I am fighting mad today and I don’t mean maybe! I saw THIS book review about the new Clark Gable biography in the NY Times this morning. This book looks like a poorly researched piece of crap that was clearly written for a fast buck. This author doesn’t have any credibility as a historian or legit biographer. I find this all very frustrating. If someone were to write a biography of Martin Luther King or say Abraham Lincoln and use that sloppy standard of research, people would seriously be up in arms…BUT for figures in the entertainment industry it seems that anything is fair game. Why aren’t celebrity biographers held accountable? Whey aren’t standards applied to them?
The problem is that these types of biographies (like this Gable book) are SO badly researched and often not even researched AT ALL. Rather many of these authors simply recycle old stories that are unsubstantiated and assume they are true because they have previously been in print. New flash….just because something is printed or published doesn’t mean it is true at all. I may be in the minority here, but when I read a biography on a historical figure, entertainment legend or anyone…I want to know the TRUTH. I want to know that the author has done exhaustive research, extensive interviews and gone to painstaking lengths to tell their story with balance and accuracy. I want to read a realistic and truthful depiction, not a book filled with gossip and outrageous lies.
When I first started studying film history, I tried to read just about anything I could get my hands on. I originally read the book HARLOW by Irving Shulman. It was horrible and read like a cheap dime store pulp book instead of a biography. Then I read David Stenn’s excellent book BOMBSHELL: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JEAN HARLOW and the difference was like night and day! BOMBSHELL was carefully researched, well written and presented Harlow as the complicated and three dimensional woman. I felt the book got the heart of who she really was and dispelled the myths and lies about her life. I think that books like the Shulman book are offensive and unfair not only to the star’s life and legacy, but also to their friends, family and fans. Even stars are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. These trash biographies also usually gloss right over the performances and who that person was as an artist and tend to reduce these people to shallow stereotypes. If you don’t believe me, read HARLOW and then read BOMBSHELL and see exactly what I mean. The truth is that no one has ever written a deep, intricate, well researched piece on Clark Gable. He deserves one. He was a major figure in Hollywood history and he deserves FAR better than this.
People like this awful writer David Bret accomplish nothing except furthering lies and spreading gossip that many people simply assume as fact. Bret and his ilk do nothing more than damage reputations and collect a paycheck while doing so.
After reading numerous bad biographies and then reading the great ones, I have learned that not only do these people deserve the truth BUT that the truth is far more interesting and compelling than the lies could ever be!
I happened to catch Peter O’Toole on The Tonight Show last night. He was there to promote season 2 of The Tudors. Jay Leno mentioned Lawrence of Arabia and O’Toole’s legendary body of work. I like Leno because he always seems to respect old school stars like O’Toole and seems to have done his homework on them. I love it when O’Toole does the talk show circuit because he is BY FAR the best celebrity interview subject ever! He always has wild, interesting, funny and fascinating stories to tell about his life and career.
Last night he told a great story about being completely drunk during his legendary desert crossing scene with co-star Omar Sharif. He laughed and said that one critic wrote that he had a look of “messianic fury” on his face, when in reality he was simply drunk.
O’Toole has an amazing voice and his ability to tell a story is incredible. If he were reading the phonebook on stage, I would seriously pay money to hear him do so.
A few years ago I met someone who worked with him on the film Venus. I told them how fortunate they were to get to work with such a legend. Alas, they had no idea and had never seen any of his films. Being the film geek I am, I immediately sent over a long “suggested viewing” list.
I also noticed that today marks the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Lawrence of Arabia director David Lean!
Often times people ask me where the idea for the FilmRadar logo came from. When I first began the e-newsletter and website, it was called “FilmWise.” Then it turned out there was already another website with that name and I had to come up with something else. I brainstormed for what felt like ages and kept coming up empty. Then I went to visit my parents in Georgia and someone sent me a postcard in the mail. It was a 1950s space themed card. I saw it and said, “That’s IT! I’ll call this FilmRadar!” Then I hired the fantastic artist AV Phibes to come up with a proper logo. When we were talking about what the logo would look like, I sent her a bunch of 1950s science fiction postcards from Forbidden Planet, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Invasion of the Saucer-Men and others. I’ve always loved vintage science fiction images and films. I’m all about ray guns, flying saucers, kitschy aliens and stuff like that.
That’s why I LOVED this article!
