Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache

"Here is a woman who helped invent cinema, and there is a silence around her. It's absolutely intolerable and even stupid that we can't see these films." - Nicole Lise Bernheim, circa 1975

I’ve heard it said many times that we must preserve Alice Guy-Blache’s legacy. I didn’t fully appreciate the weight of this statement until I saw Pamela B. Green’s documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache. This early filmmaking pioneer was present for the birth of cinema and helped shaped it at its very inception. She wrote, produced and directed and used filmmaking techniques such as close-ups, tinted color, synchronized sound, double exposure and various special effects that would become essential to filmmakers in the silent film era and beyond. She worked with various studios and in 1910 co-founded Solax Studios in Fort Lee, NJ with her husband Herbert Blache and business partner George A. Magie. After two decades of work and a thousand films, she disappeared from the industry and was mostly forgotten. In the years that followed and as film history was taken more seriously, Guy-Blache’s contributions were not recognized in the same way as her peers, including other women filmmakers like Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner. Her legacy fell victim to deceit and the spread of misinformation. At the end of her life, she fought to set the record straight on many matters and her daughter Simone Blache even published her memoirs. But history still threatened to forget Guy-Blache forever. What needed to change? Her surviving films needed to be found, restored, viewed, studied and discussed. The more we learn about Alice Guy-Blache and her work, the better we can maintain an accurate depiction of the early days of cinema and the people who made it all happen.

Be Natural takes an investigative approach as it explores Alice Guy-Blache’s life and career, uncovers information, seeks out family members and interviews contemporary filmmakers in an effort to give Guy-Blache the recognition she deserves. The documentary employs mixed media visuals, archival photographs, interview footage with Guy-Blache from the late 1950s and the early 1960s. The film is narrated by Jodi Foster who also served as executive producer. While I was watching the film I thought to myself that this would be just the sort of project that Hugh Hefner would have invested in and I was right! He was also an executive producer along with Robert Redford and Regina K. Scully among others. There are so many talking heads in this documentary that it’s a bit overwhelming. Some discuss Guy-Blache at length and others appear for just a quick soundbite. Filmmakers featured include Peter Bogdanovich, Geena Davis, Agnes Varda, Diablo Cody, Ben Kingsley, Ava DuVernay, Kathleen Turner, Gillian Armstrong, Janeane Garofalo, etc. There are also interviews with family members, historians, professors, authors and archivists. Classic film enthusiasts will recognize some familiar faces including Kevin Brownlow, Anthony Slide, Cari Beauchamp and Jan-Christopher Horak. The documentary was inspired by Alison McMahan’s book Alice Guy Blache, Lost Visionary of the Cinema and director/producer Pamela B. Green established a Be Natural research team who did the investigative work on the film.

The documentary is choppy and jumps around a lot. Sometimes at a dizzying pace. I wish it could have slowed down and taken its time a bit. That doesn’t diminish the documentary’s importance which is profound. The film speaks to those of us who believe in the preservation of history and the acknowledgment of great works of those who have since passed on. Time and neglect can erase history and its up to us to speak Alice Guy-Blache’s name, to watch her films and to let future generations know about her story. Be Natural leads the charge in the name of Alice Guy-Blache.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache is a profoundly important and enlightening documentary on an early filmmaking pioneer that time threatened to forget.

screens in select theaters this summer and fall. Visit the official website for more information. The film will be available on digital July 23rd and DVD August 20th from Kino Lorber.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin
A Hollywood Memoir
by Victoria Riskin
Hardcover ISBN: ISBN 9781524747282
February 2019
416 pages

AmazonBarnes and Noble Powells

"My mother had a pioneer resilience, a vulnerability, a need for admiration... she never expected life to magically take care of her." - Victoria Riskin 
"[My father] was a private man who expressed his deeply held values and philosophy largely through his writing." - Victoria Riskin

In Victoria Riskin's new book Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir she paints a portrait of her two talented parents who were integral members of early Hollywood history in their own unique ways. Alternating chapters tell parallel stories of the actress and the screenwriter  There were a few bumps in the road before they began their romance amidst the backdrop of WWII. Wray and Riskin raised three children together, Susan from Wray's previous marriage and two fathered by Riskin, Robert Riskin Jr. and the youngest Victoria, whose name was inspired by America's victory in the war. Their romance was cut short when Riskin suffered a series of debilitating strokes of which he would never fully recover. He passed away in 1955 and Wray would outlive him for nearly a half century.

