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An Unquiet Life
The internationally acclaimed actress Patricia Neal has been a star on stage, film, and television for nearly sixty years. On Broadway she appeared in such lauded productions as Lillian Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest, for which she won the very first Tony Award, and The Miracle Worker. In Hollywood she starred opposite the likes of Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire, and Tyrone Power in some thirty films. Neal anchored such classic pictures as The Day the Earth Stood Still, A Face in the Crowd, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but she is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Alma Brown in Hud, which earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1963. But there has been much, much more to Neal’s life. She was born Patsy Louise Neal on January 20, 1926, in Packard, Kentucky, though she spent most of her childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee. Neal quickly gained attention for her acting abilities in high school, community, and college performances. Her early stage successes were overshadowed by the unexpected death of her father in 1944. Soon after she left New York for Hollywood in 1947, Neal became romantically involved with Gary Cooper, her married co-star in The Fountainhead, an attachment which brought them both a great deal of notoriety in the press and a great deal of heartache in their personal lives. In 1953, Neal married famed children’s author Roald Dahl, a match that would bring her five children and thirty years of dramatic ups and downs. In 1961, their son, Theo, was seriously injured in an automobile accident and required multiple neurosurgeries and years of rehabilitation; the following year their daughter, Olivia, died of measles. At the pinnacle of her screen career, Patricia Neal suffered a series of strokes which left her in a coma for twenty-one days. Variety even ran a headline erroneously stating that she had died. At the time, Neal was pregnant with her and Dahl’s fifth child, Lucy, who was born healthy a few months later. After a difficult recovery, Neal returned to film acting, earning a second Academy Award nomination for The Subject Was Roses. She appeared in a number of television movie roles in the 1970s and 1980s and won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Dramatic TV Movie in 1971 for her role in The Homecoming. Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life is the first critical biography detailing the actress’s impressive film career and remarkable personal life. Author Stephen Michael Shearer has conducted numerous interviews with Neal, her professional colleagues, and her intimate friends and was given access to the actress’s personal papers. The result is an honest and comprehensive portrait of an accomplished woman who has lived her life with determination and bravado.
Ang Lee (b. 1954) has emerged as one of cinema's most versatile, critically acclaimed, and popular directors. Known for his ability to transcend cultural and stylistic boundaries, Lee has built a diverse oeuvre that includes films about culture clashes and globalization (Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994, and The Wedding Banquet, 1993), a period drama (Sense and Sensibility, 1995), a martial arts epic (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000), a comic book action movie (Hulk, 2003), and an American western (Brokeback Mountain, 2005). The Philosophy of Ang Lee draws from both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions to examine the director's works. The first section focuses on Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist themes in his Chinese-language films, and the second examines Western philosophies in his English-language films; but the volume ultimately explores how Lee negotiates all of these traditions, strategically selecting from each in order to creatively address key issues. With interest in this filmmaker and his work increasing around the release of his 3-D magical adventure The Life of Pi (2012), The Philosophy of Ang Lee serves as a timely investigation of the groundbreaking auteur and the many complex philosophical themes that he explores through the medium of motion pictures.
Initially regarded as a cult figure with a strong following amongst sci-fi and horror film fans, Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg emerged as a major and commercially viable film director with mainstream hits such as A History of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007). With his unique ability to present imagery that is both disturbing and provocative, Cronenberg creates striking films, noteworthy not just for their cinematic beauty but also for the philosophical questions they raise.
The Philosophy of David Cronenberg examines Cronenberg's body of work, from his breakthrough Scanners (1981) through his most recognizable films such as The Fly (1986) and more recent works. Editor Simon Riches and a collaboration of scholars introduce the filmmaker's horrific storylines and psychologically salient themes that reveal his pioneering use of the concept of "body horror," as well as his continued aim to satirize the modern misuse of science and technology. The Philosophy of David Cronenberg also explores the mutation of self, authenticity and the human mind, as well as language and worldviews. While Cronenberg's films have moved from small-market cult classics to mainstream successes, his intriguing visions of humanity and the self endure.
