Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Final Roundup: 2022 Classic Film Reading Challenge

The 2022 Classic Film Reading Challenge is officially over. I'm so proud of all the participants for tackling their stack of books and for everyone's continued enthusiasm for the challenge. Great work! I look forward to seeing what you all read next year.

This year 13 participants finished the challenge. Here is the list

Alejandro V.
Andy W.
Chris M.
Chuck P.
Greg B.
Jess I.
John M.
Ralph C.
Raquel S.
Robert B.
Shawn H.

And this year I decided to select five winners for the giveaway. These winners will receive one Kino Lorber single-disc DVD or Blu-ray of their choosing. Congrats to:

Chuck P.
Jess I.
Ralph C.

Now on to the reviews!

Alejandro on Goodreads

"Curtis delivers a worthy biography that so rich in detail that it will surely be a valuable resource for fans of Buster Keaton."

Andy of Journeys in Darkness and Light

"I love big concept books and The Genius of the System is certainly that, taking a broad scope of the subject, frequently zooming in for a closer look then zooming out again for the big picture."

"What we get from this book is a detailed account of the production of the film... you'll gain a tremendous amount of knowledge and enjoyment from reading Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic"

Angela of The Hollywood Revue

"if you’re more in the mood for a in-depth character study about ambition, class, and the American dream, An American Tragedy holds up very well."

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (adapted into A Place in the Sun)

"If you’re a big fan of The Graduate, the book is worth checking out, if only for those smaller but interesting differences that come up throughout the book. It’s a fast but enjoyable read."
The Graduate by Charles Webb

"I’m a big fan of Night of the Hunter, both as a book and a movie. The extra details we get in the book make John Harper a truly fascinating and compelling character."

The Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb

Ari of Classic Movie Muse

"Robert Nathan’s lyrical prose is absorbing in its depth and detail. He draws the reader into his atmospheric mood piece with profound questions and statements on art, life, love, death, and time."

Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan

Carl on Instagram

"Whilst Blonde is admirably clearsighted on the unpleasant aspects of the American film industry, its speculative attempt to portray Marilyn Monroe’s psychology is not entirely successful."

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

Chris of Digging Star Wars

"Stevens achieves something rare: a sincere retelling of Keaton’s life and filmography, sandwiched into an interesting premise…or an overall dissertation."

Greg on Goodreads

"This is a fine, straightforward bio on Claude Rains that will be a treat to his biggest fans looking for a fairly in-depth look at the man's life and career. I feel like something was missing here, though."

"Yes, you are given an exhaustive, detailed account of the making of one of the greatest Films in Cinema History from the very first conceptualizations of the original idea through to the first Theatrical screening and onto its legacy, but I think this book kind of transcends this format and becomes an epic tale in and of itself. "

Image courtesy of Jess of Box Office Poisons

Jess of Box Office Poisons

"The Brideson sisters are very engaging writers here, and punctuate their biography with contemporary sources to their subject. Gene's career is told as much through their lens as it is through what was being written about Gene in movie magazines or reviews."

"Richard Zoglin's biography is more than just an examination of the comedian, it's an attempt to put him in context of how he once represented the best of Hollywood but then became a relic who might've overstayed his welcome..."

John on Goodreads

"This is a well-researched, detail-laden, heavily illustrated, deep dive into the 100 years of making movies and film history in and about New York City."

"[The author] made clear that both she and Millicent had their share of struggles achieving successes through equality in the workplace - Millicent, so much in fact that her work on the "Creature From the Black Lagoon" was all but erased. It is great to see that she now has gotten the well-deserved acknowledgment."

"As a baseball fan, I have always thought that this was a "must-see" classic for baseball/film fans... It was great to read about it and be enlightened by the many factors that went into its production."

Image courtesy of Karen of Shadows and Satin

Karen of Shadows and Satin

"I can’t recommend this book enough – both interesting and informative, it has served to illuminate a significant facet of the entertainment industry and forever heighten my awareness about this important subject."
Backwards & in Heels by Alicia Malone

"I’ve always been far more captivated by the women of pre-Code than the men, but LaSalle’s book has piqued my interest in these gents (especially Barthelmess!) and resulted in my adding more than 50 movies to my watchlist."

