Monday, July 31, 2023

The Classic Film Collective: Nazimova by Gavin Lambert

 This was originally published in the former The Classic Film Collective Patreon.


Nazimova: A Biography
by Gavin Lambert
University Press of Kentucky
Paperback ISBN: 9780813153421
432 pages

“When I first came to America I had so much luck it frightened me… And then the luck turned.” — Nazimova

With her dark and wild hair, her downturned eyes and her incredible confidence, Nazimova was bonafide star. This actress who made waves on stage and on the silent screen is the subject of Gavin Lambert’s 1997 biography, recently reissued in paperback by University Press of Kentucky.

Alla Nazimova was born Mariam Edez Adelaida Leventon in Crimea, Russia in 1879. Nazimova came from a Russian Jewish family and suffered from severe neglect after her parents’ divorce. She sought solace with acting and became part of the Moscow theatrical scene. The author goes into incredible detail about childhood and teen years thanks to Nazimova’s own unfinished autobiography that he used as reference. Towards the end of her life she spent countless hours detailing her origin story but never got to write about what happened after the age of 17. Luckily, she left behind many other details in the form of correspondence and diary entries that the author had access to and references frequently throughout the book.

What made Nazimova so special as an actress was her stage and screen presence, her ability to play characters much younger than herself, her incredible memory, her attention to detail and her personal and professional networking skills. She was a master at both the technical and social aspects of being an actress. It was natural that Nazimova would make her way to Broadway. Despite her heavy accent which some criticized, Nazimova soon became a star in the New York theatre world.

Metro Pictures came around with an incredible offer: a contract that would make her one of the highest paid actresses in silent film and give her approval of the director, leading man and the script. The author goes into detail about each of Nazimova’s films. There is a lot of detail for her early Metro Pictures films, including WAR BRIDES (1916), Revelation (1918) and TOYS OF FATE (1918), all of which are unfortunately lost. When Metro Pictures moved to Hollywood, Nazimova followed suit. She made silent films with them until a terrible falling out led her to start her own production company. Now with complete creative control, she produced and starred in films like CAMILLE (1921) and SALOME (1924). By 1925, Nazimova had abandoned films for the New York stage. She returned to Hollywood in the 1940s with small roles in films like ESCAPE (1940) and BLOOD AND SAND (1941). In fact, her final role in SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) was written specifically for her.

The crux of Lambert’s biography is Nazimova’s relationships with family, lovers and professional collaborators. Nazimova was queer and preferred to be in relationships with women. Her relationship with her common law husband Charles Bryant (they weren’t legally married but pretended to be so for many years) was a means to protect her professional image. He was also producer, actor and director for many of her films, which further gave Nazimova control over her projects. Lambert offers the reader many stories about key figures like June Mathis, Jean Acker, Rudolph Valentino, Natacha Rambova and many more. I was surprised to discover that much celebrated genre producer Val Lewton was Nazimova’s nephew! And of course, there are Nazimova’s homes including the The Garden of Allah and Who-Tok, both of which no longer exist although stories of these grand homes continue to be part of her legacy.

My biggest issue with Lambert’s biography on Nazimova is some of the outdated language. There are a few sexist and racist terms, direct quotations from people in Nazimova’s life, that I feel could have been nixed in the reissue. Fortunately, these are few and far between. There is quite a lot of details about Nazimova’s sex life but I felt it was done in a respectful manner. Lambert really does demonstrate how these relationships were key to her growth as a performer and were also how she navigated her social world.

Never salacious and always informative, Gavin Lambert’s biography captures the dramatic rise and fall of the late great Nazimova.

Thank you to University Press of Kentucky for sending me a digital copy of this book to review!

Saturday, July 22, 2023

First Roundup: 2023 Classic Film Reading Challenge


I'm excited to share the first round-up of reviews for this year's Classic Film Reading Challenge.

We currently have 36 submitted reviews and plenty more coming. Chuck and Laura are leading the challenge with four review each! We still have about two months left in the challenge so plenty of time to catch up on some reading.

If you don't see your review posted below, make sure you submit it to the form on the challenge page!

Now onto the reviews!

Stack photo courtesy of @classicsarah_ on Twitter

Alejandro on Goodreads

"Soares’ book is a reexamination of Novarro’s legacy, who despite his flaws was a good man who cared for his friends and family and gave generous donations to charities and churches to help his community."

