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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.
Producer to the Stars
Hal Wallis might not be as well known as David O. Selznick or Samuel Goldwyn, but the films he produced -- Casablanca, Jezebel, Now Voyager, The Life of Emile Zola, Becket, True Grit, and many other classics (as well as scores of Elvis movies) -- have certainly endured. As producer of numerous films, Wallis made an indelible mark on the course of America's film industry, but his contributions are often overlooked and no full-length study has yet assessed his incredible career.
A former office boy and salesman, Wallis first engaged with the business of film as the manager of a Los Angeles movie theater in 1922. He attracted the notice of the Warner brothers, who hired him as a publicity assistant. Within three months he was director of the department, and appointments to studio manager and production executive quickly followed. Wallis went on to oversee dozens of productions and formed his own production company in 1944.
Bernard F. Dick draws on numerous sources such as Wallis's personal production files and exclusive interviews with many of his contemporaries to finally tell the full story of his illustrious career. Dick combines his knowledge of behind-the-scenes Hollywood with fascinating anecdotes to create a portrait of one of Hollywood's early power players.
Harmony Korine: Interviews tracks filmmaker Korine’s stunning rise, fall, and rise again through his own evolving voice. Bringing together interviews collected from over two decades, this unique chronicle includes rare interviews unavailable in print for years and an extensive, new conversation recorded at the filmmaker’s home in Nashville.
After more than twenty years, Harmony Korine (b. 1973) remains one of the most prominent and yet subversive filmmakers in America. Ever since his entry into the independent film scene as the irrepressible prodigy who wrote the screenplay for Larry Clark’s Kids in 1992, Korine has retained his stature as the ultimate cinematic provocateur. He both intelligently observes modern social milieus and simultaneously thumbs his nose at them. Now approaching middle age, and more influential than ever, Korine remains intentionally sensationalistic and ceaselessly creative.
In 1995, Korine was discovered while skateboarding and became the bad boy teen writer behind Kids. He parlayed this success into directing the dreamy portrait of neglect Gummo two years later. With his audacious 1999 digital video drama Julien Donkey-Boy, Korine continued to demonstrate a penchant for fusing experimental, subversive interests with lyrical narrative techniques. Surviving an early career burnout, he resurfaced with a trifecta of insightful works that built on his earlier aesthetic leanings: a surprisingly delicate rumination on identity (Mister Lonely, 2007), a gritty quasi-diary film (Trash Humpers, 2009) and a blistering portrait of American hedonism (Spring Breakers, 2013), which yielded significant commercial success. Throughout his career he has also continued as a mixed media artist whose fields included music videos, paintings, photography, publishing, songwriting, and performance art.