New titles from others and research in progress

Vanda Krefft’s new biography of William Fox

February 24, 2018

Tags: Twentieth-Century Fox, Adolph Zukor, Theda Bara

I reviewed Vanda Krefft’s biography of William Fox for The Weekly Standard. As Krefft shows, much of what we take for granted about Hollywood was either invented or developed by this forgotten filmmaker. His disappearance from film history is now explained and remedied in this monumental biography.

How about a biography of Eve Arden?

January 23, 2018

I would love to have a biography of Eve Arden in my Hollywood Legends series, University Press of Mississippi. I grew up watching her in Our Miss Brooks. And of course she appeared in many films, including Curtain Call at Cactus Creek, the only film of hers I have written about—in A Real American Character: The Life of Walter Brennan. I can hear her speaking to me now, so wry, so witty.

Kent Rasmussen’s research-in-progress on Mark Twain film adaptations

December 5, 2017

Tags: Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Bing Crosby, Mickey Rooney, Turner Classic Movies

Unlike the Yankee played by Bing Crosby in this scene from The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain's Yankee doesn't use a watch crystal as a magnifying glass to set fire to the proclamation ordering his execution; in fact Mark Twain's Yankee doesn't have a magnifying glass or even a watch and never sees a written proclamation.
This past year, I’ve been researching film and television productions adapted from Mark Twain’s writings. One of the first questions anyone studying this subject asks is how “faithful” the production is to its source. As I’ve gotten deeper into my research, I must confess I’m finding that question increasingly elusive. (more…)

The biography of a book

November 19, 2017

Tags: Louisa May Alcott, Susan Sontag

I reviewed Anne Boyd Rioux’s biography of Constance Fenimore Woolson and can tell you she is a consummate writer. Louisa May Alcott, I don’t have to tell you, has had an enormous influence on generations of women and men (I can testify to that). Little Women had a significant impact on one of my subjects, Susan Sontag, as my wife and I recount in Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon

A new book by one of the masters of Hollywood history

November 19, 2017

Tags: Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft, Mike Nichols

Beverly Gray worked for Roger Corman, wrote a biography of him, and now offers the biography of a film, a Hollywood classic. I have followed Beverly’s work and her blog, in which she covers so many fascinating issues in the world of cinema. I recommend her work to anyone interested in Hollywood and how film has shaped our culture.

The first Dan Duryea biography

September 19, 2017

From A Classic Movie blog review: "an engaging read, because it is deeply satisfying to admire the intelligence with which this consummate professional approached his life and career. He was a smart, compassionate man, who brought joy to those around him and the reminisces of the people he knew are some of the best passages in the book."

Donald Spoto's biography of Teresa Wright is the newest edition to the Hollywood Legends series

January 12, 2016

Donald Spoto was Teresa Wright's friend, and his book was written with the full cooperation of Wright's family.

The first biography of this wonderful comic actress and singer

May 23, 2015

Tags: Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Barbra Streisand, Peter Bogdanovich

The newest edition to the Hollywood Legends series
Library Journal hails this comprehensive treatment of a Hollywood star as sensitive and authoritative. Based on extensive interviews with Kahn's family and friends, and with a wonderful collection of photographs, Kahn's life and work is celebrated and examined with marvelous insight and care. You learn a good deal about her working methods and her relationships with Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, Barbra Streisand, and many others.

A new edition to the Hollywood Legends Series

June 14, 2014

Tags: Sam Goldwyn, Dana Andrews, Walter Brennan, Hollywood producers, movie studios

I kept going back to Carol Easton's engaging biography not only to learn about Goldwyn and the history of Hollywood by someone who grew up in its environs, but also because the biographer was able to elicit such interesting material from actors such as Dana Andrews and Walter Brennan when others seems fearful of what Goldwyn and his organization might do to them if they talked!

Zachary Scott

October 21, 2013

Tags: Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford

It's nice to see the Zachary Scott book in paperback. Ronald Davis was the first consulting editor for the Hollywood Legends series. He taught at Southern Methodist University there and established an archive of interviews with Hollywood figures. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also has copies of interview transcripts. I succeeded Davis as consulting editor. One of the first things I did was read his fine biography of Scott.