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NEW AND NOTABLE FILM BOOKS: JUNE 2017

 

A GATHERING OF GUNS: A HALF CENTURY HISTORY OF TV WESTERNS (1949-2001) by Boyd Magers; forewords by James Drury, Robert Fuller, Clint Walker, Henry Darrow, Don Collier, and Will Hutchins (Western Clippings)

For years I’ve been a faithful reader of Boyd Magers’ periodical Western Clippings, which celebrates the Western movie genre with an emphasis on the past. Every issue is jam-packed with information, interviews, rare photos, and more. He has extended this modus operandi to his latest book, a spiral-bound publication that covers an astonishing 196 TV series in its 478 pages—with over 1,600 illustrations. The relationship to movie history is clear: in the 1950s the Saturday matinee Western was reborn as the hour television series for such stars as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Even William Boyd, whose popularity skyrocketed when he released his old Hopalong Cassidy movies to television, filmed a series especially for TV. In time, more “adult” Westerns like Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel attracted prime-time audiences; and for a while the genre dominated all of television programming. Here you will find extensive entries on every one of those series, from the earliest days up through Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and The Adventure of Briscoe County Jr. Magers has supplemented his extensive research with anecdotes from people who worked on the shows, offering a thorough and well-rounded survey of each program. I got hooked with the very first entry, on The Lone Ranger, which includes a Lone Ranger timeline and portraits of Clayton Moore in the disguises he used in various episodes. Whether you’re looking for a reference work or just enjoy TV nostalgia, this book is a knockout—and well worth owning. Order direct from orders@westernclippings.com using PayPal. $51 in the U.S. Check in for Canada and outside the U.S.

 

STARRING THE PLAZA: HOLLYWOOD, BROADWAY AND HIGH SOCIETY VISIT THE WORLD’S FAVORITE HOTEL by Patty Farmer; foreword by Mitzi Gaynor (Beaufort Books)

I’ll never forget my first visit to the Plaza Hotel, and I daresay no one else could, either. But I never realized how often it has been featured onscreen until I started browsing this attractive book, which is filled with terrific photos (both black & white and color) and anecdotes. The honor roll is impressive: North by Northwest, Sweet Charity, Barefoot in the Park, Crocodile Dundee, The Way We Were, Midnight Cowboy, and of course Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite, to name just a few. Farmer supplements this parade of films with sidebars on television shows, music videos, and famous figures who have been photographed at the celebrated hotel. Starring the Plaza is fun to browse, and the irrepressible Mitzi Gaynor provides a characteristically upbeat introduction.

 


ASHEVILLE MOVIES VOLUME 1: THE SILENT ERA by Frank Thompson (Men With Wings Press)

“North Carolina is a movie magnet and has been from the earliest days of the cinema. From the lush Blue Ridge Mountains to the wild and windy coasts of the Outer Banks, the state abounds with visual splendor. In a phrase often used to describe performers, North Carolina has a face that the camera loves.” So writes Frank Thompson, a film historian who earned that title long ago, having penned authoritative books on topics ranging from William A. Wellman to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Having recently moved to the North Carolina, he set out to learn if his adoptive home had any connection to the movies (before a permanent studio was established in Wilmington). He wound up with a minor jewel of a book about silent film production in Asheville, N.C. Using his experience as a researcher, he discovered a fascinating history—along with the frustrating realization that none of the silent features made there still exist. That doesn’t make his account any less interesting; if anything, it piques my curiosity. Asheville Movies Volume 1 is available as a paperback or an e-book at www.menwithwingspress.com. If you’d like to read an excellent article about Frank’s discoveries, click HERE

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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