"Truly a book worthy of its titanic subject."

"Engrossing and thoroughly researched, Galloway’s book is incisive in its accounts gained through new interviews with their friends and family and gives the definitive look at this iconic relationship."

Reading challenge photo courtesy of @awolverton77 on Twitter

Andy of Journeys in Darkness and Light

"The book is loaded with wonderful performances and great writing... DiLeo knows his stuff, and his wealth of knowledge and insight is clear throughout." 

Carl of The Movie Palace Podcast on Instagram

"Server’s book is very detailed & the scope of his research is impressive. He draws upon a wide array of sources to paint a picture of a complex woman who defies easy categorisation."

Chris of Digging Star Wars

American Silent Film by William K. Everson 

"Everson didn’t fear anyone in the film history... He dissed other writers, historians, critics, scholars, and even Frank Capra. He also doesn’t hold back on sprinkling in his political beliefs either. But, if you can see past all that, you’re in for a good history lesson on the early days of American cinema and beyond. 

"takes great strides to include music throughout the world from the early twentieth century to today in her conversation on scores and soundtracks."

"Lebo’s book is THE book to read in order to fully appreciate Welles’ masterpiece. I highly recommend it."

Chuck on Goodreads

"her book takes it a couple of steps further by showing that the Screwball Comedy influenced many other romantic comedy films that came after the genre's heyday."

"or those seeking an introduction to Italian neorealism will be pleased with this analysis on one of the most important film movements of the 20th Century."

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

"Highsmith crafts a darkly delicious portrait of mid-century class inequity, identity theft and murder set among gorgeous Italian locales..."

"Die-hard noir fans will be pleased with this book as Kearns provides an entertaining and well researched portrait of one of Hollywood's wildest actors."

Jeff on Goodreads

"Simply put, this might be the best bio I have ever read, music, film, or otherwise. Martin is so interestingly situated in twentieth century popular culture, and Tosches style of inserting himself into the vernacular and attitudes of his subject matter sweeps you along."

Jess of Box Office Poisons

"If you're looking for a portrait of the silent years of Hollywood, this might be it."

Miller's High Life by Ann Miller with Norma Lee Browning

"Ann Miller was a capital-S Star and wrote like one. This is everything you'd want in a juicy Hollywood tale: charm, wit, a lot of glamour and a lot of tea!"

Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake by Veronica Lake with Donald Bain

"Reading her post-Hollywood story, you get the sense that Veronica was happy to be out of the fish bowl, but I'm not sure I'd describe her as particularly happy outside of it either. 

John on Goodreads

"My only true criticism is based on the fact that since this is a TCM publication which led me to think that there were to be more film adaptations from the 30’s and 40’s. Despite that minor detail, author Kristin Lopez gives readers a well-researched and well written collection of essays that invites film fans to further explore and compare the written component of many of their favorite motion pictures."

Kayla of Whimsically Classic

Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake by Veronica Lake with Donald Bain

"Lake very matter-of-factly tells her life story, without making any excuses and without being pretentious. She doesn’t dwell on the negative in her life, and just accepts everything as-is."

Kevin on Goodreads

"You can’t run the Hollywood Dream Factory without a solid balance sheet. Then and perhaps even more now, that is the fundamental tenet at the core of this book about the rise and fall of the Hollywood studio system between two World Wars."

"Frankel expertly weaves all of these themes together with social and film history and observations on film production for a highly enjoyable and recommended read."

Mexploitation Cinema by Doyle Greene

"Greene does a masterful job “unmasking” these masked wrestler and monster movies though to show how they reflect the tension between traditional societal values rooted in the Catholic Church and a country attempting to forge its own national identity after WWII."

Reading stack photo courtesy of @LaurasMiscMovie on Twitter

Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

"As a classic film fan I was disappointed that only nine of the book’s 52 films predated 1960, as there are so many wonderful options to discuss from those decades... Either way, it’s a brisk, enjoyable read."

"Despite the sad overarching theme, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone interested in the actresses profiled."

"beautifully designed, a great read, and educational — pretty much everything I could want, even as someone who doesn’t imbibe. For those who love cocktails, the book will be that much more enjoyable and useful."

"a meticulously produced book which will be enjoyed by both serious and casual film fans. It will invite longtime film lovers to revisit old favorites & inspire newcomers to check out many titles for the first time." 

