Movie Book Round-Up: The Holiday Edition


Since I began writing for the Movie Morlocks five years ago I typically compile a blog post with summer reading suggestions or a list of favorite film related books released at the end of the year. This year I’ve had access to so many great books that I decided to compile two book lists.

My first was “Midsummer Reading Suggestions” where I covered The Lives of Robert Ryan, Sex, Sadism, Spain, and Cinema: The Spanish Horror Film, Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind, So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films and Audrey (Hepburn) at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen along with other titles. What follows is my “Holiday Edition” where I share some of the best books (pictured above) that I’ve encountered since July. I hope both lists will encourage you to do some reading during the holidays or provide you with some shopping suggestions while you’re purchasing gifts for fellow film buffs.

b1The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks by Tracey Goessel

I mentioned Goessel’s exceptional biography a few weeks ago in a post titled “Life Advice from Douglas Fairbanks” but this superbly researched biography deserves another shout-out. Goessel, who is founder of the Los Angeles Film Preservation Society and on the board of directors of San Francisco’s Silent Film Festival, obviously loves her subject but her clear-headed prose paint a complex and engaging portrait of one of Hollywood’s original superstars and arguably the first movie action hero. The actor cuts a dashing figure on the page as well as the screen and his numerous love letters to his wife and fellow actress, Mary Pickford, are the stuff of storybook romances. However, the “First King of Hollywood” is no angel and we also get a look at the troubled relationship he had with his son (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) as well as the jealous temperament and controlling behavior that eventually led to his divorce from “America’s Sweetheart”.

b2FELLINI: The Sixties (Turner Classic Movies) by Manoah Bowman

I previously wrote about my love for the films Fellini made during the sixties in a post titled “Federico Fellini: The Cartoonist” and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to get your hands on a copy of FELLINI: The Sixties that was recently published by Turner Classic Movies and Running Press. This lavish coffee table tome features a lively introduction from Fellini starlet Anita Ekberg and is chock-full of beautiful color and black and white photos that demonstrate the beauty and surreal humor that is echoed in the director’s best films. All of Fellini’s sixties films are covered including La dolce Vita (1961), Boccaccio ’70 (1962), 8 ½ (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Spirits of the Dead (1968) and Fellini Satyricon (1969) and they’re accompanied by detailed information about each production as well as revealing quotes from the people Fellini worked with. I’m a TCM employee so my review might be slightly biased but I do think this is a genuine treat for those of us who appreciate sixties cinema. Viva Fellini!

b3Pamela Tiffin Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 by Tom Lisanti

Pamela Tiffin has always fascinated me. The stunning brunette was a scene stealer in a number of movies including One, Two, Three (1961), Summer and Smoke (1961), Come Fly with Me (1963), The Pleasure Seekers (1964), For Those Who Think Young (1964) and Harper (1966). Her natural beauty, great comedic timing, effortless grace and genuine charm should have guaranteed her plenty of fame and acclaim but today she’s largely forgotten. In his latest book, film historian Tom Lisanti sets out to discover what happened to Tiffin and why her star may not have risen as high as it should have. Lisanti typically focuses on overlooked and unsung actresses of the sixties so Tiffin was a perfect subject for his meticulous research and engaging writing style. The book also contains plenty of juicy gossip about the ins-and-outs of Hollywood during the swinging sixties that I found highly entertaining. Overall, this is a lovely tribute to an actress that James Cagney (who worked with Tiffin in Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three) once compared to Carol Lombard, Kay Kendall and Lucille Ball.

b4Continental Strangers: German Exile Cinema, 1933-1951 by Gerd Gemünden

Thanks to the recent release of Thomas Doherty‘s Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 and Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration there seems to be a growing interest in Hollywood’s relationship with Germany before, during and after World War 2. Continental Strangers: German Exile Cinema, 1933-1951 is another addition to this growing area of research that provides an astute analysis of how German film professionals such as Edgar G. Ulmer, William Dieterle, Ernst Lubitsch, Bertolt Brecht, Fritz Lang and Peter Lorre (pictured on the book’s cover) took refuge in Hollywood during the thirties and forties. These talented individuals fled Hitler for the sun-drenched hills of Hollywood where they made films that directly or indirectly articulated their exile, immigration, political fears and anti-fascist beliefs. Gemünden‘s book broadens the authorship of their films arguing that the studios, producers and other influences helped to shape their creative output due to the censorship in Hollywood as well as other important factors. His research is buoyed by providing comprehensive background information on a number of productions including The Life of Emile Zola (1937), The Black Cat (1934), To Be or Not to Be (1942), Hangmen Also Die (1943) and Der Verlorene (1951).

b5Time and Place Are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki by Tom Vick

