Books on Movies and TV

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Books on Movies and TV

Mar 6, 2023, 11:30 am

Have you read any good books on movies and television?

Mar 6, 2023, 11:31 am

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show
Daniel de Visé
4/5 stars
Daniel de Vise writes a fascinating book about the relationship between Andy Griffith and Don Knotts as he follows their lives and careers and especially their time on The Andy Griffth Show. Highly recommended!

Mar 7, 2023, 12:58 am

A rewatch of one of my favorite movies In Bruges it is a real gem. Starring two of my favorite Irish actors, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

Editado: Mar 7, 2023, 2:25 pm

Alexandra Jacobs. NYT, 03/07/2023: … It’s the Oscars that Got Small. On 2 Oscar related books: Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears / Michael Schulman -- and The Academy and the Award / Bruce Davis -- also recommends: Hollywood: the Oral History / Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson. Haven't read 'em yet; still focusing on my Myrna Loy bio. but tax time this month is my annual distraction. Hoping the Basinger book gets discounted on Kindle this year.

Mar 17, 2023, 10:37 am

All about Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business
Mel Brooks
4/5 stars
What a great book about all the films that Mel Brooks wrote and filmed! He also writes about his life growing up, his time in the military in WWII, how he got into show business and how he met his wife, the lovely Anne Bancroft and their relationship. Definitely for film fans!

Editado: Abr 7, 2023, 12:10 pm

Deliberate Cruelty: Truman Capote, the Millionaire's Wife, and the Murder of the Century
Roseanne Montillo
4/5 stars
This was the fascinating, true story about the death of a millionaire's wife, Ann Woodward in the 50's and the role Truman Capote figured into her death.

Abr 10, 2023, 11:10 pm

Laughing On Writing M*A*S*H, Tootsie ,Oh,God! and a Few Other Funny Things
Larry Gelbart
3/5 stars
Larry Gelbart, who brought the series M*A*S*H to television, relates his career in show business, the movies and TV Series he was involved in and the people he worked with. I liked it but parts of it dragged on. Books About Film/Television

Abr 18, 2023, 11:56 am

Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir
by Paul Newman, Melissa Newman
4/5 stars
Wonderful autobiography written by Newman about his life but in between his chapters, his family and friends also contributed their thoughts. They then were compiled by Stewart Stern. I liked the way they set this up and enjoyed reading about him.

Abr 23, 2023, 2:41 pm

Finding Me
Viola Davis
4/5 stars
Davis, who is an actress, relates her life of poverty as a child and how she got out of it and became an award winning actress who won awards in all the major entertainment categories. This was a fascinating read!

Jul 8, 2023, 11:25 pm

Ugetsu: Kenji Mizoguchi, director / Keiko I McDonald, editor. (Rutgers Films in Print). A book I picked up second hand long ago; finally read through after rewatching the film. McDonald writes a good introduction & provides a useful biographical summary of the director's career. There is a detailed Credits & Cast, and a full Continuity Script (broken down into 193 shots, describing each type (e.g. "MLS," i.e. Medium Long Shot), plus scenes in bold, actions in italics, and complete dialog (much more detailed than the subtitles in the film); all making it easier to visualize or recall the complex timeline(s) of the story. Ugetsu the movie has sources in 2 stories from Ugetsu Monogatari by Akinari Ueda (1776), translated as Tales of Moonlight and Rain: The House Amid the Thickets and The Lust of the White Serpent; both translated texts are included. The screenplay was also influenced very indirectly by a Maupassant short story which is not included. There is a section excerpting a letter Mizoguchi wrote to his screenwriter, Yoshikata Yoda, regarding Yoda's draft of Ugetsu, 8 pages of bulleted notes. There is a short section of brief contemporary reviews, primarily from Western reviewers like Bosley Crowther (New York Times) & Penelope Gilliatt, but also from Eric Rohmer & Japanese reviewer Ichiro Ueno (from the main Japanese reviewing journal, Kinema Jumpo, all mercifully brief. These are followed by somewhat longer commentaries. The French critics seemed to bloviate to the point of metaphysical incomprehensibility. I'm familiar with British critic Robin Wood, and general critic of Japanese culture Donald Richie; both were OK, I guess. The final essay by Tadao Sato sought to make the work quintessentially Japanese; nationalistic stuff I can take with a grain of salt. Finally, 2 useful appendices: a filmography of Mizoguchi's movies (most of his early silent films are lost), and a bibliography of criticism & commentary. The book did generate further thoughts about the film, but I haven't decided where to insert them. However, let me quote this helpful note from M.'s letter to his screenwriter regarding the draft of the script:

