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Dave Kehr (#110 of 22)

Back in the Saddle: An Interview with Kevin Stoehr About the Film Western

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Back in the Saddle: An Interview with Kevin Stoehr About the Film Western
Back in the Saddle: An Interview with Kevin Stoehr About the Film Western

“It was Chico Marx, of all people, who uttered one of my favorite lines, ’I’d like the West better if it was in the East,’” says Kevin Stoehr, a professor of humanities at Boston University. It’s an hour into our interview and we’re finally back on topic. After all, the whole reason I made the long journey to Stoehr’s seaside condo in Portland, Maine was to discuss his acclaimed new book, Ride, Boldly, Ride: The Evolution of the American Western, which he co-authored with Mary Lea Bandy. But the professor, a conversationalist without equal, has been on a roll.

In the past half hour, this master of the non sequitur has discussed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the hidden homoeroticism in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the origins of kick boxing, Rod Steiger’s unforgettable performance as Mr. Joyboy in The Loved One, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And if all that weren’t enough, he’s treated me to a killer imitation of Truman Capote in Murder by Death.

Now it’s back to cowboys. And it suddenly occurs to me that the ruggedly handsome Stoehr bears more than a passing resemblance to one. He’s a strapping six-foot-four, the same imposing height as western icons John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. When I suggest that the professor wouldn’t look at all out of place outfitted in steel spurs and leather chaps, he blushes and is for once totally speechless. That sort of compliment may be a bit too Brokeback Mountain for him. But he recovers quickly.

“This project has been a genuine labor of love for me on so many different levels,” Stoehr says of his comprehensive study, which has been earning rave reviews. Dave Kehr of the New York Times calls Ride, Boldly, Ride, “a sweeping, insightful account of this most rich and resilient of movie genres.” In celebration of the book’s publication, the Museum of Modern Art recently held a month-long film series and invited Stoehr to introduce screenings of two rarely seen silent westerns, D.W. Griffith’s The Battle at Elderbush Gulch and John Ford’s Straight Shooting.

The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis

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The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis
The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis

On the occasion of his 86th birthday last Friday night, Jerry Lewis was in his element: water. He was drooling it onto his feet, wrapping his lips around the rim of a glass, and drinking from a pitcher. Abetted by his on-stage interviewer, comedian and TV cop Richard Belzer, the legendary nightclub performer, jack-of-all-film-trades, and philanthropic veteran of the Muscular Dystrophy Association met the expectations of fans who packed 92nd Street Y’s Kaufmann Auditorium on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by cutting loose with the brand of shameless clowning that has kept him rich and famous since the Truman Administration. Casually crossing his legs and sending a shoe flying into the first row, musically cutting off a Belzer follow-up question with “Was I throoooough?”, and fixing the perpetrator of a solitary laugh with a cartoonish, sneering turn of the head that dates back to his white-hot dual act with Dean Martin, Lewis was primed to give his audience a good time, and what was billed as a tribute by the fraternal comedians’ group The Friars Club morphed into a two-hour reciprocal love-in between childlike idol and uncritical idolators. “I’m nine, and I’ve always been nine,” Lewis self-diagnosed during a breather from his antic agenda. “The beauty of nine is that it’s not complicated.”