Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Weddings and Movie Stars

Weddings and Movie Stars
by Tony Nourmand and Graham Marsh
Hardcover, 287 pages
Reel Art Press
April 2011

Find the book on:
Barnes & Noble

Weddings and Movie Stars is a beautiful coffee table book available from the experts in quality photography books, Reel Art Press.

In June of last year, I attended Book Expo America, a big book industry trade show held every year in New York City. I saw a sign for a company called Reel Art Press, a small indie UK publisher I had never heard of. I thought I'd stop by their booth and check out the Kennedy coffee table book they had been advertising. When I arrived at their booth, I was pleasantly surprised to see multiple high quality classic film related coffee table books including one called Weddings and Movie Stars. I was about to get married in a few weeks and it just seemed like kismet that I found out about this publisher and the book. As soon as I got back home, I ordered the book and had so much fun reading it and looking at the wonderful photographs. Since one of my wedding's themes was Classic Hollywood, it was nice to own this.

Weddings and Movie Stars is a huge book! It is 11.75 inches wide and 13.75 inches tall and clocks in at about 7 pounds in weight (I measured it and weighed it myself). The quality photographs are a mixture of black and white and full color and they are gorgeous making this book total eye candy. The images are mostly from real life movie star weddings but also include on screen weddings. You'll see images from the Hollywood elite of the 1920s through to the 1970s with a few modern images. It ends with a somewhat odd tribute to The Graduate (1967) which I think they could have done without.

The photographs in this book are stunning. Some take up a single page or fill up a two page spread. Other pages have a couple images on one page. Basically what I am trying to say is that these are big luscious pictures that you will want to look at over and over again. Each photograph comes with captions which provide detail information about the couple and the wedding. There are lots of great anecdotes and stories as well as trivia bits about the designer of the gown, the circumstances of the wedding, and the inevitable quips about the various divorces that followed.

This book is $79.95 which is quite pricey but Weddings and Movie Stars is a collector's piece and worth the investment. This would make a really nice gift for a new bride especially one like myself who appreciates the style of the 20th century. It would also make for a great addition to anyone's coffee table. When storing it, lay it flat on its back or spine side down if you are putting in a book case, make sure it's spine side down. I made the mistake of putting the book on a book shelf sideways with the spine up and the heavy pages pulled at the spine ripping it a bit. It's a heavy book so make sure you take care of it!

Some notable couples in the book include:

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart (cover)
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III
Gene Tierney and Oleg Cassini
Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles
Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg
Dorothy Dandrige and Harold Nicholas
Sammy Davis Jr. and May Britt (some never before published pictures are included!)
Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra
Jimmy Stewart and Gloria Stewart
Ginger Rogers and Lew Ayres
Elizabeth Taylor and Various (tee hee)
and many more

There is some juicy gossip, most of it well-known and not anything very shocking. There is a very interesting pairing photographs with a picture from Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher's wedding (with Elizabeth Taylor in attendance) followed by Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher's wedding. Eek. Awkward! I did find one small error in the book. They listed Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as getting married in 1930 when the correct year was 1940. Oops! Also there are several non-movie star weddings including all the members of the Beatles but for the most part it sticks to actors and actresses.

Here are some pictures of the book. You may not find Weddings and Movie Stars at your local bookstore but you can find it online at various bookstores and for sale at Reel Art Press.

Note - If you want to find out if any of your favorite stars are in this book, just email me and I'll look it up and let you know.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Michael Douglas: A Biography by Marc Eliot

Michael Douglas: A Biography
by Marc Eliot
Hardcover, 352 pages
Crown Archetype (Random House)
September 2012

Find the book on:
Barnes & Noble

Thank you to my husband Carlos for submitting this book review of Marc Eliot's latest biography on actor Michael Douglas!

My wife knowing how much I admire Michael Douglas secured a copy of his biography and suggested I review it.

From the time I saw Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone (1984) he became one of my favorite actors. I have seen 22 of his movies, with Wall Street (1987) as my favorite movie for his acting and The Game (1997) as my favorite for the plot.

As I read the book, I came to realize how complicated Michael is as a person and how his life evolved. He was very much a product of his famous father, Kirk Douglas. Not only did he only did he follow his father’s footsteps in his profession but also in his relationships with women. They were both married twice, had numerous affairs and his mother’s name and first wife’s name are almost identical (Diana and Diandra respectively). They both have been awarded accolades for their vast bodies of work over many decades. Unlike his father Michael was involved in drugs and alcohol for a time.

Michael’s first acting break was the television series, The Streets of San Francisco, with Karl Malden. However it was not acting that made Michael famous, it was producing. Michael’s big producing break came courtesy of Kirk. Kirk was acting in a play called One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for several years. Several attempts were made over the years to take play from the stage to the screen with no success. There was a growing interest in the book and he wanted to capitalize on it. Kirk was practically giving the movie away to anyone just as long he had the main part. No studio would touch it due to the depressing and sad story. Finally Michael interjected and convinced Kirk to let him take over the project. This is where Michael’s life would change forever. Now it had been several years and Kirk was looking for film work. Kirk assumed that since Michael was now producer that he would get the role of McMurphy as he did in the play. The only glitch in the project was that Kirk Douglas was deemed to old for that role. Michael agonized about this decision and the role ultimately went to Jack Nicholson which would win him his first Oscar.