"She was at ease, often sparkling and impish, or graceful and guileless, beautiful and confident." - Victoria Riskin

Fay Wray is best known for her iconic role as Ann Darrow in King Kong (1933). The legacy of that performance would overshadow all of her other work which was vast in range. She started off in Hollywood as a teenager making silent comedies and two-reel Westerns. Eventually she graduated to meatier parts and leading roles in films like Erich von Stroheim's The Wedding March (1926). A successful transition into talking picture saw her a plethora of Pre-codes including Doctor X (1932) and The Most Dangerous Game (1932). Wray was a founding member of the Screen Actor's Guild and active in the community. She met and fell in love with John Monk Saunders, Hollywood screenwriter best known for his work on Wings (1927). The two had a tumultuous marriage that ended in a bitter divorce. Saunders' life had been spiraling out of control for years and he eventually committed suicide. They had one daughter Susan, later adopted by Wray's second husband Riskin. Wray stopped working during WWII to focus on her family and supporting the war effort. It wasn't until Riskin's stroke that she returned to work. In the 1950s her career saw her in films such as Hell on Frisco Bay (1955) and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). She worked in TV as well until she retired in 1965 only to return once in the 1980s.

"Writer and director each make a unique and invaluable contribution. One has the story to tell and the other a way to tell it. Each can make the other better." - Victoria Riskin

Robert Riskin arrived in Hollywood 1930 via Broadway where he brought his unique talents story development, character building and dialogue. According to Victoria Riskin, her father's films "reflected love for his characters, especially the ordinary people he cared about and the smart, independent women who were equal to- at least equal to-the men they were paired with." Under the helm of Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures, Riskin collaborated with director Frank Capra. The Riskin-Capra partnership gave birth to many successful projects including Lady for a Day (1933), It Happened One Night (1934) You Can't Take It with You (1938)  Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Meet John Doe (1941). During WWII, Riskin worked for the United States Office of War Information and wrote and produced many propaganda films to help American war efforts. Riskin was a founding member of the Writer's Guild of America West and worked up until his debilitating stroke in 1950.

Robert Riskin and Fay Wray

Wray and Riskin's paths crossed various times throughout their careers but it wasn't until they attended a Christmas party hosted by actor Richard Barthelmess that a romance sparked between the two. On their first date they saw The Grapes of Wrath (1939) together. Wray was involved with Clifford Odets at the time but once that ended and WWII began the two found each other again and married on August 23rd, 1942.

Their youngest daughter Victoria Riskin has worked as a psychiatrist and a human rights activist. She wrote and produced movies for television and following in her father's footsteps she joined the Writer's Guild of America West and later served as president. In her book, she writes about her parents in glowing terms but isn't afraid to take a step back to criticize actions she didn't agree with.
Books written by family members have a natural bias and should be taken with a grain of salt. Riskin backs up her claims with examples and facts. The author's familial connection with her subjects is also a bonus for the reader because it gives us access to information that might have been available otherwise including family stories, personal letters and archival photos.

I enjoyed reading Riskin's wartime love letters to Wray and the author's stories of growing up in the Wray-Riskin household. Plenty of behind-the-scenes stories add richness to the text. The book is a memoir but also a "life and times" type of book and the author provides lots of context of the different eras (silent, Pre-Code, Great Depression, WWII, blacklist, etc.) and of key figures who orbited Wray and Riskin's world including Frank Capra, Harry Cohn, Jo and Flo Swerling, Merian Cooper, Dolores del Rio, etc. There are insights into Wray's complicated relationship with King Kong and the author's own reaction to seeing the film for the first time which I found very illuminating. The alternating chapters switch from Wray to Riskin and back but follow their lives in chronological order.

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir is an engrossing and informative book written by a more than capable storyteller. Readers will find much to enjoy within the pages of this memoir. It does require some level of interest in Hollywood history to full appreciate the book but chances are if you're visiting my blog you already fall into that category. Watch my book review video for some additional thoughts on the book and how it's structured.