Tomorrow March 23rd marks the 100 year anniversary of Joan Crawford’s birth…at least as far as we know. I’ve tried to read several different bios of Crawford over the years, but have never been satisfied by any of them. They are all hatchet jobs of varying degrees that either paint Crawford as a one-dimensional sadist or saint doing very little to delve into the real depth of the person. The 1978 publication of “Mommie Dearest” didn’t help matters. Ever since the book and subsequent film, Crawford’s reputation has taken a hit both personally and professionally. She deserves better. The truth about any life is complicated. No book has ever captured her as a fully fleshed out, three dimensional real person before.
When thinking about Crawford, one thing that has always impressed me is her ability to adapt to changing audience tastes. She began her career in the silent era in 1925 and managed to remain a star until her death in 1977. Very few of her contemporaries managed to achieve such longevity. She starred in a variety of genres including screwball comedy, drama, westerns, horror, noir and musicals. Crawford left behind an impressive body of work that has since often been overlooked or rather overshadowed by the image of her as a child abusing, wire hanger wielding maniac. Again, she deserves better.
Crawford came from very humble beginnings and in spite of the varying accounts; all conclude that her childhood was miserable. She wanted to get out, to get away and to make something of herself. I think she became a star through sheer grit, determination, force of will and yes—talent.
I heard a critic say once, “You’ll never see a piece of film with Joan Crawford slumming.” I completely agree. I don’t think she was someone who ever grew lazy, complacent of simply phoned it in. She always gave it everything she had.
Here is a look at some of my most favorite Crawford films:
The Unknown (1927) In this early break-through role, Crawford stars as a circus performer who is in love with Chaney’s character, but can’t bear to be touched….well that is until she falls for the circus strong-man Norman Kerry. Lon Chaney stars here as her jealous lover who will stop at nothing to exact his revenge. Crawford later said that watching Chaney on the set made her want to become a serious actress. She is clearly on her way, as she manages to hold her own against her far more seasoned co-stars.
Possessed (1931) This little pre-Code gem finds Crawford as a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who winds up as the “kept woman” for Clark Gable. She and Gable would go on to make about 10 films together and had excellent chemistry. I saw this film a long time ago, but was very impressed by it. I also clearly remember her overall body language being particularly powerful in this film to suggest things that the script itself could not. There is one scene where she and Gable are preparing to attend a dinner party. He comes up from behind and kisses her. Her mink coat slowly falls off her shoulders and on to the floor. The film cuts to the dinner party scene with she and Gable arriving VERY late and obviously flushed. There is little in the way of dialogue to indicate this, but it is written all over her face. No dialogue necessary! I don’t think this one is on DVD, but I certainly hope it finds its way into a pre-Code box set eventually.
Dancing Lady (1933) Crawford again stars opposite Gable as a showgirl who is longing for her big break on Broadway. While Crawford was no Ginger Rogers in the dance department, she still manages to pull off a convincing performance. My most favorite scene in the film features a sort of eagerness and determination that could have been culled from Crawford’s real life. In the scene Gable’s character grills Crawford and asks her if she thinks “dancing is her racket.” She looks at him and says, “Yes, more than anything in the world.” You believe her 100%. She is determined, strong, vulnerable and passionate all with the utterance of that one line. This film also marked the movie debut of Fred Astaire, with whom she shares an on screen dance.
The Women (1939) This film has always been one of my most favorites, as it is just one big juicy vintage Hollywood catfight. Here Crawford stars opposite her arch rival Norma Shearer, playing a husband stealing shop girl. She is bitchy, tough and delightful to watch. Her obvious personal disdain for Shearer is readily apparent and it feeds into the performance beautifully. The dialogue is razor sharp and fast flying. While the storyline itself is dated and obviously wildly against feminist principles, I just let that slide in the interest of sheer entertainment value.
Mildred Pierce (1945) This is perhaps Crawford’s finest hour and the film for which she finally copped the Best Actress Academy Award. She stars as the title character, a woman who rose up from working class roots to success in the restaurant business, and sacrificing everything for her ungrateful daughter along the way. Crawford flourishes here under the direction of Warner Bros. stalwart Michael Curtiz. She really gives a signature performance and re-energizes her career in the noir genre.
