Copyright 2008-2013, 2015-2019 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.
An incomplete list of books and films about Saint Louis Missouri, enhanced by Richard's photographs and videos. Richard's MySpace webpage links additional photographs and videos depicting Saint Louis city, the Saint Louis Zoo, Tower Grove Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
This happy 1944 musical film depicts prosperous Saint Louis family life
during the 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair -- great period costumes.
This 1987 film is based upon former Saint Louisian Tennessee Williams' semi-autobiographical play
about a Saint Louis working class family's hopes and dreams. Playwright Tennessee Williams
attended Washington University in Saint Louis.
Beginning A Great Work: Washington University in St. Louis, 1853-2003 is a c2003 profusely illustrated
(including many historic photographs) 150th anniversary commemorative volume that discusses
my alma mater's history. This nice coffee table book features many snippets (short self-contained articles)
for fun, easy browsing.
I include investigative journalist Jennifer Toth's books on this webpage because Ms. Toth attended
Washington University in Saint Louis before beginning her graduate studies at New York City's
Columbia University. Ms. Toth's books are extremely well-researched and well-written, and
IMO are relevant to Saint Louis: downtown Saint Louis has its own MetroLink tunnels and
multiblock steam tunnel system, and the Saint Louis metropolitan area IMO has its own foster care
social service difficulties.
I am not familiar with Saint Louisian A. E. Hotchner's memoirs, but the 103 minute VHS film version contains
no clue to the film title King Of The Hill, and the hill depicted in the runaway car sequence IMO exists nowhere
in Saint Louis (City). Nevertheless, screenwriter/director Steven Soderbergh's 1993 well-made film highlights
midtown Saint Louis good architecture as it depicts growing up in 1933 Depression-era Saint Louis: everything
either is disappointing or is scary.
The primarily textual history of Missouri written by impoverished clients of the (Federal)
Work Projects Administration during the 1930s economic depression.
A c1989 textual history of Saint Louis Missouri.
Life on the Mississippi is an adult's book, a mixture of midwestern charm and southern comfort. From Chapter 22:
"The first time I ever saw St. Louis I could have bought it for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life that I did not do it. It was
bitter now to look abroad over this domed and steepled metropolis, this solid expanse of bricks and mortar stretching away on every hand
into dim, measure-defying distances, and remember that I had allowed that opportunity to go by. Why I should have allowed it to go by seems,
of course, foolish and inexplicable to-day, at a first glance; yet there were reasons at the time to justify this course. I was young and heedless,
and naturally more given to pleasure-seeking than to providing for the future; it was impossible to foresee that out of that smutty village
would grow the imperial city of to-day; and besides, I had only thirty-five dollars, anyway. Still, if I had known then what I know now,
I would have borrowed."
And from Chapter 53:
"There ain't any accounting for it, except that if you send a damned fool to St. Louis, and you don't tell them he's a damned fool, they'll never
find it out. There's one thing sure - if I had a damned fool I should know what to do with him: ship him to St. Louis - it's the noblest market
in the world for that kind of property. Well, when you come to look at it all around, and chew at it and think it over, don't it just bang anything
you ever heard of?"
Many Life on the Mississippi published versions are available, but the listed c1944 version is particularly nice
because renowned Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton provided the illustrations. The listed c1944 version also contains
an Appendix titled The Suppressed Passages, an appendix with historical comments that provides approximately
fifteen thousand words of Samuel Clemens' original manuscript that did not appear in previous published versions,
passages usually omitted for late 19th Century and early 20th Century politically correct reasons.
These 24 postcards are photographs of old Saint Louis.
Historically illustrated with paintings by Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton,
this video is an introduction to Henry Shaw, an English businessman who was
drawn to frontier Saint Louis, who sold hardware (ironworks) to westbound settlers,
who made a fortune early in life, and who decided he had sufficient wealth to
spend the rest of his life indulging his passion for botany and formal gardens.
The video concentrates on Henry Shaw's legacy: the scientific but beautiful
Missouri Botanical Garden; the adjacent Tower Grove Park; and the adjacent
residentially-affordable Shaw Neighborhood. Saint Louisians consider these
institutions just another part of the Saint Louis landscape, but Saint Louisians
forget that elsewhere (e.g., around NYC's Central Park) people pay premium prices
to live within a green environment. The video highlights Henry Shaw's 21st Century
legacy: a world-class botanical research institution situated within a beautifully green
setting. Readers seeking additional detail about Henry Shaw's life should consult
Henry Shaw: His Life and Legacies.
