Lifestyle Network, Feast It Forward, Provides Major Funding for “Chefs Flight” on THIRTEEN’s American Masters Series May 2017 on PBS

“Foodie Film Festival” Will Features Four Documentaries On Iconic Chefs: James Beard, Julia Child, Jacques Pépin And Alice Waters

American Masters has announced that Feast it Forward™ has provided major funding for aChefs Flightof four documentaries on culinary legends James Beard, Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Alice Waters, premiering May 2017 on PBS as part of the series’ 31st season. New documentaries American Masters – James Beard: America’s First Foodie and American Masters – Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft will be paired with encore presentations of American Masters: Julia! America’s Favorite Chef and American Masters: Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution, respectively.feast-it-forward-logo-fif_black-2-10-3-16

Exploring beyond the plate, bottle and guitar, Feast it Forward Network, the new online lifestyle network featuring all things food, wine and philanthropy with a taste of music, seeks to feed the soul with entertaining, inspiring and educational programming. As their Ultimate Airstream Film Lounge continues to hit the road and engage viewers while hosting unique lifestyle events, its flagship “Live Studio Showroom” will open in downtown Napa Spring of 2017. A two story experiential estate, it will feature a 16 premier vintner tasting collective, a full demonstration studio kitchen, educational outdoor entertaining space, performing music stage, interior design showroom and much more. Beyond the growing online network programming which features master chefs, actors, tastemakers, and musicians, this live studio will truly bring Feast it Forward Network to life as viewers will be able to personally experience all things food, wine and philanthropy…with a taste of music. (More information can be found at feastitforward.com)screen-shot-2016-01-07-at-9_37_54-am

We are thrilled to be able to bring the savory stories behind these culinary geniuses to viewers thanks to Feast It Forward’s generous support. Collectively, they set America’s dinner table, and I think people will enjoy seeing the connections between each of these chefs and how we eat today,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters.

We are elated to be supporting such important programs. The food world is beyond grateful for these iconic chefs and we are indebted to them for the path they helped pave for us to walk. Our online network tells the story of people, places and experiences that connect us to one another in ways that are beyond the plate and bottle, so it was a natural fit to be part of this impressive series. Along with celebrating the work of James Beard, Julia Child, and Alice Waters, it’s a true honor to say we took part in sharing Jacques Pépin’s story. I think it is safe to say I speak for masses who grew up watching him with such admiration; this is our way of saying thank you. It’s time to give something back for all those years he shared with us,” said Katie Hamilton Shaffer, founder and president of Feast it Forward.

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Chef James Beard. Credit: Dan Wynn

American Masters – James Beard: America’s First Foodie

Premieres Friday, May 19, 9-10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

Experience a century of food through the life of one man, James Beard (1903-1985). Dubbed the “Dean of American Cookery” by The New York Times, Beard was a Portland, Ore., native who loved and celebrated the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. He spoke of the importance of localism and sustainability long before those terms had entered the vernacular. At a time of “all things French,” Beard appreciated what America had to bring to the table, and was the first chef to go on television to teach not only women, but men, how to cook. A cookbook author, journalist, television celebrity and teacher, Beard helped to pioneer and expand the food media industry into the billion-dollar business it is today. Written and Directed by Elizabeth Federici. Produced by Elizabeth Federici and Kathleen Squires. A production of Federici Films LLC and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s American Masters for WNET. Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Presents the World Premiere of Patsy Cline Documentary Beginning March 4 on PBS During Women’s History Month

Features Exclusive Access To The Cline Estate, Rare Performances And New Interviews With Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Wanda Jackson, Beverly D’Angelo And Others, With Narration By Rosanne Cashscreen-shot-2016-01-07-at-9_37_54-am

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia, The late Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932-March 5, 1963) defined modern country music by using her singular talent and heart‐wrenching emotional depth to break down barriers of gender, class and genre. In her music and her life, she set a standard of authenticity towards which artists still strive. After years of hard work to overcome industry gender biases and her own personal hardships and professional missteps, she achieved success, only to have it punctured by uncanny premonitions and her untimely death at age 30. The new documentary Patsy Cline: American Masters premieres nationwide beginning March 4 on PBS (check local listings) during Women’s History Month as part of the 31st season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series. 2017 marks the 85th anniversary of Cline’s birth.

