thumbnail of Pantechnicon; James Baldwin
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The music is from the American movies and later on in tonight it will be talking about American movies. Perhaps a bit differently than you've heard them discussed before because the guest is James Baldwin. BALDWIN playwright novelist well-known educator and author has written a new book called The Devil finds work which is also representative of the way James Baldwin takes a look at the American films and myth. America will be coming up later on tonight's edition of Pentax. I'm Frank Fitzmaurice. And first off on tonight's program WGBH radio's Louie Lyons takes a look at the news in tonight's personal commentary. And now here's Louis. Listens after rain this morning Sun's brief break through is filtered through the concentric circles of a spider's web outside the window and its gossamer threads made visible only by the sunlight as with a chemical reaction on a photographic plate. The fall seems only in the swamp maples but is hardly touched the trees in time but sumac reddens the
country roads as the earliest color and most intense way all the maples in the sumac for most of our fall color and the most spectacular foliage in football come together and compete both exonerating but football will last longer. The 40th season is fleeting. It won't wait very long for our appreciation. The next two weekends maybe three are all. Like a labor union dealing with the First off of the black African leaders say Rhodesia concession is not enough. They want more than Ian Smith offered and want it sooner. They're suspicious of the transitional process Smith proposed. But in Washington and London their response is seen as the opening of negotiations. The road you want to go she added sentiment is now up and Secretary Kissinger says they have accepted the basic proposal that is for a transition of power within two years. Britain's foreign secretary Crosland
says the black leaders in neighboring Rhodesia have not slammed the door on Smith's proposals he is flying to Africa to join the planning in Washington. United States British and South African diplomats are about to meet to set up the economic aid that Kissinger promised to ease this momentous change in Rhodesia. What the five Raiders of the boring but governments call on acceptable is the procedure in the Smith plan. Oh it has been reported as what Kissinger proposed and after he submitted it to an Iranian But now Iran now says the interim government itself must have an African majority Smith's offer as a temporary counselor state with three white and three black members but under a white chairman and with a requirement of a two thirds vote for any action during the interim constitution remaking the two vital Ministries of Defense and Justice would continue under their white administration. And Ira says this would leave the
whole security apparatus in white hands. But Smith has made his commitment and made it publicly in a national brought us to effect a transfer of power to the black majority within two years. This was under pressure he could no longer resist from the United States and Britain and from South Africa which has provided his economic lifeline through the UN sanctions and from the rising black guerilla movement on his borders. He has found it was later than he thought. This obvious statement condemning the plan and offering support to the black robot was predictable but it must be a reminder to Smith of Angola. I had an incentive to get things moving to a settlement on the other side if the leaders of the neighbor governments would welcome Soviet support as most of them would not. They don't have a situation like Angola. The black independence movement in Rhodesia appears undivided solidly behind their national leader and Cuomo who returned to Rhodesia as a national hero and then joined the four heads of the
neighbor governments in the conference that produced their response to this mess. There's bound to be much more fencing and bickering suspicion and denunciation between the two sides but the negotiation on details will be under the sponsorship of the United States and Britain whose governments are committed to seeing it through. So it is indeed as it first appeared last Friday. A major breakthrough in race relations in Africa and a major coup for Henry Kissinger that may well prove the most important of his diplomatic career. At this campaign season its political effect on the American presidential contest cannot be overlooked. Ironic of Kissinger the butt of the Republican primary contest should prove the saving element for the Ford administration here its winning car. Here's is certainly the only positive action abroad of this administration. The morning papers tell of the danger brewing in Panama from Ford's fare to complete canal negotiations after the election.