Johnny Guitar (1957) This is one of the strangest and most perversely enjoyable films in her career. It is almost impossible to describe this film except to say that is a feminist western with a lesbian undercurrent. It was directed by the great Nicholas Ray falls under the category of films that really have to be seen to be believed. In fact, I haven’t seen this film in a long time so I should really watch it again and re-visit it.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) No discussion of Crawford would be complete without a mention of this film and her legendary arch rival Bette Davis. I love both of them equally for different reasons, so it is always fun for me to see them battle it out. Crawford plays a film star crippled and wheelchair bound after being run over by her sister—a homicidal, sadistic former child star named “Baby Jane” played by Bette Davis. Crawford comes off as subtle and downright nuanced compared to the wild, daring (and sound) performance style favored by Davis. It is strangely fun watching them together. Director Robert Aldrich must have felt like a lion tamer at the circus during the filming. That said the results culminate in classic, timeless camp of the highest order.
At the end of her life Crawford gave interviews, answered fan letters and remained a star until the end. She was one of the few stars who really understood what the demands of the role entailed. She personally answered letters, signed photos and was always grateful to meet her fans—aware in the knowledge that they were the ones who made her a star to begin with. Crawford gave everything she had on screen and was above all else a consummate professional.
Whatever her personal life and faults may have been, she was first and foremost an actress, a complicated woman and someone whose work and legacy will always remain a vital part of Hollywood history.
Don’t miss the Joan Crawford Marathon on Turner Classic Movies! Also check out her films on DVD at Amazon.com.
Like many in the film world, I was shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of director Anthony Minghella. At 54, he seemed so young and his death feels so unexpected. I didn’t know him personally, but I always heard through the Hollywood grapevine that he was a kind, gentle and caring person. I never heard a negative word or horror story ever spoken about him. I think the film lovers of this world have suffered a loss today. One thing I admired about Minghella’s work was his ability to create really quiet and unforgettable moments. I love the moment in THE ENGLISH PATIENT when Juliette Binoche is lifted up on the rope and sees the candles lit around the room. I love the moment in THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY when Jude Law and Matt Damon are in the boat alone. I saw that film when it first came out and that scene is the one that has always stayed in my mind. That film was actually very underrated and really warrants another look. While I had some issues with COLD MOUNTAIN, I admit that film had great moments too. Minghella seemed to favor exotic locations and filmmaking on an epic scale and was far closer to the style of David Lean than to any contemporary filmmaker. He was also adept at drawing out the best in his actors. The best work Jude Law has done to date was under Minghella’s direction. I can’t believe he is gone. He was a great talent and he will be missed.
Has anyone seen this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune?
March 14, 2008
The negative review of “The Other Boleyn Girl” that appeared in the Feb. 29 Currents Weekend began this way: “What is the point of a bodice-ripper starring an actress who - how can we put this politely? - doesn’t have much to offer in the decolletage department?”
That same day, a female colleague on the U-T features editing team who’d seen “The Other Boleyn Girl” and liked it told me she could tell from that very first sentence that the review had been written by a man. She was right. It was written not by a Union-Tribune staff member, but by a critic whose review was plucked from the Associated Press wire. I did the plucking. I’m sorry I did. It was a stupid, sexist way to open a critique of “The Other Boleyn Girl.”
Then I started wondering why there are so few female film critics, especially on major newspaper staffs (including this one). Searching for insight, I discovered the Women Film Critics Circle, which dubs itself the “First National Association of Women Critics.” I contacted several of its members and tapped their brains.
“There are a lot of male editors and men in management positions,” said Felicia Feaster, one of two critics (the other is a man) at the alternative weekly Creative Loafing in Atlanta. “I don’t think it’s seen as essential to have a female voice on that particular beat.
“It’s ironic to me because one of the most famous film critics ever was Pauline Kael (of The New Yorker), who was so influential. What’s her legacy? There’s no one who has that kind of role now.”
Feaster said there are more female voices in the alternative press, but even there, film is a male-dominated beat. “It’s unfortunate because women sometimes bring a completely different point of view to films.”
Fellow WFCC member Mary Garcia in New York City writes reviews for the trade pub Film Journal International and for The Progressive. Garcia suggested that “The male voice of authority is still with us. When I was in film school, one of the reasons women weren’t trusted behind the camera was because we couldn’t carry one. So the men used to say, ‘You can try, but why don’t you do continuity?’ We grew up with that.”
Still, Garcia cautions that having “more women’s voices doesn’t necessarily guarantee less bias.”
In fact, Nancy Keefe Rhodes in Syracuse, N.Y., who covers film and visual arts for MovieCrossRhodes.blogspot.com, said that some WFCC members “are on the radio, some are online, some are in weekly papers. I don’t think there are quite as few of us (female critics) as you might think.”