Thank you to Pantheon Books for sending me an advanced reader's copy of the book for review.

This is my second review for the Summer Reading Challenge.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Madame X (1966)

"The moments of love are the only ones that matter." - Madame X 

Directed by David Lowell Rich, Madame X (1966) is one in a long line of frothy soap operas that delivers a good old-fashioned sob story. This film pulls out all the stops and leaves nothing behind in an effort to put its viewers' emotions through the wringer. It stars Lana Turner as Holly, later known as Madame X. She starts out as a happy woman, still beaming with that newlywed glow, but over the years her life slowly spirals out of control and she loses everything; her family, her identity and her will to live. Holly is married to Clay Anderson (John Forsythe), an upstart politician with big aspirations for his career. They live at the Anderson family mansion in Fairfield County, Connecticut with Estelle (Constance Bennett, in her final role), the glamorous matriarch who secretly hates her new daughter-in-law. Holly and Clay have a son, Clay Jr., and as Clay's work takes him abroad, Holly finds herself alone and neglected. She seeks solace in the arms of playboy Phil Benton (Ricardo Montalban). When tragedy strikes, Estelle finally finds a way to get rid of Holly from the Anderson family's life for good. Holly is given a new identity and a new life and any semblance of happiness becomes a thing of the past.

To tell you any more about Holly's story and the other characters who come into her life would be to spoil some major plot points. The fascination with Madame X/Holly's story is how many twists and turns it takes. Many men come into her life refusing to take no for an answer including her husband Clay (John Forsythe), her lover Phil (Ricardo Montalban), her Swiss rescuer Christian (John Van Dreelen), her blackmailer Dan (Burgess Meredith) and finally her grown son Clay Jr. (Keir Dullea). She's the pawn in a very cruel game of life and shows just how ugly it can be.

Madame X is one of many adaptations of French writer Alexandre Bisson's 1908 play La Femme X. Film adaptations began in 1916 and over the years it's been remade or has loosely inspired stories. There is a Madame X (1920) with Pauline Frederick, Madame X (1929) with Ruth Chatterton, Madame X (1937) with Gladys George and a 1981 TV adaptation starring Tuesday Weld. By the mid 1960s, the story had long been a property of MGM. When producer Ross Hunter procured the rights to adapt Bisson's play once again to film, he brought the property with him to Universal. He wanted it brought up to date for 1966 and screenwriter Jean Holloway was assigned to work on the script. Hunter had his eye on Douglas Sirk to direct but that plan fell through and David Lowell Rich, who went on to become known for his disaster films, was assigned to the project.

This was a nice plum role for its star Lana Turner. Over the course of the story she undergoes several transformations starting out as a glamorous blonde dressed in Jean Louis gowns and draped in jewels by David Webb and furs provided by Ben Kahn. As we follow Holly's story her look changes to reflect her changes in identity, her downward spiral and the passing of years. Turner effectively plays the character who eventually becomes known as Madame X because she will not say her own name to protect her loved ones. This character suffers one injustice after another and essentially carries the burden of the world on her shoulders. It can be too much even for a melodrama.

Madame X is worth watching for the fine cast of performers but the story is tiresome. There is no respite from all the suffering Holly has to go through and that made me feel exhausted by the end of that 1 hour and 40 minute journey.

The opening sequence and some of the early scenes were shot at the Anderson Estate in Holmby Hills, California. The Gothic Tudor style estate was built in 1927. 5 years after Madame X was filmed it was purchased by Hugh Hefner upon his girlfriend Barbi Benton's encouragement. It was later transformed into the Playboy Mansion. In season 5, episode 1 of the reality show Girls Next Door, Hugh Hefner shows the film to his girlfriends Holly, Bridget and Kendra and explains how the driveway was shot repeatedly to make it seem like it was longer than it was. In the film, we see the opening gate, the driveway, the mansion and a couple other areas of the estate. The interiors were shot at Universal.

