Archive for the Category »Classic Hollywood Books «

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steele-True 1907-1940

Actress Barbara StanwyckBarbara Stanwyck is my second favorite actress behind only Bette Davis, and as I’ve had the tendency to do with many of the classic movie actors and actresses that I love, I created an image in my mind of what I thought she was like in her personal life based on how I saw her in some of her movies. I even once compared her to comfort food in a review I did of her movie No Man of Her Own to convey the feeling of warmth and familiarity I got when watching her movies. Ah, the silly things I said as a new blogger!

Even though I knew some of the facts about her often times difficult life, reading Victoria Wilson’s book “A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940” was still a bit of an eye opener for me, because I realized that in many ways Barbara was much different from the image I had created in my mind. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and it probably even made the book a more interesting and intriguing read.

Wilson spent close to 15 years doing research for the book, which she wrote with the full cooperation of Stanwyck’s family and friends. She utilized more than two-hundred interviews with actors, directors, cameramen, screenwriters, and costume designers as well as letters, journals, and private papers to create a very comprehensive look into the life and career of one of Hollywood’s most beloved actresses. And at over 1,000 pages (860 pages of text), the book only covers the first part of her career! Which means there’s much more great insight to come in a second volume. Continue reading »

The Un-Book Review: Jimmy Stewart, A Biography

Laptop in classic library

I hate writing reviews! There I said it. Movie reviews, book reviews, it doesn’t matter. I just don’t like doing them.

I know that may sound strange coming from someone who chose to write a blog about movies, but I just don’t think I’m particularly good at them and frankly, I consider doing them to be kind of boring. Don’t even get me started on how I feel about writing out a plot synopsis. :-)

I find that I don’t fully enjoy watching movies or reading books if I constantly have to decide what is or isn’t an important point to cover in a review. I have such a terrible short term memory, that I can’t wait till I’m completely done to do that because I will have forgotten too many of the details by then, but I don’t like taking notes either.

So starting with this post, I will be trying something new with the hopes that I’ll still be able to discuss books and movies in an interesting and informative way without writing formal reviews.

JimmyStewartABiography

I’ve been wanting to read more books about classic movies for a while now, and what better place to start than with a biography about my favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart.

I just started reading “Jimmy Stewart, A Biography” by Marc Eliot, and instead of waiting until I’m done and writing a review, anytime that something really stands out to me in the book, I will try to present it in an interesting way in a short blog post.

I just happened to find something right off the bat on the first page of the book when I read this great quote by actor Thomas Mitchell, “He was the most naturally gifted actor I ever worked with. It was all instinct, all emotion; I don’t think it came from training or technique . . . it came from forces deep within him.”

Thomas Mitchell, who played Uncle Billy opposite Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), is one of only a few actors to have won an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony. I think some people have misconceptions about Jimmy Stewart and don’t realize the true depth he had as an actor, so to read that quote by such a decorated actor really made me happy. :-) It’s my wish that everyone could see those qualities in him.

What is your favorite Jimmy Stewart role?

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Book Review: Hollywood Movie Stills

On the first page of his book, Hollywood Movie Stills: Art and Technique in the Golden Age of the Studios, author Joel Finler says, “They (movie stills taken by studio photographers) are of historical interest as part of the extensive visual record documenting the styles and fashions of the times, the streets, houses and automobiles, the restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas in that tinsel town in sunny California, which claims the title of ‘movie capital of the world.'”

I’ve said it many times, probably to the point of exhaustion for anyone who reads my blog regularly, that one of the main reasons I love old movies is that I am fascinated by real life photos, videos, or depictions of what life was like back in the first half of the twentieth century.

It just happens to be the time period in history I most like to study, so given Joel’s description it was not surprising that his book was right up my alley and one I really enjoyed reading and viewing.

I knew a little bit about movie stills before I read this book, but I didn’t realize just how important of a role they played when movies were being made during the Golden Age of Hollywood and that they still hold much value today several decades later. Continue reading »

Book Review – Behind the Screen Door: Tales from the Hollywood Hills

I was recently offered the chance to take a peak “Behind the Screen Door” and read about the life of Richard Gregson, a Hollywood agent and producer and former husband of Natalie Wood. Even though I had admittedly never heard of him before, I accepted the offer because the book sounded like it would provide an interesting glimpse into life in 1960’s Hollywood.

The 1960’s are not necessarily my favorite decade for movies, but I do enjoy hearing about the social scene from that time period, like for instance, stories about Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Just looking at this cool picture of the group standing in front of The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas makes me wish I could take a trip back in time and be a part of that scene.

As Richard Gregson discussed some of his encounters with Frank Sinatra and his relationship with Natalie Wood, the book did at times bring me back to where I could imagine myself being there with him as he socialized with some of Hollywood’s elite. However, that is not the main thing I took away from reading this book. Besides learning a lot about the ins and outs of working as one of Hollywood’s top agents, I also took away a couple of lessons that I think anyone can learn from and apply to their life. Continue reading »

Harlow in Hollywood: Inside the Life of a Blonde Bombshell

If you are a lover of classic movies, I don’t think you can ever go wrong reading a biography of a classic film star, even if you’re not that person’s biggest fan. Well, that’s provided the author isn’t trying to sensationalize or trivialize the person’s life in any way. In that case, I’d definitely advise you to steer clear. However, if you can be relatively certain that the author’s intentions are noble, then I think there are many great reasons to read classic movie star biographies.

Back in March when I participated in a Jean Harlow blogathon, I found out that a book about Jean Harlow was about to be published. I discovered that the book, “Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937″, was a beautifully illustrated biography of the star being released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth as well as the start of an exhibit of Jean Harlow memorabilia at The Hollywood Museum in California. Continue reading »