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Author Topic: All other movie books....  (Read 1098 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: October 03, 2012, 01:09:38 PM »

I'm always interested in good books about movies, whether a biography of a movie star, or a book that discusses a period or genre in cinema history, etc. But there's so much stuff to wade through, numerous biographies about Bogie and Cagney and Wayne, etc.  and I'd much rather have someone recommend eg. which is the best Cagney bio rather than reading 5 of them.

We already have threads on Western books, and there is the Film Noir Discussion Thread for noir, and the "last book you read thread," but of course there are so many other categories of movie books. So this is the thread for all those others: If there is a good book about movies you can recommend, or a bad one you want to discourage, or if you have a question about one, this is the place for it  Smiley

I'll start with this question: I'm looking for recommendations of biographies of some of the Golden Age movie stars, to start with, let's say Bogie, Cagney, Wayne, and Fonda. There must be dozens of bios written on each of them, so can anyone recommend any really good ones? Thanks!

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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2012, 01:22:10 PM »

Michael Munn's John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth is worshipful but worth reading. Lots of good interviews with his friends, family and co-stars and the Duke himself. Munn does make a few questionable arguments (eg. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance being show in B&W for budget rather than style) but it's generally worthwhile.

I'm generally not interested in actor bios though, because they usually obsess over scandal and personal matters.

As for director bios I could recommend:

David Lean: A Biography - Kevin Brownlow

If They Move, Kill 'Em: The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah - David Weddle

Searching for John Ford - Joseph McBride

Donald Spoto's various Hitchcock books

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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2012, 11:49:01 PM »

What comes to director bios, I can recommend:

-Lynch on Lynch, by Chris Rodley
-Herzog on Herzog, by Paul Cronin
 
Scorsese on Scorsese by David Thompson is also worth a read but not as compelling. The greatness of the Lynch and Herzog books is that they are transcripted interviews and their subjects are totally quotable.

Of course it goes without saying that Truffaut's Hitchcock book is an essential read.

Ingmar Bergman's Laterna magica is one hell of a book. An autobiography, traveling back and forth in time. I believe you could enjoy it even if you had never heard of Bergman.

Werner Herzog's Of Walking in Ice is a diary of his three-week journey from Munich to Paris on foot. It's not a movie book really but a must read if you like Herzog's films.
 
Sidney Lumet's Making Movies is an excellent account (probably the best of its kind) on the whole process of making a film. Lots of interesting anecdotes and examples. Published in 1996, only the parts regarding film processing and such are dated.

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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2012, 11:54:29 PM »


I'm generally not interested in actor bios though, because they usually obsess over scandal and personal matters.


I am definitely more interested in the books that focus on the actor's movies, rather than on who he slept with.



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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2012, 06:19:57 AM »

Somehow I forgot Truffaut's Hitchcock book. What kind of cinephile am I?  Undecided

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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2012, 05:07:41 PM »

Yeah, I am definitely going to check out the Hitchcock/Truffaut book, but first I want to wait until I have seen more of Hitch's movies.

Below, I will list the 10 Hitch movies I've seen. If you can let me know which others are discussed extensively in the book -- I'll be sure to watch those next, and then get the book -- I'd be mighty appreciative  Afro

Rebecca (1940)
Rope (1948)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
The Wrong Man (1956)
Vertigo (1958)
North by Northwest (1959)
Psycho (1960)





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« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2012, 02:10:46 AM »

Every of his films is discussed in the book. Of course some a bit more extensive then others. The films we had already recommended are surely all on the more extensive side.

But as I already said you can buy the book every time, and you can read it completely at every time, or you can read only the parts about the films you have seen so far.


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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2017, 10:51:27 PM »

Just saw this book review in The Wall Street Journal

https://www.wsj.com/articles/daphne-du-maurier-in-her-prime-1500060961

The book is Manderlay Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier, by Tatiana de Rosnay. Here is the book on Amazon https://goo.gl/pSSNJK

The book review is by Allan Massie:


Tatiana de Rosnay tells us that, at the age of 11, when she first opened a copy of “Rebecca,” she “had no idea how important that novel would become in my life.” We may believe her, but its author, Daphne du Maurier, might have bridled. Just as Conan Doyle came to resent Sherlock Holmes because he overshadowed the historical novels that Doyle valued more highly, so it irritated du Maurier to be known principally for “Rebecca,” which was made into what is now a classic film by Alfred Hitchcock.