Madame X (1966) is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is a must especially if you want to take in the film in all of its Technicolor glory. It includes brand new audio commentary by film historians Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood, English subtitles, the film's theatrical trailer as well as various other Kino Lorber trailers.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Madame X (1966) for review.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Professional Sweetheart (1933)

"I want to sin and suffer. But right now I only suffer." - Glory

Miss Glory Eden (Ginger Rogers), aka The Purity Girl, is a radio sensation. Ipswich (Gregory Ratoff), the owner of the Ippsie Wippsie Wash Cloth Company, which runs their own sponsored radio station, is desperate to lock down Glory with a brand new contract. But Glory has other ideas. As the baby-voiced model of purity and innocence, the management team tightly controls her public image. Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) is in charge of Glory's wardrobe and diet and Ipswich's cohorts including his right-hand men Speed (Frank McHugh) and Winston (Frank Darien) do his bidding to protect their collective property. Glory is jealous of her maid Vera (Theresa Harris) who has a boyfriend and goes out dancing at night clubs in Harlem. Glory wants to live life on her terms! Complicating matters is Ipswich's rival the Kelsey Dish Rag Co. who wants to steal Glory away from them and sends agent O'Connor (Allen Jenkins) off to sabotage Ipswich's plans. So the Ippsie Wippsie crew comes up with a plan. They want to get Glory a beau. They zero in on Jim (Norman Foster), a simple country man from Kentucky who was plucked out of a batch of prospective fan letters. They bring him to New York City and thus starts the media circus of publicity stunts that journalists, including the clueless Elmerada (Zasu Pitts) and mid-mannered Stu (Sterling Holloway), just lap up. No one stops to think what Glory really wants... except for Jim. Will Glory find true happiness in the midst of all of this chaos?

Professional Sweetheart (1933) was directed by William A. Seiter for RKO. The story was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, best known for her stage play Chicago. This Ginger Rogers' first film for RKO and later that year she signed her own contract with them. Norman Foster was loaned out from Fox to play the leading man.

The biggest draw for me to this film was the cast. There were so many of my favorites crammed into one 79 minute movie: Ginger Rogers, Theresa Harris, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins, Zasu Pitts and Sterling Holloway. Wow! My perennial favorite Akim Tamiroff has a small role as the hotel waiter who takes Frank Pangborn's elaborate food order.

Speaking of food, I love to see how it's represented in early films. I was delighted with one scene in particular when characters discuss what they'd like to order from the hotel room service.

What Glory (Ginger Rogers) wants to order: caviar, lobster in wine, avocado salad, champagne, fruit salad with whipped cream, nuts and maraschino cherries
What Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) orders for Glory: breast of young chicken on whole wheat toast with no mayonnaise, unsalted butter, baked apples with cream (certified not pasteurized), cocoa (not chocolate).
What Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) orders for himself: caviar, Lobster Thermidor, avocado salad, fruit salad with whipped cream, nuts and maraschino cherries, chocolate ice cream, hot fudge sauce and marshmallow cake.
What Speed (Frank McHugh) orders for Elmerada (Zasu Pitts) to delay her: Baked Alaska (because it takes 20 minutes to make.)

"You don't kiss like you look." - Glory

Professional Sweetheart warns viewers of the dangers of treating humans like commodities although it wraps up nicely in the end. Glory as a character can be insufferable with her spoiled behavior and tantrums. She wasn't winning any points from me with her blatant distaste for books. But you can't help sympathize with her. She just wants her personal freedom. That's something everyone deserves.

The film spices things up by featuring Ginger Rogers in various states of undress giving it some Pre-Code flavor. Allen Jenkins is probably the most suave I've ever seen him in a film role. As O'Connor he uses his knowledge of romantic relationships, women ("I know dames backwards.") and business to manipulate the different characters.

Unfortunately the racism in this film is quite palpable. The management team clearly wants to appeal to a conservative white audience ("It doesn't look good to the corn belt."). When they search for Glory's prospective beau they make it clear that he has to be as white and pure as possible. Especially after Glory has expressed her desire to visit Harlem. Frank McHugh's Speed travels to "Home of the Purest Anglo-Saxons" to find Jim (Norman Foster).