Jingoism among the Panamanians is rising in response to the regen jingoism that infected this administration. The United Nations holding up a vote on admitting Vietnam until after our election carries its implication that Ford's threat of veto is wholly political. The conference on the law of the sea has closed in failure. Kissinger had said he was going to take hold of that personally to prevent a failure but he stayed out of it when he was unable to get administration backing for a plan to save it. The conflict of United States administrative agencies chiefly defense against state so divided American councils as to cancel opposition. Two British and Canadian participants in the conference have published a joint letter to the press holding the United States chiefly responsible for the conference failure to reach any agreement. American interests balked at a plan for international sharing of the development of undersea minerals. The administration
failed to sponsor or accept a solution that was opposed by powerful interests. These items on the desk of daytime will emerge in the second. Ford Carter debate on foreign policy six next month. But perhaps closer to home and more nearly understandable to the voter will be the nuclear issue that has suddenly become both a foreign and domestic issue. Sweden's Chancellor blames that if each of his party's long Kenya on the opposition to its national plan for development of nuclear power and the opposition was chiefly by the new young voters. The source of their opposition the chancellor says was the United States he calls it an important issue stimulated among Sweden's youth by their response to Ralph Nader. The surprise upset of the Swedish socialist government after 44 years brought this environmentalist fear of nuclear reactions in the international headlines it bounced back to the United States as a campaign issue. Jimmy Carter declared yesterday that he would stop
sales of nuclear reactors and fuel to any nations that would not accept a ban on their use to develop weapons. He would call on all nations to accept a voluntary moratorium on nuclear development. He charged that President Ford had failed to exert responsible leadership to halt nuclear proliferation. Senator Mondale picked up the same issue. Fallout from last week's debate continues to make headlines. Some polls show a narrowing of the gap between Carter and Ford even show Ford passing Carter in the Far West. That was Carter's weakest territory in the primaries where he failed to win California Oregon Idaho Nebraska and the mountain states. A possible explanation for the West times in a census report out today that incomes are rising fastest in the west and south. The increase in incomes of typical families in those regions so lawns that they all but escaped the effect of inflation the reduction of purchasing power last year was less than
1 percent. In the West as against 2.6 percent drop nationally. But the most significant fact politically in this census report on incomes is that last year saw an increase of two and a half million in people living below the poverty line. And as the government defines it this was an increase of ten point seven percent in the number of poor to a total of nearly 26 million. I want American in eight prolonged unemployment is given as the chief cause many more people exhausted their unemployment benefits than the year before that also saw a big increase in the poor. In two of every five families that had fallen below the poverty line during the year. The reason given was either that the head of the household had been unable to find work during the entire year or was unemployed 15 weeks or more. Four and a third million persons exhausted unemployment benefits in 1975. The number of poor as the census
counts them is the largest since the census began and income reports in 1959. Families with the highest median income last year had both husband and wife on paid jobs and the medium for such was just over 17000 dollars. But only about a third of the wives of the poor had paid work any part of the year. Those of the others who sought work added to the unemployment statistics. The surge of women into the labor force then represents mostly those above the poverty and on women working to keep the family income ahead of inflation to pay for children's rising education costs and maintain living standards more than a million women were added to the labor force the first half of this year two and eight pence million in the last two and a half years. That counts both those who got jobs and those who failed the latter adding to unemployment. Thank you both the women forced to jobs by inflation and also the poor
failed to find any Welby political statistics. In November. A domestic straw in our presidential campaign is today's report that the shaper Senate contest suggest the Democrats will gain two seats. Getting out the vote for them will be expected to add also votes for the Democratic presidential candidate. There were doesn't always work that way. The presidential poll showing Ford gains suggested Watergate which swept Democrats into Congress two years ago is no longer a factor. Corruption of the ground in ministration brought a political penalty on his party for only one presidential election. The Harding administration corruption had no follow up effect. Coolidge had cleaned house in less than two years to the next election. Yes there's a new element in this campaign I suggest it's the further extent to which public relations has taken over programming the candidates plotting their tactics and strategy
in every detail. The Republicans seem to have attained a more sophisticated grasp on this. They've established a strategy of confident assertion of an optimism that they must hope will be infectious and perhaps it is the president's very presidential posture is a part of this and his declaration that he won't give up a single state is carrying his campaign this weekend with gusto by Mississippi River boat into the current stronghold of the South telling southern audiences. I want your vote. This mode real or synthetic catches the headlines reaches the television audience too Simon recalls Senator Eggen statement on Vietnam. Let's say we want to go home. It attempts to capture the national psychology something to watch anyway. And his Playboy interview continues to dog Jimmy Carter a. James Baldwin.
Is 51 years old born in New York City the first of nine children. He grew up in Harlem where his father was a minister and for a brief time in his own teens James Baldwin like his father became a preacher. But now in 1076 James Baldwin has established himself as a playwright a novelist and now a critic of the social scene he's just written a new book about the American movie called The Devil finds work published by the Dial Press as a playwright. He's written such Broadway productions as the Blues for Mr. Charlie. The Amen Corner Giovanni's Room. A whole group of novels including Nobody knows my name. Another country the fire next time and if Beale Street could talk. Well James Baldwin has warmed up his prose again for the Devil finds work at open broadside attack on what the American film has done to the mind of the American people. James Baldwin. The book is as much about movies as it's about me.