"I've chosen the vehicle of the ghost story because I cannot adequately handle the subject matter in a realistic, contemporary drama; also, as a method of expression that has ironic overtones, it is conducive to the presentation of a historical perspective that reveals something about society. It would be useless to use this vehicle to make a mere curiosity piece."

Jul 12, 2023, 3:11 pm

Just downloaded Hollywood: the oral history by Jeanine Basinger & Sam Wasson for 1.99!

Jul 14, 2023, 10:11 am

You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman
Mike Thomas
This is a well-written biography of the fabulous and funny Phil Hartman, comedian and actor. Author, Mike Thomas does a great job of chronicling the life and career of Hartman and the tragic outcome of his life.

Jul 23, 2023, 2:30 pm

How Y'all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived
Leslie Jordan
4/5 stars
Leslie Jordan writes about his life and his career on TV, Instagram and films. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his life. A fast read, you'll get a kick out of this book!

Jul 24, 2023, 11:24 am

We'll Always Have Casablanca: The Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Film
Noah Isenberg
4/5 stars
This is the wonderfully interesting book about the film Casablanca. Isenberg discusses the origins of the film, the actors, parodies of the movie and discussions about a sequel. Definitely, for Casablanca fans!

Ago 10, 2023, 12:12 pm

That's Not All Folks!
Mel Blanc
5/5 stars
What a wonderful book about Mel Blanc! He writes about his time voicing cartoon characters Bugs Bunny and many others, also his life on radio, films and on television! He also talks about his wife and son and also how show business affected his life. Highly recommended!

Ago 28, 2023, 11:04 am

We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy
Caseen Gaines
4/5 stars
Wonderful book about the Back To The Future Trilogy. Gaines writes a thorough synopsis of the movies and what has been going on with the films and actors, and how the movies impacted on the public and fans. Books About Film and Television

Set 14, 2023, 11:42 am

John Hughes: A Life in Film: The Genius Behind Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club, Home Alone, and more
Kirk Honeycutt
4/5 stars
Kirk Honeycutt recaps and discusses the films of John Hughes. This book does also talk about his life but not in an in-depth way. I enjoyed it.

Set 21, 2023, 11:46 am

My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business
Dick Van Dyke
4/5 stars
This is not a current book about Dick Van Dyke but he writes about the highlights of his career in TV and film and talks about his family life up to 2011. I always admired him and this was a very enjoyable book.

Editado: Set 23, 2023, 2:16 pm

Review of 2 books of interest for musical fans:

Brynn Shiovitz. LARB, 09/22/2023: An Excuse to Make Noise. Review of: Astaire by Numbers: Time & the Straight White Male Dancer / Todd Decker and Dancing Down the Barricades: Sammy Davis Jr. and the Long Civil Rights Era / Matthew Frye Jacobson.

Set 24, 2023, 4:52 am

>19 featherbear: Thank you for the link. This was an excellent review of books about two great dancers.

I must admit that I hd never thought of Astaire in terms of uber-masculinity. He is usually compared to the more obviously masculine Gene Kelly as being a dancer of exceptional grace, not effeminate but reticent in style. I am also unsure about what choice he had in dance partners. Was he not under contract to studios who made these decisions? I can't believe that he would have freely chosen some of his non-dancing/poor dancing partners in several films. 'Royal Wedding' springs to mind where his actress love interest was no dancer but fortunately he got to dance with Jane Powell who was playing his sister.