Molly of Classic Mollywood

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

"I didn't hate Peyton Place, but it wasn't the best book I have ever read... Overall, the book was juicy but it definitely was missing character development." 

Ralph on LibraryThing

"This slim hardcover book is a thoughtful examination of courtroom films and I am very the glad to have read it along with watching or re-watching the films discussed."

Rear Window: And Other Stories by Cornell Woolrich

"Woolrich's stories have been adapted many times in the mediums of film, television, and radio and never more successfully and popularly than by Alfred Hitchcock for the film Rear Window based on the 1942 short story originally titled "It Had to Be Murder.... This is an entertaining collection although the individual stories and their twists might stand up best not being read consecutively."

Raquel on Out of the Past

"an informative and engaging read. This concise book gives the reader plenty to chew on without overloading them with too much research."

"an enjoyable read and recommended for Marx Brothers enthusiasts who want to know a bit more about Dumont. The book is very matter-of-fact and it's straightforward and simplistic approach will appeal to readers who want to focus on the information rather than read something with more editorial interjections."

Robert of Robert Bellissimo At the Movies

"[The book] is as tasty as those drinks..."

Shawn of The Everyday Cinephile

"provides a much-needed investigation of DeMille’s life and career, examining his many films and exploring the seeming contradictions in DeMille’s personal life and public persona."

Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino

"I wish more creatives would publish their own long-winded musings of the classic-era films without feeling the need to edit out or tone down their own personal biases... reading an off-the-cuff approach infused with so many unabashed personal opinions proved to be turn-paging fodder that reinvigorated my own passion for film."

Yolanda of Dishonored Lady on Instagram

"The book can feel like a short academic textbook but in a good way... The book highlights parallels within early film noirs and music-infused films."

Playing the Field by Mamie Van Doren

"My takeaway was being impressed that she was an incredibly hard worker. She performed for years after movie offers were few and far between."

Monday, July 17, 2023

New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (21)

Hoo boy! Do I have a list of new classic film books for you! It took me a few weeks to gather this list and its finally here. I'm very impressed with what TCM/Running Press and University Press of Kentucky have coming up in their Fall catalogs. There are lots of good paperback editions of some big releases notably the Paul Newman memoir, the Elizabeth Taylor biography and Mark Vieira's George Hurrell's Hollywood. 

Are you new to my list? Here are the details. The books include biographies, memoirs, scholarly texts, coffee table books and more from a variety of publishers. For any scholarly books I make sure the ones included are affordable. There are also some reissues and paperback editions added to the bunch. Publication dates range from July to December 2023 and these are subject to change. These are U.S. release dates. International release dates and availability may vary.

Links go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powell's. I receive a small commission if you shop through some (not all) of my buy links. 

I would love to hear what you think? Which books are you putting on your wishlist?


Bogie & Bacall
The Surprising True Story of Hollywood's Greatest Love Affair
by William J. Mann
656 pages — July 2023
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowell's

**Paperback Edition**
Agent Josephine
American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy 
by Damien Lewis
512 pages — July 2023
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowell's

**Paperback Edition**
Clarence Brown
Hollywood's Forgotten Master
by Gwenda Young
Foreword by Kevin Brownlow
University Press of Kentucky
454 pages — July 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Exorcist Legacy
50 Years of Fear
by Nat Segaloff
352 pages — July 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

**Paperback Edition**
The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man
A Memoir
by Paul Newman
edited by David Rosenthal
Foreword by Melissa Newman
320 pages — July 2023

Lena Horne: The M-G-M Years
Hollywood’s First Black Star
by Stephen Bourne
Bear Manor Media
120 pages — July 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble

The Monster Movies of Universal Studio
by James L. Neibaur
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
228 pages — July 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble Powell's

Selling Science Fiction Cinema
Making and Marketing a Genre
by J.P. Telotte
University of Texas Press
192 pages — July 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Still Laughing
A Life in Comedy 
From the Creator of Laugh-in 
by George Schlatter with Jon Macks
Foreword by Lily Tomlin
Afterword by Goldie Hawn
The Unnamed Press
239 pages — July 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

When Harry Met Cubby
The Story of the James Bond Producers
by Robert Sellers
The History Press
352 pages — July 2023
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowell's


