“Bogart was cool: no one used the word then, but it’s the term everyone reaches for now,” writes the literary scholar Joel Dinerstein in American Cool, which he co-authored with photographic scholar and curator Frank H. Goodyear. Besides Bogie, the reach of those who make cut in this sleek book of photographs interspersed with essays includes Johnny Depp, civil rights protestors, Miles Davis as he appeared on the cover of Ebony, Elvis, Robert Mitchum, Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka, Bob Dylan, Anita O’Day, Madonna, Tupac Shakur, Susan Sontag, Selena, and sundry others.
“Cool figures are the successful rebels of American culture,” writes Dinerstein, the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization at Tulane University. “To be cool is to have an original aesthetic approach or artistic vision—as an actor, musician, athlete, writer, activist or designer—that either becomes a permanent legacy or stands as a singular achievement.” That explains Brando, Duke Ellington, Greta Garbo, Muhammad Ali and of course James Dean.
Men far outnumber women in American Cool. “It is rare to find an article, website, or blog post declaring anyone ‘Ms. Cool,’” writes Dinerstein, “despite the plethora of cool women in this book, from Georgia O’Keefe, Bessie Smith, and Dorothy Parker to Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, and Missy Elliot.” The gender tilt lies in “the presumed association between cool and American masculinity,” he notes, and “the persistence of a double standard where independent, sexually confident women are concerned.”
But the scandal of this book and exhibition is that Marilyn Monroe is nowhere depicted. One of the sexiest movie stars of all time, the woman who married Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, is not cool? Hemingway is shown on p. 89, pensive with rifle at a pheasant shoot in Idaho. “He wrote in a terse, clipped style that featured stripped-down dialogue and characters unanchored from society. While he portrayed man as essentially alone, he admired ‘grace under pressure,’ a phrase often considered synonymous with cool,” writes Frank H. Goodyear III, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, who shows a wise hand and keen eye in arrangement of the images in book and exhibit.
“In the next generation it is likely that women will outnumber men for lasting iconic effect and innovative artistic impact,” Dinerstein writes. Those who make the potential list include Esperanza Spalding, Janelle Monáe, Pink, Jennifer Lawrence, Tina Fey, Ani DiFranco, Connie Britton... Source: www.thedailybeast.com
JD: Negotiating the dark side is a necessary condition of cool. I think [the idea of the cool] crosses over [into mainstream culture] quickly because of the Great Depression and World War Two. When it first shows up in that period, there is this mask of cool as a stylish stoicism, which is about that generation facing up globally to a set of challenges that are threatening. The reason that [Humphrey] Bogart ends up the cool figure is because he looks like he has navigated and negotiated some very dark periods in his life. The reason why “Casablanca” is still the number one or two films ever [as noted by the American Film Institute], and that is also true for an actress like Barbara Stanwyck. Source: www.washingtonpost.com
Cool, Dinerstein says, is a quintessentially American notion. "We're a country born in revolution, we've always valued rebellion more than any other country," he says. In the 60's and 70's, being cool was more important than being rich. And for adolescents all over the country, the elusive idea of coolness is still something to ambiguously strive for."
THE AMERICAN COOL LIST - The Roots of Cool: Fred Astaire, Bix Beiderbecke, Louise Brooks, James Cagney, Frederick Douglass, Greta Garbo, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Jack Johnson, Duke Kahanamoku, Buster Keaton, HL Mencken, Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothy Parker, Bessie Smith, Mae West, Walt Whitman, Bert Williams
The Birth of Cool: Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Lenny Bruce, William S Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Gary Cooper, Miles Davis, James Dean, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Guthrie, Audrey Hepburn, Billie Holiday, Jack Kerouac, Gene Krupa, Robert Mitchum, Thelonius Monk, James Baldwin, Anita O’Day, Charlie Parker, Jackson Pollock, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Stanwyck, Muddy Waters, John Wayne, Hank Williams, Lester Young
Cool and the Counterculture: Johnny Cash, Angela Davis, Joan Didion, Faye Dunaway, Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, Walt Frazier, Marvin Gaye, Deborah Harry, Jimi Hendrix, Steve McQueen, Bill Murray, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, Hunter S Thompson, John Travolta, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa
The Legacy of Cool: Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Byrne, Kurt Cobain, Johnny Depp, Missy Elliott, Tony Hawk, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Madonna, Willie Nelson, Prince, Susan Sarandon, Selena, Sam Shepard, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart, Quentin Tarantino, Benicio del Toro, Tom Waits, Neil Young