Set 25, 2023, 11:07 am

The Old Man and the Gun: And Other Tales of True Crime
David Grann
3/5 stars
Interesting book on true crime! There are three stories of crime in this book. The first one was The Old Man and The Gun which was made into a movie with Robert Redford. True Crime and The Chameleon were next. The second story was just okay but I really enjoyed the The Chameleon and The Old Man and The Gun. Crime

Set 28, 2023, 12:07 pm

Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film
Patton Oswalt
3/5 stars
Actor/Writer/Standup Comedian Patton Oswalt talks about his love of films and that he had seen three times a week through the nineties at the New Beverly Cinema. Interesting!

Set 28, 2023, 1:09 pm

I’m in the early stages of Peter Bogdanovich’s interview collection Who the Devil Made It. Right now I’m reading his interview with Allan Dwan, a director contemporary of D.W. Griffith, recalling the introduction of what would eventually become standard movie types of visuals in the silent era.

For the film David Harum (1915), Dwan: “That picture was the first time we moved the camera.” Harum had to walk down a street talking to people to show he was well-acquainted with everyone. “Well, I thought, if you set the camera at one end of the street and start him at the other end, you wouldn’t see anything, you’d see a fly speck approaching, and finally when he got away down near the camera you’d say, ‘Oh, that’s David Harum.’” It seemed the only way to do this was via a series of short takes, but “instead of setting the camera backward each time, it occurred to me, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just move it backward with him.”

Now, “in those days, cameras were anchored or chained down on tripods so there’d be no vibration.” The crew put the camera on a car, but worried there would be too much jiggle, but “we got a farm scraper and we scraped the street flat, got all the bumps out. And then we softened the tires so they wouldn’t joggle, we locked the springs and fastened the camera on securely with a few two-by-fours, got it well wired down … it worked great. As he walked down and met the people, we’d stop if he stopped and moved when he did, and we made this long shot—it ran seven hundred feet.”

However, “the movement, according to theatre managers—disturbed the audience. They said it made them feel dizzy. Some of them grabbed their chairs and hung on because they thought they were moving. They’d never seen it happen. So, instead of praises, we got reprimands.”

Out 11, 2023, 2:56 pm

I entered this in the Books Made Into Movies thread, but it occurs to me that the Books About Movies thread is more appropriate, so here it is again:

Finished reading Hollywood, the Oral History, compiled by Jeanine Basinger & Sam Wasson. From earliest silents to Jaws, quotes from the movie-makers from all levels. I'll probably drop a few stories as time permits.

One from costume designer Walter Plunkett, regarding the production of Gone With the Wind; Plunkett did not care for the producer David O. Selznick.

"I remember once that they did have to go to an earlier sequence with Scarlett after shooting for quite a long while, and Vivien (Leigh) was very tired and run-down. I don't think the dress mattered, but Selznick came to the set and bawled her out for looking tired and for the bags under her eyes. He said, 'You're supposed to look like a young virgin in this sequence. Why don't you take care of yourself?" and yelling and screaming at her. In the meantime, he was afraid of scandal, he had sent Larry Olivier off to New York to do a play so that Hollywood would never realize that the two of them were happily having an affair. Selznick was leaving, and he bawled her out. He got clear across the stage when Vivien yelled at him, 'You know goddamn well what's wrong with me and why I'm looking the way I do. Just let Larry come back and give me a good lay, and my face will look all right again!' That shocked a few members of the crew."

Authentic, I assume, though I suspect "lay" may be a Plunkett euphemism.

Out 11, 2023, 3:09 pm

From another book about movies I'm reading but yet to finish (it's all of 1,224 pages according to Kindle), Who the Devil Made It? by the late Peter Bogdanovich. I've always thought of him as a younger director, though he was born in 1939 (d. 2022). This, like Hollywood, the oral history, is a collection of interviews, but the focus is on directors, while the Basinger/Wasson book interviews people from every facet of the industry. Anyways, I'm starting the Fritz Lang interview. Lang began his film career in Germany; he fled to Hollywood when Hitler took over. Before he left, he made a film Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933), and there's something he says about it in the interview that had resonance for me for today's politics:

Fritz Lang: "I put all the Nazi slogans into the mouth of the ghost of the criminal. I remember one in the film: 'The belief of the normal citizen in the powers he has elected must be destroyed. And when everything is destroyed--on this we will build the realm of crime.' Which is exactly what the Nazis said."

