Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...
Judith Brin Ingber
Amberg, George (28 December 1901–27 July 1971), professor of film and dance critic, was born Hans Aschaffenburg in Halle, Germany, the son of Gustav Aschaffenburg, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist, and Maja Nebel. He was educated in Davos, Switzerland, from 1916 to 1918, at a fashionable boys’ private high school where the kaiser sent his children, and also in Cologne, Munich, and Kiel. In 1923 he founded Cassette, the avant-garde theater in Cologne, and was also a stage director there. From 1924 to 1928 he worked in theatrical festivals with noted German director Gustav Hurtung, first as a dramaturge and play director at the Cologne Theatre, then in 1926 at the Heidelberg Theatre Festival, and thereafter in 1927–1928 as director in the Darmstadt Theatre. Amberg earned his doctorate in December 1930 from the University of Cologne on the German novelist Theodor Fontane as critic. He was also a lecturer and member of the drama department at the university. From 1930 to 1933 Amberg helped to organize the University of Cologne’s theater museum and also established and directed its film library and institute. His published writings from this period concerned the subject of dance. He was a contributing editor on dance to the Ullstein and Herder encyclopedias. Amberg also gave visiting lectures in Berlin, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Basel. He established a cabaret as well, which was usually considered a low-class entertainment venue, but his was experimental theater that included all of the arts....
Crowther, Bosley (13 July 1905–07 March 1981), newspaper film reviewer, was born Francis Bosley Crowther in Lutherville, Maryland, the son of F. Bosley Crowther and Eliza Leisenring. His father was a wholesale grocer, but the family was clearly of the middle class. Crowther’s earliest public schooling took place in Lutherville, near Baltimore. When his parents moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he attended grade school there, and after another family move he finished his high school education in Washington, D.C. He then spent a postgraduate year at the Woodberry Forest school in Virginia....
Stephen J. Whitfield
Macdonald, Dwight (24 March 1906–19 December 1982), critic and editor, was born in New York City, the son of Dwight Macdonald, an attorney, and Alice Hedges, the daughter of a successful Brooklyn merchant. Though his family was primarily middle class, Macdonald attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1928 with a B.A. degree. The circumstances of Macdonald’s family were reduced in 1926 when his father died, but the new monthly magazine ...
Marcia B. Dinneen
Sherwood, Robert Emmet (04 April 1896–14 November 1955), writer, editor, and critic, was born in New Rochelle, New York, the son of Arthur Murray Sherwood, a stockbroker and member of the New York Stock Exchange, and Rosina Emmet, an artist and illustrator. He was named for an ancestor, Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot. When Sherwood was one year old, the family moved to New York City. After 1906, summers were spent at Skene Wood, in Westport, New York, on Lake Champlain, “the most beautiful place in the world.” Sherwood’s writing career began at age seven, when he edited a hand-printed magazine called ...
Siskel, Gene (26 January 1946–20 February 1999), film critic, was born Eugene Kal Siskel in Chicago, the son of Nathan W. Siskel and Ida Kalis. He grew up, until age nine, in Rogers Park, a middle-class neighborhood on the city's North Side. With the deaths of their parents in 1955, the Siskel children were raised by their maternal aunt, Mae Gray, and her husband, Joseph, in suburban Glencoe, Illinois. Siskel prepared for college at Culver Military Academy, a boarding school in Culver, Indiana, graduating in 1963. He enrolled at Yale University, where he won a Coro Foundation Public Affairs Scholarship and majored in philosophy, earning a bachelor's degree in 1967. An army reservist, Siskel was called to active duty the follow year. He took courses in writing and editing at the U.S. Department of Defense Information School and produced press material for the armed services. He enjoyed this first experience with practical journalism so much that he decided to attempt a career at it, putting aside plans to attend law school....