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Though he has made only five films in two decades—Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and the Oscar-nominated films Moulin Rouge!, Australia, and The Great Gatsby—Australian writer-director Baz Luhrmann is an internationally known brand name. His Christian name has even entered the English language as a verb, as in “to Baz things up,” meaning “to decorate them with an exuberant flourish.” Celebrated by some, loathed by others, his work is underscored by what has been described as “an aesthetic of artifice” and is notable for both its glittering surfaces and recurring concerns.
In this collection of interviews, Luhrmann discusses his methods and his motives, explaining what has been important to him and his collaborators from the start and how he has been able to maintain an independence from the studios that have backed his films. He also speaks about his other artistic endeavors, including stage productions of La Bohème and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his wife and collaborative partner Catherine Martin, who has received two Academy Awards for her work with Luhrmann.
Life of a Hollywood Rebel
Hal Ashby (1929–1988) was always an outsider, and as a director he brought an outsider’s perspective to Hollywood cinema. After moving to California from a Mormon household in Utah, he created eccentric films that reflected the uncertain social climate of the 1970s. Whether it is his enduring cult classic Harold and Maude (1971) or the iconic Being There (1979), Ashby’s artistry is unmistakable. His skill for blending intense drama with off-kilter comedy attracted A-list actors and elicited powerful performances from Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail (1973), Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in Shampoo (1975), and Jon Voight and Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1979). Yet the man behind these films is still something of a mystery. In Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel, author Nick Dawson for the first time tells the story of a man whose thoughtful and challenging body of work continues to influence modern filmmakers and whose life was as dramatic and unconventional as his films. Ashby began his career as an editor, and it did not take long for his talents to be recognized. He won an Academy Award in 1967 for editing In the Heat of the Night and leveraged his success as an editor to pursue his true passion: directing. Crafting seminal films that steered clear of mainstream conventions yet attracted both popular and critical praise, Ashby became one of the quintessential directors of the 1970s New Hollywood movement. No matter how much success Ashby achieved, he was never able to escape the ghosts of his troubled childhood. The divorce of his parents, his father’s suicide, and his own marriage and divorce—all before the age of nineteen—led to a lifelong struggle with drugs for which he became infamous in Hollywood. And yet, contrary to mythology, it was not Ashby’s drug abuse that destroyed his career but a fundamental mismatch between the director and the stifling climate of 1980s studio filmmaking. Although his name may not be recognized by many of today’s filmgoers, Hal Ashby is certainly familiar to filmmakers. Despite his untimely death in 1988, his legacy of innovation and individuality continues to influence a generation of independent directors, including Wes Anderson, Sean Penn, and the Coen brothers, who place substance and style above the pursuit of box-office success. In this groundbreaking and exhaustively researched biography, Nick Dawson draws on firsthand interviews and personal papers from Ashby’s estate to offer an intimate look at the tumultuous life of an artist unwilling to conform or compromise.
An Acting Family
" The Bennetts: An Acting Family is a chronicle of one of the royal families of stage and screen. The saga begins with Richard Bennett, a small-town Indiana roughneck who grew up to be one of the bright lights of the New York stage during the early twentieth century. In time, however, Richard’s fame was eclipsed by that of his daughters, Constance and Joan, who went to Hollywood in the 1920s and found major success there. Constance became the highest-paid actress of the early 1930s, earning as much as $30,000 a week in melodramas. Later she reinvented herself as a comedienne in the classic comedy Topper , with Cary Grant.. After a slow start as a blonde ingenue, Joan dyed her hair black and became one of the screen’s great temptresses in films such as Scarlet Street . She also starred in such lighter fare as Father of the Bride . In the 1960s, Joan gained a new generation of fans when she appeared in the gothic daytime television serial Dark Shadows . The Bennetts is also the story of another Bennett sister, Barbara, whose promising beginnings as a dancer gave way to a turbulent marriage to singer Morton Downey and a steady decline into alcoholism. Constance and Joan were among Hollywood’s biggest stars, but their personal lives were anything but serene. In 1943, Constance became entangled in a highly publicized court battle with the family of her millionaire ex-husband, and in 1951, Joan’s husband, producer Walter Wanger, shot her lover in broad daylight, sparking one of the biggest Hollywood scandals of the 1950s. Brian Kellow, features editor of Opera News magazine, is the coauthor of Can’t Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell . He lives in New York and Connecticut.