Editado: Out 15, 2023, 7:06 pm

Scott Feinberg. Hollywood Reporter, 10/12/2023: The 100 Greatest Film Books of All Time. (By people selected by the Hollywood Reporter; with additional suggestions under each listing)

Out 18, 2023, 12:21 pm

My Word is My Bond
Roger Moore
4/5 stars
Roger Moore, actor and James Bond portrayer talks about his life, family, his film career and his philanthropic endeavors. This covers his life up to 2008. He died in May 23, 2017. Very well written and he definitely led a very interesting life! Books About Film and Television

Editado: Out 23, 2023, 1:23 pm

Finished Quentin Tarantino’s Cinema Speculation a few weeks ago. QT’s the embodiment of the raconteur -- in interviews, or when he appears in his own movies (e.g. Reservoir Dogs), or through his characters -- Clarence’s dad (Dennis Hopper) in the script he wrote for True Romance on the origin of Sicilians (for the benefit of Christopher Walken) – and in this book as well, a combination of “autobiography” & thoughts on the movies that influenced him. The autobiography scare quotes to remind you that the QT persona is fashioned in part from the tradition of Burt Reynolds – “The dude that sat on Johnny’s couch, dressed in his head-to-toe leather outfits, drenched in self-love, cracking jokes about his bad movies was recognizable as the speechifying, sexy stud in the scuba vest (QT referring to BR’s Deliverance role). Only a less self-deprecating, more dangerous version of talk show Burt” – reminds me of an episode in the FX series Archer where the braggadocious Archer meets up with his idol & model Burt R., only to be horrified that White Lightning is dating his (Archer’s) mother for gawdsake.

Unlike Hollywood the oral history or Who the Devil Made It?, QT’s perspective is based not on the studio system but on the more free form New Hollywood of the 70s (much deplored in the Bassinger/Wasson book) – not just acknowledged masterpieces like The Wild Bunch, but grindhouse exploitation product recalled in tranquility in his homage Death Proof. One suspects his (usually single) mom couldn’t afford a babysitter – little QT could be taken on dates cause he had the ability to keep his mouth shut at least during the showings – making up for lost childhood nowadays? – or when he was bit older left alone at triple features on Saturdays – or watching Blaxploitation films w/his mother’s then boyfriend.

“At some point when I realized I was seeing movies other parents weren’t letting their children see, I asked my mom about it. She said, Quentin, I worry more about you watching the news. A movie’s not going to hurt you.” (One can imagine Peter Boyle’s Joe cocking his shotgun at these fighting snowflake words.)

QT: “Just making a list of the wild violent images I witnessed from 1970 to 1972 would appall most readers. Whether it was James Caan being machine-gunned to death at the toll booth, or Moe Greene being shot in the eye in The Godfather. That guy cut in half by the airplane propeller in Catch-22. Stacy Keach’s wild ride on the side of the car in The New Centurions. Or Don Stroud shooting himself in the face with a tommy gun in Bloody Mama.” And not to forget: “Some of the most intense experiences I had at the cinema weren’t even the movies themselves. It was the trailers.” (He does note being traumatized by the death of Bambi's mom).

Speaking of moms (no psychoanalysis intended), QT's mom, whom he recalls as a cross between Cher & Barbara Steele (I imagine her played by Tina Fey if Netflix makes a movie), did have standards. She explained to him why he couldn’t be taken to the movie Melinda: ”Well Quentin, it’s very violent. Not that I necessarily have a problem with that. But you wouldn’t understand what the story was about. So since you wouldn’t understand the context in which the violence was taking place, you would just be watching violence for violence’s sake. And that I don’t want you to do.” All very well, but QT: “It’s not like I understood the confusing plot machinations of The French Connection, other than the cops were after the French guy with the beard. But as far as my mom was concerned, I suppose that was enough.”