But Ms. de Rosnay is right to highlight that best-selling 1938 novel. It made du Maurier famous. If other du Maurier novels are still read—for instance, “Jamaica Inn” and “My Cousin Rachel,” if not, alas, “The Progress of Julius,” a remarkably harsh, chilling unromantic early book—it is because of “Rebecca.” It may be derivative, a reworking of “Jane Eyre” with a sub-Byronic hero and a fascinating and mysteriously dead first wife replacing a mad one in the attic. It may be full of clichés. It doesn’t matter. The novel is still compellingly alive.

Daphne du Maurier was born in 1907, in London, into the upper reaches of bohemia. Her grandfather George was an artist and the author of the best-selling novel “Trilby” (known best for the character Svengali). Her father, Gerald, with whom she had an intense, perhaps unhealthily intense, relationship, was a star of the London theater. Her cousins, the Llewelyn-Davies boys, inspired J.M. Barrie to write “Peter Pan.”

There was something of Peter in Daphne. As a young girl she wanted to be a boy and invented for herself an alter ego called Eric Avon. The boy never quite died in her.

She was educated partly in France, her paternal ancestors’ country. There she fell in love with a schoolmistress who encouraged her writing. Later she would have intense emotional friendships with other women, notably the actress Gertrude Lawrence and Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her American publisher. In the course of writing to Doubleday, Ms. de Rosnay says, du Maurier “admits what she thinks she is: a strange hybrid, a woman with the soul of a boy.”

Her marriage to an army officer—Tommy Browning, who commanded airborne troops at Arnhem in World War II and later became a member of the royal household as Prince Philip’s comptroller and treasurer—was sometimes difficult and stormy, partly because she was a writer first and a wife second, partly because he suffered from nervous exhaustion after the war and was unfaithful to her. But the marriage endured, with affection—and guilt—on both sides.

Du Maurier developed a passion for Cornwall, the westernmost county of England, where she had set “Rebecca.” There, she wrote, she found “freedom to write, to walk, to wander, freedom to climb hills, to pull a boat, to be alone.” She took a house, “Menabilly,” on a long lease: her version, perhaps, of Manderley, the grand house of Rebecca and Max de Winter.

As she grew older, she wrote fewer novels and worse ones. The Economist’s reviewer of her last one, “Rule, Britannia” (1972), reproached her, in Ms. de Rosnay’s summary, “for having isolated herself to the extent that she no longer has any idea what the modern world is like.” This is common enough, as other aging novelists may ruefully confess. But it wasn’t that her power of imagination had withered. In her later years, she wrote chilling short stories, such as “Don’t Look Now”—set in a disturbingly sinister Venice and filmed memorably by Nicolas Roeg —but she was no longer capable of the sustained creative effort demanded by a novel. Du Maurier died in 1989, in Cornwall, at the age of 81.

Ms. de Rosnay identifies herself with her subject to such an extent that she will tell us how Daphne felt and what she thought, often perhaps fancifully: “From time to time, she gets up from her desk . . . stretches her numb legs, massages her stiffened fingers. Standing up, leaning against the window, she smokes a cigarette and looks out towards the slim blue line of the sea, lost in her thoughts.”

Well, perhaps. “Manderley Forever” is written in the historic present, often irritating in a novel, more so in a biography, for it is not always clear how much credence is to be given to the author’s imaginative reconstruction of moods and daily life. Perhaps the historic present works less offensively in the original French (translated here into English by Sam Taylor ).

As it is, Ms. de Rosnay has written a biography that, despite such annoyances, does justice to its heroine. Daphne du Maurier, as we see, was fortunate in her family and its history, fortunate also to have early found a publisher, Victor Gollancz, who spotted her potential and treated her generously. She was self-centered, though no more than most writers, and more generous than most of them too. Her best novels were possessed of a vitality and conviction that give them an enduring appeal. “Rebecca” certainly, a couple of others too, have proved to be that rare thing: a best seller that goes on being read long after its author’s death.


---Mr. Massie is the author of many novels, most recently, “End Games in Bordeaux.”

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« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2017, 12:50:03 AM »

A new book by Scott Eyman, called "Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart."

Here is a review in WSJ

Review: Hollywood Blood Brothers ‘Hank & Jim’

By Kristin Jones



Some movie stars become so beloved that audiences think of them as friends. Film historian Scott Eyman has pursued the happy idea of writing about two such figures, Henry Fonda and James Stewart, who were in fact friends themselves. They lived together in New York when they were struggling actors and remained close for decades. Despite differences in their personalities and political views (Fonda was a Democrat, Stewart a Republican), the friendship lasted until Fonda’s death in 1982, partly because they bonded over more essential matters: They respected each other’s work, loved animals, collaborated on practical jokes, built and flew model airplanes together. Later in life they shared an interest in gardening.

