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With her gripping film The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow (b. 1951) made history in 2010 by becoming the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. Since then she has also filmed history with her latest movie, which is about the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden.She is one of Hollywood's brightest stars, but her roots go back four decades to the very non-Hollywood, avant-garde art world of New York City in the 1970s. Her first feature The Loveless (1982) reflected those academic origins, but subsequent films such as the vampire-Western Near Dark (1987), the female vigilante movie Blue Steel (1989), and the surfer-crime thriller Point Break (1991) demonstrated her determination to apply her aesthetic sensibilities to popular, genre filmmaking.The first volume of Bigelow's interviews ever published, Peter Keough's collection covers her early success with Near Dark; the frustrations and disappointments she endured with films such as Strange Days (1995) and K-19: The Widowmaker (2002); and her triumph with The Hurt Locker. In conversations ranging from the casual to the analytical, Bigelow explains how her evolving ambitions and aesthetics sprang from her earliest aspirations to be a painter and conceptual artist in New York in the 1970s, and then expanded to embrace Hollywood filmmaking when she was exposed to renowned directors such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, Don Siegel, Sam Peckinpah, and George Roy Hill.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans
For more than sixty years, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans personified the romantic, mythic West that America cherished well into the modern age. Blazing a trail through every branch of the entertainment industry—radio, film, recordings, television, and even comic books—the couple capitalized on their attractive personas and appealed to the nation's belief in family values, an independent spirit, community.
King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West presents these two celebrities in the most comprehensive and inclusive account to date. Part narrative, part reference, this impeccably researched, highly accessible survey spans the entire scope of Rogers's and Evans's careers, illuminating and celebrating their place in twentieth-century American popular culture. Following the pair through each stage of their professional and personal trajectories, author Raymond E. White explores the unique alchemy of the singing cowboy and his free-spirited yet feminine partner. In a dual biography, he shows how Rogers and Evans carefully husbanded their public image and—of particular note—incorporated their Christian faith into their performances. And in a series of exhaustive appendixes, he documents their contributions to each medium they worked in. Testifying to both the breadth and the longevity of their careers, the book includes radio logs, discographies, filmographies, and comicographies that will delight historians and collectors alike. With its engaging tone and meticulous research, King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West is bound to become the definitive source on the lives of these two great American icons.
Hollywood's Conscientious Objector
Lew Ayres (1908-1996) became known to the public when he portrayed the leading character in the epic war film All Quiet on the Western Front. The role made him a household name, introduced him to his closest friends, brought him to the attention of his first two wives, and would overshadow the rest of his career. To be a movie star was his first and only ambition as a child, but once he found success, he was never fully satisfied in his choice of profession. Although lacking a formal education, Ayres spent the rest of his life pursuing dozens of intellectual studies, interests, and hobbies. He even considered ended his acting career after just a few years to pursue a more "respectable and fulfilling" path as a director.
Ayres was given not one but two comeback opportunities in his acting career, in 1938 and 1945. He was cast in the film series Dr. Kildare where he showed his abilities in comedy and his unique strength at bringing a level of sincerity to even the most outlandish or idealist character. But he was willing to give up his star status in order to follow his moral compass, first as a conscientious objector and ultimately as a noncombat medic during World War II. To everyone's surprise, he was welcomed back to Hollywood with open arms and new opportunities despite his objector status.
Biographer Lesley L. Coffin presents the story of a man of quiet dignity, constantly searching for the right way to live his life and torn between the public world of Hollywood and secluded life of spiritual introspection.
John Frankenheimer and American Film
Think about some commercially successful film masterpieces--The Manchurian Candidate. Seven Days in May. Seconds. Then consider some lesser known, yet equally compelling cinematic achievements--The Fixer. The Gypsy Moths. Path to War. These triumphs are the work of the best known and most highly regarded Hollywood director to emerge from live TV drama in the 1950s--five-time Emmy-award-winner John Frankenheimer.
Although Frankenheimer was a pioneer in the genre of political thrillers who embraced the antimodernist critique of contemporary society, some of his later films did not receive the attention they deserved. Many claimed that at a midpoint in his career he had lost his touch. World-renowned film scholars put this myth to rest in A Little Solitaire, which offers the only multidisciplinary critical account of Frankenheimer's oeuvre. Especially emphasized is his deep and passionate engagement with national politics and the irrepressible need of human beings to assert their rights and individuality in the face of organizations that would reduce them to silence and anonymity.
The Faron Young Story
One of the best-known honky-tonkers since Hank Williams, Faron Young was a popular presence on Nashville's music scene for more than four decades. The Singing Sheriff produced a string of Top Ten hits, placed more than eighty songs on the country music charts, founded the long-running country music periodical Music City News in 1963, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Flamboyant, impulsive, and generous, he helped and encouraged a new generation of talented songwriter-performers that included Willie Nelson and Bill Anderson. Presenting the first detailed portrayal of this mercurial country music star, Diane Diekman masterfully draws on extensive interviews with Young's family, band members, and colleagues. Echoing Young's characteristic ability to entertain and surprise fans, Diekman combines an account of his public career with a revealing, intimate portrait of his personal life.
