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: 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: 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 by Cheryl Rogers-Barnett (Riverwood Press)
Roy Rogers’ oldest daughter first told her story in a charming book calledCowboy 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.
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) andHell 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.
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: 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.
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.