writer-photographer Mark A. Vieira wrote and compiled a handsome book called Hurrell’s Hollywood Portraits. This
enormous and elegant volume supersedes it, not only in the quantity and quality
of photographs it presents, but in Vieira’s candid text, which expands on his
earlier work and delves into the second part of Hurrell’s life: his years in
decline and his final comeback. As a student and protégé of the great man,
Vieira is in a unique position to do this, and to reveal the master’s secrets. All
the great faces are here: Crawford, Shearer, Harlow, Gable, right up through
Paul McCartney, Harrison Ford, and Diana Ross. Bemoaning the ready availability
of sub-standard copies of Hurrell’s work, online and elsewhere, he declares, “I
wrote this book to ensure that these photographs can be seen as he intended. I
have secured prints made by Hurrell himself. I have included prints that I made
in a photographic darkroom from his original negatives, sometimes under his
tutelage, and sometimes under the supervision of his colleagues. I have scanned
the prints myself. And I have entrusted those prints to Running Press, a
publisher committed to fine lithography.” I think it’s fair to refer to this
exquisite tome as definitive.
well-known that Walt Disney had an abiding interest in Peter Pan and worked on it a long time, but Mindy Johnson writes of
Tinker Bell, “For nearly fifteen years, this troublesome darling of the drawing
board was one of the most expensive characters to develop, piling up more
preproduction costs than any other animated character in the Disney Studio up
to that time. She was reduced in size to the dimension of Peter Pan’s thumb.
The color of her eyes changed several times, while her hair alternated from
brunette, to red, to golden hues as the hairstyles changed with the prevailing
fashions… The one consistency throughout this impish invention was the firefly
glow surrounding the tiny sprite.” Johnson provides more than just Disney lore
in this extensively researched book: she digs deep into the world of James M.
Barrie and traces Peter Pan’s history
on stage and screen before delving into the production history of Walt Disney’s
memorable 1952 movie. Postscript chapters follow Tinker Bell’s extensive career
on television, in print, at the Disney theme parks, in the world of
merchandising, and in her own made-for-video movies. Disney buffs will
especially value the generous amount of illustrations including beautiful concept
art, storyboards, animation drawings, and more.
DREAM IT! DO IT! MY
HALF-CENTURY CREATING DISNEY’S MAGIC KINGDOMS by Marty Sklar; introductions
by Ray Bradbury and Richard M. Sherman (Disney Editions)
is a living link to Walt Disney and his philosophy of entertainment, as
expressed in Disneyland. He started working for Walt a month before the Anaheim
park opened and quickly became a valuable and trusted aide, writing speeches
and communicating the boss’ ideas to sponsors, shareholders, and the general
public. In the years that followed, Sklar rose through the ranks to lead a team
of Imagineers in their efforts to build new and ever-more-ambitious attractions
and theme parks around the globe. Perhaps his greatest skill is as a
communicator, and that’s what comes across in this lively and revealing
autobiography. For anyone who loves Disneyland and what it stands for, this
book is a must.
How is one to deal with two newly-published
biographies of Gloria Swanson that each bear the mark of genuine scholarship, full
access to Swanson’s extensive archives at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin,
Texas, and the participation of the subject’s family? I haven’t had time to
read either one as yet, but I don’t think a reader can go terribly wrong. Both
writers traveled the globe to screen her films, interview friends and
colleagues, and uncover the details of her fabled life and career. Welsch makes
a point of quoting manuscript drafts for the star’s autobiography, which were
more candid than the version that was subsequently published. Shearer was canny
enough to ask Jeanine Basinger to provide a thoughtful and pointed introduction.
Both books would seem to warrant serious attention.
Drawing on panel discussions and one-on-one interviews with
leading screenwriters from the Austin Film Festival (as well as its television
series and podcast On Story), this
book distills war stories, anecdotes and advice from leading practitioners.
Among the participants are John Lee Hancock, Robin Swicord, Lawrence Kasdan,
John August, Randall Wallace, Steven Zaillian, Nicholas Kazan, Bill Wittliff,
Caroline Thompson, Anne Rapp, Whit Stillman, Sacha Gervasi, Peter Hedges, Dan
Petrie, Jr., and the late Frank Pierson. There is much to learn and enjoy, even
if you’re not an aspiring writer yourself.
are so many I can’t do justice to more than a handful, but here are four you
should definitely know about.
MAE MURRAY: THE GIRL WITH THE BEE-STUNG LIPS by Michael G.
Ankerich; foreword by Kevin Brownlow (University Press of Kentucky) explores
the life of the silent-screen star who was the subject of a 1950s as-told-to
memoir called The Self-Enchanted.
Ankerich has written extensively about personalities of this era and knows the
MARY WICKES: I KNOW I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE by Steve
Taravella (University Press of Mississippi) puts the spotlight on one of film
and television’s most durable and familiar character actresses, whose credits
ranged from The Man Who Came to Dinner to Sister Act. The author tracked down
family members, friends, and coworkers to tell her life story, and even gained
access to extensive correspondence between Wickes and Lucille Ball.
MAUREEN O’HARA: THE BIOGRAPHY by Aubrey Malone (University
Press of Kentucky) is an appreciative biography by an Irish author who did much
research in the actress’ homeland. Significantly, he amends and corrects some
of the stories O’Hara told in her autobiography (but not all: she claimed to
have introduced Walt Disney to Mary Poppins,
but it’s well established that Disney began pursuing author P.L. Travers in the
WILLIAM WYLER: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF HOLLYWOOD’S MOST
CELEBRATED DIRECTOR by Gabriel Miller (University Press of Kentucky) attempts
to be both a biography and a critical study of the man who gave us Jezebel, The Best Years of Our Lives, Wuthering Heights, Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur,
and so many other landmark films. Miller provides a history of each Wyler
project in this hefty volume.