A Life of Peter Lorre
Often typecast as a menacing figure, Peter Lorre achieved Hollywood fame first as a featured player and later as a character actor, trademarking his screen performances with a delicately strung balance between good and evil. His portrayal of the child murderer in Fritz Lang’s masterpiece M (1931) catapulted him to international fame. Lang said of Lorre: “He gave one of the best performances in film history and certainly the best in his life.” Today, the Hungarian-born actor is also recognized for his riveting performances in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Maltese Falcon (1941), and Casablanca (1942). Lorre arrived in America in 1934 expecting to shed his screen image as a villain. He even tried to lose his signature accent, but Hollywood repeatedly cast him as an outsider who hinted at things better left unknown. Seeking greater control over his career, Lorre established his own production company. His unofficial “graylisting” by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, however, left him with little work. He returned to Germany, where he co-authored, directed, and starred in the film Der Verlorene (The Lost One) in 1951. German audiences rejected Lorre’s dark vision of their recent past, and the actor returned to America, wearily accepting roles that parodied his sinister movie personality.The first biography of this major actor, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre draws upon more than three hundred interviews, including conversations with directors Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Frank Capra, and Rouben Mamoulian, who speak candidly about Lorre, both the man and the actor. Author Stephen D. Youngkin examines for the first time Lorre’s pivotal relationship with German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, his experience as an émigré from Hitler’s Germany, his battle with drug addiction, and his struggle with the choice between celebrity and intellectual respectability.Separating the enigmatic person from the persona long associated with one of classic Hollywood’s most recognizable faces, The Lost One is the definitive account of a life triumphant and yet tragically riddled with many failed possibilities.
The Red Years, 1929–1939
The turbulent years of the 1930s were of profound importance in the life of Spanish film director Luis Buñuel (1900–1983). He joined the Surrealist movement in 1929 but by 1932 had renounced it and embraced Communism. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), he played an integral role in disseminating film propaganda in Paris for the Spanish Republican cause.
Luis Buñuel: The Red Years, 1929–1939 investigates Buñuel’s commitment to making the politicized documentary Land without Bread (1933) and his key role as an executive producer at Filmófono in Madrid, where he was responsible in 1935–36 for making four commercial features that prefigure his work in Mexico after 1946. As for the republics of France and Spain between which Buñuel shuttled during the 1930s, these became equally embattled as left and right totalitarianisms fought to wrest political power away from a debilitated capitalism.
Where it exists, the literature on this crucial decade of the film director’s life is scant and relies on Buñuel’s own self-interested accounts of that complex period. Román Gubern and Paul Hammond have undertaken extensive archival research in Europe and the United States and evaluated Buñuel’s accounts and those of historians and film writers to achieve a portrait of Buñuel’s “Red Years” that abounds in new information.
The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips
Mae Murray (1885--1965), popularly known as "the girl with the bee-stung lips," was a fiery presence in silent-era Hollywood. Renowned for her classic beauty and charismatic presence, she rocketed to stardom as a dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies, moving across the country to star in her first film, To Have and to Hold, in 1916. An instant hit with audiences, Murray soon became one of the most famous names in Tinseltown.
However, Murray's moment in the spotlight was fleeting. The introduction of talkies, a string of failed marriages, a serious career blunder, and a number of bitter legal battles left the former star in a state of poverty and mental instability that she would never overcome.
In this intriguing biography, Michael G. Ankerich traces Murray's career from the footlights of Broadway to the klieg lights of Hollywood, recounting her impressive body of work on the stage and screen and charting her rapid ascent to fame and decline into obscurity. Featuring exclusive interviews with Murray's only son, Daniel, and with actor George Hamilton, whom the actress closely befriended at the end of her life, Ankerich restores this important figure in early film to the limelight.
The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother
Hers is the show business saga you think you already know--but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Rose Thompson Hovick, mother of June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee, went down in theatrical history as "The Stage Mother from Hell" after her immortalization on Broadway in Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Yet the musical was 75 percent fictionalized by playwright Arthur Laurents and condensed for the stage. Rose's full story is even more striking.
Born fearless on the North Dakota prairie in 1892, Rose Thompson had a kind father and a gallivanting mother who sold lacy finery to prostitutes. She became an unhappy teenage bride whose marriage yielded two entrancing daughters, Louise and June. When June was discovered to be a child prodigy in ballet, capable of dancing en pointe by the age of three, Rose, without benefit of any theatrical training, set out to create onstage opportunities for her magical baby girl--and succeeded.
Rose followed her own star and created two more in dramatic and colorful style: "Baby June" became a child headliner in vaudeville, and Louise grew up to be the well-known burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. The rest of Mama Rose's remarkable story included love affairs with both men and women, the operation of a "lesbian pick-up joint" where she sold homemade bathtub gin, wild attempts to extort money from Gypsy and June, two stints as a chicken farmer, and three allegations of cold-blooded murder--all of which was deemed unfit for the script of Gypsy. Here, at last, is the rollicking, wild saga that never made it to the stage.
Life on Stage and Screen
An Armenian national raised in Russia, Rouben Mamoulian (1897--1987) studied in the influential Stanislavski studio, renowned as the source of the "method" acting technique. Shortly after immigrating to New York in 1926, he created a sensation with an all-black production of Porgy (1927). He then went on to direct the debut Broadway productions of three of the most popular shows in the history of American musical theater: Porgy and Bess (1935), Oklahoma! (1943), and Carousel (1945). Mamoulian began working in film just as the sound revolution was dramatically changing the technical capabilities of the medium, and he quickly established himself as an innovator. Not only did many of his unusual camera techniques become standard, but he also invented a device that eliminated the background noises created by cameras and dollies. Seen as a rebel earlier in his career, Mamoulian gradually gained respect in Hollywood, and the Directors Guild of America awarded him the prestigious D. W. Griffith Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1983.
In this meticulously researched biography, David Luhrssen paints the influential director as a socially conscious artist who sought to successfully combine art and commercial entertainment. Luhrssen not only reveals the fascinating personal story of an important yet neglected figure, but he also offers a tantalizing glimpse into the extraordinarily vibrant American film and theater industries during the twenties, thirties, and forties.