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Ben Gazzara

Veteran stage and film actor Ben Gazzara died over the weekend. He was 81. Best known for his role in the classic film Anatomy of a Murder with James Stewart, he appeared in several notable films throughout his long career, including Husbands and The killing of a Chinese bookie with director John Cassavetes. He is also remembered for his starring role in the 1960s television series Run for Your Life in which he played a lawyer with a terminal illness determined to make the most of his remaining time.

African American Biographies

African Americans are at the heart of the greatest achievements of our history, from music to law, from politics to sports, from literature to religion.

Black History Month

We owe the celebration of Black History Month to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the son of slaves who went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. He launched Negro History Week in 1926 in order to bring national attention to the contributions of blacks throughout American history. Woodson chose the second week of February for this recognition because it marks the birthdays of two men whose lives greatly influenced the black American population — Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The celebration evolved into Black History Month in 1976.

Oscar Nominations

Nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards were announced January 24. Several of the nominated films and performances are already available in the Library's collection. Among the nominees for Best Picture ready to check out are:

The Help [videodisc]

Midnight in Paris [videodisc]

Moneyball [videodisc]

The tree of life [videodisc]

If You Like Downton Abbey

Set in an Edwardian country house in 1912, the popular PBS series Downton Abbey centers on the Crawley family, their servants and their life at their grand country home. However, the death of the Crawley heir aboard the Titanic, sets in motion a succession of changes for both the family and the servants. The second season — which began on PBS on January 8 — has moved forward to the years 1916-17 and portrays the effect that World War I has on all of their lives. This Emmy Award winning series is written by Julian Fellowes and stars Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, and Elizabeth McGovern. If you enjoy this period of history try some of the following titles.

Books

The American heiress: a novel by Daisy Goodwin — Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England.

Below Stairs — The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" by Powell, Margaret — The remarkable true story of a woman who served in one of the great houses of England as a kitchen maid.

Soon to be a Major Motion Picture

The past year saw several popular books made into movies. The Help, Moneyball, War Horse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Extemely Loud & Incredibly Close were just a few of the titles that were made into successful films. And 2012 is shaping up to be just as full of books-into-film productions as 2011. Listed below are only a few of the titles to be released in theaters this year. Get a head start on your reading and stay tuned for more in the coming months!

Abraham Lincoln: vampire hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith — Starring Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper. Release date: June 2012

Breaking dawn by Stephenie Meyer — Part 2. Starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Release date: November 2012

2011 National Film Registry Inductees

The National Film Registry of The Library of Congress recently announced its list of inductees for 2011. Established in 1989, the films are selected for their enduring importance to United States culture. For a history of the Film Registry you can watch the fascinating documentary These amazing shadows: the movies that made America, which is available in the Library's collection. Included among the list of 2011 entries are:

Bambi

The big heat

North Korea's Kim Jong Il

The death of North Korea's controversial leader, Kim Jong Il, was announced earlier this week by DRPK state television. Although North Korean legend claimed that Kim was born on Mount Paekdu — a cherished Korean site — Soviet records indicate that he was born in Siberia in 1941. His father Kim Il Sung was a guerilla fighter who became a communist leader in Korea in 1945 after the defeat of Japan in World War II. After the Korean peninsula was divided into two states — the North, administered by the Soviets — and the South by the United States, the stage was set for the beginning of the Korean War. After the North invaded the South in 1950, three years of bloodshed ensued, killing millions and leaving the peninsula permanently divided to this day. Kim Jong Il became the country's "Dear Leader" in 1994 upon the death of his father. Kim Jong Il was widely criticized throughout the world for devoting much of his country's resources on building up its nuclear arms arsenal, while at the same time his countrymen were suffering from a prolonged famine. His youngest son, Kim Jong Un, has been designated as his successor.

Rogue regime: Kim Jong Il and the looming threat of North Korea by Jasper Becker

Under the loving care of the fatherly leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K. Martin

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, the longtime dissident who later became the leader of the Czech Republic passed away December 18 at the age of 75. Havel was better known as a poet and playwright when he led his nation through the bloodless Velvet Revolution in 1989 that toppled the decades long Soviet regime in Czechoslovakia. Havel later went on to serve as president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992. After the federation peacefully split into two states he served as president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. The other state became Slovakia. Among those expected to be at his Friday funeral are Bill Clinton, U.S.

Happy Birthday Diego Rivera!

Mexican artist Diego Rivera was born 125 years ago on December 8, 1886. Married to fellow artist Frida Kahlo, he was renowned for his murals which can be found in Mexico City, San Francisco, New York City, and Detroit. Between the years 1932 and 1933, Rivera painted a famous series of fresco panels entitled Detroit Industry on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Depicting industry at the Ford Motor Company, Rivera himself considered it his most successful work.

Pearl Harbor Remembered

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the surprise attack on Hawaii's Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The early morning attack on December 7, 1941 on the U.S. fleet stationed in the harbor, and at Hickam Field where 51 airplanes were on the ground, was the catalyst for the United States' entry into World War II. Nine ships were sunk and twenty-one were severely damaged and nearly half of the airplanes were destroyed or severely damaged. The death toll numbered 2,403: 1,177 from the battleship Arizona alone. It is estimated that there are about 8.000 survivors from the attack who are still alive.

New Author Biographies

Check out some of the library's new author biographies which have been published recently. Place your holds now!

And so it goes: Kurt Vonnegut, a life by Charles Shields

Charles Dickens: a life by Claire Tomalin

Fiction ruined my family by Jeanne Darst

Happy Birthday Mark Twain!

Mark Twain, one of America's best-known and well-loved authors, was born on November 30, 1835. His works have been translated into hundreds of languages, and Hollywood continues to produce film adaptations of his books. The first volume of his autobiography was published in 2010 on the centenary of the author's death as he did not want some of his more scalding opinions and observations in print until he had been dead at least a century. The book was published by the staff of the Mark Twain Project — an archive that contains Twain's private papers.

Read the Book, See the Movie

The upcoming weeks will see several new films released that are based on, or inspired by popular books. Here are some of the most anticipated:

The adventures of Tintin: the chapter book by adapted by Stephanie Peters — Directed by Stephen Spielberg

Extremely loud & incredibly close by Jonathan Safran Foer — Starring Tom Hanks & Sandra Bullock