Henry Shaw: His Life and Legacies is the c1987 primarily textual biography
of a Saint Louis major benefactor, a hardware merchant who developed and then
gave the city both a botanical garden (Shaw's Garden) and also 276 acre
arboreal Tower Grove Park. A Gift To Glory In: The First Hundred Years
of the Missouri Botanical Garden (1859-1959) is the c1989 primarily textual
history of the Missouri Botanical Garden (Shaw's Garden) and of Tower Grove Park.
A World Of Plants: The Missouri Botanical Garden is a c1989 profusely illustrated (including
wonderful photographs) coffee table book that discusses the Missouri Botanical Garden's
educational, horticultural and scientific programs.
A c1978 descriptive history of Saint Louis's arboreal Tower Grove Park.
This 2001 History Channel program on DVD discusses the challenges that were overcome
in the Saint Louis Arch's conceptualization, design and construction. Laced with photography
and movie cuts, the program features people who participated in building the Arch.
The Saint Louis Arch is awesome upon initial viewing, but thereafter Saint Louisians consider
the Arch just another part of their urban environment. This DVD explains the incredible effort
that produced a one-of-a-kind monument: acquiring the site took decades; architect Eero Saarinen
(who died before the Arch was constructed) produced a visionary design within a postwar
monumental competition; Saint Louis construction engineers developed new technology allowing
Saarinen's vision to be built; and Saint Louis construction workers built the Arch under pre-OSHA
conditions without incurring fatalities. One interviewee muses that building the Arch under today's
OSHA safety regulations might be impossible; that's another reason to appreciate this monumental
gem sitting on Saint Louis's riverfront.
This is Steve McQueen's second film appearance (after The Blob; his performance
is not comparable to James Dean). The best part of this crudely acted 1959 film is
the south Kingshighway neighborhood.
Vincent Price, a Granite City (named after a former line of Graniteware dishes) Illinois native,
starred in innumerable magick/horror films. In director Roger Corman's 1963 film The Raven
(loosely based upon E. A. Poe's poem) Vincent Price plays a troubled magick dilettante.
Director John Carpenter filmed scenes for this 1981 film in Saint Louis's Fox Theatre, on
the Chain of Rocks Bridge and inside Union Station's Great Hall before its renovation.
The production company thought that Saint Louis looked like Manhattan Island after
being overrun by penitentiary inmates -- quite a difference.
This 1983 comedy film includes aerial views of the Gateway Arch and the Saint Louis riverfront,
plus an unplanned excursion into a north Saint Louis urban neighborhood.
Writer/director John Hughes' 1987 comedy film has two themes: the discomfort of male bonding;
and everything goes wrong during travel. John Candy's boorish character victimizes Steve Martin's
sensitive character in this humorous film that includes a (pre-9/11 security) winter stranding at Saint Louis
Lambert International Airport.
Director Howard Franklin and Bill Murray are partially successful mixing sensitivity with comedy
in this 1996 family film. (Bill Murray succeeded in director Richard Donner's 1988 non-Saint Louis
film Scrooged.) But watching Bill Murray being chased by an elephant through an old south Saint Louis
riverside neighborhood's plain, red brick residences is funny.
Director George Hickenlooper's 1999 R-rated film, based upon an Orson Welles screenplay,
is an angst-ridden political drama exploring a Missouri gubernatorial candidate's dark past.
The Saint Louis riverfront and other Saint Louis area landmarks are interwoven into the film's intrigue.
This c1964 work also discusses comedian (nightclubs and the television series Sanford and Son)
Redd Foxx's life growing up in Saint Louis and the Midwest. Redd Foxx grew up in west Saint Louis (City)
on Cabanne Avenue east of Skinker Boulevard.
c2000 discussion of the Saint Louis Veiled Prophet organization's parades, formal balls, civic goals
and the VP Fair. Little discussion of the organization's mystical tradition or its meetings.
A c1980 novel about grubbing for sustenance after eastern Missouri society goes renegade.
Thornburg's c1973 novel To Die In California depicts an Alton Illinois farmer investigating
why his vacationing son died in California. And Thornburg's c1978 novel Black Angus
mirrors life in The Great Recession's Wake: a former Saint Louis account executive struggles
to save his new life and to save his Ozark plateau cattle ranch from bankruptcy.
The c1982 memoir of a Columbia Missouri man who circumnavigates the continental United States
by van, and learns about people and himself.
The c1988 memoir of a Kirkwood Missouri man who canoes from the Mississippi River's headwaters
to New Orleans and learns about himself.