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Patsy Cline. Credit: Courtesy of Universal Music Enterprises

Cline boldly bucked female conventions of the 1950s with her fashion sense, her decision to divorce, her support of fellow female artists, and her assertive ambition to get opportunities equal to those of her male Nashville peers, such as the same kind of headliner billing and radio airplay, particularly after breaking free of her unfavorable contract with Four Star Records. Six years after her national breakthrough on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS, 1957), she died in a plane crash returning home from a benefit performance. Her many posthumous honors include being the first solo female performer to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a U.S. postage stamp. She was also portrayed in the Oscar-winning feature film Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) by D’Angelo and in Sweet Dreams (1985) by Jessica Lange.

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Patsy Cline. Credit: Courtesy of Universal Music Enterprises

Narrated by Rosanne Cash, Patsy Cline: American Masters examines the roots of Cline’s impact in both personal and cultural terms to illuminate how she arrived at a pivotal moment in the evolution of American culture and, with Decca Records producer Owen Bradley, synthesized country, pop and rock in a new way to create the Nashville Sound. With exclusive access to the Cline estate, the film features rare performances of such Cline classics as “Walkin’ After Midnight” “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” “Come On In,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Crazy,” “You Made Me Love You” and more.

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Patsy Cline. Credit: Courtesy of Universal Music Enterprises

The documentary also features exclusive archival interviews with Cline’s contemporaries and new interviews with a wide range of artists who have been influenced by Cline: LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Rhiannon Giddens, Wanda Jackson, Bill Anderson, Beverly D’Angelo, Callie Khouri, Reba McEntire, Mickey Guyton and more.

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Country music singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton, who was influenced by Patsy Cline, is interviewed in “Patsy Cline: American Masters.” Credit: Peggy Sirota

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Country music singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton, who was influenced by Patsy Cline, is interviewed in “Patsy Cline: American Masters.” Credit: Peggy Sirota

It’s been such a privilege to tell the story of Patsy Cline. For me, her story exceeds her musical accomplishments. She is in a rare class of women who simply set out to achieve their dreams and through those efforts left an indelible mark,” said Emmy-nominated director and producer Barbara J. Hall. Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Kicks Off Season 31 with Exclusive U.S. Broadcast Premiere of By Sidney Lumet, Tuesday, January 3 on PBS

Exclusive Interview With Treat Williams, Star Of Lumet’s Prince Of The City, And Emmy-Winning Filmmaker Nancy Buirski Follows The Documentary

Prolific and versatile filmmaker Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) made 44 films in 50 years, earning the Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement after four Oscar nominations. Considered a quintessential New York filmmaker, Lumet frequently used New York City’s urban mettle to infuse his films with a realism and intensity that kept audiences in suspense while prodding them to consider their own morality. In American Masters: By Sidney Lumet, he tells his own story in a never-before-seen interview shot in 2008 by late filmmaker Daniel Anker and producer Thane Rosenbaum. With candor, humor and grace, Lumet reveals what matters to him as an artist and as a human being. Launching Season 31, American Masters: By Sidney Lumet premieres nationwide Tuesday, January 3 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and features a new, exclusive interview with Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-nominated actor Treat Williams, who starred in Lumet’s Prince of the City, afterward.by-sidney-lumet_poster_goldposter_com_1-jpg0o_0l_800w_80q

Peabody and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nancy Buirski (Afternoon of a Faun, The Loving Story, Loving) weaves Lumet’s personal stories and commentary with scenes from his films to create a portrait of one of the most accomplished, influential and socially conscious directors in the history of cinema. Clips spanning his canon, from 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Prince of the City, The Verdict, and many more, reveal the spiritual and ethical lessons at the core of his work.

Looking back over his career, Lumet speaks intimately about the experiences that informed his work, which he loved. His Depression-era, working-class Lower East Side beginnings as a child actor with his father in Yiddish theater, on Broadway, and his gradual transition to directing live TV, informed the stories he chose and his ability to translate important stage works into film, such as The Sea Gull, The Fugitive Kind and Long Day’s Journey into Night. In clips from these films, American Masters: By Sidney Lumet underscores Lumet’s own journey: his relationship with his father mirrored in Long Day’s Journey into Night, Daniel, Running on Empty and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Marching for workers’ rights in the 1930s, standing up to McCarthy-era blacklist interrogation and finding ways to employ his blacklisted friends, Lumet developed an appreciation for people who question authority. His movies often featured characters fighting for justice, standing up to the crowd and questioning personal responsibility. First and foremost a storyteller, Lumet’s strongly moral tales captured the dilemmas and concerns of a society struggling with essentials: how does one behave to others and to oneself? (You can read the full biography here.) Continue reading

Thirteen’s American Masters Celebrates 30 Years of Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking in 2016

Thirteen‘s American Masters has announced the preliminary lineup for its 30th anniversary season on PBS featuring Mike Nichols, B.B. King, Carole King, Fats Domino, Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin, The Highwaymen, Norman Lear and Maya Angelou. American Masters, THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, celebrates our arts and culture. Awards include 70 Emmy nominations and 28 awards — 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series.