The American myth. You know you see that sort of frame of light in the air is moving all the time. And there you saw you saw if you throw yourself back which is almost impossible to do but to the sound you can. There was more when you saw it was first time it was kind of miraculous. You know and and something very comforting about it though it's very difficult to explain why. But it doesn't it didn't it didn't challenge you didn't it. It's some outcompeted you you know all the things you saw in the movies was something you wanted to do to be able to do that is say. It was the dreams come true kind do you know. It indicated that you could be like that too you know. Were they the right dreams I guess is the question. Well no the dream is is you know a dream is a dream and a dream of you know there's got to awaken the danger's over the what the what the book is about is what happens if you really believe that images that is thrown back at you of yourself.
You know there's a level that you can say that. No in the entire history of the world has ever really looked like Joan Crawford and is using her now as an image including Joan Crawford. And there's a level of knowledge that you know that that is know it's no longer you know there's no word quite for let's say you know I go to Hollywood tomorrow and you know and people some of you might have you know me with chins and lights and shadows and shit you know and they photograph it and I see it and I don't look like that reality but you know now I do. Now I do because it's what I see and I don't see myself ever or you know what I'm thinking my cutting my nails or when I'm shaving or when I'm angry or when.
When the camera lights Nadal you know all. As time passes you know I'm you wouldn't be trapped in Frozen. Well you're a novelist the novelist does the same thing. No I wasn't the same thing at all and I was another problem altogether another problem novel of a novelist should be very arbitrary about it because I get over these things you know that way but not as part of a novelist is to is make the reader imagine the person you know as a novelist I learned as a novelist so I remember you know years and years and years ago reading a letter that Chekov wrote to gawky and said to gawky in effect you have to read something that gawky just written. Your Colonel I think it was a girl anyway a military figure in the story is so covered with helmets and plumes and sabers and medals and braid that I don't see him.
Which I concluded you know later on in my life that you don't describe the character you know. You give the reader just enough indication to let the reader's imagination create the character for himself which is why people when they go to see a film made out of a novel they like. Always disappointed because they had already seen it was gone the color of the Sydney Carton and nobody nobody who can do it on the screen about match what the imagination made of it which is a very different thing. Do you know of the movie with on screen. Everything is supplied. I was speaking about talking of the films into a certain category of American film. Everything is apply there's nothing left for the imagination to do you know including you know earthquakes and shocks fires tidal waves King Kong. Your
imagination cannot possibly match that. You know you talk about you know a very curious you know must be historical and very successful endeavor too. Do make real what you stink you believe and you've got to make it real that way because you don't really believe it because something in the something in the human being knows better to be the mill's not believe after all. Also on another level he must have you know in all those enormous fantasies he created but he created a whole generation out of them. You must have to pay very dearly is paying radially indeed. No for having believed what they wanted to believe knowing after all that it wasn't really true. Well what's the price that we had to pay for the mill's fantasies. I used mil arbitrarily for the Hollywood fantasy letters. Well one of the guys you said you were very
evasive. And a very subtle level everyone of this country still believes you can marry the boss's daughter. Clark label Clark Gable political bad. Every man can be free. Shane you know. Love conquers all. Mildred Pierce. You know. We can be happy Doris Day. IT MEANS BUSINESS to because the people who fill the cinemas have to go home. Well is that a limitation of the medium as you suggested when you were talking about novelists or is it a limitation of the people putting the fence is not a limitation of the medium at all because you can do that as you know mediums out knows it is objectively made for that is limitation is a limitation of the ITS in this in the severe context as you're speaking. It's a limitation of the dreams of this country it's a limitation of the sensory reality of this
country that the dreams of a homeless people and that is what it comes to whenever people are discussing American movies of the 30s and MGM Studios and although the Busby Berkeley dance marathons they cranked out the usual excuse for all of it is that well everything in real life quotes was so depressing and depressed during the 30s that people needed this kind of fantasy escape and that's the purpose of the movie Soho them is they missed the point. You know all of that all of the money spent on the bus the Busby Berkeley Berkeley musicals when I could have fed a few more people. Now I do know the man cannot live by bread alone you know. But he can also be poisoned. You
know I mean recusing I'm not accusing anybody of anything now either. I simply observe that the legend of the last film he can see is vivid until today people still believe it and talk about the film not necessarily the novel. People still believe it partly because they had to and the and the and the vehicle for the continuation of that belief which is which spreads disaster until this hour has been the American film. People still being known to see an Indian what they learned last in the last of the Mohicans you know and all the more or less nonsensical films designed to prove the niggers just like everybody else prove exactly the opposite because the assumptions on which they base are exactly the same assumptions the country's base. What are some examples of that. Well there's so many in the book I talk about I guess you come you do not talk about it. Unluckily you
can't avoid talking about American film and black people in it. Talking of my friend Sidney it's anybody but I'm talking about him as a as him along with the vehicles and some of the vehicles which is a piece that no one is in any case in the same trap. But if you examine the assumptions of those other defined ones you discover it's really very sentimental and an absolutely false card to play but on the currency simply if one wants to be brutal about it the fact in America life would have to be brutal about it in life. He is simply an incipient fascists. Really you know he's a little white boy didn't make it at all. You know and that is and to be sentimental about that big deal it's a lot about American history in there for failing to lie about black history in this country. You see what I'm trying to say yeah we're the problem start the problem started with people who found themselves displaced more or less violently.