QT’s 70s mom was a cocktail waitress who loved the TV series Soul Train (as did QT), had a BFF roommate Jackie, whose daughter Nikki became his surrogate big sister who took him to his first porno, a double feature at the Pussycat Theater (in Torrance Calif.) of Deep Throat & The Devil in Miss Jones at the age of 14 – he would be an usher at the same theater when he was older – they had ushers back then?

QT's mom dated a black football player who would introduce him to Jim Brown Blaxploitation movies. “To one degree or another I’ve spent my entire life since both attending movies and making them, trying to re-create the experience of watching a brand-new Jim Brown film, on a Saturday night, in a black cinema in 1972.”

The later chapters are meditations & making-ofs on movies he prizes from that time in his life: Bullit -- Dirty Harry -- Deliverance -- The Getaway -- Taxi Driver -- Rolling Thunder -- Paradise Alley -- Escape from Alcatraz -- Hardcore -- along with thoughts on Brian DePalma & Sylvester Stallone & Hollywood in the seventies.

I’m not always on the same wave length regarding his preferences though I always find the raconteur interesting if only because of his storytelling skills; he’s good on Steve McQueen & Don Siegal; I do wish he could have brought them together with his insights in a chapter on Hell is for Heroes, one of my favorites (actor & director did NOT get along in that movie). I’ll try to watch Slaughter all the way through as an act of respect, one of these days.

Nov 8, 2023, 11:26 am

Just finished the Chuck Jones section of Who the Devil Made It; Jones directed classic Looney Tunes cartoons for Warner Brothers in the 40s. He directed the original Roadrunner vs Coyote cartoons, as well as some classic Bugs Bunny & Daffy Ducks.

Just finished reading the first chapter of The Magic World of Orson Welles by James Naremore. Took this one up as a navigation tool as I explore Welles movies. Don't know whether I'll be able to finish it, but surprised by the progress I've made in the Bogdanovich book, so who knows?

Nov 17, 2023, 11:36 am

Barbra Streisand: the Music, the Albums, the Singles
Matt Howe
3/5 stars
This large book details everything that Streisand sang, wrote and her collaborations with other famous musical artists. This was just okay for me. At times it just dragged. I can't recommend it but I am looking forward to reading her new autobiography.

Nov 28, 2023, 11:58 pm

Not strictly movie related, but many of the musicals were of course adapted for the screen, so this interview with the author may be of interest:

Joy Horowitz. LARB, 11/22/2023: The Wisdom of Oscar Hammerstein II: A Conversation with Laurie Winer. Regarding Oscar Hammerstein II and the Invention of the Musical / Laurie Winer.

Editado: Nov 29, 2023, 7:29 pm

Re-evaulating the Hollywood films of the 1950's. (Re-posting this from my books thread since it may be of interest to movie lovers)

Richard Brody. New Yorker, 11/30/2023 (NYorker has 10/30, which I assume is a typo): When Hollywood Was Hip and How It Got That Way. Review of: Hollywood and the Movies of the Fifties: The Collapse of the Studio System, the Thrill of Cinerama, and the Invasion of the Ultimate Body Snatcher--Television / Foster Hirsch.*

*My goodness, 672 pages!

Dez 8, 2023, 8:53 pm

Starting to read two books about movies. Movie Love in the Fifties by James Harvey has been part of my tbr library since 2002. I'm not getting any younger, so it's about time I got around to it, & through streaming & TCM I have seen, will be able to re-watch, or watch for the first time the key films under discussion. The Brody review of the Foster Hirsch book was something of a reminder. The other is another of Peter Bogdanovich's interview books, Who the Hell's In It?: Conversations with Hollywood's Legendary Actors, in this case downloaded a couple days ago to my Kindle reader. The Harvey book is published by DaCapo, which to my regret does not have any of its back catalog (or any of it?) in e-book form -- Bogdanovich's interview book This is Orson Welles is pricey; may have to check the used book market. Harvey has one earlier book, Romantic Comedy: In Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturgis, but I don't know whether he ever published anything film-related after Movie Love in the Fifties.