"This was one of the best (if not THE best) biographies I’ve ever read... the book ends with Mike Nichols’s death, and I actually cried. I mean, like, SOBBED. It was as if I were experiencing the death of someone I knew – and that was because, after reading this bio, I felt like I did."

Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris

"I knew the story, having seen the film numerous times, but that fact didn’t spoil my immense enjoyment of this novel. It was written in a “real time” format, with each chapter a different time, beginning at 9:30 pm, which added to the tension and suspense."

Sorry, Wrong Number by Allan Ullman and Lucille Fletcher

"it’s a bizarre tale that I didn’t quite grasp or appreciate on the silver screen and, frankly, didn’t much care for after having read the play."

Suddenly, Last Summer by Tennessee Williams

"I enjoyed the play just as much as I did the film – Hellman did a superb job bringing the characters to life..."

Toys in the Attic by Lillian Hellman

Peter of Let Yourself Go... To Old Hollywood

"I would not recommend this book for those seeking to learn more about Ida Lupino's life and career. As a biography of Lupino, it is completely lacking."

Ida Lupino By Jerry Vermilye

"This is an excellent first-hand look at a character who personified the image of the glamorous classic Hollywood movie star and played into that image with all her energy—highly recommended."

Ralph on LibraryThing

"Author Geoff Dyer revisits a favorite film Where Eagles Dare and proceeds to dismantle it with an affectionate eye and wry tone in "'Broadsword Calling Danny Boy' Watching Where Eagles Dare"."


"The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith is an evocative richly detailed story of the earliest days of filmmaking featuring pivotal encounters with historic figures such as the Lumiere brothers and Thomas Edison while taking place in prominent historic film centers of yesterday and today..."

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

"Maybe someday a revised, updated and expanded edition could be produced of this fantastic book. Just wish I had read it sooner!"

"One could not ask for a better tour guide than Steven Bingen who... is a former studio executive who spent the majority of his career working on the lot at Warner Bros. where he tells us he often acted as guide for visiting VIP guests. He puts that experience to good use welcoming readers on the tour... "

Raquel of Out of the Past

"Danger on the Silver Screen is as fascinating as the stunts described within its beautifully designed pages."

"Hollywood Tiki has a lot to offer classic movie fans especially those who love movies with exotic settings or the beach movies of the 1960s. There is much to learn here about how Tiki cinema really spoke to audiences who were dealing with the aftermath of war and the changing times."

"If your love for music runs as deep as your love for film, Rock on Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen deserves a spot in your book collection."

Robert of Robert Bellissimo at the Movies

"a fantastic new book... this is a topic I've long been interested in."

Sarah on Goodreads

"I loved it and would recommend to anyone! This was a great read that had me laughing out loud a few times and smiling even more often."

"This book covers a wider span of time than the film, and briefly touches on the similarities I listed earlier. I enjoy stories written in the '20s, and this one was a fun, quick read."

Shawn of The Everyday Cinephile

"For covering a century of history, this book is a compact, fun read even when behind-the-scene business decisions and box office numbers are discussed."

20th Century Fox by Scott Eyman

"Heritage of the Desert is a worthy entry into the Western genre and clearly had a lasting impact on the genre in novels and films." 

"Hoyt, the manager of the wonderful online resource The Media History Digital Library, uses his extensive knowledge of early trade papers to provide readers context behind dozens of regional and national trade papers that document the film industry."

For more reviews check out:

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Rock on Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen

Rock on Film
The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen
by Fred Goodman
foreword by Sir Michael Lindsay-Hogg
TCM and Running Press
Hardcover ISBN: 9780762478439
July 2022
288 pages

“One of the beauties of rock movies is that sometimes they capture the time and sometimes, dangerously, they’re ahead of the time.” — Sir Michael Lindsay-Hogg

If your love for music runs as deep as your love for film, Rock on Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen deserves a spot in your book collection. Written by former Rolling Stones editor Fred Goodman, Rock on Film features 50 must see movies that captured the heart of rock and roll. Each film is also paired with a viewing, making each recommendation a double bill and adding many more rock movies to the mix. The book also covers movies that feature hip hop, R&B, punk and other genres but primarily focuses on how rock and roll transformed popular culture as we know it.

