Thomas Doherty, a professor of American studies at Brandeis University, has lots of stories about the subject of his new book, Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration
(Columbia University Press), excerpted in this issue (page 54). One classic anecdote puts Alfred Hitchcock in a meeting with Breen about his thriller Rebecca. Hitchcock thought Rebecca should be shot, while Breen preferred that she die of natural causes. They compromised on a nice blow to the head. Doherty's next project is a book on the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League of the late 1930s, which he calls "one of the first groups to self-consciously deploy stardom for political purposes."
Robert Alt, a fellow in legal and international affairs at the John M. Ashbrook Center, wasn't initially interested in the Anna Nicole Smith case because of the sex or the scandal. Instead, he was fascinated by the "messy issues of jurisdiction" involved, which he parses in "The Real Untold Story" (page 59). Alt dug into mainstream news sources like MSNBC to get legal background on the case and found that "a lot of the coverage reads like The National Enquirer."
Nick Gillespie, who joined Reason as an assistant editor in 1993 and has been editor-in-chief since 2000, interviewed Amity Shlaes on C-SPAN about her eloquent social history, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (page 34). The book reminded Gillespie of the casual tales of desperation his parents told about growing up during the 1930s. "My father once got a free winter coat from Barneys in New York," says the 44-year-old Gillespie. "He had his priest sign a coupon, and he waited on line for hours for the only decent coat he ever owned as a kid. Decades later, he would take my brother and me to Barneys every year and buy us hugely overpriced coats as a way of settling his bill. I'm grateful to have a special window on the grim reality of the Depression, but I hope that my two sons never experience anything like their grandparents did."