Jan 9, 1:03 pm

Learning to Live Out Loud
Piper Laurie
4/5 stars
I knew about Piper Laurie, the actress but I don't think I ever saw her in many films but I going to check out some of her older films. She was the mother in the horror film Carrie (which I did see). She also lived quite an interesting life. I really enjoyed her autobiography. She just recently died in 2023 at the age of 91.

Fev 11, 8:09 pm

Alexandra Jacobs. NYT, 02/11/2024: Filming ‘Virginia Woolf,’ the Battles Weren’t Just Onscreen. Review of: COCKTAILS WITH GEORGE AND MARTHA: Movies, Marriage and the Making of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ / Philip Gefter.

"Gefter, a former Times picture editor, has written formal biographies of the photographer Richard Avedon (Nichols’s close friend) and the curator Sam Wagstaff. This is something different: a shot glass filled with one work that, alongside contemporaneous books like Richard Yates’s novel “Revolutionary Road” and Betty Friedan’s polemic “The Feminine Mystique,” showed how the “cartoon versions of marriage” long served up by American popular culture — Doris Day movies, the Cleavers, etc. — always came with a secret side of bitters."

Fev 13, 11:43 am

Gracie: A Love Story
George Burns
4/5 stars
Written by the actor George Burns, he talks about his life and his love for his wife and partner Gracie Burns. He talks about his adopted children since Gracie couldn't have children and he also goes over their roles in entertainment including films, radio and television. Very entertaining!

Fev 17, 9:00 pm

Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film
Don Graham
4/5 stars
I have seen this film years ago and highly enjoyed it. The author did a nice job of relating the history of the making of this film and the events around the actors lives in that time period. I am definitely going to re-watch it.

Mar 6, 6:04 pm

The usual suspects, for the most part:

Fran Hoepfner. Atlantic, 03/06/2024: Seven Books That Explain How Hollywood Actually Works.

Mar 6, 6:07 pm

>37 JulieLill: Just watched the movie for the first time via TCM; I see why Elizabeth Taylor had the star power. Hope I get a chance to follow up on this recommendation.

Mar 25, 11:52 am

Schindler's List
by Thomas Keneally
4/5 stars
This is the fictionalized version based on the real-true life story of Oskar Schindler which was later made into a film. Schindler during WWII helped a number of the Jewish population escape from the death camps in Czechoslovakia. Lengthy but interesting!

Editado: Mar 28, 11:21 am

Jaspreet Singh Boparai. Quillette, 03/28/2024: Mystic Without a Church. Review of: Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A MEMOIR / Werner Herzog; translated by Michael Hofmann.

"Sadly, not all of Herzog’s finest moments have been caught on camera. A few days after the air-rifle incident, the actor Joaquin Phoenix crashed his car in the Hollywood hills and found himself trapped upside-down in the wreckage, dazed and in need of a cigarette. Herzog emerged from nowhere, snatched away Phoenix’s cigarette lighter to prevent him from igniting an explosion, then smashed a rear window and pulled the actor through it. Before Phoenix could thank him, Herzog disappeared."

Abr 3, 1:44 pm

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens
Eddie Izzard
4/5 stars
This is the autobiography of Eddie Izzard, comedian and entertainer who was born in Yemen but also lived in Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Raised by his dad after his mother died which greatly affected him. He has come out as genderfluid. He is also involved in politics. Very interesting!

Abr 15, 10:47 am

Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong
Katie Gee Salisbury
4/5 stars
This was a wonderfully interesting story about the American Asian actress Anna May Wong. She grew up in America, lived in Los Angeles and worked in her family's laundry business where she was discovered. She starred in the Douglas Fairbanks' film Thief of Bagdad and that started her career. Well written!

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