The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone
This biography tells the story of legendary jazz singer Nina Simone (1933-2003). Born in Tryon, NC, as Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Simone's childhood challenges as the youngest of seven children were significant, but not unique as a daughter of African American parents in the Depression-era South. Her musical gifts were extraordinary, however; largely self-trained, she went on to become one of the most prominent jazz peformers of the mid-twentieth century. Her music crossed into blues, gospel, Classical, and other genres as well. Particularly after recording Mississippi Goddamn as a response to the murder of Medgar Evers, she also became closely linked to the Civil Rights Movement, forging close relationships with other African American activists, writers, and artists of the period. But mental and physical illness took their toll, and her performances and public appearances became increasingly erratic from the late 1970s until her death. Nevertheless, she is widely regarded as one of the most distinctive voices of American music in the twentieth century, and this biography of her exists as the most comprehensive treatment of her life and music--and their significance.
The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director
Raoul Walsh (1887–1980) was known as one of Hollywood’s most adventurous, iconoclastic, and creative directors. He carved out an illustrious career and made films that transformed the Hollywood studio yarn into a thrilling art form. Walsh belonged to that early generation of directors—along with John Ford and Howard Hawks—who worked in the fledgling film industry of the early twentieth century, learning to make movies with shoestring budgets. Walsh’s generation invented a Hollywood that made movies seem bigger than life itself. In the first ever full-length biography of Raoul Walsh, author Marilyn Ann Moss recounts Walsh’s life and achievements in a career that spanned more than half a century and produced upwards of two hundred films, many of them cinema classics. Walsh originally entered the movie business as an actor, playing the role of John Wilkes Booth in D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915). In the same year, under Griffith’s tutelage, Walsh began to direct on his own. Soon he left Griffith’s company for Fox Pictures, where he stayed for more than twenty years. It was later, at Warner Bros., that he began his golden period of filmmaking. Walsh was known for his romantic flair and playful persona. Involved in a freak auto accident in 1928, Walsh lost his right eye and began wearing an eye patch, which earned him the suitably dashing moniker “the one-eyed bandit.” During his long and illustrious career, he directed such heavyweights as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, and Marlene Dietrich, and in 1930 he discovered future star John Wayne.
For three decades, no American filmmaker has been as prolific—or as paradoxical—as Woody Allen. From Play It Again, Sam (1972) through Celebrity (1998) and Sweet and Lowdown (1999), Allen has produced an average of one film a year, yet in many of these films Allen reveals a progressively skeptical attitude toward both the value of art and the cultural contributions of artists. In examining Allen’s filmmaking career, The Reluctant Film Art of Woody Allen demonstrates that his movies often question whether the projected illusions of magicians/artists benefit audience or artists. Other Allen films dramatize the opposed conviction that the consoling, life-redeeming illusions of art are the best solution humanity has devised to the existential dilemma of being a death-foreseeing animal. Peter Bailey demonstrates how Allen’s films repeatedly revisit and reconfigure this tension between image and reality, art and life, fabrication and factuality, with each film reaching provisional resolutions that a subsequent movie will revise. Merging criticism and biography, Bailey identifies Allen's ambivalent views of the artistic enterprise as a key to understanding his entire filmmaking career. Because of its focus upon filmmaker Sandy Bates’s conflict between entertaining audiences and confronting them with bleak human actualities, Stardust Memories is a central focus of the book. Bailey’s examination of Allen’s art/life dialectic also draws from the off screen drama of Allen’s very public separation from Mia Farrow, and the book accordingly construes such post-scandal films as Bullets Over Broadway and Mighty Aphrodite as Allen’s oblique cinematic responses to that tabloid tempest. By illuminating the thematic conflict at the heart of Allen's work, Bailey seeks not only to clarify the aesthetic designs of individual Allen films but to demonstrate how his oeuvre enacts an ongoing debate the screenwriter/director has been conducting with himself between creating cinematic narratives affirming the saving powers of the human imagination and making films acknowledging the irresolvably dark truths of the human condition.