A c1987 novel [and IMO a particularly nice R-rated 1990
starring Susan Sarandon and
James Spader, with scenes shot at the White Castle(TM) 18th and Olive Street restaurant
and at Cousin Hugo's Maplewood Missouri tavern] about a Saint Louis County preppy who
reluctantly falls in love with a Saint Louis (City) working class waitress.
c1981 collection of neighborhood lifestyle essays by a former St. Louis magazine writer.
c1989 collection of humorous essays about Saint Louis and Midwestern life
by a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist.
Author William Howland Kenney's c2005 scholarly book addresses a big subject: the evolution of jazz along the Mississippi
and Ohio Rivers. Saint Louis plays a pivotal role because Saint Louis-based Streckfus Steamers, Inc. spread riverboat jazz
throughout the river valley and also provided reliable employment possibilities for aspiring musicians. As the railroads
siphoned cargo traffic from packet boats, the Streckfus family purchased unprofitable packet boats and converted them to
excursion boats, complete with chair-filled upper decks from which to watch the river pass, and with live bands and with
wooden large dance floors where passengers could dance to hot dance music. Streckfus' riverboat jazz was New Orleans jazz
detempoed to a cadence suitable for genteel dancing, with an occasional waltz added for good measure. The excursion boats
provided passengers with a four-hour-long visit to Mark Twain's romantic river kingdom.
For decades Fate Marable led the most famous of the Streckfus hot dance bands, developing musical skills and
professionalism within his musical hires. His growing reputation helped Marable locate the best river city musicians,
and he taught them the expectations of riverboat jazz performance, including the ability to sight-read sheet music.
The Streckfus riverboats served as a school and stepping stone for many jazz musicians, but the curriculum sometimes
was controversial. Louis Armstrong played three years on Streckfus steamboats before moving on to Chicago, but
Louis Armstrong resisted learning to sight-read sheet music because he believed that sight-reading would hobble
his improvisations. Author Kenney also discusses the career of cornetist Bix Beiderbecke of Davenport Iowa, the
career of pianist Jess Stacy of Cape Girardeau Missouri, and depicts the music cultures in Memphis Tennessee and
in Cincinatti Ohio. Author Kenney attributes the maturation of jazz piano to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
The riverboat jazz business dwindled in the mid-Twentieth Century. Plagued by safety concerns, wooden-hulled
excursion boats were replaced by fewer, costlier steel-hulled excursion boats. And general availability of private
automobiles, air conditioning and television dimmed the appeal of excursion boats and riverboat jazz.
Packed with historic photographs, author Dennis Owlsley's c2006 history contains encyclopedic detail;
sometimes its performance discussions read like baseball past World Series reviews. Owlsley's major contribution
IMO is explaining Saint Louis jazz's evolution: the downtown and Metro East clubs, the Streckfus Steamer Company
riverboats on the Saint Louis riverfront, Gaslight Square, the midtown clubs, the DeBaliviere Strip, and the
Black Artists Group's Artists in Residence program. Except for Grand Center's Sheldon Concert Hall and Jazz At The Bistro,
comparable jazz Saint Louis venues no longer exist. Saint Louis has a jazz great history, and to be a jazz musician from
Saint Louis is a great reputation, but Owlsley documents that musicians in Saint Louis continually struggle to find work.
Reminiscences about the 1960s rise and fall of Saint Louis's Bohemian entertainment district.
Worthwhile References section.
Dennis Owlsley's City Of Gabriels
(earlier) discusses Metro East music club history but says little about Metro East today.
River cities are predictable: polite society lives on one side of the river; the other side of the river is industrial, lacks a
strong tax base, and often welcomes businesses shunned elsewhere. These shunned businesses generate dependable revenue
that can be reinvested on either side of the river. Gambling came to Saint Louis Missouri with the Casino Queen when
East Saint Louis Illinois was revenue-starved; Metro East smaller cities (Sauget, Brooklyn, Washington Park and Centreville
Illinois) fund themselves by taxing strip clubs. Scott Eden's essay is the best overview discussing the Metro East sporting life
that I have found.
c1992 descriptive listing of the Saint Louis region's quality restaurants
by a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch restaurant critic.
A c2002 history of the University City Loop business district and its attractions,
plus a 21st Century picture of its merchants and their favorite recipes. The
recently constructed Loop Trolley running between the Loop's west end and
the Saint Louis History Museum in Forest Park is an unpublished postscript
to this volume.
A collection of Saint Louis's best Italian recipes. [Private press, no ISBN]
The all purpose cookbook. Ms. Rombauer and her daughter were long-time Saint Louis residents.
A collection of Saint Louis's best (non-Italian) recipes.
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