Books Magazine

Some Recommended Film Books Published in 2011

By Bookpassage @bookpassage
There have been a number of excellent film books published in the course of the year. A number of them have looked back to classic Hollywood, and a number of them have been biographies, memories, or biographical or career studies. We've put together an annotated list of what we feel are some of the best films books from 2011. Each can be ordered through Book Passage.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in theGlamour Capital, 1928-1937, by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira (Angel CityPress)This is Jean Harlow like you'venever seen her before. Rooney is one of the foremost collectors of Harlowmemorabilia, and Vieira is one of the foremost authorities on classic Hollywood photography. (Vieira has a handful of otherrecommended pictorial books to his credit). They've joined forces in authoring thisgorgeous pictorial which not only tells the story of the life and career of thefamous platinum blonde but also features a remarkable assemblage of images, themajority of which are little known. Harlow islovely in most every one; this equally appealing and elegant book is a fittingtestimony to her legend.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in  the World, by Richard Rhodes (Doubleday)
What do actress Hedy Lamarr,avant-garde composer George Antheil, and your cell phone have in common? Theanswer is spread-spectrum radio, a revolutionary inven­tion based on the rapidswitching of communications sig­nals among a spread of different frequencies.Without this technology, many of the devices we take for granted, such as cellphones, wouldn’t work. As it turns out, the idea of spread-spectrum was thoughtup & patented not by a computer engineer in recent years, but by abeautiful actress and an experimental composer during WWII. Their idea, then,was to create a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes. Pulitzer Prizewinner Rhodes tells their story.
Some recommended film books published in 2011John Huston: Courage and Art, byJeffrey Meyers (Crown Archetype)
As much as anyone – and perhapsmore, John Huston was a literary filmmaker; thirty-four of his thirty-sevenfilms adapted important novels, stories or plays. In fact, Huston got his startas a journalist and short story writer before moving on to the movies and workas a screenwriter. Huston’s Oscar nominated success as a screenwriter led tohis work as a director. He then made an auspicious debut with a film based on anovel, The Maltese Falcon (1941). Fittingly, Huston’s life story isrecounted by a literary scholar in a fine new biography. Meyers’ briskly toldbiography of the writer, director, actor (Chinatown), and Hollywoodbon vivant details one of the more colorful lives of the 20th century.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond, by Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Knopf)
Michael Lindsay-Hogg is aBritish director best known for his work on stage, on television - notably themuch admired Brideshead Revisited,and for his concert films and music documentaries including The Beatles’ LetIt Be and The Rolling StonesRock and Roll Circus. Lindsay-Hogg is also the son of Warner and Academy Award nominee Geraldine Fitzgerald - Wuthering Heights (1939). His biological father, as isrevealed in this beautifully written book, is none other than Orson Welles.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, byEmily W. Leider (University of California Press)
Leider, the author of acclaimed biographies Rudolph Valentino and MaeWest, has penned a thoroughly researched and stylishly written biographyof an accomplished actress who was more than just her screen credits. Leiderputs it this way in her introduction. “From day one Myrna Loy’s screen imagehas conjured mystery, a sense of something withheld, something intriguingbecause it seems unknowable. ‘Who is she?’ was a question posed in the first fanmagazine article published about her, in 1925. This book attempts to fill insome of the gaps and to counter the relative neglect that has befallen herabundant legacy.” Leider accomplishes this and more in detailing the career ofan actress whose career began in the silent era and lasted into the era oftelevision.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, by Brian Kellow (Viking)
For better or worse, and thereare plenty on both sides of the fence still willing to argue their case,Pauline Kael (1919-2001) is the most influential film critic of the last 50years. Not only did Kael influence a generation of critics - namely those weread today, she also affected the climate for filmmaking in America(according to Roger Ebert). Her witty, biting, and highly opinionated reviews -many of which were published in the NewYorker over the course of Kael's 20 year association with the magazine -also made her the most prominent film critic of her time. Kellow's newbiography shows what made Kael tick - namely, her love of the movies. Inreference to her film criticism, Kael once wrote "I'm frequently asked whyI don't write my memoirs. I think I have." Also just out is a 750 pagecollection of Kael's criticism and essays, TheAge of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael (Library of America), edited by Sanford Schwartz. Consider it a companion book, and a kindof alternative biography.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood'sLegendary Director, by Marilyn Ann Moss  (University Press of Kentucky)
Along with Frank Capra and JohnFord, Raoul Walsh (1887-1980) was one of Hollywood'searly mavericks. Walsh's career spanned more than fifty years - from the silentera through the 1960's, and he helped create the American action adventurefilm. Whether directing a swashbuckler, a Western, a gangster film, a war epic,a drama or even a musical, there was often something of a romantic flair aboutWalsh's films - much of which has held up remarkably well. The Thief of Bagdad (1924), What Price Glory? (1926), Sadie Thompson (1928), The Roaring Twenties (1939), Dark Command (1940), They Died with Their Boots On (1941), High Sierra (1941), White Heat (1949) and TheNaked and the Dead (1958) are all his work. Moss's thoroughly researchedbook is both exemplary and groundbreaking, as this is the first full-lengthbiography of a dominant figure in the history of film.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Rin TinTin: The Life and the Legend, by Susan Orlean (Simon &Schuster)
Rin Tin Tin tells the story of the famous canine whowent from an orphaned puppy found on a WWI battlefield in France to anextraordinarily popular Hollywood movie star (so much so he helped save WarnerBros. from bankruptcy and reportedly won an Academy Award) in the silent era tointernational icon and television star in the ensuing decades. Rin Tin Tinis also the poignant exploration of the bond between one man (the lonelyAmerican soldier who found Rinty) and one dog – as well as a history of 20thentertainment and the changing role of dogs in the American society. As such,this book strays from film history to cultural history - but is nevertheless agreat read. In its review, The New York Times Book Review asked“Do dogs deserve biographies?” In Orlean’s hands, the answer is anaffirmative “Bark.”
Some recommended film books published in 2011Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of HaroldLloyd, by John Bengtson (Santa Monica Press)
John Bengtson is anarcheologist of the cinema. And his new book, the last in a trilogy-of-sorts,is a visual excavation of the past. Following books devoted to Buster Keatonand Charlie Chaplin, Silent Visionsnow explores the films of Harold Lloyd. Bengtson’s detailed examination andcomparison of scene stills and screen captures with old maps, city directories,newspapers, photographs and dusty building records (and yes, Google maps too)reveals not only where Lloyd shot films in Los Angeles and New York, but alsohow those two great cities have changed in the meantime. “History is hidden inthe background of films” is this way lawyer by day / film historian by nightput it in a recent interview. Bengtson'snew book is a brilliant then-and-now triumph. Silent Visions includes a foreword by 2010 Academy Award winningfilm historian Kevin Brownlow.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Sitting Pretty: The Life and Times of Clifton Webb, by Clifton Webb and DavidL. Smith (University Press of Mississippi)The never finishedautobiography of one of the top moneymakers at 20th Century Fox, ascompleted by David L. Smith. Though his star has waned in the years since hisdeath, Webb (1889-1966) knew pretty much everyone who was anyone duringHollywood’s golden age. This book makes for interesting reading, and includes aforeword by actor Robert Wagner.

