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Holiday Book Roundup—Part 2

Holiday Book Roundup—Part 2

         I must
emphasize once again that what follows is not a roster of reviews, as I have
not had time to read these books, but they all pique my interest. That’s why
I’m happy to spread the word about them.

 

WILLIAM CAMERON MENZIES: THE SHAPE OF FILMS TO COME by James
Curtis (Pantheon)

          This is the
book I am most eager to read cover-to-cover. First, it deals with one of my
cinematic heroes, production designer (and occasional director) William Cameron
Menzies, the man responsible for the look of such varied films as Douglas
Fairbanks’ The Thief of Bagdad, his
own Things to Come, and Gone With The Wind, to cite just a few
of his many credits. (I’m
inordinately fond of the futuristic airplane he concocted for Alfred
Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent.) Second,
it was written by one of my favorite biographers, James Curtis, whose books on
Spencer Tracy, W.C. Fields, and James Whale are a pleasure to read, and
impeccably researched. Finally, this much-needed biography of a major (yet still
unsung) figure in movie history was done with the cooperation of the Menzies
family. I can’t wait to dive into this one.

 

FELLINI: THE SIXTIES by Manoah Bowman; foreword by Anita
Ekberg, afterword by Barbara Steele (TCM/Running Press)

 

         It could be
argued that no single filmmaker did more to revolutionize cinema in the 1960s
than Federico Fellini. His output during that decade was formidable, and he
created images that have become indelible in our collective consciousness,
through such films as La Dolce Vita and 8½. This lavish, beautifully designed,
oversized volume pays tribute to the Master and his work through critical
essays and visual tributes. My favorite quote: “The best part of the day is
when I go to bed. I go to sleep and the fête begins.” Few books will look
better on your coffee table than this one.

 

YOUNG ORSON: THE YEARS OF LUCK AND GENIUS ON THE PATH TO
CITIZEN KANE
by Patrick McGilligan (Harper)

 

         If Patrick
McGilligan’s superior work as a historian weren’t enough to make this book
intriguing, he has endorsement quotes on the back cover from two of Welles’
most avid and authoritative chroniclers, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Joseph McBride.
McBride says, “An indefatigable reporter and masterful biographer, McGilligan
did the hard research others had not bothered to do, and he has unearthed
endless revelations that will change our view of Welles’s development as a man
and an artist.” That’s really saying something, and it’s enough to convince me
that this book is a must-read.

 

WOODY: THE BIOGRAPHY by David Evanier (St. Martin’s Press)

 

         In trying to
summarize this book I made the mistake of starting to read it—and had to tear
myself away ten pages later. Any book that can hook me so completely, so fast,
must be reckoned with. Prize-winning author Evanier explains how he made
contact with Allen and elicited answers to some of his many questions, although
this remains an unauthorized biography. Yet even a glance at the people Evanier
interviewed gives an indication that he has done his homework. “Everything
about Allen is unique,” he writes, “not only in cinema but in pop and celebrity
culture. There is no one like him… No one has ranged in his work so
consistently from the sublime to the wretched. He is willing to gamble with
failure, to extend and deepen the formal and substantive elements of his
films.” I look forward to digesting all of this book sometime soon.

 

DALI AND DISNEY: DESTINO: THE STORY, ARTWORK, AND FRIENDSHIP
BEHIND THE LEGENDARY FILM
  by David A.
Bossert (Disney Editions)

 

         Here is the
first thorough documentation of an extraordinary—if seemingly
unlikely—relationship between populist Walt Disney and iconoclast Salvador
Dali. Longtime Disney artist/executive Bossert gained exclusive access to both
men’s files in order to tell the complete story of their friendship and
all-too-brief collaboration on a short subject that was completed by Walt’s
nephew Roy a half-century after its inception. Destino is more than just a footnote in their careers, as this book
explains, aided by copious illustrations. (And if you’ve still not seen Destino, you should.)

 

CREATING THE ILLUSION: A FASHIONABLE HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD
COSTUME DESIGNERS by Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins; foreword by Ali
MacGraw (TCM / Running Press)

 

         Here is yet
another gorgeous, oversized coffee table book that’s equally suitable for
browsing or reading. The authors trace the history of costume design from the
silent era to the present day, with copious illustrations—both original design
sketches and photographs. There are also interviews with some of today’s
leading practitioners, including award winners Albert Wolsky (All That Jazz, Bugsy), Colleen Atwood (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Into the Woods),
Ellen Mirojnick (Showgirls, Starship
Troopers, Face/Off
), and Mark Bridges (Boogie
Nights, The Artist, Inherent Vice
). “Lavish” doesn’t begin to describe this
beautiful tome.

