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A landmark work of American photojournalism "renowned for its fusion of social conscience and artistic radicality" (New York Times)

In the summer of 1936, James Agee and Walker Evans set out on assignment for Fortune magazine to e



About the Author

James Agee

An American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic. In the 1940s, he was one of the most influential film critics in the U.S. His autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family (1957) , won the author a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, at Highland Avenue and 15th Street (renamed James Agee Street in 1999) to Hugh James Agee and Laura Whitman Tyler. When Agee was six, his father died in an automobile accident. From the age of seven, he and his younger sister, Emma, were educated in boarding schools. The most influential of these was located near his mother's summer cottage two miles from Sewanee, Tennessee. Saint Andrews School for Mountain Boys was run by Episcopal monks affiliated with the Order of the Holy Cross, and it was there that Agee's lifelong friendship with an Episcopal priest, Father James Harold Flye, began in 1919. As Agee's close friend and spiritual confidant, Flye was the recipient of many of Agee's most revealing letters. Agee went to Knoxville High School for the 1924-1925 school year, then travelled with Father Flye to Europe. On their return, Agee moved to boarding school in New Hampshire, entering the class of 1928 at Phillips Exeter Academy. There, he was president of The Lantern Club and editor of the Monthly where his first short stories, plays, poetry and articles were published. Agee was admitted to Harvard University's class of 1932. He was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Advocate. In 1951 in Santa Barbara, Agee, a hard drinker and chain-smoker, suffered the first two in a series of heart attacks, which ultimately claimed his life four years later at the age of 45. He was buried on a farm he owned at Hillsdale, New York. After graduation, he wrote for Fortune and Time magazines, although he is better known for his later film criticism in The Nation. In 1934, he published his only volume of poetry, Permit Me Voyage.In the summer of 1936, Agee spent eight weeks on assignment for Fortune with photographer Walker Evans living among sharecroppers in Alabama. Agee turned the material into a book entitled, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) . It sold only 600 copies before being remaindered.In 1942, Agee became the film critic for Time and, at one point, reviewed up to six books per week. Together, he and friend Whittaker Chambers ran "the back of the book" for Time. He left to become film critic for The Nation. In 1948, however, he quit both magazines to become a freelance writer. One of his assignments was a well-received article for Life Magazine about the great silent movie comedians, Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon, which has been credited for reviving Keaton's career. As a freelance in the 1950s, he continued to write magazine articles while working on movie scripts, often with photographer Helen Levitt.Agee was an ardent champion of Charlie Chaplin's then extremely unpopular film Monsieur



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