Some notable films discussed include The Girl Can't Help It (1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957), The TAMI Show (1964), Viva Las Vegas (1964), A Hard Day's Night (1966), Don't Look Back (1967), Gimme Shelter (1970), Woodstock (1970), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), La Bamba (1987), etc. And those are just some of the early films as dates range from the 1950s to the present day. Goodman does a great job connecting the present with the past and demonstrating the evolution of how film portrayed musicians on screen. A bounty of knowledge, Goodman's insights are both informative and illuminating. In his introduction Goodman writes, 

"the fifty films profiled in this book... are intended to be illuminating rather than definitive. Since the intention is to showcase both crowd-pleasers and buried treasure, the compendium begins with appreciation for the films that most fans see as indispensable, and they constitute a context and yardstick for the films that follow... My aim is to mix the serendipity of new discoveries with an added appreciation for familiar favorites while guiding you through the history of rock as seen through the insightful lens of Hollywood and independent filmmakers."
Each film is given its own 4 page chapter. There many color photographs throughout and the book is presented in a nice jacketed hardcover edition. It does have quite a potent "new book smell" but it's nothing that won't dissipate over time.

Interior Spread courtesy of Running Press

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“When the prominent use of the song “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets provided a big box-office boost to 1955’s youth-gone-bad drama Blackboard Jungle, it marked the first time Hollywood took notice of rock’s growing appeal.” — Fred Goodman

“The industry responded with the first generation of rock and roll films: a raft of low-budget jukebox musicals whose shallow plots were jerry-built around nightclubs, talent searches or disk jockeys–setups that made dropping in performances simple.” — Fred Goodman

“There’s a striking difference between the way the Beatles and the Rolling Stones approached film projects: essentially every film the Beatles made during their career was directed by a commercial journeyman, while the directors selected by the Rolling Stones reads like an art house who’s who, including Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Frank, Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin.” — Fred Goodman

“The music became a character in my movie. It was really the narrator. In a way, music is how you write the story.” — John Waters

“The biggest piece of the puzzle is Ann-Margret. Viva Las Vegas is the only Elvis film with a strong leading lady who can match him for moves and sex appeal. She was also the only actress to receive co-star billing with Elvis.” — Fred Goodman

“A triumph of Gimme Shelter is that there is no mythology here. The Maysles brothers, part of the direct cinema movement that was the American doppelganger of France’s cinema verite, created their art by standing back and capture what developed.” — Fred Goodman

Rock on Film includes interviews with five filmmakers: Cameron Crowe, Jim Jarmusch, Penelope Spheeris, Taylor Hackford and John Waters. I've read and reviewed many TCM/Running Press books and this is the first one I've seen to featured extensive interviews.

I enjoyed how Goodman examines all the different ways films used rock and roll and was most intrigued by the documentaries featured. A couple of which I watched immediately upon reading the book. In order to really appreciate this book, you must be interested in both rock and roll and music history especially since there is a heavy focus on that element.


Fill out the form below by September 25th for a chance to win a copy of Rock on Film!

The giveaway is now over. Congratulations to the winners Angela M. and Devan V.!

This is my sixth and final book review for this year's Classic Film Reading Challenge.

Thank you to Running Press for sending me a copy of Rock on Film to review!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Danger on the Silver Screen: 50 Films Celebrating Cinema’s Greatest Stunts

Danger on the Silver Screen 
50 Films Celebrating Cinema's Greatest Stunts 
by Scott McGee
TCM and Running Press
288 pages
Paperback ISBN:9780762474844
April 2022

“Stunt work taps into our brains, giving us pleasure by simply watching human beings do things we, the audience, cannot. Marvelous acts like jumping out of a window and surviving thrill us and remind us that while we are safe in our seats, others are capable of doing amazing things for the camera.” — Scott McGee

There's nothing quite like the thrill of watching an action movie. Stuntmen and stuntwomen brave great danger—fast speeds, hairpin turns, nerve-wracking heights and literal fire with often a scant margin of error—to give us, the audience, an experience that we can't duplicate in real life. If you've ever watched an action sequence and wondered "how did they do that?" then I have the book for you.

Danger on the Silver Screen: 50 Films Celebrating Cinema's Greatest Stunts by Scott McGee is your definitive guide to action movies and stunt techniques. While the book focuses specifically on a list of 50 action movies, you'll find many more mentioned throughout. The movies presented range from silent era classics to modern action thrillers beginning with Way Down East (1920) and ending with Baby Driver (2017).