Becoming Nick and Nora
The Thin Man and the Films of William Powell and Myrna Loy 
by Rob Kozlowski
Applause Books
256 pages — August 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Breaking the Code
Otto Preminger Versus Hollywood's Censors
by Nat Segaloff
288 pages — August 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Clint Eastwood
The Iconic Filmmaker and his Work
by Ian Nathan
White Lion Publishing/Quarto Group
176 pages — August 2023
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowell's

Daughter of the Dragon
Anna May Wong's Rendezvous with American History 
by Yunte Huang
400 pages — August 2023

Designing Hollywood
Studio Wardrobe in the Golden Age 
by Christian Esquevin
University Press of Kentucky
256 pages — August 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

**Paperback Edition**
Diana Dors
Film Star and Actor
by Martin Shingler
Edinburgh University Press
176 pages — August 2023

Eleanor Powell
Born to Dance
by Paula Broussard and Lisa Royère
University Press of Kentucky
360 pages — August 2023

Gary Cooper
Enduring Style
by G. Bruce Hoyer
Foreword by Ralph Lauren
Afterword by Maria Cooper Janis
powerHouse Books
200 pages — August 2023

James Stewart at War
His Career in the USAAF 
by Pavel Türk
Air World
224 pages — August 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Monsters on Maple Street
The Twilight Zone and the Postwar American Dream
by David J. Brokaw
University Press of Kentucky
280 pages — August 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

David O. Selznick and the Production of Stars in the Hollywood Studio System
by Milan Hain
University Press of Mississippi
320 pages — August 2023

Strictly Dynamite
The Sensational Life of Lupe Velez 
by Eve Golden
University Press of Kentucky
488 pages — August 2023
Amazon Barnes and Noble Powell's

Theda Bara
Her Career, Life and Legend
by Roy Liebman
120 pages — August 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Warner Brothers
by Chris Yogerst
Foreword by Michael Uslan
University Press of Kentucky
360 pages — August 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's


Bing and Billie and Frank and Ella and Judy and Barbra
by Dan Callahan
Chicago Review Press
400 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Tramp's Odyssey 
by Simon Louvish
Interlink Publishing Group
464 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Double Solitaire
The Films of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder
by Donald Brackett
312 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

**Revised Edition**
Edith Head 
The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer 
by Jay Jorgensen
Running Press
400 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

**Paperback Edition**
Elizabeth Taylor
The Grit & Glamour of an Icon
by Kate Andersen Brower
Harper Paperbacks
512 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Final Curtain
Obituaries of Fifty Great Actors
by Michael Coveney
foreword by Sam Mendes
Unicorn Publishing Group
256 pages — September 2023
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowell's

**Revised Edition**
George Hurrell's Hollywood
Glamour Portraits, 1925-1992
by Mark A. Vieira
Foreword by Sharon Stone 
Running Press
416 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Ideal Beauty
The Life and Times of Greta Garbo
by Lois W. Banner
Rutgers University Press
286 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

John Waters
Pope of Trash
by John Waters
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
256 pages — September 2023
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowell's

Kid Noir
Kitty Feral and the Case of the Marshmallow Monkey  
by Eddie Muller and Jessica Schmidt
illustrated by Forrest Burdett
Running Press Kids and TCM
32 pages — September 2023

**Paperback Edition**
Making the Best Years of Our Lives
The Hollywood Classic That Inspired a Nation
by Alison Macor
University of Texas Press
208 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble

Queer Film Classics: Anders als die Andern
by Ervin Malakaj
McGill-Queen's University Press
176 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Queer Film Classics: Maurice
by David Greven
McGill-Queen's University Press
208 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Wrath of the Dragon
The Real Fights of Bruce Lee
by John Little
ECW Press
352 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Deer Hunter
BFI Classics
by Brad Prager
120 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

It's a Wonderful Life
BFI Classics
by Michael Newton
168 pages — September 2023
Amazon — Barnes and NoblePowell's

Point Blank
BFI Classics
by Eric G. Wilson
112 pages — September 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's


A.K.A. Lucy
The Dynamic and Determined Life of Lucille Ball 
by Sarah Royal
Foreword by Amy Poehler
Running Press
240 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Charlie Chaplin vs. America
When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided
 by Scott Eyman
Simon & Schuster
432 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

**Revised and Expanded Edition**
Christmas in the Movies
35 Classics to Celebrate the Season
by Jeremy Arnold
TCM and Running Press
280 pages — October 2023
Amazon — Barnes and Noble — Powell's