Some recommended film books published in 2011Spencer Tracy: A Biography, by James Curtis (Knopf)

Since his death, Spencer Tracyhas become one of the cinema’s most misunderstood figures and the subject ofunsubstantiated claims, many of which center on the nature of his 26-year,extra-marital relationship with actress Katharine Hepburn. Which is a shame,because Tracy is still considered one of the finest actors in film history Thesturdy, congenial everyman won back-to-back Oscars in 1937 and 1938, and in thecourse of his long career, was nominated for the Best Actor award a record ninetimes. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Tracy among the ten greatestmale stars. Spencer Tracy attempts to set the record straightregarding the stories and legends which have grown up around the actor. Andthat it does in a detailed and definitive manner. This impressive, 1,000 pagebook concludes with a frank appraisal of the bookshelf worth of recentbiographies of Hepburn, many of which the author dismisses.
Some recommended film books published in 2011Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer, by Brian Taves (University Pressof Kentucky)
Ince turned an art form into abusiness. Progressing from actor to screenwriter and director, Incerevolutionized the industry by developing the role of the producer. In additionto building the first major Hollywood studio - dubbed "Inceville,"this industry pioneer and "Father of the Western" had a hand in more than 800 films. Taves chronicles Ince's lifefrom his early days on the stage to his sudden death at a time when he wasabout to join forces with William Randolph Hearst. Taves details Ince's impacton the Hollywood production system, his creation of the first American moviesstarring Asian performers, and his cinematic exploration of the status of women. Until now, Ince (1882-1924), one of the most influential and neglectedof early moguls, had not been the subject of a biography. This authoritativework, scrupulously researched, offers considerable insight. This list was compiled by Book Passage employee Thomas Gladysz, an early film buff and the Director of the Louise Brooks Society, an internet-based archive and international fan club devoted to the legendary silent film star. He has contributed to books on the actress, organized exhibits, appeared on television and radio, and introduced Brooks' films around the world. Last year, he edited and wrote the introduction to the “Louise Brooks Edition” of Margarete Bohme’s The Diary of a Lost Girl.

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