Summer Reading Suggestions

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Pull up a chair and pour yourself a nice cold glass of something. It’s time for my annual nonfiction Summer Reading Suggestions!

book4Orson Welles, Volume 3: One Man Band
by Simon Callow

The third volume in Simon Callow’s ongoing in-depth look at Orson Welles was recently released in the U.S. and if you haven’t had a chance to read the previous volumes I highly recommend making time for them. Callow, an accomplished British actor and author, is a wonderful writer who treats Welles with awe and reverence without ignoring the celebrated artist’s faults and foibles. Callow’s own experience on screen and on stage allows him to engage with Welles on a personal level that humanizes his subject. Despite the author’s passionate approach and knack for storytelling, the books contain a wealth of history, scholarly information as well and interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes that make them a genuine treat for film buffs. But unlike so many other director biographies, this is not a dry read and can be savored on its own terms thanks to Callow’s ability to turn a phrase that packs a poetic punch.

book1Every Frenchman Has One
by Olivia de Havilland

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.

book5Breast Man: A Conversation with Russ Meyer
by Anne Billson

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.

book3Stanley Kubrick and Me: Thirty Years at His Side
by Emilio D’Alessandro with Filippo Ulivieri

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.

book2A Girl’s Got to Breathe: The Life of Teresa Wright
by Donald Spoto

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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11 Responses Summer Reading Suggestions
Posted By Steve Burrus : July 7, 2016 6:04 pm

Kim as somepone who feels l.ike Kubrick could do no wrong with every movie he ever “helmed” I am “dying” to read that book you metioned on him.

Posted By Susan Doll : July 7, 2016 6:23 pm

Though I have always appreciated O dH, I have become more interested recently. Like her, I would love to retire in Paris. I will have to track down her book for sure. I always appreciate your recommendations.

Posted By Ben Martin : July 7, 2016 6:39 pm

Hmm – Which do I grab first. You make each one sound so enticing and entertaining. Thanks for the rundown.
I think I’ll start with A Girl’s Got to Breath: the Art of Teresa Wright.

Posted By Emgee : July 7, 2016 6:56 pm

“behind-the-scenes antidotes” I’m guessing those are anecdotes, unless Welles had a medical condition i was unaware of.
Joking aside: i was wondering for a long time which Welles biography to for, since there are several. But “a genuine treat for film buffs” sounds good enough for me.

Posted By George : July 7, 2016 8:29 pm

Good to see a bio of Teresa Wright, instead of yet another Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford or Marilyn Monroe book. What’s left to say about those four? We might actually learn something new in a book about Wright.

Posted By Arthur : July 7, 2016 10:45 pm

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES was so refreshingly realistic and down-to-earth dealing with real issues, it is as if it was made in a wholly unknown era in filmmaking.

SHADOW OF A DOUBT was a masterpiece. She was great in both.

Posted By swac44 : July 13, 2016 2:56 pm

I have heard nothing but great things about Callow’s Orson Welles books, I’m sure his later years are just as fascinating to read about as his Mercury Theatre/Citizen Kane heyday.

I would love to see a movie about Meyer, talk about larger than life. I only just learned recently that Meyer provided the inspiration for The Dirty Dozen, when he told the story of the original criminal commandos to author E.M. Nathanson, whose book became the basis for the Robert Aldrich movie. Meyer filmed them in training while in the camera corps in the Second World War, but outside of that their mission wasn’t generally well known.

As for Kubrick, here’s an interesting personal side note: a friend of mine purchased an old Mercedes that he tracked back to its original owner, Stanley Kubrick, from around the time between A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon. He even checked the VIN number with Kubrick’s estate to confirm it. Presumably it’s not much of a stretch to assume that Emilio D’Alessandro also drove it at some point. I’m not sure if it was kept in storage or what, but when my friend took possession of the car, there was an old UK cassette of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory under the driver’s seat. I wonder if Bowie’s music and persona provided some “Clockwork” inspiration?

Posted By swac44 : July 13, 2016 2:59 pm

Oh yeah, if they ever make a film about Kubrick, I know a fine actor who is a dead ringer for the director, Denis Menochet, currently starring in the terrific UK crime series Spotless, about two brothers whose crime scene cleanup business gets increasingly complex when they take on some difficult clients. It’s on Netflix, and highly addictive.

Menochet would be a shoo-in to play Kubrick, if he can tackle the Brooklyn accent. Take a look:

http://images.telerama.fr/medias/2015/03/media_124031/serierama-21-denis-menochet-de-spotless,M204773.jpg

Posted By Emgee : July 13, 2016 6:50 pm

“I wonder if Bowie’s music and persona provided some “Clockwork” inspiration?”

It certainly was the other way around; Bowie used music from A Clockwork Orange to open the early Ziggy Stardust concerts.

Posted By swac44 : July 13, 2016 6:57 pm

That makes total sense, Emgee! Although I’m guessing England’s feuding mods and rockers (Bowie was a bright star of the former style-conscious clan, although only marginally known before Space Oddity) also inspired the droogs of the film to some degree. The book predates the mod/rocker era slightly, although their forerunners, the ducktailed teddy boys, were certainly in full force when Burgess wrote it.

Posted By Emgee : July 13, 2016 7:38 pm

Very true, and as you recall they beat up other gang members dressed as Hells Angels-type rockers.

Another rock connection: Mick Jagger wanted to film it in the 60′s with the Stones as Alex and his gang.

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