The Cinema of Powell and Pressburger
edited by Nathalie Morris and Claire Smith
216 pages — October 2023
Amazon — Barnes and NoblePowell's

C'mon, Get Happy
The Making of Summer Stock
by David Fantle and Tom Johnson
Foreword by Savion Glover
University Press of Mississippi
304 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Elvis Remembered
Interviews With the People Who Knew Him Best 
by Shelly Powers
Firefly Books
240 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Ferocious Ambition
Joan Crawford's March to Stardom
by Robert Dance
University Press of Mississippi
400 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Film Buff
The Ultimate Movie Quiz
by Smith Street Books
Smith Street Gift
200 pages (novelty book) — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble

Grace Kelly
The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon
by Megan Hess
Hardie Grant Books
192 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Head Over Heels: Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman
A Love Affair in Words and Pictures 
by Melissa Newman, 
edited by Andrew Kelly
288 pages — October 2023

Hitchcock's Blondes
The Unforgettable Women Behind the Legendary Director's Dark Obsession
by Laurence Leamer
G.P. Putnam's Sons
pages — October 2023

Hollywood and the Movies of the Fifties
The Collapse of the Studio System, the Thrill of Cinerama, and the Invasion of the Ultimate Body Snatcher
by Foster Hirsch
672 pages — October 2023
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowell's

Lena Horne
Goddess Reclaimed
by Donald Bogle
TCM and Running Press
272 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble Powell's

Lucille Ball Treasures
Featuring Memorabilia and Pictures 
by Cindy De La Hoz
Chartwell Books/Quarto Group
176 pages — October 2023

Marilyn Monroe
A Photographic Life 
by Jenna Glatzer
Chartwell Books
176 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble

The Method
How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act
by Isaac Butler
Bloomsbury Publishing
512 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble Powell's

Movie-Made Los Angeles
by John Trafton
Wayne State University Press
256 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble — Powell's

Teen Movies
A Century of American Youth
by Timothy Shary
Wallflower Press
192 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble

They Made the Movies
Conversations with Great Filmmakers 
by James Bawden and Ron Miller
University Press of Kentucky
392 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Wicker Man
The Official Story of the Film
by John Walsh
Titan Books
192 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble

Mean Streets
BFI Classics
by Demetrios Matheou
112 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Red Shoes
BFI Classics
by Pamela Hutchinson
112 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

BFI Classics
by Kristi Irene McKim
120 pages — October 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's


1001 Movie Posters
The Essential Collection 
edited by Tony Nourmand
introduction by Christopher Frayling
Reel Art Press
552 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Agnès Varda
Director's Inspiration  
by Agnès Varda
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
208 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Alfred Hitchcock Storyboards
by Tony Lee Moral
Titan Books
144 pages — November 2023

Artie Shaw
Icon of Song
by Barnett Singer and Jesse Read
164 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

by Ian Masters
Monsoon Books Pte. Ltd.
336 pages — November 2023
Amazon Barnes and Noble

Cinema of the 70s
101 Iconic Movies
by John H. Foote
Palazzo Editions
224 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Elmer Bernstein, Film Composer
An Authorized Biography
by Peter M. Bernstein
Rowman and Littlefield
296 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

The Fatal Alliance
A Century of War on Film
by David Thomson
448 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Hello, Norma Jeane
The Marilyn Monroe You Didn't Know
by Elisa Jordan
360 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

**Paperback Edition**
Hollywood: The Oral History
by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson
Harper Paperbacks
768 pages — November 2023
Amazon — Barnes and Noble — Powell's

In Search of the Thin Man
Dashiell Hammett, William Powell and the Classic Film Series
by Philip Zwerling
227 pages — November 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

Mummy Movies
A Comprehensive Guide
by Bryan Senn
329 pages — November 2023
Amazon — Barnes and NoblePowell's


Dueling Harlows
The Race to Bring the Actress's Life to the Silver Screen
by Tom Lisanti
183 pages — December 2023
Amazon Barnes and Noble

**Updated on sale**
Getting Carter
Ted Lewis and the Birth of British Noir
by Nick Triplow
Soho Syndicate
December 2023
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

**Revised Edition**
John Ford
by Joseph McBride and Michael Wilmington
University Press of Kentucky
346 pages — December 2023
AmazonBarnes and Noble

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