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New and Notable Film Books – Sept 2015

They Drew As They Pleased-400 THEY DREW AS THEY PLEASED: THE HIDDEN ART OF DISNEY’S GOLDEN
AGE—THE 1930s by Didier Ghez; foreword by Pete Docter (Chronicle Books)

It’s no secret
that some of the most beautiful artwork in the Disney archives was never seen
by the moviegoing public. Walt was canny enough to hire great artists—including
European refugees who resettled in Los Angeles in the 1930s—to provide “concept
art” to inspire him and his team. Their work was first acknowledged in the
1940s when Disney himself commissioned a book of Albert Hurter’s work called He Drew as He Pleased. Animation
historian John Canemaker picked up the baton with his 1996 volume Before the Animation Begins. Now,
indefatigable Disney chronicler and aficionado Didier Ghez has dug even deeper
for the first in a series of books, focusing on four key figures: Hurter,
Ferdinand Horvath, Gustaf Tenggren, and Bianca Majolie. Their sketches,
doodles, drawings, and paintings are inventive, whimsical, and sometimes
breathtaking. Ghez sets their work into context with his informative essays.
This is not the kind of book to be swallowed whole but savored.

 

Buster Keaton's Crew-325

BUSTER KEATON’S CREW: THE TEAM BEHIND THE SILENT FILMS by
Lisle Foote (McFarland)

 
If you love
Buster Keaton’s silent comedies—and who doesn’t?–and never tire of learning
about them, this book is for you. Author Foote has done an impressive amount of
homework in order to tell us about Buster’s collaborators on both sides of the
camera from the late teens, when he joined Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s troupe,
through the glory years of the 1920s when he made his greatest short subjects
and feature films. From cameramen to gag writers, seemingly every contributor
to the Keaton canon is represented here. This is scholarship at its finest,
recounted with a light touch. (Of Donald Crisp, the character actor who
received directing credit for The
Navigator,
she writes, “Donald Crisp lived a remarkable life, and the
stories he told about it were exciting, fascinating, colorful…and only occasionally
true.” Extensively annotated and indexed, this book is an important addition to
the Keaton bookshelf.

 

Pinocchio-making of the Disney epic-375

PINOCCHIO: THE MAKING OF THE DISNEY EPIC by J.B. Kaufman;
foreword by John Canemaker, special chapter by Russell Merritt (Walt Disney
Family Museum)

 
As he did with
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,
animation historian J.B. Kaufman has delivered an exhaustive—yet highly
readable—chronicle of a milestone in Walt Disney’s career, packaged in a
handsome hardcover filled with rare artwork and photos. Kaufman fills us in on Pinocchio’s origins, in Carlo Collodi’s
book, and the challenge Disney and his team faced in simplifying its episodic
story. The book covers every aspect of the burgeoning feature and Walt’s
ambitions for it, especially after the rousing success of Snow White. With full access to the Disney archives and years of
interviews with its animators, he paints a vivid picture of how the feature
came to life, despite a good many bumps in the road. No aspect of the film is
overlooked, from the use of sound and contributions of voice actors to the
licensing and merchandising campaign that accompanied its release. A valuable
appendix reveals which artists contributed to each key sequence. Two words best
describe this volume: essential and definitive.

 

 

Cowboy Princess Rides Again

COWBOY PRINCESS RIDES AGAIN by Cheryl Rogers-Barnett
(Riverwood Press)

 

Roy Rogers’
oldest daughter first told her story in a charming book called Cowboy Princess, written with Frank
Thompson. But as she continues to appear at film festivals and Western
gatherings, and fans ply her with questions about growing up with Roy and Dale
(her loving stepmother), she has come to realize that there are many stories
she didn’t get to tell—and much she has learned since the first book was
published. This new softcover volume is packed with rare family photos, scores
of anecdotes, and information sure to please anyone who admires the Rogers
clan. Full disclosure: Cheryl and her husband Larry are friends. I can’t
pretend to be objective, but I loved poring over this volume, seeing unfamiliar
photos and learning more about Cheryl’s eventful life than I ever knew before.

