The 1970s Arts and Entertainment: Headline Makers
The 1970s Arts and Entertainment: Headline MakersFrancis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola (1939–) Film director and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola created three epic films in the 1970s that ensured his place in cinematic history. In 1972, Coppola transformed Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather into an award-winning, moneymaking sensation. Two years later, he released The Godfather: Part II, a sequel many critics hailed as the second half of one of America's greatest films. In 1979, Coppola released Apocalypse Now, his vision of the Vietnam War. Critics either praised it as the ultimate picture of war or panned it as unrealistic.
Jane Fonda (1937–) In the 1970s, actress Jane Fonda became known more for her social protests than for her screen presence. She championed the human rights of Native Americans, publicly supported the Black Panthers, and embraced the women's movement. Her highly publicized trip to North Vietnam in 1972 to protest America's involvement in the Vietnam War proved to be too much for many U.S. citizens, who accused Fonda of treason. Fonda reappeared in films in 1978, winning a best actress Oscar for her role in Coming Home (ironically, a film about a Vietnam veteran's return to America after the war).
Jim Henson (1936–1990) Jim Henson had created his first Muppet, Kermit, back in 1959. It wasn't until the premiere of the television show Sesame Street ten years later, however, that his work enchanted children in America and beyond. During the 1970s, his puppet creations—including Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Miss Piggy, and the Cookie Monster—appeared as guests on other television shows and specials. In 1976, The Muppet Show debuted on the small screen, becoming an award-winning hit. Three years later, the Muppets made the leap to the big screen in The Muppet Movie, the first of several successful films.
Norman Lear (1922–) Television producer Norman Lear changed the nature of American television comedy in the 1970s with his many long-running shows. Focusing on contemporary social topics such as racism and sexism, they were often controversial. His first, and most memorable, comedy was All in the Family. Introduced in 1971, the highly popular, Emmy-winning show about a working-class family headed by Archie Bunker, a loudmouthed bigot, was broadcast throughout the decade. Other Lear creations in the 1970s included Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.
Toni Morrison (1931–) Writer Toni Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, to critical acclaim in 1970. Hailed as a significant new voice in fiction, Morrison sought to document the struggles of African Americans, and especially African American women, to help them connect with their cultural history. With each successive novel, she gained greater critical respect and a larger reading audience. Song of Solomon, published in 1977, won the National Book Critics' Circle Award for fiction and became a bestseller. Sixteen years and three more novels later, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993.
Richard Pryor (1940–) Actor and comedian Richard Pryor combined his street humor and high-strung nervous energy to become a film and comedic sensation. He appeared in fourteen films in the 1970s, including Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Silver Streak (1976), and Greased Lightning (1977). Critics praised many of his film roles. Throughout the decade, Pryor released million-selling comedy albums, some of which won Grammy awards. His live comedy performances often sold out, and his 1979 concert film, Richard Pryor Live, grossed more than thirty million dollars.
Gloria Steinem (1934–) Gloria Steinem began the 1970s as an admired magazine writer and ended the decade as one of its most respected and influential magazine editors and proponents of women's rights. In 1971, she and others created the National Women's Political Caucus, which promoted feminist issues and encouraged women to run for political office. The following year, Steinem helped found Ms. magazine, a publication that challenged mainstream thinking about women's roles in society. It became one of the most successful and talked-about magazines of the 1970s and beyond.
Donna Summer (1949–) Singer and songwriter Donna Summer helped launch the disco revolution in 1975 with "Love to Love You Baby," the title track on her debut album. Her soulful and sultry vocal style earned her three hit albums by 1977. The following year, she appeared as an aspiring singer in the dance-oriented film Thank God It's Friday, and she also sang the movie's award-winning theme song, "Last Dance." Summer's eclectic 1979 double album, Bad Girls, which featured disco, rock, blues, ballad, and pop songs, produced three smash hits.