THE FAMOUS MR. FAIRBANKS: A STORY OF CELEBRITY by Richard Schickel (Felix Farmer Press)

I was happy to reacquaint myself with this book, a lengthy essay about the nature of celebrity based on the first man who embodied its 20th century ideal, Douglas Fairbanks. (It was first published as His Picture in the Papers in 1973.) The fact that movies enabled us in the audience to admire and identify with such a person—to feel as if we actually knew him—was unprecedented.  Schickel’s hypothesis still holds true today, more than one hundred years after Fairbanks burst onto movie screens around the world while retaining the earmarks of a “regular fellow.” The premise wears thin when the author applies it to the specifics of Fairbanks’ later life and career, but it’s still a good read. This new paperback includes a remarkable 20-page single-spaced typed letter that Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. sent to Schickel after reading his original treatise. It alone is worth the price of this book, which the newly-formed Felix Farmer Press has issued in a numbered, limited edition. It is only available from Los Angeles’s celebrated Book Soup. 

THE LAUREL & HARDY MOVIE SCRIPTS: VOLUME 2: LOST FILMS AND CLASSICS (Bonaventure Press) Annotated by Randy Skretvedt

If you already have earlier incarnations of this book you will certainly want to own this newest publication, which features 23 original screenplays and continuities including the notorious “lost” silent two-reeler Hats Off (which was remade as The Music Box), the MGM feature film The Rogue Song, in which Laurel and Hardy made a guest appearance, and a short called Tickets for Two, which was abandoned and reimagined. As before, the scripts serve as a general treatment or blueprint, allowing for change and improvement, while the continuities relate every scene from the finished picture. I never would have dreamt that I would still be learning new tidbits about Laurel and Hardy in the year 2022, but thanks to author Randy Skretvedt, I’ve done just that. (One of the prizes: a typed list of publicity ideas for Hats Off saved by Oliver Hardy.)  There are some knockout photos, as well.

MY PLACE IN THE SUN by George Stevens, Jr. (University Press of Kentucky)

The founder of the American Film Institute and co-creator of the Kennedy Center Honors should need no introduction or justification for penning his autobiography. It just happens that George Stevens, Jr. is uniquely qualified to recount what it was like to grow up as a privileged son of Hollywood royalty. His impressions of his director-father are loving and insightful and mesh nicely with understandable and often-unexpected name-dropping. (One of his schoolmates was Eddie Ciannelli, son of the respected actor Eduardo who costarred in his dad’s wonderful movie Gunga Din.)

George not only visited his father’s sets (A Place in the Sun) and location shoots (Shane) but began working with him when an opportunity presented itself to move to Washington D.C. during the John F. Kennedy administration. His boss was the redoubtable Edward R. Murrow at the U.S. Information Agency and Stevens’s timing was impeccable. It was through social and business connections that he reinvented himself and, in time, engineered the historic founding of the American Film Institute. Stevens is a good storyteller and takes us by the hand through the two phases of his life, which turn out to be of equal significance. This is a superior memoir but most of all a good read.


This book was published last year during the pandemic and it escaped my attention. Not long ago, when I told a friend how much I was enjoying the miniseries The Offer, he urged me to read this thorough and captivating account of the same saga. Seal is not the first person to document this story; in fact, he credits other authors whose books he has read and consulted as well as conducting his own round of interviews.

The result has a cumulative effect, you might say. It is arguably a definitive chronicle of how one of America’s all-time great movies got made and released. Individuals who were involved in the process have their own perspective and this highly readable book acknowledges the points on which the participants’ stories differ. After fifty years it’s unlikely that some of those discrepancies are ever going to be straightened out, but Seal allows us to decide which version we choose to believe. Mario Puzo’s novel was one of those page-turning best-sellers that was hard to put down; I might say the same of this superior “making-of” volume.

MARKETING MAYHEM: SELLING DEAN MARTIN AND JERRY LEWIS TO POST-WAR AMERICA by Richard S. Greene; foreword by Eddie Deezen (BearManor Media)

This gigantic 720 page tome, 1½ inches thick, may resemble a city telephone directory, but it is pure catnip to any fan of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Think of it as a scrapbook of every conceivable still, poster, pressbook, sheet music, comic book, and magazine ad that featured Dean and/or Jerry during their tumultuous decade together. The quality of reproduction is first-rate, and I enjoyed going through it all, making discoveries (I’d never seen the Al Hirschfeld artwork for their debut movie My Friend Irma) and comparing my collectibles to the ones depicted here. Author and superfan Greene provides a running commentary on the duo’s careers, extending past their notorious breakup in 1956. Anyone wishing to take a deep dive into the show-business phenomenon that was Martin & Lewis ought to own a copy of this one-of-a-kind book.


Anyone who watches and enjoys Malone’s segments on Turner Classic Movies should know that she is utterly sincere in her love and enthusiasm for films of all kinds. Here, she tells her life story and explains how movies affected her at every juncture of her childhood, adolescence, and first stages of adulthood. I appreciate her willingness to share sometimes-awkward moments and have a feeling that her experiences will serve as a salve for girls who are going through similar issues. It is yet another example of how movies can play a huge and beneficial role in our lives

A PORTRAIT OF WALT DISNEY WORLD: 50 YEARS OF THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH by Kevin M. Kern, Tim O’Day, Steven Vagnini; Foreword by Bob Chapek; Original cover art by Fabiola Garza (Disney Editions)

This monumental book commemorates Walt Disney World at the half-century mark in high style, with hundreds of illustrations and innumerable backstage insights. The story begins as Walt Disney investigates the possibility of building a new park in Florida that will “outdo” Disneyland in Anaheim, and continues to the present day, with projections of the future. Any WDW enthusiast will mark this as a must-have.

MUSIC BY JOHN BARRY: A CHRONOLOGY OF SELECTED WORKS by Jon Burlingame, Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker (Windmill Records)

This is an unabashed celebration of the popular film composer’s career, with essays, interviews, photos, posters, sheet music covers, trade advertisements, and a tribute from his friend Sir Michael Caine. If you’re a fan of his work on Zulu, Goldfinger, Born Free, Body Heat, The Ipcress File, Dances with Wolves, Midnight Cowboy, The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa, The Knack, Somewhere in Time, or any of his other achievements, you will enjoy leafing through this handsomely designed volume. The three authors are more than qualified to chart Barry’s career and illuminate its many highpoints.

MAKING THE CUT AT PIXAR: THE ART OF EDITING ANIMATION  by Bill Kinder and Bobbie O’Steen (Focal Press)

The medium of animation is little understood by laymen or even live-action filmmakers. What’s more, Pixar has developed its own playbook that differs from other animation studios. At their world headquarters in Emeryville, California, editors are collaborators from the first day of production—active contributors to the serpentine process of developing a solid story, not workers who are “batting cleanup” at the end of an assembly line. It helps to explain why Pixar movies are so good.

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 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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June 2024