"American Masters," THIRTEEN's award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America's most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation's landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

“American Masters,” THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation’s landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

Launched in 1986, the series is the gold standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. This prolific series has produced an exceptional library*, bringing unique originality and perspective to illuminate the creative journeys of our most enduring writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, dramatists, filmmakers and those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Balancing a broad and diverse cast of characters and artistic approaches, while preserving historical authenticity and intellectual integrity, these portraits reveal the style and substance of each subject.AboutSeries

The series’ individually crafted films reflect the specific attention deserved by American Masters subjects, including such great talents as Arthur Miller (the series’ first subject), Georgia O’Keeffe, James Baldwin, Diego Rivera, Martha Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I.M. Pei, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Einstein, Rod Serling, Bill T. Jones, Lucille Ball, Paul Simon, Richard Avedon, John Cassavetes, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Gehry, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Curtis, Julia Child, Walter Cronkite, Woody Allen, and Billie Jean King, as well as influential cultural institutions and eras such as the Actor’s Studio, the Algonquin Round Table, the Negro Ensemble Company, the Juilliard School, 60 Minutes, the Joffrey Ballet, and a century of Chinese American cinematic history in Hollywood Chinese.

Fascinating in their individuality as well as in the whole, American Masters has become a cultural legacy in its own right, producing and presenting the extraordinary mosaic of our creative heritage and broadening viewer appreciation of our nation’s traditions and character. An artist’s work can capture, reflect and even shape a society’s experience. Without art, we would lack an identity, a soul and a voice. American Masters exists to give life to that voice.

For this celebratory 30th anniversary season, the offerings are no less fascinating. The season opens with Mike Nichols and concludes with Maya Angelou. How can it get any better than that?

Mike Nichols: American MastersMike-Nichols_end-frame_KEY-ART-FINAL

Season 30 premiere: Friday, January 29 at 9 p.m. Meet one of America’s late, great directors Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Angels in America), who discusses his life and 50-year artistic career, from the comedy duo Nichols and May to his final film, Charlie Wilson’s War. Winner of an Oscar, a Grammy, four Emmys, nine Tonys, three BAFTAs and many other awards, director, actor, writer, producer and comedian Mike Nichols (November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014) was an artistic trailblazer. As the legendary comedy duo Nichols and May, Nichols and his partner Elaine May revolutionized comedy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Now, May has directed the first documentary about her former partner, Mike Nichols: American Masters, premiering Friday, January 29, 2016, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) to launch the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series.

With charm and wit, Nichols discusses his life and 50-year career as a performer and director. Mike Nichols: American Masters features new interviews with his friends and colleagues, including Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Paul Simon, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Bob Balaban, Tony Kushner, Neil Simon, Frank Langella, James L. Brooks and many others, conducted by film, TV and theater producer Julian Schlossberg (Bullets Over Broadway, American Masters — Nichols & May: Take Two, American Masters: The Lives of Lillian Hellman). Schlossberg also conducted an exclusive interview with Nichols for the film. The documentary features insights and highlights from Nichols’ acclaimed films, including The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Catch 22, Silkwood, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, Angels In America and Charlie Wilson’s War, as well as his theatrical productions Barefoot in the Park, Luv and The Odd Couple. Directed by Elaine May. Produced by Julian Schlossberg.

American Masters: B.B. King: The Life of Riley

Photo Credit: B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Photo Credit: B.B. King performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Kevin Nixon

Friday, February 12 at 9 p.m. in honor of Black History Month. Explore B.B. King’s challenging life and career through candid interviews with the “King of the Blues” filmed shortly before his death and fellow music stars, including Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Ringo Starr, and more.

American Masters — Carole King: Natural Woman

Carole King. Photo: Joseph Sinnott / ©2015 THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC. All rights reserved.