Do men and women look at a film differently?
“Inevitably, I do look at many films as a woman,” Rhodes said. “Certainly, men have a male perspective, too. I want to be able to review films that everybody makes for all kinds of audiences.”
As online journalism overtakes print, more people - men and women - will be reviewing more and more films. Sadly, though, the line between legitimate criticism and mindless blogging is sure to blur. Film “reviews” may become the first cell phone call or text message one friend makes to another as he or she walks out of the screening. While it can, the printed word must give moviegoers credibility - and it takes the printed words of both genders to do that.
I found this article to be rather interesting. I can’t tell you how many film reviews I have read over the years where a woman’s body was inappropriately discussed in the review. I can see the point of doing that if the role is say extremely physical or something, but I have seen many examples of it being discussed wildly out of context. I read several reviews of the 2002 film Enigma that specifically made comments about the weight of star Kate Winslet. I remember thinking, “What the HELL does this have to do with the film or with her performance?” I also felt the same way when I read reviews for the Jodie Foster film The Brave One. The reviews kept bringing up her sexuality time and again to the point where it almost seemed inseperable from her work. I found that to be frustrating. It is almost as if people were carrying that personal “baggage” with them and allowing it to color how they saw the film. The last time I checked, I haven’t read any reviews that treat MALE stars that way. Feel free to argue or prove me wrong. The comment about Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl was really bone-headed and inappropriate. Whoever wrote it deserved to be called out.
I don’t necessarily think that women perceive movies differently from men, but I do enjoy reading a female reviewer’s perspective. At least we do have Manohla Dargis (NY Times), Carina Chocano, Susan King (LA Times) and Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly just to name a few. At the end of the day, I think that personality and taste is more of a factor in film
Out of curiosity, I did a google search for “female film critics” and turned up this article as well:
For any of you out there who live in the Bay area, this looks soooooooooooooo cool. If I weren’t so broke right now, I would seriously consider catching a Virgin America flight up just for this:
MOTHRA and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE
Special event showing at Landmark’s Clay Theatre Thursday, March 20, 2008
In Person Appearance by Author and Film Expert August Ragone
Two cinematic spectacles and prime examples of classic Japanese science fiction, MOTHRA and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE, will be presented as a double feature on Thursday, March 20, 2008 at the Clay Theatre in San Francisco. MOTHRA shows first, with start times of 3:30PM and 7:30PM. The event will feature a special appearance by author and film expert August Ragone, who will be present for all showings to add his insight to the films and answer questions. He’ll also be signing copies of his book, Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, just released by Chronicle Books, and on sale in the Clay Theatre lobby. More details are available at: (415) 346-1124 and at http://landmarkafterdark.com.
MOTHRA is set on Infant Island, previously used for atomic tests but free of radiation effects, and includes a pair of beautiful and tiny twins who sing a mysterious melody. When the girls are kidnapped and taken to Tokyo where they are forced to perform their songs to the public, Mothra, a gigantic moth worshiped as a goddess by the island people, awakens to rescue them, destroying everything in its wake! MOTHRA was a massive box office hit, when it first premiered in 1961, with its witty screenplay and inspired direction by Ishiro Honda and with special effects and visual detail by legend Eiji Tsuburaya, the visual effects mastermind behind Godzilla, Ultraman, and numerous Japanese science fiction movies.
BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE is a visual effects spectacle, and one of the most action-oriented and miniature-filled of Toho Studio films. It takes place eight years after the events in Honda’s The Mysterians, when aliens invade Earth full force with their flying saucers and laser weapons, rendering cities helpless. All eyes turn to the most powerful nations on Earth as they unite to devise a plan to vanquish the aliens and return Earth to the hands of humans, thus, resulting in the most fierce and ultimate battle in outer space the galaxy as ever seen. Effects director Tsuburaya outdoes himself in regards to the numerous visual effects scenes, especially during the final battle for the Earth (including the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the deadly exosphere dogfight), which floored audiences in 1959, and can only be fully appreciated on the Big Screen.
AUGUST RAGONE- The San Francisco resident has written and commented on Japanese film and popular culture on television, radio, DVD releases, in print, online, and at film festivals for more than twenty years - including appearances on the Bay Area show “Creature Features” with Bob Wilkins and John Stanley. His book, Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, is the first on the legendary special effects wizard in English. The new release from Chronicle Books is a highly visual biography details Tsuburaya’s fascinating life and career, featuring hundreds of film stills, posters, concept art, and delightful on-set photos of Tsuburaya, as well as details on his key films and shows.
