Thursday, December 20, 2007

Quick hits: Gothic, Southern Christmas and the death of a film pioneer

(Note: This may be the last post 'til after Christmas. Happy Holidays, everyone!)

Haven Kimmel gets spiritual in 'Used World'
"Haven Kimmel - who spent a chunk of this autumn as a visiting writer at the University of North Carolina Wilmington - is one of those cheerful boundary-hoppers who's hard to pin down," writes Currents.

"She remains, of course, Indiana's greatest literary light since Kurt Vonnegut, having immortalized her Hoosier girlhood in the best-sellers A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch.

"For most of the past decade, though, she's lived in the Durham area, where she served a literary apprenticeship under Lee Smith at N.C. State, and her fiction often seems closer to Flannery O'Connor or Eudora Welty than to the great Midwesterners.

"This is especially true of her latest novel The Used World. Although set in Indiana, it's stuffed with literary props of the Gothic tradition, and it's as "Christ-haunted" (to borrow Flannery O'Connor's famous phrase for the South) as anything O'Connor ever wrote. ..."

Studio head Frank Capra Jr. dies
"Frank Capra Jr., the son of 'It's A Wonderful Life' director Frank Capra who followed his father into the movie business and helped build the largest television and movie studio on the East Coast, has died. He was 73," says the Associated Press.

"Capra Jr. died Wednesday night at a hospital in Philadelphia, said Bill Vassar, the executive vice president of Wilmington-based EUE Screen Gems Studios, of which Capra was president. Vassar said Capra died following a long fight with prostate cancer, which had spread over the past several months.

" 'With his Hollywood pedigree and extensive experience as a producer, Frank was the perfect ambassador to Hollywood,' Chris Cooney, chief operating officer of EUE Screen Gems, said in a statement. 'He will be missed as a friend and a colleague.'

"Under Capra's leadership, EUE Screen Gems' credits include several major motion pictures, including '28 Days,' 'The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,' 'Domestic Disturbance,' 'Black Knight' and 'A Walk to Remember.'

"... He discovered North Carolina in 1983 when searching for a home to burn down for the filming of 'Firestarter,' the Stephen King horror movie starring a young Drew Barrymore. The scene was shot at the Orton Plantation in Winnabow, and afterward Capra persuaded executive producer Dino De Laurentiis to build a studio facility in Wilmington.

"De Laurentiis eventually sold the facility, which again changed hands in 1997, when the Cooney family bought the studios and installed Capra as president. The studio has since grown into the nation's largest film production center east of California.

" 'He brings a certain cachet to the studio that would not be there and wasn't there before he came,' said Bill Arnold, the former director of the N.C. Film Office, said in an interview earlier this year. 'When Frank came on, I think it assumed a larger profile just because of Frank's name.' ..."

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