Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Julie and Julia at the Paley

One of the least known but most satisfying places to visit in New York is the Paley Center for Media on 52nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. Here you can watch thousands of old television shows or listen to a wide variety of radio programming, dating back to the 1920s. Their mission is to preserve these media, to make them widely available to the public, and to screen showings of special programs that celebrate milestones in the history of TV and Radio. At more or less the push of a button you can relive the Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan or savor the joys of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts or critically analyze a recording of the original Apollo moon landing to confirm, once and for all, the undeniable authenticity of that remarkable feat.

Each week the Paley features different programs from their archives that they think people might want to see. I have had the good fortune to view Elvis BEFORE he appeared on Ed Sullivan and was still being shown on TV from the waist down. I have literally choked from laughing too hard while watching that most famous of all Seinfeld episodes entitled “The Contest.” And I have sat in amazement once again as Dick Cavett employs his quick wit to keep Norman Mailer from punching Gore Vidal in the nose during their famous debate on Cavett's old talk show. As a member you can go in anytime and see these special screenings or request anything in their general collection and watch it on a small television set. It’s a hoot.

Last night, in honor of Julia Child’s groundbreaking French Chef, we saw an advanced screening of Julie and Julia, with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. DO listen to the critics when they praise Meryl. Do NOT listen to the critics when they pan the Julie/Amy Adams’ segments. They are charming, too, and help to make the rest of the movie work. Introducing the movie at the Paley was none other than the real Julie Powell, who cooked all of the recipes in Julia Child’s original French cookbook and blogged for exactly one year about all of her experiences doing so. Julie seems, well, just a bit awkward, like she is embarrassed by all the attention she has received and somehow doesn’t feel worthy of it all. And, frankly, not that it matters, she seems nothing like Amy Adams. Whereas, as you probably know, Meryl Streep doesn’t just do an imitation of Julia Child; she nails her, she inhabits her, she breathes the very air that Julia Child breathes. That greatest of all American actors turns in another stunning performance. And we got to see it all for free, as members of the Paley Center for Media.


  1. Interesting to think that the content of the Paley archive, virtually all of which was created for the purpose of selling ads to be played for those listening/watching, will become the primary source material for historians of the future, assuming that the means to play it back manages to survive. What a view of mid-20th century life!

  2. Becoming a member of the Paley Center sounds interesting; however, as Groucho once said: " I don't care to belong to any club that has me as a member":)

  3. I loved this movie. Both the Julia AND the Julie parts were delicious and the relationships between the women and their husbands melted my heart like a pound of butter in a saucier. Julie's efforts emboldened me to start my own blog. It will never be as charming as Julie's and probably no one will ever read it - but it's mine!