Carole King. Photo: Joseph Sinnott / ©2015 THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 19 at 9 p.m. Delve into the hit singer-songwriter’s life and career from 1960s New York to the music mecca of 70s LA to the present. Carole King joins collaborators and family in new interviews, while rare home movies, performances and photos complete the tapestry. The year 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of King’s landmark, four-time Grammy-winning album Tapestry, which was released February 10, 1971.

American Masters: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Singer-songwriter Fats Domino (b. Feb. 26, 1928), 1970. Photo: Getty Images.

Singer-songwriter Fats Domino (b. Feb. 26, 1928), 1970. Photo: Getty Images.

Friday, February 26 at 10 p.m. in honor of Black History Month and Fats Domino’s birthday. Discover how Fats Domino’s brand of New Orleans rhythm and blues became rock ‘n’ roll. As popular in the 1950s as Elvis Presley, Domino suffered degradations in the pre-Civil Rights South and aided integration through his influential music.

American Masters — Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl

Loretta Lynn. Photo: David McClister

Loretta Lynn. Photo: David McClister

Friday, March 4 at 9 p.m. in honor of Women’s History Month. Explore the country legend’s hard-fought road to stardom. From her Appalachian roots to the Oscar-winning biopic of her life, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn struggled to balance family and her music career and is still going strong after more than 50 years. The documentary premieres the same day Lynn’s first new studio album in over 10 years, Full Circle (Legacy Recordings), is released. Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s ‘American Masters’ Premieres New Documentary ‘Carole King: Natural Woman’ February 19 on PBS

Documentary Also Honors the 45th Anniversary of Her Landmark Album ‘Tapestry’CaroleKing_end-frame_FINAL

The career of singer-songwriter Carole King (b. February 9, 1942) is unparalleled. She is a four-time Grammy Award-winner, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a 2015 Kennedy Center Honoree and the first woman to be awarded The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. To date, more than 400 of her compositions have been recorded by more than 1,000 artists, resulting in 100 hit singles, including songs co-written with Gerry Goffin: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (The Shirelles), “Up on the Roof” (The Drifters) and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin).

"American Masters," THIRTEEN's award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America's most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation's landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

“American Masters,” THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation’s landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

Now, King tells her own story in the new documentary American Masters – Carole King: Natural Woman, premiering nationwide Friday, February 19 at 9 pm. on PBS (check local listings) as part of the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series. This year also marks the 45th anniversary of King’s landmark solo album Tapestry, which was released February 10, 1971, and spawned the hits “It’s Too Late,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “So Far Away.”

Carole King. Photo Credit: Elissa Kline

Carole King. Photo Credit: Elissa Kline

Weaving previously unseen and rare performances and home movies with a new, exclusive interview with King, American Masters – Carole King: Natural Woman delves into her life and career. New interviews with friends and colleagues, including fellow songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Tapestry producer Lou Adler, drummer Russ Kunkel, guitarist Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, daughter and manager Sherry Goffin Kondor, lyricists Toni Stern and Carole Bayer Sager, and former manager Peter Asher, complete the biographical tapestry. Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters: Althea Uncovers the Story of Legendary African American Tennis Pioneer Althea Gibson

American Masters: Althea premieres nationwide Friday, September 4, 9-10:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Encore presentation of American Masters: Billie Jean King follows, 10:30 p.m. -12 midnight.

People often cite Arthur Ashe as the first African American to win Wimbledon (1975).  He was indeed the first African American male to win the men’s singles title, but it was, in fact, Althea Gibson, who was the first African American to cross the color line  playing and winning at Wimbledon (1957 and 1958) and at the U.S. Nationals (1957 and 1958 – precursor of the U.S. Open).11400992_930685700321663_6031720544218097232_n

PBS’s American Masters presents Althea, premiering nationwide Friday, September 4, 2015 at 9 pm during the U.S. Open.  The 90-minute documentary reveals the highs and lows of this remarkable athlete whose life and achievements transcend sports and have entered the annals of African American history. From her roots as a sharecropper’s daughter in the cotton fields of South Carolina, to her emergence as the unlikely queen of the highly segregated tennis world in the 1950s, her story is a complex tale of race, class and gender.

In recounting Gibson’s story, the filmmakers were meticulous in finding period imagery, including over 450 vintage photographs.  Producer and director Rex Miller weaves this archival visual material and interviews with those who knew Gibson, such as former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, Wimbledon champions Dick Savitt and Billie Jean King (who also serves as one of the film’s executive producers), Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, widow of Arthur Ashe, and more.

