Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on July 7, 2016
Pull up a chair and pour yourself a nice cold glass of something. It’s time for my annual nonfiction Summer Reading Suggestions!
Orson Welles, Volume 3: One Man Band
Besides being a talented actress and TCM’s current Star of the Month, Olivia de Havilland is also an accomplished writer who penned this delightful book that has recently been re-released and includes a new interview with the author. Every Frenchman Has One was originally published in 1962 following a separation from her second husband, the editor of Paris Match, and it details her early exploits in France as an American expat. In this charming, sweet and very funny account, de Havilland comes across as a loving mother who adores her children and her sparkling wit is evident on almost every page.
In 1992, film critic, author and photographer Anne Billson spent a long and absorbing day with director Russ “King of the Nudies” Meyer discussing his life and work. Their lengthy conversation is recorded in this illuminating volume that details Meyer’s career in his own words. Although some of the information and stories Meyer recounts might be familiar to fans, Billson’s intimate access and appreciation of her subject provide a fresh and revealing look at one of America’s most recognizable adult filmmakers. Billson is a great writer and the easy conversational tone makes this a fun and breezy read. It’s bookended by her own observations about the director and his films that made me wish this could be adapted into a biographical film about their day spent together, which included a long drive from Hollywood to Palm Springs, a swimming break and dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Insert a few flashback sequences and film clips, along with some lively narration, and this could easily be transformed into a unique cinematic road trip movie.
Director Stanley Kubrick is often described as a cold director who made technically astute but chilly films. I’ve never understood that shortsighted evaluation, which is beautifully undone in this quirky, touching and immensely readable firsthand account of what it was like to be employed by Kubrick throughout the latter half of the director’s life. The author (Emilio D’Alessandro) was hired as Kubrick’s driver during the making of A Clockwork Orange (1971) but friendship blossomed between the two men and he eventually became the director’s on-call assistant. For the next 29-years, D’Alessandro worked tirelessly doing every task he was asked including feeding Kubrick’s numerous pets and managing set props during the making of Barry Lyndon (1975). His story is as captivating as one of Kubrick’s own films and presents the director as a private, brilliant, driven, demanding and all too human man with a generous heart.
Author Donald Spoto developed a friendship with the Academy Award-winning actress Teresa Wright while he was writing The Art of Alfred Hitchcock in 1974. When Wright died in 2005, Spoto was granted exclusive access to her private papers and letters, which form the basis of this insightful biography. I have always liked Wright, who was welcome presence in many films including Mrs. Miniver (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), but I didn’t know much about her background and personal life. Spoto’s book provides a much-needed first step in appreciation of the talented fresh-faced beauty who seemed to personify the resilient American spirit in her best movies.
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