Theresa Harris has a marvelous role as Glory's maid and friend Vera. Glory wants Vera's lifestyle as a young woman living it up in New York City. Both Harris and her character get the shaft. Harris has a substantial role, even more so than Sterling Holloway who only speaks a few lines and gets on screen credit where Harris remains uncredited. Vera is Glory's superior when it comes to her singing skills and we get one glorious scene where Vera takes over Glory's show delivering a sexier and more adult voice over the waves. Vera disappears shortly after as the story wraps up in Glory's favor.

Professional Sweetheart (1933) is a lighthearted Pre-Code with a fantastic cast and a lot of charm. It suffers from the trappings of the era most notably in the depiction of gender and race.

Professional Sweetheart (1933) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection and can be purchased at the WB Shop. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thank you!

This is the film's DVD debut. George, D.W. and Matt of the Warner Archive Podcast discuss this film in the January episode Jungle Kings, Giants and Jokers.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of Professional Sweetheart (1933).

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Alice Howell Collection

Distilled Love (1920)

Ben Model's Undercrank Productions has released The Alice Howell collection, a two DVD set featuring 12 short films from master silent film comedienne Alice Howell. A mix of screwball and slapstick comedies, Howell knew how to entertain audiences with her knack for physical comedy, her amusing expressions and signature look. Model offers the following description:

"The character that she had developed was a slightly addled working-class girl with a round Kewpie-doll face topped off with a mountain of frizzy hair piled high on her head."

Howell reminds me a lot of British comedienne and actress Dawn French. As as a silent film star Howell pretty much stands on her own. Howell's career began when she and her husband relocated to California when he fell ill. Howell found work as an extra for Mack Sennett's Keystone Film Company. She eventually graduated from extra to supporting cast to leading lady. In addition to Keystone she also worked for L-Ko Komedy, Century Comedies, Emerald Film Co., Reelcraft and Universal. 

Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917)

The shorts in The Alice Howell Collection have been digitally remastered from 35mm and 16mm print. Sources include the Library of Congress, the BFI National Archive, the Danish Film Institute among others. Each film is presented with an original musical score written and performed by Ben Model himself. A brief intro explains what's been done to restore each film and points out any missing scenes/reels, title cards or notable damage. The films are all offered in the best presentation possible making this collection of early comedies well worth the investment of any silent film enthusiast.

The films in the set include: 

Disc One:
Shot in The Excitement (1914) 
Father Was a Loafer (1915) 
Under New Management (1915) 
How Stars Are Made (1916) 
Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917) 
In Dutch (1918)

Disc Two:
Distilled Love (1920) 
His Wooden Leg-acy (1920) 
Her Lucky (1920) 
Cinderella Cinders (1920) 
A Convict's Happy Bride (1920) 
Under a Spell (1925)

I didn't know anything about Alice Howell until I received this set and she's been a delightful discovery. My favorite shorts in the set include the boozy and whacky adventure comedy Distilled Love (1920) which features Oliver Hardy in a very early role, the madcap screwball comedy where Howell has triplets (in addition to her four kids) and her loser husband tries to abandon the family with hilarious results Father Was a Loafer (1915) and the backstage comedy (with an explosive ending!) where Howell pretends to be an actress to appear on promotional float How Stars Are Made (1916). Other notable films include Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917) which is the only surviving film of the six shorts she made with Century Comedies and His Wooden Leg-acy (1920), one of several films Howell made in Chicago and is a side-splitting rags to riches to rags tale.

Alice Howell was a daredevil comedian and some of the stunts she did in the film are as impressive now as they were back then. She's largely forgotten today but is well overdue for a comeback. If you've never heard of Howell but love silent comedies or you're a well-established fan, you need to get your hands on this set!

Thank you to Ben Model for sending me a copy of this set for review!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

EXCLUSIVE! Cover Reveal: Cinematic Cities: New York: The Big Apple on the Big Screen

I'm happy to be partnering with TCM and Running Press for this exclusive cover reveal. That's right! You are seeing the cover of their upcoming book here first. 


Cinematic Cities: New York: The Big Apple on the Big Screen
by Christian Blauvelt
On Sale November 5th, 2019
Hardcover ISBN:9780762495429
168 pages
TCM and Running Press

Official Description:

For armchair travelers, film buffs, tourists, and city dwellers alike, Turner Classic Movies takes you on a one-of-a-kind tour of the cinematic sites of New York City.

