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The Life of Simone Signoret
The incomparable Simone Signoret (1921-1985), one of the grand actresses of the twentieth century and one of France's most notable stars, considered herself the "oldest discovery" in Hollywood. After years of blacklisting during the McCarthy era, she was thirty-eight years old when she entered Hollywood through the back door in the 1959 British blockbuster Room at the Top. Her portrayal of the endearing Alice Aisgill earned her the Academy Award in 1960, the first French actor to win a coveted Oscar.
Though a latecomer to Hollywood, Signoret was already an international star who had survived the Nazi occupation of Paris, emerging in 1945 as a beautiful, promising actress capable of communicating more emotion through body language than dialogue alone could achieve. She gained a reputation as the thinking man's sex symbol, and in several films she portrayed prostitutes with subtlety and depth.
She was fiercely protective of her privacy. But after winning the Oscar, she was dragged through the gutter when her second husband, Yves Montand, had a widely publicized affair with Marilyn Monroe. Many attributed her rapid aging and alcoholism to this betrayal. She endured this perception in silence, all the while demonstrating a remarkable capacity to reinvent herself as a best-selling author, respected social activist, and revered actress who remained in the cinema, her "garden of dreams," for over four decades. Patricia A. DeMaio combines Signoret's courageous story with Montand's biography to reveal new information and insight into Signoret's humanitarian efforts and the vibrant film career that sustained her.
A Double Life
One of the highest-paid studio contract directors of his time, George Cukor was nominated five times for an Academy Award as Best Director. In publicity and mystique he was dubbed the “women’s director” for guiding the most sensitive leading ladies to immortal performances, including Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Garland, and—in ten films, among them The Philadelphia Story and Adam’s Rib—his lifelong friend and collaborator Katharine Hepburn. But behind the “women’s director” label lurked the open secret that set Cukor apart from a generally macho fraternity of directors: he was a homosexual, a rarity among the top echelon. Patrick McGilligan’s biography reveals how Cukor persevered within a system fraught with bigotry while becoming one of Hollywood’s consummate filmmakers.
A Cinema of Sensations
Best known for directing the Impressionist classic The Smiling Madame Beudet and the first Surrealist film The Seashell and the Clergyman, Germaine Dulac, feminist and pioneer of 1920s French avant-garde cinema, made close to thirty fiction films as well as numerous documentaries and newsreels. Through her filmmaking, writing, and cine-club activism, Dulac's passionate defense of the cinema as a lyrical art and social practice had a major influence on twentieth century film history and theory. In Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations, Tami Williams makes unprecedented use of the filmmaker's personal papers, production files, and archival film prints to produce the first full-length historical study and critical biography of Dulac. Williams's analysis explores the artistic and sociopolitical currents that shaped Dulac's approach to cinema while interrogating the ground breaking techniques and strategies she used to critique conservative notions of gender and sexuality. Moving beyond the director's work of the 1920s, Williams examines Dulac's largely ignored 1930s documentaries and newsreels establishing clear links with the more experimental impressionist and abstract works of her early period. This vivid portrait will be of interest to general readers, as well as to scholars of cinema and visual culture, performance, French history, women's studies, queer cinema, in addition to studies of narrative avant-garde, experimental, and documentary film history and theory.
George Stevens, a Life on Film
Marilyn Moss’s Giant examines the life of one of the most influential directors to work in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1960s. George Stevens directed such popular and significant films as Shane, Giant, A Place in the Sun, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He was the first to pair Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on film in Woman of the Year. Through the study of Stevens’s life and his production history, Moss also presents a glimpse of the workings of the classic Hollywood studio system in its glory days.
Moss documents Stevens’s role as a powerful director who often had to battle the heads of major studios to get his films made his way. She traces the four decades Stevens was a major Hollywood player and icon, from his earliest days at the Hal Roach Studios—where he learned to be a cameraman, writer, and director for Laurel and Hardy features—up to his later career when his films made millions at the box office and were graced by actors such as Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Alan Ladd, and Montgomery Clift.
Ready for Her Close-Up
Gloria Swanson: Ready for Her Close-Up shows how a talented, self-confident actress negotiated a creative path through seven decades of celebrity. It also illuminates a little-known chapter in American media history: how the powerful women of early Hollywood transformed their remarkable careers after their stars dimmed. This book brings Swanson (1899-1983) back into the spotlight, revealing her as a complex, creative, entrepreneurial, and thoroughly modern woman.