Seijun Suzuki is one of my favorite living directors and at age 92 he remains one of Japanese cinema’s most vital and influential figures. For a number of reasons, including language barriers, cultural differences and minimal appreciation and understanding of his work at home and abroad, there has been very little published about the man and his films in English. Time and Place Are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki is the first book-length study of the director’s life and work providing a thought-provoking examination of his highly stylized and controversial filmmaking techniques. Those who are familiar with Suzuki should appreciate Vick’s enthusiasm for his subject, which was formed while organizing Asian film retrospectives and series for the Smithsonian Institute. If you are unfamiliar with the director’s work I suggest starting with the films first and working your way back to Vick’s research and assessment.

b6Independent Stardom: Freelance Women In The Hollywood Studio System by Emily Carman

It’s commonly assumed that Hollywood starlets from the studio era were manufactured and groomed by powerful film producers and Svengali-like directors who controlled their every move. First-time author Emily Carman disputes that with her carefully researched study, Independent Stardom: Freelance Women In The Hollywood Studio System, demonstrating that many actresses such as Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Janet Gaynor and Miriam Hopkins were able to negotiate their own contracts by working as freelance actors who weren’t beholden to any particular studio. The book presents a persuasive portrait of these talented performers as self-reliant woman who created their own public personas by dictating the directors, writers, photographers and stylists they worked with. Readers who enjoyed TCM’s recent Trailblazing Women programming should find this book particularly interesting as it offers a new way to appreciate women’s contributions to Hollywood’s rich history.

b7Bela Lugosi in Person by Bill Kaffenberger & Gary D. Rhodes

Bela Lugosi in Person is the latest book by Lugosi experts Gary D. Rhodes (No Traveler Returns: The Lost Years of Bela Lugosi, Bela Lugosi – Dreams and Nightmares, Tod Browning’s Dracula, White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film, Etc.) and Bill Kaffenberger documenting the actor’s many live public performances and appearances between 1931 and 1945. The author’s thorough research provides new insight on Lugosi’s extensive career on stage in three-act plays, in vaudeville and variety shows that is accompanied by many photos and archive materials enriching our understanding and appreciation of Lugosi’s talent. Highly recommended to classic horror film buffs, Lugosi fanatics and anyone who is curious about stage acting and live performance during the thirties and forties. The book also boasts a nice cover design by artist Michael Kronenberg who I interviewed for the Movie Morlocks back in July.

b8Bond by Design: The Art of the James Bond Films

For more than 50 years, the production design team behind the successful James Bond franchise has been working tirelessly behind the scenes helping to create some of the worlds most entertaining and innovative big screen experiences. Archive Director Meg Simmons has opened up the historic vaults at Bond-centric EON Productions to present a firsthand look at their work that includes storyboard reproductions, costume sketches, room and vehicle designs and impressive matte paintings beginning in 1962 with Dr. No and ending with the most recent Bond film, Spectre (2015). This sizable coffee table book is illuminating reading for Bond fans as well as anyone who is interested in the ins and outs of production design. The book also includes two contains two colorful prints that are suitable for framing.

b9William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Films to Come by James Curtis

Anyone interested in production design should also pick up a copy of James Curtis‘s William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Films. This is the first biography of Menzies, who was the original winner of the first-ever Academy Award for Art Direction in 1928 due to his joint work on The Dove (1927) and Tempest (1928). Today he’s probably best remembered for his celebrated work on Gone with the Wind (1939) but the book reminds us that Menzies’s labored on over 120 films as a production designer, director, producer and writer while collaborating with many notable talents including D. W. Griffith, Raoul Walsh, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, W. C. Fields, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, John Barrymore, Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and Ingrid Bergman. Relying on family papers, personal correspondence and extensive research, author James Curtis provides an extensive look at a talented, troubled and complex man who often toiled tirelessly in the shadow of his contemporaries.

6 Responses Movie Book Round-Up: The Holiday Edition
Posted By John : December 3, 2015 9:07 pm

Do you know if James Curtis will be hosting TCM’s January spotlight on William Cameron Menzies?

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : December 3, 2015 9:48 pm

I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question, John but if I find out any information I’ll post it here.

Posted By George : December 4, 2015 9:37 pm

If you’re in the Nashville area, head to the Belcourt theater where a Suzuki retrospective is in progress:

Posted By George : December 4, 2015 9:44 pm

Kimberly: I’ve also been fascinated by Pamela Tiffin, ever since I saw HARPER a few decades ago. I’ve also wondered what became of her, and why she stopped acting. (The IMDb lists no credits for her after 1989; it seems she spent considerable time in Italy, judging from her filmography.)

Posted By swac44 : December 7, 2015 1:42 pm

When Suzuki’s films first came to my attention (thank you, Criterion laserdiscs!), there was precious little available on him on these shores, and those two titles, Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill were real eye-openers. There’s been more since, and more of his films released in North America, every one of them as fascinating as the last. That Vick book is going on my wish list for sure.

Now I just wish I was in Nashville…

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : January 3, 2016 11:43 pm

Just dropping by to let John know that James Curtis, author or William Cameron Menzies: The Shape of Films to Come, is going to be hosting TCM’s Spotlight on Menzies throughout Jan. I’ll discuss the topic at further length in an upcoming blog post.

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