POP TWENTY: 20th Century Pop Culture, Volumes 1 and 2

Robert S. Birchard
Michael J. Bifulco
Jim Dawson
Elizabeth McLeod
Nick Santa Maria
Published via CreateSpace, 2012
Amazon, $12.99 each

Robert S. Birchard grew up going to the movies at the Alex Theatre, so to his impressive list of film and publishing credits I can add his status as an honorary Glendale author and place his works on the virtual Glendale Bookshelf. In addition to POP TWENTY Volume 1 and Volume 2, he is the author of Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood, Silent-era Filmmaking in Santa Barbara, and King Cowboy: Tom Mix and the Movies. He is also a contributing writer to the omnibus volumes M-G-M When the Lion Roars, Don Miller’s Hollywood Corral, and The Encyclopedia of Early Film and Hollywood: The Movie Factory.

Birchard’s expertise made him a perfect archivist and cataloger for the American Film Institute. His love for the performing arts made him an excellent spokesperson for Glendale Arts. Watch Bob Birchard talk about the importance of the Alex Theatre in one of 24 videos Glendale Arts recently produced (scroll down).

Check out Robert S. Birchard’s website for a comprehensive list of his many published works, and his current activities, including expert photo restoration and licensing (from his large personal collection of historic film industry photos).

POP TWENTY Volumes 1 and 2 are part of a series devoted to 20th Century popular culture. Birchard worked with top-flight writers to explore shared memories of classic movies, early TV, old time radio, and pop music. The volumes are richly illustrated with over 140 rare, often never-before-published, photos that bring the stories to life.

Volume 1 features the unforgettable 1933 film musical Footlight Parade starring James Cagney, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell with dance numbers staged by the legendary Busby Berkeley; the chaotic behind-the-mike story of the founding of the CBS Radio Network; a speculation on how James Dean became an icon of rock ‘n’ roll even though he probably never heard a genuine rock record; a behind the scenes look at the popular 1950s TV series, I Married Joan (In which Joan Davis went head-to-head with Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy); and much more.

Volume 2 features a newly unearthed 1970s interview with Steve Allen; an overview by “British Invader” Ian Whitcomb of Tin Pan Alley during the Great War and how propaganda, patriotism, and pianos made for such a lovely war; the forgotten story of would-be movie mogul Thomas C. Regan–whose lost silent movie studio still stands built even though it never completed or released a single film; and Dorothy Lee’s memories of working with Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey.

Leonard Maltin gave top billing in one of his columns to POP TWENTY. Excerpt: “an exceedingly handsome publication, bound like an oversized paperback and filled with rare and beautiful stills.”

Greenbriar Picture Show blog also reviewed POP TWENTY (scroll down a bit). Excerpt: “If there’s anyone who knows more about movies than Bob Birchard, I’ve not met him. Pop Twenty is chock-filled with fascinating stuff on pics, TV, radio, and music from our preferred era.”

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth shelving session of the summer, adding to this blog’s virtual Glendale Bookshelf. Birchard is a prolific historian – I may have to add another shelf!