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Old 08-07-2006, 14:31   #1
John Hodson
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A Book at Bedtime; Recommended Reading on Classic Cinema, the Stars, Studios, Genres

This thread is partially selfish - I'm off on hols soon and I'm always looking for a good read - but I also think, in view of the demise of the Book Forum, it could become a useful staging post for those looking for suggestions for books on classic cinema; biographies, autobiographies, histories, and even what and who to stay clear of.

First up a couple or three from me:
Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu - the first in what will be a three volume epic examination of Welles from Simon Callow, quite simply brilliant and incredibly illuminating. Part two Hello Americans is going on hols with me.
Searching for John Ford - Joe McBride's throughly researched and brilliantly written look at the life and works of the greatest of all American directors.
If They Move... Kill 'Em!: The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah - excellent book by David Weddle, part of what is now known as the 'Peckinpah Posse'
John Wayne: American - fascinating book on Wayne by Randy Roberts and James Olsen.

I've also just finished Howard Hughes: The Secret Life which I thought was appallingly written trash. Charles Higham; ugh!

If possible, when recommending a book, a link - affiliated where applicable - to where it can be purchased would be appreciated.

If you'd like a book on a particular person or subject, ask away here! I'm sure someone will help.
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Old 08-07-2006, 16:48   #2
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I second John's recommendations. Don't be put off by the gushing quotes on the back from various people - Reagan, Goldwater, Carter et.al. - about what a great American John Wayne was.
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Old 08-07-2006, 19:15   #3
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For a general book on Hollywood in the 1950s, I thoroughly recommend The Bad and the Beautiful. It's a fascinating treasure trove of movie history, and led me to discover more of the films of people like Douglas Sirk, and William Inge, among others.

Peter Bogdanovich's books, "Who the Devil Made It", and Who the Hell's In It are weight tomes indeed, and being collections of interviews they're better dipped into from time to time rather than being read right through, but again, they're very informative and knowledgable. The former particularly gave me a lot more insight into some favoured directors, and introduced me to others I was formerly not too aware of. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be available on Amazon.co.uk at current.

Sidney Lumet's Making Movies leads one on a wander through Lumet's career, looking at the what and how of what he's made over his career. Plenty there for the Lumet fan.

And finally, I can't let a list of book recommendations go without mentioning Lee Server's Mitchum biography, Baby, I Don't Care. This is surely the film biography to end all film biographies. As a massive Mitchum fan, I may be a little biased in saying that.

Last edited by ajr90; 08-07-2006 at 19:19. Reason: Messed up the affilate links. Doh.
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Old 08-07-2006, 23:15   #4
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David O. Selznick's Hollywood by Ron Haver is about 20 years old but still the best book about Selznick the movie maker and a good overview of classic Hollywood. But since it is also a coffee table book, it may be literally too weighty to take to the beach or whereever else people are going.
Patrick McGilligan's bio of George Cukor is an intelligent, sensitive look at the man and the filmmaker.
And, as John H. suggested above, Charles Higham should be avoided at all costs. Even when he's right, he's wrong.
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Old 09-07-2006, 12:27   #5
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With WB's upcoming Bogie signature collections, I should maybe start off by recommending A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax's hefty and thoroughly researched Bogart (seems to be OOP, but available via Marketplace). It's been a few years since I read this next one, but I remember really enjoying Graham McCann's Cary Grant: A Class Apart when I was just becoming a fan.

One to avoid: Carole Lombard by Wes Gehring. 'Twas the only remotely recent Lombard biog I could find, and I almost wish I hadn't. Short, superficial, and just plain inaccurate (Gehring even states that Lombard's car-crash scar was on the right cheek; it was the left).

I have to second ajr90's recommendation of Robert Mitchum: "Baby, I Don't Care" by Lee Server. It is, in a word, marvellous. I've got Server's latest, Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing waiting for my hols, and I can't wait.
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Old 09-07-2006, 14:32   #6
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Two of the best for me would be: Writers in Hollywood / Ian Hamilton and Hitchcock and Selznick / Leonard J. Leff.

Another would be: Round up the Usual Suspects / Aljean Harmetz.

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Old 10-07-2006, 07:35   #7
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Just finished reading Christopher Sandford's bio of McQueen, and it's a reasonably interesting read, if more obsessed with detailing every chink in the man's armour (and trying to get inside his head) than discussing his films.
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Old 10-07-2006, 09:20   #8
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Fairly populist stuff for me:

I enjoyed Vertigo - The Making of a Hitchcock Classic, even if it only seemed to garner lukewarm critical praise.

The Jaws Log

Also, even though its stretching the remit of this forum (even if there is a rolling cutoff for the age of 'classic' films), everyone with a passing interest in Gilliam should read Battle of Brazil by Jack Matthews.
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Old 10-07-2006, 21:40   #9
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Surprised that no-one has mentioned it yet, so I will.

Michael Powell's A Life in Movies is a superb history of the film industry and also a very personal account of Powell's life. Not to be missed!
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Old 11-07-2006, 01:02   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glennza
Surprised that no-one has mentioned it yet, so I will.

