pop culture

  • Tamara Palmer: How the 'Billie Jean' Video Changed MTV

    Tamara Palmer is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and the author of Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop. Follow her on Twitter. (The Root) -- "Billie Jean," who was not Michael Jackson's lover, is turning 30 -- or at least her video is, and it's an important anniversary in the evolution of both black music's visual expression and America's iconic music network. On March 10, 1983, MTV played "Billie Jean" for the first time and forever changed the course of its music programming in the process.

  • King Kong, screaming along 80 years later

    Fay Wray's beauty and a sortie of biplanes felled King Kong on-screen, but not even the Depression could stop the success of 1933 film."The premiere was the day before Roosevelt's inauguration and the week of the bank holiday," said Film Forum repertory programmer Bruce Goldstein. Despite the national cash freeze, "King Kong" was a smash. "No Money! Yet New York dug up $89,931 in 4 days to see 'King Kong'" crowed a full-page ad taken in Variety by the film's producers.Sunday, 80 years to the day after the film had its premiere, a packed house gathered at Film Forum for a matinee birthday celebration of "Kong." The screening was followed by a Fay Wray scream-alike contest honoring the late star of the film and Forum member's repartee with her famed co-star."Fay Wray's screaming in the original film is so memorable," said Tony Timpone, one of seven judges empaneled to select a winner from 37 contestants and the editor emeritus of Fangoria magazine, a publication devoted to the horror genre. "She's pretty much the original scream queen. She must have been hoarse for years."...

  • Bill DeMain: How Dashiell Hammett Invented The Modern Detective Novel

    The mysterious femme fatale. The tough private eye who seeks justice at any cost. The rare object worth killing for. Dashiell Hammett coined all of these classic elements of noir fiction with his 1930 breakthrough novel The Maltese Falcon. But how did Hammett dream up this dark, new world of literature? By writing from experience.In the 1920s, American fiction desperately needed its own private detective. It was overrun with Sherlock Holmes imitators–erudite puzzle solvers who refused to get their hands dirty. Enter Dashiell Hammett, a former private investigator turned writer. In The Maltese Falcon, Hammett took the detective out of the drawing room, dumped him in a dark alley and created an American classic in the process.Lauded upon publication for its lean prose and how it captured the sex and violence of urban America, The Maltese Falcon has soared to greater critical heights with each passing decade. Hammett’s descendant Raymond Chandler praised the book for “scenes that seemed never to have been written before.” And Ross McDonald called it “the greatest mystery novel ever.”