The Life and Films of David Lean
Two-time Academy Award winner Sir David Lean (1908–1991) was one of the most prominent directors of the twentieth century, responsible for the classics The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965). British-born Lean asserted himself in Hollywood as a major filmmaker with his epic storytelling and panoramic visions of history, but he started out as a talented film editor and director in Great Britain. As a result, he brought an art-house mentality to blockbuster films. Combining elements of biography and film criticism, Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean uses screenplays and production histories to assess Lean’s body of work. Author Gene D. Phillips interviews actors who worked with Lean and directors who knew him, and their comments reveal new details about the director’s life and career. Phillips also explores Lean’s lesser-studied films, such as The Passionate Friends (1949), Hobson’s Choice (1954), and Summertime (1955). The result is an in-depth examination of the director in cultural, historical, and cinematic contexts. Lean’s approach to filmmaking was far different than that of many of his contemporaries. He chose his films carefully and, as a result, directed only sixteen films in a period of more than forty years. Those films, however, have become some of the landmarks of motion-picture history. Lean is best known for his epics, but Phillips also focuses on Lean’s successful adaptations of famous works of literature, including retellings of plays such as Brief Encounter (1945) and novels such as Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), and A Passage to India (1984). From expansive studies of war and strife to some of literature’s greatest high comedies and domestic dramas, Lean imbued all of his films with his unique creative vision. Few directors can match Lean’s ability to combine narrative sweep and psychological detail, and Phillips goes beyond Lean’s epics to reveal this unifying characteristic in the director’s body of work. Beyond the Epic is a vital assessment of a great director’s artistic process and his place in the film industry.
A Life in Film
Over the last five decades, the films of director Brian De Palma (b. 1940) have been among the biggest successes (The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible) and the most high-profile failures (The Bonfire of the Vanities) in Hollywood history. De Palma helped launch the careers of such prominent actors as Robert De Niro, John Travolta, and Sissy Spacek (who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress in Carrie). Indeed Quentin Tarantino named Blow Out as one of his top three favorite films, praising De Palma as the best living American director. Picketed by feminists protesting its depictions of violence against women, Dressed to Kill helped to create the erotic thriller genre. Scarface, with its over-the-top performance by Al Pacino, remains a cult favorite. In the twenty-first century, De Palma has continued to experiment, incorporating elements from videogames (Femme Fatale), tabloid journalism (The Black Dahlia), YouTube, and Skype (Redacted and Passion) into his latest works. What makes De Palma such a maverick even when he is making Hollywood genre films? Why do his movies often feature megalomaniacs and failed heroes? Is he merely a misogynist and an imitator of Alfred Hitchcock? To answer these questions, author Douglas Keesey takes a biographical approach to De Palma’s cinema, showing how De Palma reworks events from his own life into his films. Written in an accessible style, and including a chapter on every one of his films to date, this book is for anyone who wants to know more about De Palma’s controversial films or who wants to better understand the man who made them.
" Comedic film actress Kay Kendall, born to a theatrical family in Northern England, came of age in London during the Blitz. After starring in Britain's biggest cinematic disaster, she found stardom in 1953 with her brilliant performance in the low-budget film, Genevieve. She scored success after success with her light comic style in movies such as Doctor in the House, The Reluctant Debutante, and the Gene Kelly musical Les Girls. Kendall's private life was even more colorful than the plots of her films as she embarked on a series of affairs with minor royalty, costars, directors, producers, and married men. In 1954 she fell in love with her married Constant Husband costar Rex Harrison and accompanied him to New York, where he was starring on Broadway in My Fair Lady. It was there that Kendall was diagnosed with myelocytic leukemia. Her life took a romantic and tragic turn as Harrison divorced his wife and married Kendall. He agreed with their doctor that she was never to know of her diagnosis, and for the next two years the couple lived a hectic, glamorous life together as Kendall's health failed. She died in London at the age of 32, shortly after completing the filming of Once More with Feeling!, her husband by her side. The Brief, Madcap Life of Kay Kendall was written with the cooperation of Kendall's sister Kim and includes interviews with many of her costars, relatives and friends. A complete filmography and numerous rare photographs complete this first-ever biography of Britain's most glamorous comic star. Eve Golden is the author of several biographies of actresses, Anna Held and the Birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway, as well as a collection of essays on silent film stars.
