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THE BIG GOODBYE: CHINATOWN AND THE LAST YEARS OF HOLLYWOOD by Sam Wasson

THE BIG GOODBYE: CHINATOWN AND THE LAST YEARS OF HOLLYWOOD by Sam Wasson (Flatiron Press)

Having given us a great biography of Bob Fosse, important books about Blake Edwards and Paul Mazursky, and an engaging account of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Wasson has proven to be an insightful chronicler of 20th century show business. He is also a gifted writer who takes a novelistic approach to nonfiction.

 

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Another author might approach a book about Chinatown the way a producer of DVD bonus features would. Wasson understands that this modern classic was not just a great film but the culmination of events that reshaped Hollywood and the lives of its principal players: director Roman Polanski, producer Robert Evans, and screenwriter Robert Towne. That’s why its lengthy opening chapter deals with Polanski’s life and career, including the brutal murder of his companion Sharon Tate… and why it is essential that we understand what made the idiosyncratic Towne and the colorful Evans so unconventional, even in a business as wacky as the movie industry.

Wasson paints a vivid picture of a Hollywood beset by change in the early 1970s, following a hedonistic bubble that was bound to burst. This is a story of friendship, loyalty, clashing egos, creative dead ends, and serendipity. The author has found sources who were willing to reveal the flaws and peccadilloes of its protagonists, collaborators who somehow managed to create a masterpiece. It’s great reading… and Flatiron Press is publishing it tomorrow.

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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