Even of the plot needs of the Mayflower was about people to voluntarily if not of in the right peaceful one. Then the case everybody else came in steerage know and you know it. And Europe who had had several tobaccos too many in America was even such a liberty said Give me your poll give us your poll and I believe they can make a new life here with a condition that you live here. The price of the ticket was to become light that is to say you come to say from Poland Oh you come from I love gambling research I'm from Turkey where you come in France Italy and Italy you come anywhere in Europe and there you are Paul or Greek or Turkey or Italian or whatever you are. But the price of the ticket was to become white. It's why it's called a melting pot. Now the only way for you to be white is you need to be black. That's what is happening in Boston now.
Those could just be the soldiers. The boy with the voices of the black man with the American flag but proving that they were white. That is American history. That is what is in the American films. That is the American crime. On the other side you think there's anybody telling the truth in American film. No one I can easily name. You know and then even the them of the ideal you know there's something in American films which interest me. But it must be said you know. And even the for the most part none being known and being general that for the most part. That was a cool hand luke. It's fair to say it.
Was not his changing story. Well. It was not a bad film but baby I know much more about chain gangs and that much more and to my level of experience which Americans lie about denied Britain does not exist because they think they're white. What do you mean by that. They think they're white isn't that. They believe that I shall just drive and succeed. They don't them as adults I got the how they got their politicians. They only love the lowly level of success in this country really on his level of wealth which see if Watergate means. Bonds ability to steal. After all the land was stolen and was not bought. I was kidnapped I was not invited.
And the roles that we play relation to each other. I would Jerry you can you could begin to see how do how powerful a motive it is or was is the moment you for example is as legally speaking white man try to step out of it. Well I was a legally speaking black man Titus about it and this is a country which belongs to us both which everything should belong to both of us. Time is on the edge of civil war was never thought of that proposition. It seems you're talking about a lot more than just. Film Why did you target out the film. For this book. That was your kind of accident because Esquire magazine asked me to do a thing about black films and I started to do that I discovered. But what is in the
book. So the books are really about films to the Basilica of the book is about. You use films as a vehicle for my own discovery in a way of something which is as a male always unknown. The truth is I began when I began just to examine these films I began to realize that I too had been formed by them. And I began to examine and try to examine that and that's that's how the book came about. What part of you do you feel was formed by them. Well that was what my life I was a child I would lose like everybody else you know and believed like everybody else and had some faith had to have some you know obviously as you know a real effect to my mind and to prove that in a sense is the trauma you go through when you begin to divorce yourself from the assumptions that you have been given as exemplified above all the solutions where you do what you would what you have exposed a Louis as your growing novelist playwright essayist James Baldwin whose new book is called The Devil finds work and it's published
by the Dial Press of New York. That's it for tonight. Thanks for being with us. I'm Frank Fitzmaurice and heard here on Radio seven nights a week. Have a good evening. The third thing.
James Baldwin
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-83xsjk31).
Series Description
"Pantechnicon is a nightly magazine featuring segments on issues, arts, and ideas in New England."
Louis Lyons
Created Date
Local Communities
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Production Unit: Radio
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 76-0052-04-21-001 (WGBH Item ID)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:29:15
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Pantechnicon; James Baldwin,” 1976-04-21, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 27, 2024,
MLA: “Pantechnicon; James Baldwin.” 1976-04-21. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 27, 2024. <>.
APA: Pantechnicon; James Baldwin. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from