After the monster success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the subsequent Oscar for Best Picture, the movie industry was at Michael’s feet. He now had the power to star and/or make any movie he wished. Then in 1986 he starred in his definitive role of Gordon Gecko, in director Oliver Stone’s Wall St. His command performance of the financier would win him his second Oscar, this time for Best Actor.

His life was marred by personal setbacks and tragedy. He suffered the incarceration of his son, Cameron, for drug possession and the death of his half-brother, Eric, to a drug overdose. His first marriage ended in a contemptuous divorce. He even had a brush with stage IV throat cancer. Although through all the tribulations he did manage to find love again with fellow actor, Catherine Zeta-Jones. They married in 2000 and have two children.

Michael Douglas: A Biography by Marc Eliot is an engrossing and intimate look into the life of one of the most popular contemporary actors. The biography details the childhood of Michael growing up with a famous father and how his fragmented upbringing shaped him. The biography moves chronologically through childhood, college, starting in movies, having a child, divorce, and remarrying. Mr. Eliot details the ups and downs of Michael's life with concise thoughts. This book is an informative read for any movie buff or anyone looking to learn more about the famous actor. I was also impressed with Mr. Eliot's biography of Steve McQueen.

You can find my husband Carlos on his blog Live Fast Look Good or on Twitter @livefastlookgd .

Disclaimer: Thank you to Crown Archetype for sending a copy of the book for my husband to review!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Catching Up With Quelle (12)

Pillow Talk (1959) - My boss gave me a B&N gift card for the holidays and Carlos and I used it to have a date night at our local B&N store. We had some drinks at the cafe and had fun browsing through the DVD/Bluray section. I bought Pillow Talk (1959) on BluRay. It's a restored anniversary edition and what I liked about the package was that it came a BluRay, DVD and access to a digital download and also a fun 4-color booklet inside. The booklet is not removable so you can't lose it! I already had an old DVD of this but the quality was so poor that I am glad I made the upgrade. I played the BluRay on our HDTV and there was a noticeable improvement! But for some reason I couldn't watch the film all the way through. Something about it annoyed me. I think I need to distance myself from the film for a while so I don't fall out of love with it.

Have you ever fallen out of love with a classic movie? Have you upgraded one of your old DVDs to a restored DVD or BluRay?

Downton Abbey Rant - Downton Abbey's Season 3 premieres tonight in the States. However, the entire season has already aired in the UK and a DVD will be available with limited access fairly soon. Why is it that we in the United States, as rabid Downton Abbey fans as we are, cannot get access to the series when it airs in the UK? Why can't it be a simultaneous premiere on both sides of the pond?

I want to make the case to ITV in the UK to allow PBS's Masterpiece Series to air the episodes simultaneously for season 4. My first reason is to reduce piracy. I already know of a few American bloggers who have watched the full third series before it aired in the US and they did this by getting access to pirated copies. I didn't do this myself because I like PBS and would rather support them. Not that I'm above accessing pirated copies of shows, I had to do that with Mad Men when I didn't have cable (I'm both sorry and not sorry about that).

My other reason is that a lot of UK shows are supported heavily by American audiences. I would like to offer two case studies.

From what I have heard in the past, this show was marginally successful in the UK but a huge hit on PBS in the US. It was especially popular around Christmas time and I remember seeing lots of episodes on PBS during the holiday season. The series continued on primarily because US audiences wanted more. I wish I could quote a source on this and if I find it I will link or quote it here! We helped keep this show going! And while I adore the Vicar of Dibley, it's full of very odd references to UK culture that we just don't get. In fact at one point, I started making a glossary of names and references so I could better understand the show! But audiences in the US still love it for it's quirky characters, funny jokes and overall charm.

I was watching a fundraising special on PBS some years ago (after the series had ended) and on the special were actress Moira Booker, she plays Judith, and Philip Bretherton, who plays Alistair. Both Booker and Bretherton said on the fundraising special that the support of American fans was one of the main reasons this series lasted so long. TV shows like these do not have very long lives in the UK and the longevity of this one was a result of the support of PBS and American audiences. I absolutely adore this show and my repeat viewings and the fact that I own EVERY SINGLE DVD IN THE SERIES is definitely part of that support. Both Booker and Bretherton had also mentioned that they came to the US with the other actors in the series for some public event and were wowed by how much support there was here for the show and how much audiences here loved it.

Why do we love British shows so much? Because they are so well done, we are sick of all the reality crap and want something well-done and entertaining like Downton Abbey. Please do not punish us! Let us be a part of the experience by doing a simultaneous release for Downton Abbey Season 4!

Will you be watching Downton Abbey tonight? Have you already seen season 3? (NO SPOILERS PLEASE)

UPDATE: Thanks to Twitter I found out that the delay in Downton Abbey being aired in the U.S. was a decision made by PBS and not by ITV or by any rights issues. I think that decision on PBS' part is stupid and I hope they'll reconsider in the future.

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