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Film, Theater, and Performing Arts > Individual Performers and Directors

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Carl Theodor Dreyer's Gertrud Cover

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Carl Theodor Dreyer's Gertrud

The Moving Word

by James Schamus

Carole Landis Cover

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Carole Landis

A Most Beautiful Girl

Despite appearing in twenty-eight movies in little over a decade, Carole Landis (1919-1948) never quite became the major Hollywood star her onscreen presence should have afforded her. Although she acted in such enduring films as A Scandal in Paris and Moon over Miami, she was most often relegated to supporting roles. Even when she played the major role in a feature, as she did in The Powers Girl and the film noir I Wake Up Screaming!, she was billed second or third behind other actors. This biography traces Landis's life, chronicling her beginnings as a dance hall entertainer in San Francisco, her career in Hollywood and abroad, her USO performances, and ultimately her suicide. Using interviews with actors who worked with Landis, contemporary movie magazines and journals, and correspondence, biographer Eric Gans reveals a tragic figure whose life was all too brief. Landis's big break came in 1940 with Hal Roach's One Million B.C. She appeared in thirteen Twentieth Century-Fox pictures between 1941 and 1946. In 1942-43, Landis entertained troops in England and North Africa in the only all-female USO tour. The trip led to her memoir, Four Jills in a Jeep, and a Fox movie of the same title. After her last American film in 1947, she completed two projects in England while having an affair with married actor Rex Harrison. Tormented by a love that could not lead to matrimony and depressed about growing older, she took a fatal drug overdose on July 5, 1948. Eric Gans is professor of French at University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of numerous books including most recently The Scenic Imagination: Originary Thinking from Hobbes to the Present Day, and his articles have appeared in many periodicals.

Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood Cover

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Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood

Robert S. Birchard

" ""Far and away the best film book published so far this year.""--National Board of Review Cecil B. DeMille was the most successful filmmaker in early Hollywood history. Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood is a detailed and definitive chronicle of the screen work that changed the course of film history and a fascinating look at how movies were actually made in Hollywood's Golden Age. Drawing extensively on DeMille's personal archives and other primary sources, Robert S. Birchard offers a revealing portrait of DeMille the filmmaker that goes behind studio gates and beyond DeMille's legendary persona. In his forty-five-year career DeMille's box-office record was unsurpassed, and his swaggering style established the public image for movie directors. DeMille had a profound impact on the way movies tell stories and brought greater attention to the elements of decor, lighting, and cinematography. Best remembered today for screen spectacles such as The Ten Commandments and Samson and Delilah, DeMille also created Westerns, realistic "chamber dramas," and a series of daring and highly influential social comedies. He set the standard for Hollywood filmmakers and demanded absolute devotion to his creative vision from his writers, artists, actors, and technicians.

Celluloid Activist Cover

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Celluloid Activist

The Life and Times of Vito Russo

Michael Schiavi

Celluloid Activist is the biography of gay-rights giant Vito Russo, the man who wrote The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, commonly regarded as the foundational text of gay and lesbian film studies and one of the first to be widely read.

            But Russo was much more than a pioneering journalist and author. A founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and cofounder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Russo lived at the center of the most important gay cultural turning points in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. His life as a cultural Zelig intersects a crucial period of social change, and in some ways his story becomes the story of a developing gay revolution in America. A frequent participant at “zaps” and an organizer of Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) cabarets and dances—which gave the New York gay and lesbian community its first social alternative to Mafia-owned bars—Russo made his most enduring contribution to the GAA with his marshaling of “Movie Nights,” the forerunners to his worldwide Celluloid Closet lecture tours that gave gay audiences their first community forum for the dissection of gay imagery in mainstream film.

            Biographer Michael Schiavi unravels Vito Russo’s fascinating life story, from his childhood in East Harlem to his own heartbreaking experiences with HIV/AIDS. Drawing on archival materials, unpublished letters and journals, and more than two hundred interviews, including conversations with a range of Russo’s friends and family from brother Charlie Russo to comedian Lily Tomlin to pioneering activist and playwright Larry Kramer, Celluloid Activistprovides an unprecedented portrait of a man who defined gay-rights and AIDS activism.
 “Schiavi is thorough and compelling both in bringing this complex character to life and in delineating the people and events that shaped him. Highly Recommended.”—CHOICE
Finalist, Gay Memoir/Biography, Lambda Literary Awards

Finalist, Over the Rainbow Selection, American Library Association

Charles Walters Cover

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Charles Walters

The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance

Brent Phillips

From the trolley scene in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers's last dance on the silver screen (The Barkleys of Broadway, 1949) to Judy Garland's timeless, tuxedo-clad performance of "Get Happy" (Summer Stock, 1950), Charles Walters staged the iconic musical sequences of Hollywood's golden age. During his career, this Academy Award--nominated director and choreographer showcased the talents of stars such as Gene Kelly, Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds, and Frank Sinatra. However, despite his many critical and commercial triumphs, Walters's name often goes unrecognized today.