In “Hank & Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart,” Mr. Eyman movingly chronicles the relationship between these gifted performers, while also offering perceptive observations on their acting styles and work on stage and screen. This absorbing dual portrait deepens our appreciation for each man’s achievements. “Beneath his placid surface, Stewart’s emotions churned,” Mr. Eyman writes, “while Fonda had the stillest center of any American actor—as eloquent in his isolation as a painting by Edward Hopper. ”

Fonda was raised in Omaha, Neb., and began acting there, encouraged by Dorothy Brando (Marlon’s mother), after he studied journalism for a couple of years at the University of Minnesota. When he met Fonda, Stewart, from Indiana, Pa., was an architecture student at Princeton, where he performed with the Triangle Club. During the Depression, they roomed together in New York, making their way as stage performers. Later, they lived together in California. It’s hard not to wish one could witness the scene Mr. Eyman describes when Fonda moved West—Stewart seeing him off at Grand Central Terminal, Fonda wearing several hats on his head and smuggling on board a kitten he’d adopted. When Stewart traveled to California soon afterward, he brought a model bomber he and Fonda had built.

Fonda’s talent and austere good looks made him compelling on screen, and he excelled in roles for John Ford, conveying an unconquerable spirit in “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939) and “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940). Stewart made his breakthrough in pictures by Frank Capra, including “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939), in which his open-hearted Jefferson Smith —drawling and astonishingly natural—is dragged into the muck of D.C. politics, before taking an epic stand against corruption. For his role in George Cukor’s “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), he won an Academy Award, winning the laurel over Fonda and his performance in “Grapes.”

“Hank & Jim” incorporates a cast of other friends and colleagues. One key figure is Margaret Sullavan —a magnetic actress with quicksilver instincts and a husky, otherworldly voice—with whom both men performed and to whom Fonda was briefly married. In Ernst Lubitsch’s sublime “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), Stewart and Sullavan are delicately captivating as Budapest sales clerks who squabble at work while unknowingly romancing each other by post. “In years to come,” Mr. Eyman writes, “Stewart would play all manner of neuroses, through bitterness and into madness. But the audience willingly followed him into the darkness, because they understood that this was a man whose natural personality was centered around tenderness, never more nakedly than in The Shop Around the Corner. ”

World War II brought both men’s acting careers to a standstill. Stewart became a bomber pilot in the Army Air Corps, while Fonda served in the Navy. The effects of the war are evident from Stewart’s performance in the first film he made after he returned, Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). After his combat experiences and time away, he doubted his ability and the importance of acting as profession, but he found his footing with the aid of Lionel Barrymore, who played Mr. Potter. Stewart unleashes raw despair and terror as the suicidal George Bailey, shown by a wingless angel how dark the world would have been without him.

The indelible performances given by Stewart and Fonda in postwar Alfred Hitchcock films etched new shadows in their personas. Stewart’s retired detective in “Vertigo” (1958) sounds like salt-of-the-earth Jimmy Stewart when he says, “I don’t want to get mixed up in this darn thing,” before falling into a spiral of erotic obsession, guilt and oblivion. In “The Wrong Man” (1956)—a story drawn from life that Mr. Eyman calls “a strange, haunting picture that cuts deeper than most Hitchcock”—Fonda’s jazz musician falsely accused of robbery submits with unnerving docility when questioned by detectives, his face stricken. Fonda’s gaze was never more tormented, his understated approach to acting never more heartbreaking.

These tall, riveting stars also left their mark on Westerns. Fonda, having witnessed a lynching when he was 14—an experience Mr. Eyman says instilled a “fierce hatred of bigotry and intolerance”—was eager to make William Wellman’s devastating tale of vigilantism “The Ox-Bow Incident” (1943). His Westerns for Ford included the elegiac “My Darling Clementine” (1946), in which his gentle, implacable Wyatt Earp navigates between light and shadow. Stewart also evoked haunted Americana in Ford’s melancholy “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962) and through his traumatized, stubborn characters in movies by Anthony Mann.

Mr. Eyman deftly captures the two men’s differing feelings about Hollywood. Fonda spent more time in New York performing on stage, but eventually settled again in California, where he maintained his close relationship with Stewart. Their affection endured through career setbacks and deeper sorrows. While Stewart was grieving his stepson Ronald’s death in Vietnam, Fonda made him a painting of a beloved horse Stewart rode in numerous Westerns. When Fonda died, Mr. Eyman writes, “Jim told a reporter, ‘I’ve just lost my best friend,’ and said nothing else.”

--- Ms. Jones writes about film and culture for the Journal.


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