"American Masters," THIRTEEN's award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America's most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation's landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET) (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

“American Masters,” THIRTEEN’s award-winning biography series, explores the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants. With insight and originality, the series illuminates the extraordinary mosaic of our nation’s landscape, heritage and traditions. Watch full episodes and more at http://pbs.org/americanmasters. (PRNewsFoto/WNET) (PRNewsFoto/WNET)

Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina on August 25, 1927. At the age of three, her father moved the family north migrating to Harlem in 1930. Gibson was a tomboy who grew up loving sports, but disliked school so much that she started skipping classes at the age of 12 and, by 18, had dropped out of high school.  She played basketball, but “…paddle tennis started it all,” says Gibson, in a clip from a 1984 interview.

She learned to play that sport on the streets, but it was bandleader Buddy Walker, who was also the neighborhood play street director, who introduced her to tennis and The Cosmopolitan Club, a private black tennis club. At the club, she met Fred Johnson, the one-armed coach, who taught her how to play. Under the auspices of the American Tennis Association (ATA), an organization of African American players, she began to develop as a tennis player.  It was during this time that she met boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who would become a friend and mentor.

Though a talented tennis player, Gibson was a street kid who lacked the genteel manner associated with the sport. It was under the tutelage of Dr. Hubert Eaton of Wilmington, NC and Dr. Robert W. Johnson of Lynchburg, VA, two African American physicians who loved tennis and helped young African Americans who wanted to play, that she flourished. She honed her skill, while receiving lessons in etiquette and the social graces, traveled and played in the segregated south, and even earned her high school degree.  Her success in tennis earned her an athletic scholarship (basketball and tennis) to Florida A&M, where she received a BA in 1955 at the age of 27. Yet, with all she achieved, she never felt comfortable with the black middle class.

She honed her skill, while receiving lessons in etiquette and the social graces, traveled and played in the segregated south, and even earned her high school degree. Her success in tennis earned her an athletic scholarship (basketball and tennis) to Florida A&M, where she received a BA in 1955 at the age of 27. Yet, with all she achieved, she never felt comfortable with the black middle class.

Gibson’s first appearance at the U.S. Nationals in 1950 is an extraordinary and dramatic story. Her triumphant return seven years later to win the U.S. Nationals in 1957 and then again in 1958 has been attributed to her coach at the time, Sydney Llewellyn (her second husband). In 1957 and 1958, Gibson was at the top of her game, winning major tournaments including at prestigious Wimbledon. Though now a world champion, Gibson was unable to make a living playing amateur tennis. In 1959, she turned professional, touring with the Harlem Globetrotters and played paid exhibition matches. Branching out to other areas, she recorded a jazz album for Dot Records, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, and even landed a role in a John Wayne/John Ford movie, The Horse Soldiers (1959), In the 1960s, she took up golf and in 1964 she became the first African American woman to become a member of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association).

In 1965, she married the love of her life, William Darben. Angela Buxton, Althea’s doubles partner and friend, and Sandra Terry, Darben’s niece, speak lovingly about their relationship, though Gibson and Darben’s marriage ended in 1975. Gibson would remarry in 1983 to former coach Llewellyn. Art Carrington, ex-professional player, tennis historian and Athea’s friend, recalls she married Llewellyn because she was invited to bring a spouse on a trip for former champions. Buxton shares that they were just very good friends and that Gibson felt Llewellyn had done a lot for her. Five years later, this marriage also ended in divorce. Gibson and Darben remained close, reuniting towards the end of her life.

By 1968, Gibson had stopped competing and for a while worked as a tennis teaching pro. In the years that followed, Gibson found it difficult to make ends meet. Was her failure to achieve financial success partially her own doing? As portrayed in the film, Gibson is crushed when she is turned away — unrecognized and unwelcome — at the on-site restaurant on U.S. Open Championship Day.

Depressed and impoverished, in 1996, Gibson called Buxton to say goodbye. In a generous outpouring of financial support, orchestrated by Buxton, the tennis community showed Gibson she was not forgotten. Gibson died September 28, 2003. She was 76.

Though Gibson’s accomplishments put her in the forefront of the struggle to eliminate segregation in tennis and to gain equal rights for players, she was a reluctant figure of the civil rights movement. “As far as Althea was concerned, it was not about representing the race,” says Arvelia Myers, Althea’s friend and tennis professional.  Says Billie Jean King, “Arthur and I used our tennis as a platform, that’s not what she wanted. She just wanted to play.”

