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FRIENDS OF DENNIS WATLINGTON
This is the story of Dennis Watlington who moved through poverty and addiction, on to higher ground as an Emmy Award winning writer and author. His highly acclaimed book, "Chasing America: Notes of a Rock ’n’ Soul Integrationist", is an inspiration to thousands of readers.
In June 2011, this father of three suffered bilateral strokes that left him virtually paralyzed. 48 hours later he suffered a massive brain stem stroke that put him in the ICU. Aided by the love of family, friends and colleagues Dennis continues on the road to recovery. This film will chronicle this artist's remarkable life and fight to conquer the American health care system, the racial divide and poverty, in contrast to his success in the film, television and literary world. The film will dissect Dennis' quest to achieve the American dream from poverty and drug addiction to acclaim, and back again.
I, TOO, SING AMERICA: THE ART AND LIFE OF JACOB LAWRENCE
I, TOO, SING AMERICA: THE ART AND LIFE OF JACOB LAWRENCE is a documentary film about Jacob Lawrence, a beloved African American painter of the twentieth century and a creative artist of breathtaking originality and power who "championed a radical new way of visualizing black culture and was hailed as "the first wholly authentic voice of the Black experience in the plastic arts".
Throughout his lengthy artistic career, Lawrence concentrated on depicting the history and struggles of African Americans. Lawrence's work often portrayed important periods in African-American history. The artist was twenty-one years old when his series of paintings of the Haitian general Toussaint L’Ouverture was shown in an exhibit of African-American artists at the Baltimore Museum of Art. This impressive work was followed by a series of paintings of the lives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as a series of pieces about the abolitionist John Brown. Lawrence was only twenty-three when he completed the sixty-panel set of narrative paintings entitled Migration of the Negro, now called The Migration Series. The series, a moving portrayal of the migration of hundreds of thousands of African Americans from the rural South to the North after World War I and their struggle to adjust to Northern cities, was shown in New York, and brought him national recognition. In the 1940s Lawrence was given his first major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and became the most celebrated African-American painter in the country.
Lawrence was honored as an artist, teacher, and humanitarian when the NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal in 1970 for his outstanding achievements. In 1974, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York held a major retrospective of his work, and, in 1983, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. In 1998 he received Washington State's highest honor, The Washington Medal of Merit. He was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1990. His work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Phillips Collection, the Brooklyn Museum, and Reynolda House Museum of American Art. In May 2007, the White House Historical Association (via the White House Acquisition Trust) purchased Lawrence's The Builders (1947) for $2.5 million at auction. The painting now hangs in the White House Green Room.
When Lawrence died on June 9, 2000, the New York Times called him "One of America's leading modern figurative painters" and "among the most impassioned visual chroniclers of the African-American experience." His wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, died several years later in 2005. Before Lawrence died, the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation was formally established. Today, it serves as both Jacob Lawrence's and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence's official Estates, and maintains a searchable archive of nearly 1,000 images of their work. The U.S. copyright representative for the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.
MAUREEN STAPLETON STORY
Maureen Stapleton’s son, Producer/Director Daniel Allentuck and daughter-in-law, Producer/Director Nina Rosenblum are creating the MAUREEN STAPELTON STORY, a film portrait of this monumental actress Their personal film portrait of this amazing, beloved and profound star of Broadway and Hollywood, is in the making.
Miss Stapleton moved to New York City at the age of eighteen, and did modeling to pay the bills. She once said that it was her infatuation with the handsome Hollywood actor Joel McCrea which led her into acting. She made her Broadway debut in the production featuring Burgess Meredith of The Playboy of the Western World in 1946. That same year, she played the role of Iras in Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" in a touring production by actress and producer Katharine Cornell. Stepping in because Anna Magnani refused the role due to her limited English, Stapleton won a Tony Award for her role in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo in 1951. (Magnani's English improved, however, and she was able to play the role in the film version, winning an Oscar.) Stapleton played in other Williams' productions, including Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton and Orpheus Descending (and its film adaptation, The Fugitive Kind, co-starring her friend Marlon Brando), as well as Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic. She won a second Tony Award for Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady, which was written especially for her, in 1971. Later Broadway roles included "Birdie" in The Little Foxes opposite Elizabeth Taylor and as a replacement for Jessica Tandy in The Gin Game.
Stapleton's film career, though limited, brought her immediate success, with her debut in Lonelyhearts (1958) earning a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She appeared in the 1963 film version of Bye Bye Birdie, in the role of Mama Mae Peterson, with Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde and Ann-Margret. Stapleton played the role of Dick Van Dyke's mother, even though she was only five months and 22 days older than Van Dyke. She was nominated again for an Oscar for Airport (1970) and Woody Allen's Interiors (1978). She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Reds (1981), directed by Warren Beatty, in which she portrayed the Lithuanian-born anarchist, Emma Goldman. She ended her acceptance speech with the quip "I would like to thank everyone I've ever met in my entire life."
Stapleton won a 1968 Emmy Award for her performance in Among the Paths of Eden. She was nominated for the television version of All the King's Men (1959), Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975), and The Gathering (1977). Her more recent appearances included Johnny Dangerously (1984), Cocoon (1985) and its sequel Cocoon: The Return (1988).
She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981. She was an alumna of the famous Actors Studio in New York City, led by Lee Strasberg. She became friends with Marilyn Monroe, who was only one year younger than Stapleton. She was impressed with Monroe's talent, and always thought it was a shame that Monroe was rarely allowed to play roles beyond the ditzy blonde. By comparison, Stapleton thought herself lucky: "I never had that problem. People looked at me on stage and said, 'Jesus, that broad better be able to act.'" One of the most famously remembered scenes at the studio was when Stapleton and Monroe acted in Anna Christie together.
Stapleton's first husband was Max Allentuck, general manager to the producer Kermit Bloomgarden, and her second, playwright David Rayfiel, from whom she divorced in 1966. She had a son, Daniel, and a daughter, Katherine, by her first husband. Her daughter, Katherine Allentuck, garnered good reviews for her single movie role, that of "Aggie" in Summer of '42 (Stapleton herself also had a minor, uncredited role in the film as the protagonist's mother, though only her voice is heard, she does not appear on camera).
Stapleton suffered from anxiety and alcoholism for many years and once told an interviewer, "The curtain came down and I went into the vodka." She also said that her unhappy childhood contributed to her insecurities. A lifelong heavy smoker, Stapleton died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2006 at her home in Lenox, Massachusetts.