 

Cy Endfield-Film Noir-Blacklist

THE MANY LIVES OF CY ENDFIELD: FILM NOIR, THE BLACKLIST, AND
ZULU by Brian Neve (University of Wisconsin Press)

 

Years in the
making, and built on the foundation of an interview with director Endfield
conducted in 1989, this thorough British book is a long-overdue examination of
a fascinating (if sometimes frustrating) career. Author Neve has had the
cooperation of Endfield’s family, a variety of colleagues, and access to papers
held in archives and libraries around the world. He chronicles the life of a
creative individual from Scranton, Pennsylvania who wound up in Hollywood with
a promising career, only to depart for England rather than naming names during
the blacklist era. He is best remembered today for his remarkable film Zulu,
but made other worthy films including The
Sound of Fury (Try and Get Me)
and
Hell Drivers
, to name just two. A full-fledged biography, as opposed to an
annotated filmography, this book is part of the Wisconsin Film Studies series
edited by Patrick McGilligan.

 

Hirschfeld Century-375

THE HIRSCHFELD CENTURY: PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AND HIS AGE
Edited and with text by David Leopold (Knopf)

 

 I can’t get
enough of Al Hirschfeld’s artwork, and this latest compendium includes a number
of pieces that haven’t been anthologized before, including some of his earliest
movie advertisements from the 1920s. These pieces are unrecognizable as
Hirschfeld’s because they don’t bear his signature style, which solidified in
the early 1930s. Author Leopold, who has curated the artist’s archives for many
years, also offers drawings and paintings in various media that were never
intended for publication, along with more familiar pieces featuring everyone
from Laurel & Hardy (among the artist’s all-time favorite people to draw)
to Jerry Seinfeld and Madonna. Hundreds of illustrations, in black & white
and color, make this a welcome companion to other Hirschfeld books on my shelf.

 

Laurel & Hardy-U.S. Tours

LAUREL AND HARDY: THE U.S. TOURS

LAUREL & HARDY: THE BRITISH TOURS by A.J Marriot

 

 A diligent
Laurel and Hardy devotee in England who has adopted the moniker of A.J Marriot
(echoing the name of Stan Laurel’s father Arthur Jefferson) has become a
one-man publishing industry. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was unfamiliar
with his work until recently; now I feel impelled to spread the word to Laurel
and Hardy fans on this side of the Pond. I obtained copies of the two volumes
that intrigued me most, regarding the comedy duo’s extensive personal-appearance
tours, and can’t say enough about the author’s exhaustive research—or his array
of rare photos and newspaper clippings. But this is just the tip of the
iceberg: Marriot has published a number of other books about the duo, even a
separate volume on Stan Laurel’s early tours of America alongside Charlie
Chaplin as part of the Fred Karno music hall troupe. You can learn more by
clicking HERE and exploring all of A.J’s labor-of-love publications.

 

As If-Clueless History

AS IF! THE ORAL HISTORY OF ‘CLUELESS’ AS TOLD BY AMY
HECKERLING, THE CAST, AND THE CREW by Jen Chaney (Touchstone)

 

One of the
most delightful comedies of the modern era, Clueless
is fully deserving of book-length treatment, and this is an ideal way to
celebrate it: through the memories of its writer-director, Amy Heckerling, and
her many collaborators on both sides of the camera. Chaney has tracked down
everyone from the stars (including Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Donald
Faison, and Paul Rudd) to the fellow who cast the background extras. It’s the
kind of lively, dishy book you’re likely to read straight through, as the
participants’ enthusiasm leaps off the page. Chaney dutifully follows the movie’s
aftermath, its lasting impact, and even the short-lived TV series that it
spawned. 

2 comments

  1. Terry Bigham says:

    Hey, Len, don’t forget Cy also helmed the 1961 Ray Harryhausen opus "Mysterious Island". John Prebble, who co-wrote "Zulu" with Endfield, co-scripted the Jules Verne adaptation.

  2. James Knuttel says:

    Another book to recommend: "The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks" by Tracey Goessel

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