Gibson’s athletic prowess was unmatched on the tennis court, making her a formidable competitor,” says Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters and tennis enthusiast. “Her story remains an important part not only of sports history and African American history, but of American cultural history.  American Masters is proud to share the story of this trailblazing athlete and extraordinary woman.” Continue reading

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Series Presents the National Broadcast Premiere of Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler

Emmy-winning filmmaker Peter Rosen’s profile of the violin virtuoso features Heifetz’ previously unseen home movies, Itzhak Perlman, Ivry Gitlis, Ida Haendel and Ayke Agus,  April 16 and 17 on PBS (check local listings)

 

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Emmy- and Peabody-winning filmmaker Peter Rosen (American Masters — Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes, The Cliburn: Playing on the Edge) uncovers the story of legendary musician Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987), the first truly modern violin virtuoso, for THIRTEEN‘s American Masters series. The one-hour documentary American Masters — Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler premieres nationwide Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m. and Friday, April 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Major market premieres include Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m. on WTTW11 in Chicago and WHYY-TV in Philadelphia and 10:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN in New York, and Friday, April 17 at 8 p.m. on KERA in Dallas, 8:30 p.m. on WETA TV 26 in Washington, D.C., and 9 p.m. on PBS SoCal in Los Angeles, on KQED in San Francisco, on WGBH 2 in Boston and on Houston Public Media.

Jascha Heifetz, the child prodigy, circa 1907 at age 6. Credit: Library of Congress

Jascha Heifetz, the child prodigy, circa 1907 at age 6. Credit: Library of Congress

Jascha Heifetz. Credit: Library of Congress

Jascha Heifetz. Credit: Library of Congress

Jascha Heifetz, circa 1969-1970. Credit: RCA

Jascha Heifetz, circa 1969-1970. Credit: RCA

The day after the 19-year-old Heifetz’s London debut, George Bernard Shaw wrote him a now legendary letter. “If you provoke a jealous God by playing with such superhuman perfection,” Shaw warned, “you will die young. I earnestly advise you to play something badly every night before going to bed, instead of saying your prayers. No mortal should presume to play so faultlessly.”

Heifetz is widely considered to be one of the most profoundly influential performing artists of all time. Born in Vilnius, Lithuania — then occupied by Russia — on February 2, 1901, he became a U.S. citizen in 1925. Fiercely patriotic to his adopted country, he gave hundreds of concerts for Allied service men and women during World War II, including tours of Central and South America, North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany, often playing from the back of a flatbed truck in dangerous conditions.

In 1928, he published the first of dozens of acclaimed violin transcriptions. Many, including his arrangements of selections from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” are now part of the standard repertoire. Using the pseudonym Jim Hoyl, he even wrote a pop song that became a hit in 1946.

In his later years, Heifetz became a dedicated teacher and a champion of causes he believed in. He led efforts to establish “911” as an emergency phone number, and crusaded for clean air. He and his students at the University of Southern California protested smog by wearing gas masks, and in 1967 he converted his Renault passenger car into an electric vehicle. As a result of his vast recorded legacy, Heifetz’s violin playing is no less influential today than it was in his lifetime. To legions of violinists he remains, quite simply, “The King.”

Jascha Heifetz (right) rehearses with Arturo Toscanini (left), circa 1950. Credit: Library of Congress

Jascha Heifetz (right) rehearses with Arturo Toscanini (left), circa 1950. Credit: Library of Congress

Jascha Heifetz at home in his native Vilnius, Lithuania. Credit: Library of Congress

Jascha Heifetz at home in his native Vilnius, Lithuania. Credit: Library of Congress

Setting the standard in violin playing for nearly a century, Heifetz’ name became shorthand for excellence for everyone from Jack Benny to The Muppets to Woody Allen. Through vintage performances and master classes, God’s Fiddler portrays an artist for whom only perfection would do. New interviews include other great violinists influenced by Heifetz, including Itzhak Perlman, Ivry Gitlis and Ida Haendel, former student, accompanist and longtime companion Ayke Agus, former student and master assistant in charge of his world-renowned violin class at the University of Southern California Sherry Kloss, and biographers John Anthony Maltese and Arthur Vered. They reveal how Heifetz was a mysterious, idiosyncratic, solitary figure who embodied the paradox of artistic genius: a dedication to his craft at all costs, including two failed marriages, estrangement from his children and very few friends. Characterized as serious and intense while performing and teaching, his students describe him as generous and playful when socializing. Continue reading