I must emphasize once again that what follows is not a roster of reviews, as I have not had time to read these books, but they all pique my interest. That’s why I’m happy to spread the word about them.
This is the book I am most eager to read cover-to-cover. First, it deals with one of my cinematic heroes, production designer (and occasional director) William Cameron Menzies, the man responsible for the look of such varied films as Douglas Fairbanks’ The Thief of Bagdad, his ownThings to Come, and Gone With The Wind, to cite just a few of his many credits.(I’m inordinately fond of the futuristic airplane he concocted for Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent.) Second, it was written by one of my favorite biographers, James Curtis, whose books on Spencer Tracy, W.C. Fields, and James Whale are a pleasure to read, and impeccably researched. Finally, this much-needed biography of a major (yet still unsung) figure in movie history was done with the cooperation of the Menzies family. I can’t wait to dive into this one.
It could be argued that no single filmmaker did more to revolutionize cinema in the 1960s than Federico Fellini. His output during that decade was formidable, and he created images that have become indelible in our collective consciousness, through such films as La Dolce Vita and8½. This lavish, beautifully designed, oversized volume pays tribute to the Master and his work through critical essays and visual tributes. My favorite quote: “The best part of the day is when I go to bed. I go to sleep and the fête begins.” Few books will look better on your coffee table than this one.
If Patrick McGilligan’s superior work as a historian weren’t enough to make this book intriguing, he has endorsement quotes on the back cover from two of Welles’ most avid and authoritative chroniclers, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Joseph McBride. McBride says, “An indefatigable reporter and masterful biographer, McGilligan did the hard research others had not bothered to do, and he has unearthed endless revelations that will change our view of Welles’s development as a man and an artist.” That’s really saying something, and it’s enough to convince me that this book is a must-read.
In trying to summarize this book I made the mistake of starting to read it—and had to tear myself away ten pages later. Any book that can hook me so completely, so fast, must be reckoned with. Prize-winning author Evanier explains how he made contact with Allen and elicited answers to some of his many questions, although this remains an unauthorized biography. Yet even a glance at the people Evanier interviewed gives an indication that he has done his homework. “Everything about Allen is unique,” he writes, “not only in cinema but in pop and celebrity culture. There is no one like him… No one has ranged in his work so consistently from the sublime to the wretched. He is willing to gamble with failure, to extend and deepen the formal and substantive elements of his films.” I look forward to digesting all of this book sometime soon.
Here is the first thorough documentation of an extraordinary—if seemingly unlikely—relationship between populist Walt Disney and iconoclast Salvador Dali. Longtime Disney artist/executive Bossert gained exclusive access to both men’s files in order to tell the complete story of their friendship and all-too-brief collaboration on a short subject that was completed by Walt’s nephew Roy a half-century after its inception. Destino is more than just a footnote in their careers, as this book explains, aided by copious illustrations. (And if you’ve still not seen Destino, you should.)
Here is yet another gorgeous, oversized coffee table book that’s equally suitable for browsing or reading. The authors trace the history of costume design from the silent era to the present day, with copious illustrations—both original design sketches and photographs. There are also interviews with some of today’s leading practitioners, including award winners Albert Wolsky (All That Jazz, Bugsy), Colleen Atwood (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Into the Woods), Ellen Mirojnick (Showgirls, Starship Troopers, Face/Off), and Mark Bridges (Boogie Nights, The Artist, Inherent Vice). “Lavish” doesn’t begin to describe this beautiful tome.
While planning the Disney Shanghai Resort, an idea (picture a lightbulb) emerged: why not have animator extraordinaire Eric Goldberg do pen-and-ink renderings of all the great Disney and Pixar characters to decorate one of its restaurants, the way caricatures have dotted the walls of Sardi’s and The Brown Derby? Goldberg is the perfect choice, not only because of his prodigious talent with pen and ink and his lifelong love of cartoons, but because he has been so deeply influenced by the great caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Thus, his drawings of everyone from Mickey Mouse to Olaf the snowman from Frozen are accurate and readily identifiable—yet they share the spirit of caricature that defined Hirschfeld’s work. Leafing through this oversized book is great fun.
Rollyson wrote this book with the help and participation of Walter Brennan’s family as well as a number of colleagues. He presents it as not only a biography but a tribute to the character actor of Hollywood’s golden age. These players were indispensable, yet often taken for granted. Brennan, on the other hand, won three Academy Awards for his work in Come and Get It, Kentucky,and The Westerner. He later became a household name and face by starring in the long-running TV series The Real McCoys. He was also outspoken about conservative issues and family values, all of which is covered in this book, the first biography ever written about the actor who amassed more than 200 film credits in his lifetime.
Marty Sklar learned about showmanship at the side of Walt Disney and has spent decades passing along that wisdom to generations of young Imagineers who design and create attractions for Disney’s theme parks. In this follow-up to his earlier book,Dream It! Do It!, Sklar not only shares his philosophy but offers advice and pointers from 75 Imagineers. Not many of us get to exercise our imagination on a daily basis: that’s what sets men like Marty Sklar and his protégés apart from the crowd.
Film critic Levy has trained his educated eye on five prominent gay filmmakers—Pedro Almodovar, Terence Davies, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant, and John Waters—to explore the differences and similarities in their approach to storytelling. He also places their careers into the larger context of American and European society and its gradual acceptance of homosexuality over the past five decades. Levy’s book seems especially timely and relevant at this moment.
In 1987, Danny Huston got an opportunity to direct an all-star cast in a modest film called Mr. North on location in Newport, Rhode Island. It was to have starred his celebrated father, John Huston, whose illness prompted Robert Mitchum to take his place…but the elder Huston’s shadow hovered over the production, according to the only reporter who was present for the shoot, freelance journalist Nat Segaloff. The result is a slender but revealing book about egos, illusions, and the reality of getting a film “in the can” by any means necessary.
Forty years after interviewing Alan Napier, film buff Bigwood was asked to read a surviving manuscript of the late actor’s autobiography. This is the result, expanded and annotated by Bigwood. It turns out that Napier crossed paths with John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, and Alfred Hitchcock, not to mention Adam West and Burt Ward. Fans of character actors and show business anecdotes should find this of particular