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With the Red Sox having handily dispatched the Rockies, there is nothing to keep you from watching tonight’s PBS’s American Masters focusing on Charles Schulz. All sorts of goodies in the link, including an excerpt from David Michaelis’s controversial new biography, a preview clip, and additional footage including interviews with Lynn Johnston and the little red headed girl, and more. There’s also a link to find out when the show airs in your area.

MUST watching, of course. Variety reviews the show:

It is not an entirely unflattering portrait, but one can see why the Schulz heirs would object, since Michaelis in particular (unlike the testimonials from Schulz’s widow or friends) injects a degree of pop psychology into the analysis — questioning rather unconvincingly, for example, whether the cartoonist’s fascination with the movie “Citizen Kane” amounted to a kind of pathological obsession. From that perspective, the most telling clips come from interviews with Schulz himself, whose simple demeanor reflects a man of considerable wit, who is nevertheless clearly ill at ease with the spotlight.

Schulz’z children, Monte, Amy and Jill and other associates have been making their feeelings over the Michaelis’s biography’s purported inaccuracies known over in a comment thread at Cartoon Brew. It’s definitely thought provoking reading.

I can’t pretend that I knew Charles Schulz at all, but I did interview him once over a decade ago, and the impression I got from a half hour conversation was that the guy never ever let go of anything sad that had happened to him. (The sadness in his voice when he talked about the death of his dog 50 years previously was heartbreaking.) If that was the takeaway from a short talk with a complete stranger, I would suspect that this profound melancholy was a regular part of his character, and it certainly was reflected in his work. I’m sure there were other aspects of his character (his kindness was also well known) but the melancholy was so pronounced that once I got over the shock of actually talking to Charles Schulz, I never forgot it. This view is not incompatible with the kind, caring father remembered by his kids…great artists are complex, and Schulz was both.


  1. Thanks for the heads-up, Heidi. I would have completely spaced this out.

    I also appreciated your insights into Shultz from your interview with him. I’m not sure what to think regarding the warring factions of who Charles Schultz really was, though I tend to come down on the side of those who honestly see a complex, often troubled man. It’s natural and understandable that his kids would want to keep him high on a pedestal, but anyone even remotely familiar with Schultz’s work really isn’t surprised to find out he was a melancholy and sensitive philosopher.

  2. And a fanatical hockey player! I grew up not too far from the ice rink Schultz owned (and I’m sure heavily subsidized to keep it open) in Santa Rosa, CA. He was pretty easy to spot in the old-timer games.

    Does hockey lend itself to melancholy? ;)

  3. I don’t think that his children have denied that he was a complex man, nor depicted him as being incapable of sadness – it’s more the feeling the Michaelis depicted him as little but, as permanently morose, and most particularly as a cold-and-distant father… which is something where they have a far more informed perspective than Michaelis did.

  4. And it’s not only his kids that are saying that it isn’t so. Go read the Cartoon Brew page. Their are friends and co-workers saying he was not like that all the time.

    Also, David Michaelis never met Charles Schulz.

  5. Psychology is the field that studies human behavior and mental processes. There are many different sub-specialties within research and applied psychology, including child, adult, senior, business, cultural, and health psychology. Cognitive science–a central study in psychology–involves the examination of how mental processes work, the relation between the mind and brain, and how physical regularities are converted into perceptions of the world. A degree in psychology can take a professional in to many different career fields, including business, social work, education and medicine.