This paperback book features French flaps and full color pages. Each chapter focuses on 1 action movie (or a pair of movies). Little time is spent on the plot and the majority of the text breaks down the stunt sequences, how they were executed and the masterminds behind them. The chapter starts with an image (still or poster), a quote from a reviewer or stuntman, a brief cast and crew list as well as a listing of the stunt team members. This last bit is important since stuntmen and stuntwomen often did not get on screen credit for their work. McGee does a fantastic job breaking down the particulars of the stunts, explaining them, giving the reader background on the stunt team as well as providing screenshots to help visualize. I recommend heading to YouTube where you'll find clips of many of the stunt sequences McGree writes about. This helps with really appreciating the work that went into making that stunt look effortless. The chapters also include other images and newspaper-style article about a related stunt from another movie or something relevant to the article. 

For those of you more interested in the older movies, here are some of the early ones that the author writes about at length: Way Down East (1920), Robin Hood (1922), The Black Pirate (1926), Safety Last! (1923), Wings (1927), Hell's Angels (1930), Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), Stagecoach (1939), Ben-Hur (1925 and 1959), How the West Was Won (1962), The Great Escape (196, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Bullitt (1965), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and more. James Bond fans will be delighted that many of the films in the series are featured here.

Some notable stuntmen and stuntwomen mentioned include: Richard Talmadge, Yakima Canutt, Bud Ekins, Charles H. Hickman, James W. Gavin, Hal Needham, Dar Robinson, Grant Page, Debbie Evans, etc. There is also much attention put on the actors who did the stunts themselves like Buster Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks and Harold Lloyd.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“In epic adventures, fantasies and contemporary action pictures, it was [Douglas] Fairbanks who made the impossible seem easy.”

“The airplane has been a crucial vehicle for movie stunt work, almost since its invention. Things really took off after the end of WWI, when former fighter pilots, looking for paths to apply their skill set and a penchant for taking risks, landed in the movie business.”

On Steamboat Bill Jr. “When the wall started to move, and it landed perfectly with a tremendous thud, Keaton’s bravery and commitment was that much more impressive because he stayed completely in character.”

“In terms of sheer grandiosity and cinematic impact, the chariot race in the 1959 Best Picture winner Ben-Hur is among the greatest action scenes ever.”

“[It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World] was one of the first major Hollywood productions to put stunt work front and center, not just as an element in the filmmaking, but as a selling point to the general audience.” 

“Great stunt scenes throughout history depend on the collaborative nature of filmmaking, drawing upon cinematography, editing, acting, and direction. The Bullitt car chase was a textbook example…”

“The Bond stuntmen, mostly British, were among the best working in the world. They brought ingenuity, execution, and visual appeal to the films’ action, setting the template for what audiences worldwide expected from the rough and physically demanding world of 007... The attention to cinematography in capturing not just the visceral excitement of the stunt work and action but the beauty of the surroundings has remained a mark of the Bond films to this day.”

“The craftsmen and artists of taking the falls, crashing the planes, and enduring the flames suffer the ignominy of going unmentioned or, when they are credited in print, being misspelled.”

“Tom Cruise is a modern-day Hollywood star whose fearlessness makes him seem like a direct descendant from stuntmen-stars of the past. As a Fairbanksian star and producer, Cruise is his own boss when making the calls, whether he’s outside skyscrapers or helicopters or wherever a normal person would not go.”

Danger on the Silver Screen is as fascinating as the stunts described within its beautifully designed pages. McGee does an excellent job giving the reader context and background. Describing stunts is no small feat considering but its done quite well here. You don't have to have seen the movie discussed to appreciate the chapter but watching a trailer or clips online will definitely improve the reading experience. Stunt work has been a male dominated field since the beginning of the film industry. I appreciate that some attention was given to the work of stuntwomen (and actresses too). I wish there had been pictures of the stunt team members because that would have helped to put a face with the name.

I want to hear from you! What's your favorite movie stunt? How about your favorite action movie?

This is my 5th review for the Classic Film Reading Challenge.

Thank you to TCM and Running Press for sending me a copy of Danger on the Silver Screen for review!

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