Highlighting the great films set in the Big Apple since the dawn of cinema to the present, Cinematic Cities: New York City is both a trove of information including behind-the-scenes stories and trivia, and a practical guide full of tips on where to go, eat, drink, shop, and sleep to follow along the path of your favorite films set in NYC. Organized by neighborhood and featuring photographs and illustrated maps throughout, this is a love letter to the city and a one-of-a-kind history of the movies. Featured films and locations include The Godfather, The Seven Year Itch, King Kong, North by Northwest, On the Town, West Side Story, When Harry Met Sally, the films of Woody Allen, and scores of others.

Pre-Order @ AmazonBarnes and Noble

What do you think? I love filming locations and am excited to check this book out. And I'm hoping there will be a Boston one in the future!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Dynamic Dames by Sloan De Forest

Dynamic Dames
50 Leading Ladies Who Made History
by Sloan De Forest
Foreword by Julie Newmar
TCM and Running Press
Hardcover ISBN: 9780762465507
248 pages
July 2019

AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

"Dynamic Dames share an X-factor; they transcend the narrow confines of their gender role, whether by taking small steps or revolutionary strides. Each of these 50 women, in her unique way, is an architect of her own destiny." - Sloan De Forest

Sometimes a book comes into your life that you didn't know you needed until you start reading. And when you do things start to fall into place. That's Dynamic Dames for me. Film historian and author's Sloan De Forest delivers with this captivating feminist manifesto. Dynamic Dames catalogs 50 strong female characters and the actresses who portrayed them. Each woman gets her time to shine. We learn about how the actress got the role, how the character came to be and what ties the two together. You can't divorce the actress from the part, they breathe life into these characters. This book could have been 50 short biographies. It could have been 50 short characters studies. But it's a lot more than that.

It starts off with a wonderful foreword by Julie Newmar, Catwoman herself, and an introduction by the author. Then come the Dynamic Dames. They are presented thematically instead of just chronologically. Themes include Pre-Codes, Comedies, Mysteries, Biopics, Superhero movies, etc. The grouping feels organic and will prevent those hardcore classic film nerds from abandoning the book at a certain decade. The book starts with the 1920s and goes up to present day. For those of you who want the specifics: out of the 50 women, 29 are from the 1960s or earlier and 21 are from the 1970s and later.

The criteria for inclusion is perhaps one of the strongest elements of the book. The women, fictional and real, are strong, empowered women. They are complicated, headstrong and surpassed expectations for their gender. De Forest did something interesting here. Instead of just going with all the iconic roles, she mixes it up and includes characters fascinating but not necessarily the most well-known. For every Scarlett O'Hara/ Vivien Leigh you'll have Lily Stevens/Ida Lupino.

I was a big fan of De Forest's Must See Sci-Fi, a book that really convinced me to take on a genre I was reluctant to in the past. (Check out my review of that book here). I had high expectations for Dynamic Dames and it delivers. The writing is engaging and the narrative voice is whip smart and clever. There is an appreciation of the past and a look towards the future. And like with the science fiction book, De Forest convinced me to try movies that I hadn't thought to before. I enjoyed reading about women and films that I was familiar with as much I did about ones that were still new to me.

Some of my favorite pieces include:
  • Bette Davis - Helen Bauer - Ex-Lady (1933)
  • Greta Garbo - Queen Christina - Queen Christina (1933)
  • Bonita Granville - Nancy Drew - Nancy Drew… Detective (1938)
  • Ingrid Bergman - Paula Alquist Anton - Gaslight (1944)
  • Joan Crawford - Mildred Pierce - Mildred Pierce (1945)
  • Elizabeth Taylor - Cleopatra - Cleopatra (1963)
  • Dorothy Dandridge - Carmen Jones - Carmen Jones (1954)
  • Grace Kelly - Lisa Fremont - Rear Window (1954)
  • Marlene Dietrich - Christine Vole - Witness for the Prosecution (1958)
  • Sophia Loren - Cesira - Two Women (1960)
  • Pam Crier - Coffy - Coffy (1973)
  • Linda Hamilton - Sarah Connor - The Terminator (1984) & Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Jodie Foster - Clarice Starling - The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Salma Hayek - Frida Kahlo - Frida (2002)
  • Keira Knightley - Colette - Colette (2018)

My only small quibble with the book is the format. The small hardcover size is easy to hold but I would have preferred a paperback format instead. Or a larger format with bigger and better (and more!) pictures.