Michael Powell's A Life in Movies is a superb history of the film industry and also a very personal account of Powell's life. Not to be missed!
A most emphatic second recommendation for this. Superbly written and at over 1000 pages absolutely stuffed with wonderful anecdotes and stories from the master himself. The alas unfinished second volume Million Dollar Movie is also very good, more talkative and breezy in its manner (he was blind at the time and what there is was taken by dictation).

And whilst we're on an Archers kick Kevin Macdonald's book on Pressburger, The Life and Death of a Screenwriter is very very good as well, and for those more academically inclined the new Ian Christie/Andrew Moor edited anthology The Cinema of Michael Powell has got some good essays in it as well.

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Old 11-07-2006, 08:45   #11
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Some for the cult movie fans:

Beyond Terror: Films of Lucio Fulci - a detailed look at Fulci's entire cinematic output from comedy, to Westerns, family films and schlok horror. Each film has a dedicated, highly detailed section, so the book is useful for reference but can also be read cover to cover.

Universal Horrors: Studio's Classic Films, 1931-46 - although expensive, this book is invaluable to big fans of the Universal Horror era. The book is sorted as a reference work, but despite the academic look of the cover it is easy to read and includes some rare set-photographs and interesting behind the scenes information on every film in the series (including the 12 Sherlock Holmes/Basil Rathbone films, 6 Inner Sanctum/Lon Chaney Jr. and various 'not quite horror' pictures)

I would also recommend Hammer Films: The Bray Studio Years (which I can't find online at the moment). One of the best books on Hammer (although it only runs up to 1966, volume 2 is in production), plenty of background detail and some reference detail on the films, although not much, if you want reviews and plot details this is not the right book.
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Old 11-07-2006, 08:49   #12
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I've been collecting books on cinema since I started buying videos when I was a nipper and I've amassed quite a collection of all sorts of stuff, books on Silent cinema, vintage Hollywood, Japanese cinema, splatter movies….from Tarkovsky's Diaries to Fab Press books on Lucio Fulci and Last House On The Left…. I'd be glad to write up a list with notes and links, if the forum moderators would make it a sticky ? It would take a few weeks - it would be quite a list (sorry John, you'll be back from your hols by then) but I'm sure it would be useful…. What does everyone think ?
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Old 11-07-2006, 08:53   #13
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That's excellent; go for it!

EDIT; And we are stickied (thank you Colin) - don't forget to, where you can, affililiate those titles folks!

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Old 11-07-2006, 10:03   #14
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Patrick McGilligan's Backstory
series of books interviewing Hollywood screenwriters from the 1920s through to the 1980s is fantastic. Four of my absolute favourites.

(If that link works, I've made a huge evolutionary leap...)
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Old 11-07-2006, 15:25   #15
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These two are the only cinema related books I've got:

2001: Filming the Future

Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life .

I'd recommend both unreservedly.

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Old 14-07-2006, 10:49   #16
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I have lots to say but for the moment....

David Thomson's "The Whole Equation" is an absolute must. Even if you disagree with Mr Thomson, he's such an elegant writer that it's hard to stop reading him.
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Old 15-07-2006, 12:16   #17
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A fascinating read on a different aspect of classic movies is "Irish Film Censorship: A Cultural Journey from Silent Cinema to Internet Pornography" by Kevin Rockett, available through Amazon.

Sounds dry, but this gives an amazing account of the treatment many films received at the hands of Irish censors down the years. A few examples of movies that were cut include "The Quiet Man", "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Song of Bernadette". "The Jolson Story" was actually banned, so was "Casablanca" at first but was allowed in later with all references to the romance between Bogart and Bergman removed!

P.S. You may have to do a search on Amazon. Sorry, but I couldn't get the link to go directly to the page. Amazon.co.uk

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Old 15-07-2006, 13:37   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike
I have lots to say but for the moment....

David Thomson's "The Whole Equation" is an absolute must. Even if you disagree with Mr Thomson, he's such an elegant writer that it's hard to stop reading him.

If you can get to a FOPP store this excellent book is now selling for £3-a steal at that price.
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Old 22-07-2006, 13:43   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike
I have lots to say but for the moment....

David Thomson's "The Whole Equation" is an absolute must. Even if you disagree with Mr Thomson, he's such an elegant writer that it's hard to stop reading him.
Yep - I fully agree. Thomson is an essential writer, and this book is essential, along with his Biographical Dictionary of Film.

Other favourites which I dip into regularly:

Steven Bach's Final Cut: Dreams & Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gate

Robert McKee's Story.
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Old 22-07-2006, 15:23   #20
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Currently reading Don Siegel's autobiography A Siegel Film and while he's far from a great writer (something he admits to early in the book) it's still a fascinating read. I think he's the only director to have worked with three of my favorite actors - Wayne, McQueen and Eastwood.
The info on the inside of the dust jacket is unbelievable though, it credits him with directing Magnum Force with its catchphrase ‘make my day’. Bet whoever wrote that is now in another line of work.
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