

Friday, September 27, 2013

Walt Whitman set out to invent a radically new form of poetry for a new nation. His book was first viewed as bizarre and obscene — one reviewer said that the author should be publicly flogged. But revising and adding to the book until his death, Whitman accomplished his goal, creating a new Bible for American poets.

Slideshow: The changing editions of Leaves of Grass

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American Icons: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ken Kesey had worked in a mental hospital, but his first novel was really a parable of what happens when you stand up to the Man — a counterculture fable that doesn’t end well.

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American Icons: Anything Goes

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cole Porter lived in Europe during the 1920s, and returned to American to write a sharp satire of this freewheeling era that has outlived the people and events it referred to. Music historian Will Friedwald explains how Frank Sinatra saved the song, and we hear a new version written by Joe Keenan.

Exclusive Bonus Track: An updated version of "Anything Goes"

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American Icons: Native Son

Friday, September 06, 2013

The story of a young man in the ghetto who turns to murder was an overnight sensation. But some think Native Son exploited the worst stereotypes of black youth. We trace the line from Bigger Thomas to Notorious B.I.G., and visit a high school drama class acting out Native Son, and struggling to grasp the racism their grandparents experienced.

Video: Author Richard Wright's screen test for the film adaptation of Native Son

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American Icons: Season 3 Preview

Friday, August 02, 2013

This September, we'll launch a new season of our award-winning documentary series American Icons. We'll look at Richard Wright's Native Son, the Disney theme parks, The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and many more great works of ...

Listen to a preview

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Richard Wright as Bigger Thomas

Monday, July 08, 2013

Over the past year, Studio 360 has been producing new episodes of our American Icons series. I'm working on a program about Richard Wright's 1940 novel, Native Son. One of the strangest artifacts I've run into is this 7-minute video of the author himself, playing his most infamous ...

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Why the Song Dixie Continues to Divide Americans

Friday, July 05, 2013

It’s been a century-and-a-half since a minstrel tune called “Dixie” debuted in New York. The song went viral, and soon North and South alike were whistling “Dixie.” With the outbreak of the Civil War, “Dixie” became an anthem of the antebellum way of life. And today ...

Bonus Track: Elvis Sings "Dixie"

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American Icons: The House of Mirth

Friday, July 05, 2013

Lily is a smart single woman, a beauty in demand on the party circuit. But Lily is nearing thirty, and struggling to manage money, friendships, and romance. In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton examined the dangerous compromises facing a woman who wants ...

Bonus Track: Jonathan Franzen on Edith Wharton

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American Icons: Appalachian Spring

Friday, July 05, 2013

In 1942, Aaron Copland was commissioned to write a score for the choreographer Martha Graham. Dance and music in America have never been the same. Their ballet Appalachian Spring looks at the tension between community and individualism through the story ...


American Icons: Superman

Friday, May 31, 2013

Kurt Andersen goes up, up and away with Superman and finds out why "The Man of Steel" remains as popular and elusive as ever.

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American Icons: Migrant Mother

Friday, April 19, 2013

Before it had that iconic title, the 1936 photo we know as "Migrant Mother" was captioned “Destitute peapickers in California.” 

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American Icons: The Outsiders

Friday, February 01, 2013

Susan Eloise Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, the story of rival gangs in Oklahoma. She bought a Camaro with the earnings.

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American Icons: John Henry

Friday, February 01, 2013

John Henry wins a race against a steam drill, but the victory is Pyrrhic: “Give me a cool drink of water before I die,” he says. Colson Whitehead wonders, “Did he win? Did he lose?"

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American Icons: Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Friday, February 01, 2013

Emily Dickinson is one of those writers whose life is as famous as her writing: after she died, having spent much of her life writing at home, her sister found nearly two thousand poems in her bureau. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," Dickinson’s fantasy of getting picked up by the grim reaper ...

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