MAKEUP MAN: FROM ROCKY TO STAR TREK, THE AMAZING CREATIONS OF HOLLYWOOD’S MICHAEL WESTMORE By Michael Westmore with Jake Page; foreword by Patrick Stewart (Lyons Press)
Here is a highly entertaining memoir by one of the leading practitioners of makeup artistry in Hollywood. His family once dominated the profession; that story was detailed in The Westmores of Hollywood, published some forty years ago. Michael recounts the highpoints of that family saga but then moves on to tell his own colorful story. From The Munsters to Rosemary’s Baby, from the original Rocky and Mask to an amazing run of 600 Star Trek episodes (in its forms), he has seen and done it all. Patrick Stewart writes in his foreword, “We respected and adored Michael. He was a natural leader, and his wit and perpetual good humor got us through many a long day, often into the early hours of the next day. Through our association with Michael, we were all touched with the magic of moviemaking at the highest level.” Filled with anecdotes as well as information Makeup Man is, best of all, a good read.
A new generation might recognize Westmore from the TV show Face Off on SyFy channel. He serves as mentor to the contestants and his daughter Mckenzie is its host. Watching him impart years of wisdom as well as encouragement reminds viewers why people lovingly refer to him as the Godfather of makeup.
LEADING LADY: SHERRY LANSING AND THE MAKING OF A HOLLYWOOD GROUNDBREAKER by Stephen Galloway (Crown Archetype)
Hollywood Reporter veteran Galloway knows contemporary Hollywood as well as anyone covering the beat, which makes him a perfect candidate to have written this welcome biography. Although it is an authorized book, Lansing doesn’t seem to have tied the author’s hands in any way. She admits to mistakes she made along the way in her rise to the top. What makes Leading Lady so compulsively readable is that it’s really two books in one: first, the amazing story of a young woman who endured ridicule, sexism and condescension while working her way to the top post at two major studios. No fiction writer could invent the cold-blooded gamesmanship Galloway details here. Aside from that, his book reveals how many notable films got made in spite of battling egos, accidents, and unpredictable audience response. The chronicles of such memorable movies as Fatal Attraction, The Accused, Forrest Gump, Braveheart, Titanic, and Saving Private Ryan, along with Lansing’s personal life, make this a difficult book to put down.
DRACULA’S DAUGHTER: TOM WEAVER’S SCRIPTS FROM THE CRYPT SERIES by Gary D. Rhodes with Tom Weaver, Michael Lee; introduction by David Colton (BearManor Media)
Everything you could possibly want to know about the making of Dracula’s Daughter, and the long process that led to its production, can be found in this definitive volume. Rhodes provides a fascinating account of how the seemingly obvious idea of a sequel to Dracula became a drawn-out process. It involved changing regimes at Universal Pictures, several top screenwriters, and Bela Lugosi, who at one time was set to appear in the film. Tom Weaver adds pages of trivia notes—some less trivial than others—and Michael Lee contributes an erudite discussion of the music score and its evolution. The book also includes several unused treatments (by John L. Balderston, Kurt Neumann, and R.C. Sheriff), a facsimile of Zacherle’s television send-up of the picture, and much of the original Universal pressbook. This is a cornucopia of goodies for any horror movie buff. The highest compliment I can offer is that it made me want to watch Dracula’s Daughter again…which I intend to do.
MYSTERY CLASSICS ON FILM: THE ADAPTATION OF 65 NOVELS AND STORIES by Ron Miller (McFarland)
This well-researched book examines the way sixty-five novels and short stories have been adapted for the screen—sometimes for the better, sometimes not. To his credit, Miller hasn’t limited himself to the classics, embracing such modern-day authors as P.D. James, Mary Higgins Clark, and Walter Mosley, along with such “usual suspects” as Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, Earl Derr Biggers, and Ellery Queen. He isn’t naïve about the reasons changes are made, and covers each example thoroughly. Regarding Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, he says, “Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock turned the plot inside out, adding a great many scenes that never take place in the book, giving the protagonist a different occupation and completely changing the way the story ends… [but] as mystery author Robert B. Parker often said, the book is still the book. Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train is as good as it ever was and Hitchcock didn’t change that at all.” I have a feeling I’ll refer to this volume on a regular basis when writing about such movies as The 39 Steps, The Big Sleep, and Cape Fear in the future.
HARRY LANGDON: KING OF SILENT SCREEN COMEDY by Gabriela Oldham and Mabel Langdon; foreword by Harry Langdon, Jr. (University Press of Kentucky)
Harry Langdon used to be considered a neglected figure in the history of silent comedy. That’s no longer the case, as he has been the subject of several books as well as chapters in surveys of the period. Gabriela Oldham’s useful narrative is built on the foundation of interviews she conducted with Langdon’s widow Mabel decades ago. This helps her paint a well-rounded picture of the man behind the comic persona. Harry’s son adds a charming and poignant introduction. There are also some extremely rare photos, although some of them are quixotically captioned. The question of Frank Capra’s involvement with Harry’s rise and fall is a central point, and at this late date it seems unlikely that anyone can claim a definitive account.
STEVE McQUEEN: LE MANS IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR By Don Nunley and Marshall Terrill (Dalton Watson)
Don Nunley is a second-generation film industry professional, having worked as a property master, production designer, and set decorator. It was with mixed emotions that he decided to recall his work as prop master on Le Mans, as he explains in his candid introduction: “As it stands, Le Mans is the most discussed, debated, examined and beloved auto racing film of all time, which is mind-boggling if the initial reviews of the movie are read. But ask any motoring aficionado or petrol head what is their favorite racing movie of all time, and nine times out of ten it will be Le Mans with an exclamation point.” The disastrous behind-the-scenes story of the film has been told before, more than once (I’m thinking in particular of Not So Quiet on the Set, the autobiography of Robert Relyea, who was Steve McQueen’s producing partner.) Even so, this book has its own story to tell and is uncommonly handsome, coming from a publisher that specializes in automotive subjects. Almost all the photos are in color and are sure to please racing fans.