WHAT: Screenings of MOTHRA and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE, with author/expert August Ragone at all shows for comment and book signing (book on sale at theatre)
DETAILS: Landmark’s Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St, San Francisco.
Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 3:30PM and 7:30PM (each show includes both features)
Tickets are $8.00 for the 3:30 matinee and $10.00 for the 7:30 evening show ($8.00 for student/senior/children under 12).
Advance tickets: https://tickets.landmarktheatres.com/
Event site: http://landmarkafterdark.com/index
Today I had an audition, which is rare for me since I’m not an actress. I got an audition to be a film commentator for a web television outlet. They told me that they got 500 submissions and narrowed it down asking only 30 people to come in and audition. I felt pretty good that I was one of the 30! I had to state my name, what I do and review 3 different films. I only had one minute to review each film. That is IMPOSSIBLE to express how much you love a film and why people should see it in such a short period of time. They also said that my reviews didn’t have to be current films. They could be anything I wanted. I picked The Red Shoes, Network and City Lights. I figured that was a nice ecclectic line up. When I was finished, I walked down the hallway and past the other people up for consideration. They were ALL platinum blonde, tan, wearing short shorts and stiletto boots. Yikes! I am totally content with my appearance and all, but I seriously can’t hope to compete with women who look like that. I am not a Malibu Barbie. Maybe they will want people who look like real people and I’ll have a fighting chance. We’ll see what happens.
Yesterday we had the FilmRadar Field Trip to see the M?li?s Matinee at the Silent Movie Theatre. I saw many M?li?s films my freshman year in film school, but that was a long time ago. It was great to get re-acquainted with his work! Seeing his films again (and many that I had never seen before) made me realize what an incredible genius this man really was. He had an amazing imagination and a sharp eye for detail. His work as a magician made him perfectly suited to be a filmmaker, as he was already well versed in the art of entertaining an audience and using visual tricks. I have always found the very infancy of film to be a very vital and exciting time. Pretty much anything was possible then. There were no rules, conventions or clich?s at the time. Everything was fresh, new and just being discovered. The films we watched dated from 1896 to 1913. We also watched a 30 minute documentary on 35mm about M?li?s by director Georges Franju made in 1953. The documentary featured Mrs. M?li?s and her son. I knew very little about M?li?s personally and was saddened to hear that he was ripped off the squeezed out of the movie business by the competition. Apparently he even burned a large amount of his films in later years. Fortunately a large body of his work still survives. The work of M?li?s inspired numerous other filmmakers including D.W. Griffith who said, “I owe him everything.” The program was hosted and presented by David Shepard, the great film preservationist. He is a true expert on the silent era and always compelling to listen to.
The films of M?li?s have such a beautiful, surreal dreamlike quality. I almost felt like I was in a lovely trance like state watching them. Flicker Alley has now released a definitive collection of M?li?s films on DVD including 5 discs and over 13 hours and a total of 173 rare and rediscovered films!
After the screening, I rounded up the FilmRadar fans and we went down to Canter’s Deli for food and discussion. If you’re never been on one of the “field trips”, I’d encourage you to join us! Anyone is welcome, the only requirement is that you must love film.
I know it sounds very un-hip and old school, but I’ll say it…I love and respect the elderly. When I was in college, my professor told me that there was a screenwriter from Hollywood’s golden age who lived up in the mountains and was retired. I called him up to say hello. He told me that he was sick, but would be willing to chat in person with me briefly to share his memories of Hollywood in the 1940s. What was originally going to be a 5 minute visit turned into 4 hours with us laughing, chatting and going through the film titles in his home collection. He was a dear and lovely man. My life was very much enriched by having known him and been his friend. I keep a close watch on the LA Times Obits and I always feel a sense of loss when someone whose work impacted my life has passed away.
