New And Notable Film Books

As always, there are more books being published than I can keep up with. While I haven’t had time to read most of these cover-to-cover, I’d like to call attention to some that clearly stand out.

Once you pick up the handsome, oversized hardcover volume Judy: A Legendary Film Career by John Fricke (Running Press) you’ll find it difficult to put down. No one knows more about Garland than Fricke, who provides an eye-popping selection of rarely-seen photos (as well as posters, sheet music, and other ephemera) to accompany his film-by-film survey, along with an overview of Judy’s radio, TV, and concert work. Additional chapters deal with unrealized and rumored projects over the years. What a beautiful bouquet to a great performer.

Since moving to Los Angeles almost thirty years ago, I’ve developed a keen interest in locations and early—

—movie studios. The folks at Arcadia Publishing have satisfied my curiosity more than once, and their latest publication in the Images of America series is a dandy: Movie Studios Of Culver City by Julie Lugo Cerra and Marc Wanamaker. If you only think of Culver City as the longtime home of MGM, you have many surprises in store. This compact but admirably thorough picture-book charts the history of Harry Culver’s development, the ambitions of Thomas A. Ince (who wound up building not one but two studios there—the one that became MGM and another that was later home to Cecil B. DeMille and David O. Selznick), the construction (and destruction) of the Hal Roach Studio, and more, through the television era to the present day. I found it all fascinating and learned a lot I didn’t know before.

Expert biographer and dedicated film buff Emily Leider has provided us with a highly readable, well-informed biography, Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl In Hollywood (University of California Press). As the title suggests, Loy didn’t lead a scandalous life, before moving from Montana to Hollywood or after. Her character was forged during her youth out West, and she struggled for many years before becoming a bona fide star. She eventually became known as the “perfect wife” on screen, which stood in sharp contrast to her frustrating real-life experiences. Leider peppers her narrative with savvy comments and behind-the-scenes stories about Loy’s many films.

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race To Death Valley” By Floyd Gottfredson (Fantagraphics Press) will be warmly received by comics aficionados but should also intrigue Disney animation buffs who aren’t necessarily plugged into comic strip history. Editors David Gerstein

and Gary Groth have not only scoured the planet for the best surviving artwork on Gottfredson’s first epic continuity, which ran in newspapers from April to September of 1930; they’ve provided background essays (by a raft of experts), vintage press materials and artwork to put it into the context of Walt Disney’s burgeoning career, and Mickey Mouse’s budding stardom. From interoffice memos about the new comic strip to studio-staff caricatures, you’ll find much here you’ve never seen before. I have a feeling that this book, crafted with such obvious care, will earn Gottfredson a new legion of admirers.

The folks at Dark Horse Books have done many worthy projects over the years; their revival of the vintage comic-book series Boris Karloff Tales Of Mystery, under the supervision of editor Randy Stradley, is just the latest. Volume Six reprints the original Gold Key comics #33 through #41, and I was pleased to provide a brief foreword in which I talk about my youthful introduction to Boris Karloff. If you haven’t checked out this series as yet, I encourage you to do so: the stories are fun and the artwork is first-rate.

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May 2024