Krampner, Jon 1952-
Krampner, Jon 1952-
Born 1952, in New York, NY.
Home—Los Angeles, CA.
Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley, Back Stage Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Also contributor of entertainment articles to periodicals, including the Los Angeles Times, Playboy, Modern Maturity, and the New York Times. Contributing editor, Emmy magazine.
In The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television, television and stage historian Jon Krampner tells the story of one of the unsung geniuses of early television. Fred Coe, possibly more than any other single figure, helped structure television drama in the 1950s through his role as producer of the megahits Philco Playhouse and Playhouse 90. "Krampner," David Gunzerath stated in the Journal of Popular Film and Television, "correctly points out that among Coe's greatest strengths as a producer was his ability to spot talent and to provide that talent with the freedom necessary to produce high-quality work. Thus, Coe often served as a buffer between, on the one hand, networks and advertisers and, on the other, the many exceptional writers and directors who worked for him." He worked with established stars, including Jose Ferrer, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda, and Frank Sinatra. He also gave Grace Kelly and Paul Newman their first breaks on television, produced Patty Duke's Broadway appearance as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, and was directly responsible for the highest-rated show ever produced for television in the 1950s: Mary Martin's Peter Pan. He was, explained Richard Corliss in Time, "the primo impresario of TV drama."
As one of the pioneers of the medium, Coe had to deal with problems and situations virtually unknown in modern television. Because many of his best-known works were broadcast live, he had to make split-second adjustments while the shows were going on. "Putting a show on the air in these infant years was a work of art, craft and athletic endurance," explained Corliss. "A tiny studio held three sets and three bulky cameras, whose lights pushed the thermometer up to 100 degrees; technicians could lose eight to 10 lbs. per show. The actors had to make every mark, remember every line and, between scenes, rush from one set to another without tripping over the miles of fat camera cable. Coe had to keep it all moving smoothly." Krampner, declared a Publishers Weekly contributor, "makes a compelling case for Coe's artistic vision having defined the medium."
Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley tells the story of one of the most influential Broadway, movie, and television actresses of the 1950s and 1960s. Although she is not well remembered today, Stanley was regarded as an emerging star in her heyday; "during the 1950s," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "her acting early on drew raves. Her performances in Picnic and Bus Stop became legendary." "As Krampner discusses," George Reddick related in Talking Broadway, "Marilyn Monroe, who played the role [of Bus Stop's Cherie, originated by Stanley] in the film, studied at the Actor's Studio to prepare, while Kim was known as the ‘First Lady of the Studio’ and many believe Monroe's performance was actually based on Kim's." "A method actor, she made her mark on Broadway, won two Emmy Awards for her live television dramas," stated Carolyn M. Mulac in Library Journal, "and appeared in five feature films," garnering two Academy Award nominations in the process.
Stanley was just as famous for her erratic personality as she was for her acting ability. "Throughout her career in the '50s and '60s, Stanley fought instability and alcoholism," Reddick commented, "possibly explaining why live television, which did not require her to appear night after night, was perhaps her strongest performing medium, though many who saw her live claim that nothing compared to Stanley's stage performances." Later in life, however, she retreated from the public eye and died in relative obscurity in 2001. "Though she may survive today only in the shadows of film," Reddick concluded, "Kim Stanley will live forever in the memories of those who saw her on stage and, thanks to Jon Krampner, those of us who didn't see her are a little closer to knowing what it was like."
Krampner told CA: "Writing is something I've always been interested in one way or another. In elementary school, I wrote bad poetry. When I was in junior high school, I proudly told my mother that I had written something in the style of some particular writer; she said that if I continued to write, I'd wind up writing in my own style. That was a galvanizing moment for me and may have influenced my choice of career.
"My greatest influences have been television host Johnny Carson from The Tonight Show, Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, author George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language," comedian Bob Hope, Long Island University basketball coach Clair Bee, and being an English major at Occidental College, not necessarily in that order.
"I can't describe my writing process—issues of national security are involved. But seriously, folks: matters of process are private, awkward, and embarrassing—it's like talking about how you make love.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that editors and agents sometimes have their own best interests in mind rather than yours. There are some good ones out there, though—the trick is to find them."
When asked which of his books is his favorite, Krampner responded: "This is the old ‘Which of your children do you like best?’ question. I like my first book, The Man in the Shadows, because Fred Coe was a patron saint of writers and because it was my first book. I like my second book, Female Brando, because I was able to get back in the saddle after getting a rough going-over from the publishing business on my first book.
"The subjects of both my books were colorful and culturally important figures who would not have had biographies if I hadn't come along. So the effect I hope my books will have is to preserve a record of their lives and accomplishments, which otherwise would have been washed away like footprints below the tideline.
"Both Fred Coe and Kim Stanley were brilliant and talented; both were also prodigious alcoholics, especially Ms. Stanley, and I've come to regard myself as the chronicler of tormented geniuses who have lapsed into obscurity. For this reason, and because biography is such a punishing genre, my next book is a history of peanut butter."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 1997, Mike Tribby, review of The Man in the Shadows: Fred Coe and the Golden Age of Television, p. 918.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September, 1997, review of The Man in the Shadows, p. 116; January, 2007, D.B. Wilmeth, review of Female Brando: The Legend of Kim Stanley, p. 838.
Journal of Popular Film and Television, winter, 1998, David Gunzerath, review of The Man in the Shadows, p. 189.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of Female Brando, p. 336.
Library Journal, June 1, 2006, Carolyn M. Mulac, review of Female Brando, p. 118.
New Yorker, May 22, 2006, Hilton Als, "Critics Notebook: Curtain Call," review of Female Brando, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, December 16, 1996, review of The Man in the Shadows, p. 48.
Television Quarterly, spring, 1997, Fritz Jacobi, review of The Man in the Shadows.
Time, August 18, 1997, Richard Corliss, review of The Man in the Shadows, p. 72.
TV Guide, December 27, 1997, Neal Gabler, review of The Man in the Shadows, p. 7.
Jon Krampner Web site,http://kimstanley.net (February 7, 2008).
Publishers Weekly Online,http://publishersweekly.com/ (June 19, 2006), review of Female Brando.
Rutgers University Press Web site,http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/ (January 8, 2008), brief biography of Jon Krampner.
Talking Broadway,http://www.talkingbroadway.com/ (January 8, 2008), George Reddick, review of Female Brando.