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Holiday Book Roundup—Part 2

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.

WILLIAM CAMERON MENZIES: THE SHAPE OF FILMS TO COME by James Curtis (Pantheon)

William Cameron Menzies-375

(Pantheon)

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.

 

FELLINI: THE SIXTIES by Manoah Bowman; foreword by Anita Ekberg, afterword by Barbara Steele (TCM/Running Press)

Fellini-The Sixties

(TCM / Running Press)

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.

 

 

 

YOUNG ORSON: THE YEARS OF LUCK AND GENIUS ON THE PATH TO CITIZEN KANE by Patrick McGilligan (Harper)

Young Orson Welles

(Harper)

 

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.

 

 

 

Woody Allen

(St. Martin’s Press)

WOODY: THE BIOGRAPHY by David Evanier (St. Martin’s Press)

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.

 

DALI AND DISNEY: DESTINO: THE STORY, ARTWORK, AND FRIENDSHIP BEHIND THE LEGENDARY FILM  by David A. Bossert (Disney Editions)

Dali and Disney

(Disney Deluxe Editions)

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.)

 

CREATING THE ILLUSION: A FASHIONABLE HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD COSTUME DESIGNERS by Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins; foreword by Ali MacGraw (TCM / Running Press)

Creating Illusion

(TCM / Running Press)

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.

 

 

 

AN ANIMATOR’S GALLERY: ERIC GOLDBERG DRAWS THE DISNEY CHARACTERS by David A. Bossert, illustrations by Eric Goldberg; foreword by John Lasseter (Disney Editions)

 

Animators Gallery

(Disney Editions)

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.

 

A REAL AMERICAN CHARACTER: THE LIFE OF WALTER BRENNAN by Carl Rollyson (University Press of Mississippi)

Walter Brennan

(University Press of Mississippi)

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.

 

 

 

 

ONE LITTLE SPARK! MICKEY’S TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE ROAD TO IMAGINEEERING  by Marty Sklar; introductions by Richard M. Sherman and Glen Keane (Disney Editions)

 

One Little Spark!

(Disney Editions)

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.

 

 

 

GAY DIRECTORS, GAY FILMS? by Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press)

Gay Film Directors

(Columbia University Press)

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.

 

 

 

MR. HUSTON/MR. NORTH: LIFE, DEATH, AND MAKING JOHN HUSTON’S LAST FILM  by Nat Segaloff (BearManor Media)

 

Mr. Huston Mr. North

(BearManor Media)

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.

 

NOT JUST BATMAN’S BUTLER: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALAN NAPIER by Alan Napier with James Bigwood (McFarland)

Not Just Batman's Butler

(McFarland)

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

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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