 

AN ANIMATOR’S GALLERY: ERIC GOLDBERG DRAWS THE DISNEY
CHARACTERS
by David A. Bossert, illustrations by Eric Goldberg; foreword by
John Lasseter (Disney Editions)

 

         While planning
the Disney Shanghai Resort, an idea (picture a lightbulb) emerged: why not have
animator extraordinaire Eric Goldberg do pen-and-ink renderings of all the
great Disney and Pixar characters to decorate one of its restaurants, the way
caricatures have dotted the walls of Sardi’s and The Brown Derby? Goldberg is
the perfect choice, not only because of his prodigious talent with pen and ink
and his lifelong love of cartoons, but because he has been so deeply influenced
by the great caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Thus, his drawings of everyone from
Mickey Mouse to Olaf the snowman from Frozen
are accurate and readily identifiable—yet they share the spirit of
caricature that defined Hirschfeld’s work. Leafing through this oversized book
is great fun.

 

A REAL AMERICAN CHARACTER: THE LIFE OF WALTER BRENNAN by
Carl Rollyson (University Press of Mississippi)

 

         Rollyson wrote
this book with the help and participation of Walter Brennan’s family as well as
a number of colleagues. He presents it as not only a biography but a tribute to
the character actor of Hollywood’s golden age. These players were
indispensable, yet often taken for granted. Brennan, on the other hand, won
three Academy Awards for his work in Come
and Get It, Kentucky,
and The
Westerner
. He later became a household name and face by starring in the
long-running TV series The Real McCoys. He
was also outspoken about conservative issues and family values, all of which is
covered in this book, the first biography ever written about the actor who amassed
more than 200 film credits in his lifetime.

 

ONE LITTLE SPARK! MICKEY’S TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE ROAD TO
IMAGINEEERING
 by Marty Sklar;
introductions by Richard M. Sherman and Glen Keane (Disney Editions)

 

         Marty Sklar
learned about showmanship at the side of Walt Disney and has spent decades
passing along that wisdom to generations of young Imagineers who design and
create attractions for Disney’s theme parks. In this follow-up to his earlier
book, Dream It! Do It!, Sklar not
only shares his philosophy but offers advice and pointers from 75 Imagineers.
Not many of us get to exercise our imagination on a daily basis: that’s what
sets men like Marty Sklar and his protégés apart from the crowd.

 

GAY DIRECTORS, GAY FILMS? by Emanuel Levy (Columbia University
Press
)

 

         Film critic
Levy has trained his educated eye on five prominent gay filmmakers—Pedro
Almodovar, Terence Davies, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant, and John Waters—to
explore the differences and similarities in their approach to storytelling. He
also places their careers into the larger context of American and European
society and its gradual acceptance of homosexuality over the past five decades.
Levy’s book seems especially timely and relevant at this moment.

 

MR. HUSTON/MR. NORTH: LIFE, DEATH, AND MAKING JOHN HUSTON’S
LAST FILM
 by Nat Segaloff (BearManor
Media
)

 

         In 1987, Danny
Huston got an opportunity to direct an all-star cast in a modest film called Mr. North on location in Newport, Rhode
Island. It was to have starred his celebrated father, John Huston, whose
illness prompted Robert Mitchum to take his place…but the elder Huston’s shadow
hovered over the production, according to the only reporter who was present for
the shoot, freelance journalist Nat Segaloff. The result is a slender but
revealing book about egos, illusions, and the reality of getting a film “in the
can” by any means necessary.

 

NOT JUST BATMAN’S BUTLER: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALAN NAPIER
by Alan Napier with James Bigwood (McFarland)

 

         Forty years
after interviewing Alan Napier, film buff Bigwood was asked to read a surviving
manuscript of the late actor’s autobiography. This is the result, expanded and
annotated by Bigwood. It turns out that Napier crossed paths with John Gielgud,
Laurence Olivier, George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger,
and Alfred Hitchcock, not to mention Adam West and Burt Ward. Fans of character
actors and show business anecdotes should find this of particular interest.

 

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