The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton
For fifteen years before his untimely death, Andrew Britton produced a body of undeniably brilliant film criticism that has been largely ignored within academic circles. Though Britton’s writings are extraordinary in their depth and range and are closely attuned to the nuances of the texts they examine, his humanistic approach was at odds with typical theory-based film scholarship. Britton on Film demonstrates that Britton’s humanism is also his strength, as it presents all of his published writings together for the first time, including Britton’s persuasive readings of such important Hollywood films as Meet Me in St. Louis, Spellbound, and Now, Voyager and of key European filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein, Jean-Luc Godard, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Renowned film scholar and editor Barry Keith Grant has assembled all of Britton’s published essays of film criticism and theory for this volume, spanning the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The essays are arranged by theme: Hollywood cinema, Hollywood movies, European cinema, and film and cultural theory. In all, twenty-eight essays consider such varied films as Hitchcock’s Spellbound, Jaws, The Exorcist, and Mandingo and topics as diverse as formalism, camp, psychoanalysis, imperialism, and feminism. Included are such well-known and important pieces as “Blissing Out: The Politics of Reaganite Entertainment” and “Sideshows: Hollywood in Vietnam,” among the most perceptive discussions of these two periods of Hollywood history yet published. In addition, Britton’s critiques of the ideology of Screen and Wisconsin formalism display his uncommon grasp of theory even when arguing against prevailing critical trends. An introduction by influential film critic Robin Wood, who was also Britton’s teacher and friend, begins this landmark collection. Students and teachers of film studies as well as general readers interested in film and American popular culture will enjoy Britton on Film.
One of Hollywood's biggest personalities, Bruce Dern is not afraid to say what he thinks. He has left an indelible mark on numerous projects, from critically acclaimed films to made-for-TV movies and television series. His notable credits include The Great Gatsby (1974), The 'Burbs (1989), Monster (2003), Django Unchained (2012), and Nebraska (2013), for which he won the Best Actor award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. He also earned Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor in Coming Home (1978) and for Best Actor in Nebraska (2013).
In Bruce Dern: A Memoir, Christopher Fryer and Robert Crane help the outspoken star frame the fascinating tale of his life in Hollywood. Dern details the challenges he faced as an artist in a cutthroat business, his struggle against typecasting, and his thoughts on and relationships with other big names in the industry, including Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Bob Dylan, Matt Damon, Jane Fonda, John Wayne, and Tom Hanks. He also explores the impact of his fame on his family and discusses his unique relationship with his daughter, actress Laura Dern.
Edgy and uncensored, this memoir takes readers on a wild ride, offering an insider's view of the last fifty years in Hollywood.
In this revision of her earlier book, Buffalo Bill, Actor, Sandra Sagala chronicles the decade and a half of Cody's life as he crisscrossed the country entertaining millions. She analyzes how the lessons he learned during those theatrical years helped shape his Wild West program, as well as Cody, the performer.
The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley
Characterized by grandiose song-and-dance numbers featuring ornate geometric patterns and mimicked in many modern films, Busby Berkeley’s unique artistry is as recognizable and striking as ever. From his years on Broadway to the director’s chair, Berkeley is notorious for his inventiveness and signature style. Through sensational films like 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Footlight Parade (1933), and Dames (1934), Berkeley sought to distract audiences from the troubles of the Great Depression. Although his bold technique is familiar to millions of moviegoers, Berkeley’s life remains a mystery. Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley is a telling portrait of the filmmaker who revolutionized the musical and changed the world of choreography. Berkeley pioneered many conventions still in use today, including the famous “parade of faces” technique, which lends an identity to each anonymous performer in a close-up. Carefully arranging dancers in complex and beautiful formations, Berkeley captured perspectives never seen before. Jeffrey Spivak’s meticulous research magnifies the career and personal life of this beloved filmmaker. Employing personal letters, interviews, studio memoranda, and Berkeley’s private memoirs, Spivak unveils the colorful life of one of cinema’s greatest artists.