In the first full-length biography of Walters, Brent Phillips chronicles the artist's career, from his days as a featured Broadway performer and protégé of theater legend Robert Alton to his successes at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He takes readers behind the scenes of many of the studio's most beloved musicals, including Easter Parade (1948), Lili (1953), High Society (1956), and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). In addition, Phillips recounts Walters's associations with Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, and Gloria Swanson, examines the director's uncredited work on several films, including the blockbuster Gigi (1958), and discusses his contributions to musical theater and American popular culture.

This revealing book also considers Walters's personal life and explores how he navigated the industry as an openly gay man. Drawing on unpublished oral histories, correspondence, and new interviews, this biography offers an entertaining and important new look at an exciting era in Hollywood history.

Christian Petzold Cover

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Christian Petzold

Jaimey Fisher

In eleven feature films across two decades, Christian Petzold has established himself as the most critically celebrated director in contemporary Germany. The best-known and most influential member of the Berlin School, Petzold's career reflects the trajectory of German film from 1970s New German Cinema to more popular fare in the 1990s and back again to critically engaged and politically committed filmmaking. His combination of critical celebration and popular success underscores Petzold's singular cinematic achievement: the deliberate and shrewd negotiation of art cinema and popular Hollywood genre.

The Cinema of Errol Morris Cover

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The Cinema of Errol Morris

David Resha

The Cinema of Errol Morris offers close analyses of the director’s films—from box office successes like The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War to Morris’s early works like Vernon, Florida and controversial films like Standard Operating Procedure. Film scholar David Resha’s reappraisal of Morris’s films allows us to rethink the traditional distinction between stylistically conservative documentaries, which are closely invested in evidence and reality, and stylistically adventurous films, which artfully call to question such claims of nonfiction and truth. According to Resha, Errol Morris does not fit neatly in this division of the documentary tradition. Rather, his experiments with documentary conventions constitute another way to investigate reality—in particular, to examine the ways in which his subjects understand, and misunderstand, themselves and the world around them. Seen within the nonfiction tradition, an Errol Morris documentary is a flexible form of lively, engaging storytelling and shrewd, cutting, in-depth reportage.

The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov Cover

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The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov

James Steffen

Sergei Parajanov (1924–90) flouted the rules of both filmmaking and society in the Soviet Union and paid a heavy personal price. An ethnic Armenian in the multicultural atmosphere of Tbilisi, Georgia, he was one of the most innovative directors of postwar Soviet cinema. Parajanov succeeded in creating a small but marvelous body of work whose style embraces such diverse influences as folk art, medieval miniature painting, early cinema, Russian and European art films, surrealism, and Armenian, Georgian, and Ukrainian cultural motifs.

            The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov is the first English-language book on the director's films and the most comprehensive study of his work. James Steffen provides a detailed overview of Parajanov's artistic career: his identity as an Armenian in Georgia and its impact on his aesthetics; his early films in Ukraine; his international breakthrough in 1964 with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors; his challenging 1969 masterpiece, The Color of Pomegranates, which was reedited against his wishes; his unrealized projects in the 1970s; and his eventual return to international prominence in the mid-to-late 1980s with The Legend of the Surami Fortress and Ashik-Kerib. Steffen also provides a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the Soviet film censorship process and tells the dramatic story of Parajanov's conflicts with the authorities, culminating in his 1973–77 arrest and imprisonment on charges related to homosexuality.
            Ultimately, the figure of Parajanov offers a fascinating case study in the complicated dynamics of power, nationality, politics, ethnicity, sexuality, and culture in the republics of the former Soviet Union.

Cinema Today Cover

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Cinema Today

A Conversation with Thirty-nine Filmmakers from around the World

Elena Oumano

In Cinema Today, Elena Oumano has ingeniously crafted a conversation from her personal and individual interviews with a distinguished group of international cinema legends. She follows a lively symposium-in-print format, with the filmmakers' words and thoughts grouped together under various key cinema topics. Collectively these artists reflect on and explore issues and concerns of modern filmmaking, from the practical to the aesthetic, including the process, cinematic rhythm and structure, and the many aspects of the media: business, the viewer, and cinema's place in society.

Claire Denis Cover

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Claire Denis

Judith Mayne

Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and passionate filmmakers working in France today, Claire Denis has continued to make beautiful and challenging films since the 1988 release of her first feature, Chocolat. Judith Mayne's comprehensive study of these films traces Denis's career and discusses her major feature films in rich detail. Born in Paris but having grown up in Africa, Denis explores in her films the legacies of French colonialism and the complex relationships between sexuality, gender, and race. From the adult woman who observes her past as a child in Cameroon to the Lithuanian immigrant who arrives in Paris and watches a serial killer to the disgraced French Foreign Legionnaire attempting to make sense of his past, the subjects of Denis's films continually revisit themes of watching, bearing witness, and making contact, as well as displacement, masculinity, and the migratory subject.

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