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A Life between Takes
Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes is the first major biography of the effervescent, scene-stealing actress (1906-1979) who conquered motion pictures, vaudeville, Broadway, summer stock, television, and radio. Born the child of vaudevillians, she was on stage by age three. With her casual sex appeal, distinctive cello voice, megawatt smile, luminous saucer eyes, and flawless timing, she came into widespread fame in Warner Bros. musicals and comedies of the 1930s, including Blonde Crazy, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade. Frequent co-star to James Cagney, Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart, friend to Judy Garland, Barbara Stanwyck, and Bette Davis, and wife of Dick Powell and Mike Todd, Joan Blondell was a true Hollywood insider. By the time of her death, she had made nearly 100 films in a career that spanned over fifty years. Privately, she was unerringly loving and generous, while her life was touched by financial, medical, and emotional upheavals. Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes is meticulously researched, expertly weaving the public and private, and features numerous interviews with family, friends, and colleagues. Matthew Kennedy teaches anthropology at the City College of San Francisco and film history at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is the author of Marie Dressler: A Biography and Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory: Hollywood's Genius Bad Boy. Read more about his work at http://www.matthewkennedybooks.com/ Hear Matthew Kennedy on WNYC!
The Essential Biography
" Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography explores the life and career of one of Hollywood's great dames. She was a leading film personality for more than fifty years, from her beginnings as a dancer in silent films of the 1920s, to her portrayals of working-class shop girls in the Depression thirties, to her Oscar-winning performances in classic films such as Mildred Pierce. Crawford's legacy has become somewhat tarnished in the wake of her daughter Christina's memoir, Mommie Dearest, which turned her into a national joke. Today, many picture Crawford only as a wire hanger-wielding shrew rather than the personification of Hollywood glamour. This new biography of Crawford sets the record straight, going beyond the gossip to find the truth about the legendary actress. The authors knew Crawford well and conducted scores of interviews with her and many of her friends and co-stars, including Frank Capra, George Cukor, Nicholas Ray, and Sidney Greenstreet. Far from a whitewash -- Crawford was indeed a colorful and difficult character -- Joan Crawford corrects many lies and tells the story of one of Hollywood's most influential stars, complete with on-set anecdotes and other movie lore. Through extensive interviews, in-depth analysis, and evaluation of her films and performances -- both successes and failures -- Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell present Crawford's story as both an appreciation and a reevaluation of her extraordinary life and career. Filled with new interviews, Joan Crawford tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Hollywood icon. Lawrence J. Quirk is the author of many books on film, including Bob Hope: The Road Well-Traveled. William Schoell is the author of several entertainment-related books, including Martini Man: The Life of Dean Martin.
The Last of the Silent Film Stars
Charming and classically handsome, John Gilbert (1897--1936) was among the world's most recognizable actors during the silent era. He was a wild, swashbuckling figure on screen and off, and accounts of his life have focused on his high-profile romances with Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, his legendary conflicts with Louis B. Mayer, his four tumultuous marriages, and his swift decline after the introduction of talkies. A dramatic and interesting personality, Gilbert served as one of the primary inspirations for the character of George Valentin in the Academy Award--winning movie The Artist (2011). Many myths have developed around the larger-than-life star in the eighty years since his untimely death, but this definitive biography sets the record straight. Eve Golden separates fact from fiction in John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars, tracing the actor's life from his youth spent traveling with his mother in acting troupes to the peak of fame at MGM, where he starred opposite Mae Murray, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and other actresses in popular films such as The Merry Widow (1925), The Big Parade (1925), Flesh and the Devil (1926), and Love (1927). Golden debunks some of the most pernicious rumors about the actor, including the oft-repeated myth that he had a high-pitched, squeaky voice that ruined his career. Meticulous, comprehensive, and generously illustrated, this book provides a behind-the-scenes look at one of the silent era's greatest stars and the glamorous yet brutal world in which he lived.
The films of John Waters (b. 1946) are some of the most powerful send-ups of conventional film forms and expectations since Luis Bu-uel and Salvador Dali's Un Chien Andalou. In attempting to reinvigorate the experience of movie-going with his shock comedy, Waters has been willing to take the chance of offending nearly everyone. His characters have great dignity and resourcefulness, taking what's different or unacceptable or grotesque about themselves, heightening it and turning it into a handmade personal style. The interviews collected here span Waters's career from 1965 to 2010 and include a new one exclusive to this edition.
Waters began making films in his hometown of Baltimore in 1964. Demonstrating an innate talent at capturing the hideous and crude and elevating it to art, he reached international acclaim with his outrageous shock comedy Pink Flamingos. This landmark film redefined cinema and became a cult classic. Appearing in this and many of Waters's early films, his star Divine would consistently challenge gender definitions.
With Polyester, Waters entered the mainstream. The film starred Divine as an unhappy housewife who romances a former teen idol played by Tab Hunter. Waters's commercial breakthrough, Hairspray, told the story of Baltimore's televised sock-hop program, The Corny Collins Show, and how one brave girl (Ricki Lake) used her platform as a dancer to end segregation in her town.
From Serial Mom and Pecker to Cecil B. Demented, Waters continued to infiltrate the mainstream with his unique approach to filmmaking. As a visual artist, he was given a retrospective at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2004, which was shown at galleries around the world.
Besides being a great actor and the friend and associate of Dickens, Bulwer Lytton, Browning, and most of the principal figures in the drama and literature of his time, William Charles Macready (1793-1873) was a compulsive diarist. His journal of twenty-one years, during most of which he was at the head of the English stage, is a candid and absorbing self-revelation.
In this, the first thoroughly researched scholarly biography of Junius Brutus Booth, Stephen M. Archer reveals Booth to have been an actor of considerable range and a man of sensitivity and intellect. Archer provides a clear account of the actor’s professional and personal life and places him in relationship to his contemporaries, particularly Edmund Kean and William Charles Macready
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.