|Birth Day:||June 19, 1919|
|Death Date:||Sep 3, 2001 (age 82)|
As per our current Database, Pauline Kael died on Sep 3, 2001 (age 82).
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She attended UC Berkeley to study philosophy, literature, and art.
Kael was born on a chicken farm in Petaluma, California, to Isaac Paul Kael and Judith Kael (née Friedman), Jewish emigrants from Poland. Her parents lost their farm when Kael was eight, and the family moved to San Francisco. In 1936 she matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied philosophy, literature, and art, but dropped out in 1940. Kael had intended to go on to law school, but fell in with a group of artists and moved to New York City with the poet Robert Horan.
Three years later, Kael returned to Berkeley and "led a bohemian life," writing plays, and working in experimental film. In 1948, Kael and the filmmaker James Broughton had a daughter, Gina, whom Kael would raise alone. Gina had a serious illness through much of her childhood; to support her daughter and herself, Kael worked a series of menial jobs such as cook and seamstress, along with stints as an advertising copywriter.
In 1953, the editor of City Lights magazine overheard Kael arguing about films in a coffeeshop with a friend and asked her to review Charlie Chaplin's Limelight. Kael dubbed the film "Slimelight" and began publishing film criticism regularly in magazines.
Kael continued to juggle writing with other work until she received an offer to publish a book of her criticism. Published in 1965 as I Lost It at the Movies, the collection sold 150,000 paperback copies and was a surprise bestseller. Coinciding with a job at the high-circulation women's magazine McCall's, Kael (as Newsweek put it in a 1966 profile) "went mass.”
Her dismissal from McCall's led to a stint from 1966 to 1967 at The New Republic, whose editors continually altered Kael's writing without her permission. In October 1967, Kael wrote a lengthy essay on Bonnie and Clyde, which the magazine declined to publish. William Shawn of The New Yorker obtained the piece and ran it in the New Yorker issue of October 21. Kael's rave review was at odds with prevailing opinion, which was that the film was inconsistent, blending comedy and violence. According to critic David Thomson, "she was right about a film that had bewildered many other critics.” A few months after the essay ran, Kael quit The New Republic "in despair." In 1968, Kael was asked by Shawn to join The New Yorker staff; she alternated as film critic every six months with Penelope Gilliatt until 1979, and became sole critic in 1980 after a year's leave of absence working in the film industry.
In 1970, Kael received a George Polk Award for her work as a critic at the New Yorker. She continued to publish collections of her writing with suggestive titles such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, When the Lights Go Down, and Taking It All In. Her fourth collection, Deeper into Movies (1973), won the U.S. National Book Award in the Arts and Letters category. It was the first non-fiction book about film to win a National Book Award.
Commissioned as an introduction to the shooting script in The Citizen Kane Book, "Raising Kane" was first printed in two consecutive issues of The New Yorker. The essay extended Kael's dispute of the auteur theory, arguing that Herman J. Mankiewicz, co-author of the screenplay, was virtually the sole author of the script and the film's actual guiding force. Kael further alleged that Orson Welles had actively schemed to deprive Mankiewicz of screen credit. Welles considered suing Kael for libel. He was defended by critics, scholars and friends including Peter Bogdanovich, who rebutted Kael's claims in a 1972 article that included the revelation that Kael had appropriated the extensive research of a UCLA faculty member and did not credit him.
In December 1972, a month after U.S. President Richard Nixon was reelected in a landslide victory, Kael gave a lecture at the Modern Language Association, during which she said, "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them." An article on the lecture in The New York Times included this quote.
In 1978, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. In his film Willow (1988), George Lucas named one of the villains "General Kael" after the critic. Kael had often reviewed Lucas' work without enthusiasm; in her own (negative) review of Willow, she described the character as an "hommage à moi".
In 1979, Kael accepted an offer from Warren Beatty to be a consultant to Paramount Pictures, but left the position after only a few months to return to writing criticism.
Though she published no new writing of her own, Kael was not averse to giving interviews, occasionally giving her opinion on new films and television shows. In a 1998 interview with Modern Maturity, she said she sometimes regretted not being able to review: "A few years ago when I saw Vanya on 42nd Street, I wanted to blow trumpets. Your trumpets are gone once you've quit.” She died, in 2001, at her home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts from Parkinson's, aged 82.
Asked in 1998 if she thought her criticism had affected the way films were made, Kael deflected the question, stating, "If I say yes, I'm an egotist, and if I say no, I've wasted my life". Several directors' careers were profoundly affected by her, most notably that of Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader, who was accepted at UCLA Film School's graduate program upon Kael's recommendation. Under her mentoring, Schrader worked as a film critic before taking up screenwriting and directing full-time. Derek Malcolm, who worked for several decades as a film critic for The Guardian, claimed that, "If a director was praised by Kael, he or she was generally allowed to work, since the money-men knew there would be similar approbation across a wide field of publications". Alternately, Kael was said to have had the power to prevent filmmakers from working; David Lean claimed that her criticism of his work "kept him from making a movie for 14 years" (referring to the 14-year break between Ryan's Daughter in 1970 and A Passage to India in 1984).
Though he began directing films after she retired, Quentin Tarantino was also influenced by Kael. He read her criticism voraciously growing up and said that Kael was "as influential as any director was in helping me develop my aesthetic". Wes Anderson recounted his efforts to screen his film Rushmore for Kael in a 1999 The New York Times article titled "My Private Screening With Pauline Kael". He later wrote to Kael commenting "your thoughts and writing about the movies [have] been a very important source of inspiration for me and my movies, and I hope you don't regret that".
In January 2000, filmmaker Michael Moore posted a recollection of Kael's response to his documentary film, Roger & Me (1989). Moore wrote that Kael was incensed that she had to watch Roger & Me in a cinema (after Moore refused to send her a tape of the film for her to watch at home), and she resented Roger & Me winning Best Documentary at the 55th New York Film Critics Circle Awards. Moore claimed that
The quote quickly turned into an urban legend that Kael had instead stated something like "I can't believe Nixon won. I don't know anyone who voted for him." This misquote, which added an element of surprise on Kael's part, was over the next 40 years regularly cited by conservatives (such as Bernard Goldberg, in his 2001 book Bias) as an example of insularity among the liberal elite. The "I can't believe Nixon won" quote also was sometimes attributed to other liberal female writers, including Katharine Graham, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion, and was sometimes said to have instead been stated after Ronald Reagan's reelection in 1984.
Rob Garver's documentary entitled What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael was released in 2018. With the voice of Sarah Jessica Parker narrating for Kael, the film is a portrait of the work of the film critic and her influence on the male-dominated worlds of cinema and film criticism.
Currently, Pauline Kael is 103 years, 7 months and 14 days old. Pauline Kael will celebrate 104th birthday on a Monday 19th of June 2023.
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