Dynamic Dames is the must-have feminist film book. To me it's incredibly important to see other women overcoming obstacles and I found a lot of new-found inspiration in reading about them.
Read it for yourself and share it with others. If there is someone in your life who is weary of classic movies because of what they believe is a lack of strong female roles, this is a nice gateway into appreciating film history.

I filmed a book review video which goes more into detail about the book's structure and my thoughts on it. If you liked the video please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel!

Update: Check out my interview with author Sloan De Forest on the TCM website!

A big thank you to Running Press for sending me a copy of this book for review.

This is my first review for the Summer Reading Challenge.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (13)

It's that time again when I offer my dear readers a bevvy of bookish delights that are ready to make a dent in your bank account and find a home in your personal library. There are so many good offerings this Fall. I know I say that every time but each new round-up continues to amaze me.

Are you new to my list? Here are the details.

Links are to Goodreads or to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powell's. When you use my buy links to purchase and pre-order you help support this site. Thank you!

Books include biographies, memoirs, scholarly texts, coffee table books and more from a variety of publishers. Publication dates range from July to December 2019 (with a few May titles thrown in) and these are subject to change.

A few notes about this list. I've included a few books that are not classic film ones per say but might pique your interest. Also, there are some titles that will publish during the July-December time frame that won't be featured here because they were included in my last round-up. So make sure to check that post for more bookish goodness. If something is missing, feel free to contact me with the details and I'll add it to the list!

Happy reading!

edited by Paul Duncan
680 pages – May 2019

by Mary Sheeran
Aquafire Solis
480 pages – May 2019

by David Parkinson
Laurence King Publishing
216 pages – August 2019

Dances in Literature and Cinema
Hannah Durkin
University of Illinois Press
280 pages – August 2019

Now available in paperback
by Marie Benedict
Sourcesbooks Landmark
336 pages – August 2019

50 years of The Italian Job Hardcover
by Matthew Field
Porter Press
176 pages – August 2019

by James D’Arc
Gibbs Smith
320 pages – August 2019

The Women Who Changed the Way We Look
by Tamsin Blanchard
Laurence King Publishing
232 pages – September 2019

Brigitte Bardot: My Life in Fashion
by Henry-Jean Servat and Brigitte Bardot
256 pages – September 2019

Princess in Dior
by Florence Muller and Frederic Mitterrand
foreword by Princes Albert II of Monaco
152 pages – September 2019

by Steven Rea
Chronicle Books
120 pages – September 2019

Her Life and Career
by Peter Shelley
214 pages – September 2019

Inside the Private World of Classic American Moviemaking
by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall
Foreword by Peter Bogdanovich
352 pages – September 2019

The Life and Career of a Reluctant Star Paperback
by Michael D. Rinella
245 pages – September 2019

A Biography Including Her 1941 Memoir
by Louise Carley Lewisson
175 pages – September 2019

by Melissa J. Hayes
Colin Slater's The Hollywood Photo Archive
Lyons Press
160 pages – September 2019

George Gershwin’s Life in Music
by Richard Crawford
W.W. Norton & Company
560 pages – September 2019

by Allen Glover
256 pages – September 2019

A Lot to Remember
by Rebecca Cline
160 pages – September 2019

A Lifetime of Movie Glamour, Art and High Fashion
by Leonard Stanley and Mark A. Vieira
foreword by Robin Adrian
352 pages – October 2019

The History of Oscar-Winning Women
by Stephen Tapert
Foreword by Roxane Gay
Rutgers University Press
250 pages – October 2019

Stories that Inspired Great Crime Films
edited by Otto Penzler
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
1200 pages – October 2019

by Sarah Broughton
Parthian Books
180 pages – October 2019

Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics
by Sydney Ladensohn Stern
University Press of Mississippi
464 pages – October 2019

A Cat Lover's Introduction to Film Studies
by Daisuke Miyao
University of Hawaii Press
216 pages – October 2019