Swanson cavorted in slapstick short films with Charlie Chaplin and Mack Sennett in the 1910s. The popularity of her films with Cecil B. DeMille helped create the star system. A glamour icon, Swanson became the most talked-about star in Hollywood, earning three Academy Award nominations, receiving 10,000 fan letters every week, and living up to a reputation as Queen of Hollywood. She bought mansions and penthouses, dressed in fur and feathers, and flitted through Paris, London, and New York engaging in passionate love affairs that made headlines and caused scandals.
Frustrated with the studio system, Swanson turned down a million-dollar-a-year contract. After a wild ride making unforgettable movies with some of Hollywood's most colorful characters--including her lover Joseph Kennedy and maverick director Erich von Stroheim--she was a million dollars in debt. Without hesitation she went looking for her next challenge, beginning her long second act.
Swanson became a talented businesswoman who patented inventions and won fashion awards for her clothing designs; a natural foods activist decades before it was fashionable; an exhibited sculptor; and a designer employed by the United Nations. All the while she continued to act in films, theater, and television at home and abroad. Though she had one of Hollywood's most famous exit lines--"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up"--the real Gloria Swanson never looked back.
The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola
WITH A FOREWORD BY WALTER MURCH Gene Phillips blends biography, studio history, and film criticism to complete the most comprehensive work on Coppola ever written. The force behind such popular and critically acclaimed films as Apocalypse Now and the Godfather trilogy, Coppola has imprinted his distinct style on each of his movies and on the landscape of American popular culture. In Godfather, Phillips argues that Coppola has repeatedly bucked the Hollywood "factory system" in an attempt to create distinct films that reflect his own artistic vision -- often to the detriment of his career and finances. Phillips conducted interviews with the director and his colleagues and examined Coppola's production journals and screenplays. Phillips also reviewed rare copies of Coppola's student films, his early excursions into soft-core pornography, and his less celebrated productions such as One from the Heart and Tucker: The Man and His Dream. The result is the definitive assessment of one of Hollywood's most enduring and misunderstood mavericks.
The Films of Marie Dressler
In this study of Marie Dressler, MGM's most profitable movie star in the early 1930s, Victoria Sturtevant analyzes Dressler's use of her body to challenge Hollywood's standards for leading ladies. At five feet seven inches tall and two hundred pounds, Dressler often played ugly ducklings, old maids, doting mothers, and imperious dowagers. However, her body, her fearless physicality, and her athletic slapstick routines commanded the screen. Sturtevant interprets the meanings of Dressler's body by looking at her vaudeville career, her transgressive representation of an "unruly" yet sexual body in Emma and Christopher Bean, ideas of the body politic in the films Politics and Prosperity, and Dressler as a mythic body in Min and Bill and Tugboat Annie.
"I read Hawks on Hawks with passion. I am very happy that this book exists." -- Fran�ois Truffaut
Howard Hawks (1896--1977) is often credited as being the most versatile of all of the great American directors, having worked with equal ease in screwball comedies, westerns, gangster movies, musicals, and adventure films. He directed an impressive number of Hollywood's greatest stars -- including Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Rosalind Russell, and Marilyn Monroe -- and some of his most celebrated films include Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and Rio Bravo (1959).
Hawks on Hawks draws on interviews that author Joseph McBride conducted with the director over the course of seven years, giving rare insight into Hawks's artistic philosophy, his relationships with the stars, and his position in an industry that was rapidly changing. In its new edition, this classic book is both an account of the film legend's life and work and a guidebook on how to make movies.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Film
Hedy Lamarr’s life was punctuated by salacious rumors and public scandal, but it was her stunning looks and classic Hollywood glamour that continuously captivated audiences. Born Hedwig Kiesler, she escaped an unhappy marriage with arms dealer Fritz Mandl in Austria to try her luck in Hollywood, where her striking appearance made her a screen legend. Her notorious nude role in the erotic Czech film Ecstasy (1933), as well as her work with Cecil B. DeMille (Samson and Delilah, 1949), Walter Wanger (Algiers, 1938), and studio executive Louis B. Mayer catapulted her alluring and provocative reputation as a high-profile sex symbol. In Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film, Ruth Barton explores the many facets of the screen legend, including her life as an inventor. Working with avant-garde composer and film scorer George Antheil, Lamarr helped to develop and patent spread spectrum technology, which is still used in mobile phone communication. However, despite her screen persona and scientific success, Lamarr’s personal life caused quite a scandal. A string of failed marriages, a lawsuit against her publisher regarding her sensational autobiography, and shoplifting charges made her infamous beyond her celebrity. Drawing on extensive research into both the recorded truths of Lamarr’s life and the rumors that made her notorious, Barton recognizes Lamarr’s contributions to both film and technology while revealing the controversial and conflicted woman underneath. Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film illuminates the life of a classic Hollywood icon.