Malvin Wald, 90; prolific screenwriter got Oscar nod for ‘The Naked City’
Wald wrote the story for the archetypal police drama, which ended with the now-famous line, “There are 8 million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” He and writer Albert Maltz, one of the blacklisted Hollywood 10 who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, were credited with the screenplay, which was also nominated for a Writers Guild Award.-LA Times
Byron Morgan, 87; filmmaker made dozens of documentaries for NASA
In 1957, Morgan signed on with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, known as NACA, and began producing films to promote the governmental agency’s research projects, starting with the X-15 experimental aircraft.-LA Times
Leonard Rosenman, 83; composer wrote dozens of scores for movies, TV shows
He composed scores for ‘East of Eden’, ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ and ‘Barry Lyndon’, for which he won an Academy Award.
Richard Baer, 79; wrote for many popular sitcoms
He wrote for ‘The Munsters’, which automatically makes him a rock star in my book! I loved that show as a kid!!! I wanted to move into the Munster house and live with them.
Ben Chapman, 79; Gill Man in cult film ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’
The 6-foot-5 ex-Marine played the title character in ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon,’ the classic 1954 3-D monster movie that quickly developed a cult following that has endured.-LA Times
David Watkin, 82; Oscar-winning cinematographer
He was the cinematographer for ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘Out of Africa’.
‘Green Berets’ author also wrote ‘French Connection’
‘The French Connection’, published in 1969, was about a New York drug bust. It inspired a 1971 film that won five Academy Awards, including best picture.-LA Times
On Feb. 28th, I came down with a horrible cold and have now spent days on end in bed. The good part is that I’ve finally had time to catch up on some reading. In this case, I read Lion of Hollywood. I have long been curious to read a really good book about Mayer. The problem that I often encounter with film related biographies is that they either canonize or demonize their subjects, offering only one side of what is always a very deep, multi-layered complicated person’s life. Many of these books also tend to be very poorly researched, which I find annoying. To me, the same standard of research, accuracy and integrity should be applied to a star bio that say gets applied to a bio of someone like Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill for example. Often though, that is not the case. Many star bios I’ve read tend to be conjecture, gossip, lies and often wildly unsubstantiated claims. Fortunately this biography of Louis B. Mayer is a great one that is incredibly well researched and a compelling read. Being that I love film history, I’ve often read many rumors and stories about Louis B. Mayer in various other biographies. Lion of Hollywood goes to great lengths to present an accurate and balanced portrait of the man.
The book chronicles Mayer’s impoverished childhood and his humble beginnings as a junk dealer. He began at the very ground floor of the film business at a time when it was all just developing and being formed as an industry. He was a great showman with an eye for talent and a relentless drive for success. As the head of M-G-M, he put quality first and often did so at great expense. That is certainly not done as often today. The book goes beyond his career achievements and into the complexities of his mind, personality and background. One of the M-G-M stars once referred to Mayer as “the best actor on the lot” and they weren’t kidding. In spite of his reputation as a ruthless titan, Mayer could produce tears and even sobs on a moment’s notice in order to persuade an actor to take a role or to leverage a deal. He had a flair for melodrama that would put almost any performer to shame. Mayer valued the idea of America and good clean family films. It becomes clear that Irving Thalberg was the true artistic force behind the studio in the early years and was far more interested in taking risks. The book also chronicles Mayer’s difficult and often fractured relationships with his wives, daughters and co-workers. The book also provides interesting perspectives on what various actors thought of him. There are some who loved him dearly and others who swore that he was the devil incarnate.
I wondered upon starting the book how I would feel about Louis B. Mayer after I had finished reading it. Having finished, I can only say that I have mixed feelings. I do however agree with a quote in the book from filmmaker Richard Brooks, “So, MGM gave me opportunity after opportunity for seven and a half years there I paid my dues and I learned my craft. And I learned it from some great people. The Mayers and the Warners and the Cohns—the did some terrible things, but they loved movies. I can’t say that about many film executives nowadays. They don’t even like movies.”
I think his sentiment says it all. If you are looking for a great Hollywood bio, I highly recommend Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer. It is well written, brilliantly researched and a fantastic read.
I hope you will be able to watch Steven Smith’s new documentary on pre-Code Hollywood tonight. It is titled Thou Shalt Not Sin. It premieres on Turner Classic Movies at 6:30 p.m. PDT. It is repeated later in the evening for lucky folks with DVD or TiVo or DVR. Film historian, author and pre-Code expert Mark Vieira will be one of the interview subjects!
Also if you love pre-Code films, make sure to pick up the Forbidden Hollywood volume 2 DVD. I’ve been VERY excited about this one and it should arrive on my doorstep any day now. There are 5 juicy pre-Codes and tons of extras. I will be sure to post a full length review as soon as I can.