More New And Notable Film Books

More New And Notable Film Books

Here’s a second helping of recent film-related
books worth checking out. Please bear in mind that this is just a survey, as I
haven’t had time to read these tomes from cover-to-cover. Still, I hope the
listings are useful, whether you’re looking for Christmas gifts or adding to
your own library. And yes, there are even more books worth mentioning, which
I’ll do next week, in time to make your gift-giving deadline.

RAY HARRYHAUSEN, MASTER OF THE MAJICKS Volume 1: BEGINNINGS
AND ENDINGS
by Mike Hankin; foreword by Tom Hanks; preface by Sir Christopher
Frayling (Archive Editions)

If you’ve been acquiring and reading publisher Ernest
Farino’s elaborate series of oversized hardcover volumes on Harryhausen, you’ll
need no urging from me to complete your collection with the third and final
book in the series. BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS opens with a chronicle of Ray’s
latter years, covering unfinished and unrealized projects as well as the many
honors that came his way, including an Academy Award. Then the book hops back
in time to trace how The Lost World and King Kong influenced the young artist,
with valuable background material on both films and their brilliant animator
Willis O’Brien. Finally there is an in-depth look at Harryhausen’s earliest
work on George Pal’s Puppetoons and his own Fairy Tale short-subject series. The
book is jam-packed with information, observations, and a mind-boggling number
of illustrations. It’s a must for any Harryhausen fan.

HOLLYWOOD COSTUME edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis;
preface by Debbie Reynolds (Abrams)

In conjunction with an enormous, far-reaching exhibition of
movie costumes she curated at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Landis has
prepared an equally impressive coffee table book on the subject. Not only is it
beautiful to behold, and filled with well-chosen photos and costume designs; it
offers a series of essays by costume designers, film historians, and experts in
the field that provide a comprehensive look at this underappreciated facet of
filmmaking. The book is divided into four sections: The Art of Becoming, Defining the Character, Collectors &
Collecting,
and New Frontiers,
which tackles the way digital filmmaking and CGI have affected the work of
costume designers. A talented practitioner herself who memorably outfitted
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Landis also interviews such actors as Meryl
Streep and Robert De Niro about the way costumes help them develop their
characters. I’m sorry I couldn’t attend the exhibition in London (which is
coming to Phoenix, Arizona this coming spring), but I’m glad Landis has left
behind a permanent record in the form of this majestic book.

A LIFE OF BARBARA STANWYCK: STEEL-TRUE 1907-1940 by Victoria
Wilson (Simon & Schuster)

An editor at Knopf who has shepherded many fine books into
print, Wilson has spent untold years working on a definitive biography of
Barbara Stanwyck, with the cooperation of family members and access to private
letters and photographs. Yet even at nearly a thousand pages, this is only the
first part of the story. That’s because Wilson lingers over every film,
exploring it in detail (from early, minor efforts to later classics), and
provides contextual background about each new figure who is introduced in
Stanwyck’s life, from husband Frank Fay to such influential directors as
William Wellman and Frank Capra. I think it’s fair to say that this biography,
when completed, will be the last word on Stanwyck.

 _____________________

CHAPLIN’S VINTAGE YEAR: THE HISTORY OF THE MUTUAL CHAPLIN
SPECIALS
by Michael J. Hayde (BearManor Media)

 I don’t think any major film artist has equaled Charlie
Chaplin’s achievement of 1916-17, turning out twelve superb comedy shorts in a
row that have stood the test of time for nearly a century: The Floorwalker, The Fireman, The Vagabond, One A.M., The Count, The
Pawnshop, Behind the Scenes, The Rink, Easy Street, The Cure, The Immigrant,
and The Adventurer. Author Hayde (co-author
of last year’s exhaustive Little Elf: A
Celebration of Harry Langdon
) places these films in the context of
silent-film comedy and Chaplin’s burgeoning career, before  examining each of the “golden dozen” in
detail. The book also includes many rare newspaper and magazine advertisements
that help us understand just how popular these films were—not only when they
were new, but in later theatrical reissues. A book-length study of these
influential comedies is long overdue and most welcome.

 

 GUILLERMO DEL TORO CABINET OF CURIOSITIES by Guillermo del
Toro and Marc Scott Zicree; foreword by James Cameron (Harper Design)

 As a
filmmaker and storyteller, del Toro has few peers in modern cinema, expressed
in such memorable films as Cronos,
Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone
and
Pan’s Labyrinth
. As his detailed notebooks and drawings reveal, he’s been
preparing to bring these ideas to life for years. As a fan and collector, he is
also in a class by himself; he describes himself as a “a well financed 10 year
old.” This handsome volume opens the doors to Bleak House, the lair adjacent to
his family home that he has filled with toys, models, and artifacts
representing his lifelong love of fantasy and horror, in comic books as well as
movies. A series of interviews with co-author Zicree reveal del Toro’s thought
process and creative inspirations. Essays by such prominent admirers as Neil
Gaiman, John Landis, and Alfonso Cuarón testify to del Toro’s unique
imagination and his gift for friendship. This elaborate book is the next best
thing to a personal visit with the charismatic filmmaker. 

THE ART OF JAY WARD PRODUCTIONS by Darrell Van Citters;
foreword by June Foray (Oxberry Press)

Here is a perfect Christmas present
for any dyed-in-the-wool cartoon fan: an affectionate, informative, lavishly
illustrated history of Jay Ward Productions, written by an animation insider. Van
Citters has scoured the Ward archives for model sheets, storyboard drawings,
and finished artwork to help tell the story of the can-do company that played
by its own rules and created Rocky and
his Friends, The Bullwinkle Show,
and the long-running Cap’n Crunch
commercials, to name just a few of its notable achievements. Individual
profiles of directors, writers, animators, layout personnel, and other
contributors give us a clearer picture of the creative team behind some of the
funniest animated series in television history. The Ward style also reflected
modern graphic design—a result of the fact that key studio personnel got their
training at the Walt Disney studio in the 1940s before breaking off to work
with the forward-thinking UPA. The Art of
Jay Ward Productions
offers an embarrassment of riches that are well worth
savoring.

THE CG STORY: COMPUTER GENERATED ANIMATION AND SPECIAL
EFFECTS
by Christopher Finch (The Monacelli Press)

Only a lavishly illustrated book that
weighs as much as a coffee table could do justice to the subject of CGI and
special effects—visually and verbally. With copious production stills and
behind-the-scenes photos, Finch (author of the landmark coffee table volume The Art of Walt Disney) traces the history
of the computer as a moviemaking tool, from John Whitney’s pioneering experimental
films through the breakthroughs of George Lucas and his protégés, (including the group who broke off and became Pixar). Citing the earliest adopters of CG effects, Finch shows
how one step led to another in the refining of visual effects, from Young Sherlock Holmes to The Abyss. On a parallel track, the
Disney studio’s integration of computer-assisted imagery in Beauty and the Beast opened the door for
broader use in its subsequent features. Finch’s text is authoritative but
written for fans and laymen, thank goodness.

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Comments

Constantine Santas

Humphrey Bogart’s Essential Films (Rowman & Littlefield (September 2015. Review requested

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