The Story of Marlon Brando
by William J. Mann
736 pages – October 2019

Faith Bacon, Sally Rand, and the Golden Age of the Showgirl
by Leslie Zemeckis
336 pages – October 2019

The Untold Story of the Costellos
by Terry Chester Shulman
University Press of Kentucky
260 pages – October 2019

Cinema and the Preservation of the British Empire
by Tom Rice
University of California Press
360 pages – October 2019

A Revolution in Design
by Tony Nourmand, Graham Marsh, Christopher Frayling
Reel Art Press
288 pages – October 2019

The Director’s Notebook
by Randal Kleiser
Harper Design
208 pages – October 2019

A Memoir of My Hollywood Years
by Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton
Hachette Books
352 pages – October 2019

A Comprehensive Guide to Duke’s Movies, Quotes, Achievements and More
by the Official John Wayne Magazine
Media Lab Books
336 pages – October 2019

A Life in Letters
edited by Jo Evans and Breixo Viejo
608 pages – September 2019

Cedric Gibbons and the Art of the Golden Age of Hollywood
by Howard Gutner
Lyons Press
288 pages – October 2019

The Essential 1,000 Films to See
edited by Wallace Schroeder
curated by A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis
1248 pages – October 2019

A Toast to Hollywood
by Cider Mill Press
Cider Mill Press
240 pages – October 2019

The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History
by Nathalia Holt
Little, Brown and Company
400 pages – October 2019

by Simon Brew
240 pages – October 2019

A History of the Film Star
by Michael Newton
Reaktion Books
448 pages – October 2019

Sidney Lumet
The Actor’s Director
by Aubrey Malone
200 pages – October 2019

by Fred Bronson
Carlton Books
168 pages – October 2019

Rod Serling and the Birth of Television
by Koren Shadmi
Life Drawn
168 pages – October 2019

On Cinema, Women and Changing Times
by Laura Mulvey
Reaktion Books
240 pages – November 2019

50 Years of Looking for America
by Steve Bingen
Lyons Press
240 pages – November 2019

edited by Delia Malia Caparoso Konzett
Rutgers University Press
314 pages – November 2019

My Fifty Years Editing Hollywood Hits
by Paul Hirsch
Chicago Review Press
448 pages – November 2019

Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism
by Malcom Turvey
Columbia University Press
352 pages – November 2019

(Cover pending!)

The Big Apple on the Big Screen
by Christian Blauvelt
Running Press – Turner Classic Movies
168 pages – November 2019

by Maurizio Baroni
Gingko Press Inc.
352 pages – November 2019

New York Genius
by James Kaplan
Yale University Press
416 pages – November 2019

by John Kobal
introduction by Robert Dance
University Press of Mississippi
496 pages – November 2019

Mack Sennett's Fun Factory
A History and Filmography of His Studio and His Keystone and Mack Sennett Comedies, With Biographies of Players and Personnel
by Brent E. Walker
671 pages – November 2019

Mike Nichols as Remembered by 103 of His Closest Friends
by Ash Carter and Sam Kashner
Henry Holt and Co
304 pages – November 2019

by Jeanine Basinger
656 pages – November 2019

The Unsung Heroes & Villains of the Silver Screen
by Steve Carver and C. Courtney Joyner
Foreword by Roger Corman
Edition Olms
256 pages – November 2019

by Sue Matheson
Rowman & Littlefield
480 pages – December 2019

Race and Labor in Post-Civil Rights Hollywood
by Eithne Quinn
Columbia University Press
288 pages – December 2019

His Life and His Films
Maura Spiegel
St. Martin’s Press
384 pages – December 2019

by Robert B. Pippin
University of Chicago Press
312 pages – December 2019

by Michael Hammond
SUNY Press
320 pages – December 2019
Amazon Barnes and Noble


Dynamic Dames
50 Leading Ladies Who Made History
by Sloan De Forest
Foreword by Julie Newmar
TCM and Running Press
248 pages – July 2019

Arthur Penn's Night Moves and the Rise of Neo-Noir 
by Matthew Asprey Gear
Jorvik Press
178 pages – May 2019

New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (1)

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