Rogue filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (b. 1968) rocketed to fame with his ultra-low-budget film El Mariachi (1992). The Spanish-language action film, and the making-of book that accompanied it, were inspirational to filmmakers trying to work with the most meager of resources. Rodriguez embodies the postmodern auteur, maintaining a firm control of his projects by not only writing and producing his films, but also editing, shooting, composing, as well as working with the visual effects. He was one of the first American filmmakers to wholeheartedly adopt digital filmmaking, now the norm. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) helped bring back 3-D to mainstream theatres. He is as comfortable making family films (the Spy Kids series) as action (Sin City) and horror films (Planet Terror). He has maintained his guerilla filmmaking approach, despite increasing budgets, choosing to work outside of Hollywood and even founding his own studio (Troublemaker Studios) in Austin, Texas. He has also arguably become the most successful Latino filmmaker.In this, the first book devoted to Rodriguez, interviews and articles from 1993 to 2010 reveal a filmmaker passionate about making films on his own terms. He addresses the subjects central to his life and work: guerilla filmmaking, the digital revolution, his family, and his disdain for Hollywood. An easy and frank subject, these portraits depict the rebel director at his most candid, forging a path for others to break free from Hollywood hegemony.
Roger Corman (b. 1926) is known by many names-craftsman, artist, maverick, schlock-meister, mini-mogul, mentor, cheapskate, and King of the B's. Yet his commitment to filmmaking remains inspired. He learned his craft at the end of the studio system, only to rebel against Hollywood and define himself as the true independent. And the list of directors and producers who learned under his tutelage--Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, and many more--is astonishing.
Collected here are many of the most honest and revealing interviews of his epic career, several of which have never been seen in print. Roger Corman: Interviews brings into focus a life committed to the entertaining art of motion pictures.
Corman's rare talent combined artistic drive with business savvy, ensuring a successful career that was constantly in motion. At a remarkable pace more akin to silent movies than modern Hollywood, he directed over fifty films in less than fifteen years, some entertaining (Not of This Earth), trendsetting (The Wild Angels), daring (The Intruder), workmanlike (Apache Woman), stylized (The Masque of the Red Death) and even profound (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes). In a single year, Corman famously shot a cult classic in two and a half days (The Little Shop of Horrors), reinvigorated the American horror film with a dash of Poe and Price (House of Usher)--and still turned out a few more films shot across the globe. Recently awarded an honorary Oscar for his lifetime contribution to cinema, the self-made Corman has created a legacy as a defining filmmaker.
The Life of Greer Garson
" In this first-ever biography of Greer Garson, Michael Troyan sweeps away the many myths that even today veil her life. The true origins of her birth, her fairy-tale discovery in Hollywood, and her career struggles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are revealed for the first time. Garson combined an everywoman quality with grace, charm, and refinement. She won the Academy Award in 1941 for her role in Mrs. Miniver , and for the next decade she reigned as the queen of MGM. Co-star Christopher Plummer remembered, ""Here was a siren who had depth, strength, dignity, and humor who could inspire great trust, suggest deep intellect and whose misty languorous eyes melted your heart away!"" Garson earned a total of seven Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, and fourteen of her films premiered at Radio City Music Hall, playing for a total of eighty-four weeks--a record never equaled by any other actress. She was a central figure in the golden age of the studios, working with legendary performers Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford, Robert Mitchum, Debbie Reynolds, and Walter Pidgeon. Garson's experiences offer a fascinating glimpse at the studio system in the years when stars were closely linked to a particular studio and moguls such as L.B. Mayer broke or made careers. With the benefit of exclusive access to studio production files, personal letters and diaries, and the cooperation of her family, Troyan explores the triumphs and tragedies of her personal life, a story more colorful than any role she played on screen.
This survey of Sally Potters work documents and explores her cinematic development from the feminist reworking of Puccinis opera La Boheme in Thriller to the provocative contemplation of romantic relationships after 9/11 in Yes. Catherine Fowler traces a clear trajectory of developing themes and preoccupations and shows how Potter uses song, dance, performance, and poetry to expand our experience of cinema beyond the audiovisual. At the heart of Potters work we find a concern with the ways in which narrative has circumscribed the actions of women and their ability to act, speak, look, desire, and think for themselves. Her first two films, Thriller and The Gold Diggers, largely deconstruct found stories, cliches, and images, while her later films create new and original narratives that place female acts, voices, looks, desires and thoughts at their center. Fowlers analysis is supplemented by a detailed filmography, bibliography, and an interview with the director.