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CLOSE-UP ON HENRY FONDA AND JAMES STEWART

HANK & JIM: THE FIFTY YEAR FRIENDSHIP OF HENRY FONDA AND JAMES STEWART by Scott Eyman (Simon & Schuster)

You may think you’ve read all you need to about Henry Fonda and James Stewart. After all, they are two of the most celebrated actors of the 20th century. But being the great biographer he is, Scott Eyman has dug beneath the surface to paint rich, layered portraits of both men, along with the story of their extraordinary fifty-year friendship. This is the latest notch in Eyman’s formidable gun belt, having penned definitive biographies of John Wayne, Cecil B. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, and other Hollywood giants.

Consider these paragraphs from the introductory chapter: “Fonda was a closet intellectual and perfectionist, which inevitably meant he carried a residual sense of disappointment with himself and others that could ascend to seething impatience. If he attempted something, even if it was only a hobby, he had to achieve excellence. He did it with his gardening, his needlepoint, and especially with his painting. Stewart was far more easygoing; he didn’t read much, was outwardly affable, rarely lost his temper.

“But on the deepest level, they shared one crucial characteristic: they were both loners, extremely sparing with the gift of intimacy, reserving themselves for themselves…

“Another similarity involved the essentials of their craft—neither one of them had ever had an acting lesson. They were united in the belief that the best way to learn how to act was to act. Know the lines; don’t be afraid to think; above all, don’t talk about it, do it.”

Writing like that is what separates Eyman from so many well-meaning biographers who can only recite credits and integrate quotes from old clipping files. Like his two subjects, he never lets the hard work show, but you can tell he has read every existing book and article, screened every film, interviewed every friend or colleague who’s still here to tell the tale. That’s what makes Hank & Jim so good.

Available on October 24th. Pre-order from:

SIMON & SCHUSTER, AMAZON or BARNES & NOBLE.

 

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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