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Posts Tagged ‘cinema’

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The subtitle of this book is ‘The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us’. And that sums up what the book is about. Rather than a history of Hollywood (which is what so many people think of when they think about cinema and film), this book discusses the first time that moving pictures were created, right up to the current day when we are all watching very different types of screens, films can be watched on phones, and people play video games for hours on end.

The basic structure of the book is that each chapter covers one – or a small number – of significant film makers, primarily directors, although Thomson also talks about writers, actors and producers. It’s less a chronological series of events, but more a picture of various people who helped create the movies as we know them today. Thomson covers a lot of French cinema for which he has an obvious passion, as well as American, and also touches on film-makers from other countries, as well as other entertainment mediums that we view on screen (video games, and of course television for example).

Did I enjoy it? Well, sad to say, not particularly. Getting through the book felt like a bit of a slog, although I did enjoy the last quarter considerably more than what came before it. But there’s no denying that it was extremely well researched and written with obvious passion for the subject and I truly feel that the reason I didn’t enjoy it is more down to me than down to the writing. The information given was very dense and there seemed to be so much to take in that I only felt like reading a little bit at a time.

If you are at all interested in the history of movies, I recommend this book, but if you are looking for a bit of light reading, be warned – it’s verbose and throws a lot of information at you!

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Clark Gable is one of my favourite actors, although he died before I was born.  Whenever I watch his films, I can always see just why he was so popular – women loved him, and men wanted to be like him.  He was the ultimate in masculinity, and was not known as King of Hollywood for nothing.

This book is a fairly decent biography, which seems pretty evenhanded throughout.  It does a good job of telling the facts – although there are a couple of errors regarding some of the films – so in a sense, it does do its job, but while I understand that it is impossible to include every single story from someone’s life, I felt that certain things were missed out, which should have been included.  For instance, the book acknowledges that Gable wanted to boycott the premiere of Gone With The Wind, out of solidarity with his  friend Victor Fleming, who was in dispute with producer David Selznick, over his (Fleming’s) directorial credit.  However, it did not even give mention to the well documented fact that Gable was furious that the black members of the cast would not be able to sit with the white members of the cast at the premiere due to Atlanta’s segregation laws, and that he wanted to boycott the premiere for this reason.  Such an occurrence reveals a lot about the measure of a man, and I was amazed that it wasn’t included.

However, the book does a fairly good job of describing Gable’s rise to movie star from very humble beginnings, and generally portrays him as an approachable and agreeable man, easy to work with, and courteous and kind by nature.  It goes into detail about his five marriages – one can’t help but wonder what would have happened had his very happy marriage to actress Carole Lombard not have been cut tragically short by her death in a plane crash.

I would recommend the book to fellow Gable fans – it might not be the most comprehensive biography available, but it’s certainly readable, and respectful without being fawning.

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Gregory Peck was one of the 20th century’s most loved screen idols.  Tall and handsome, he is forever linked with (and perhaps confused with) his  most famous role, that of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962).  This book chronicles his life, from his early stage career, through to his largely successful life in Hollywood and his humanitarian campaigns and activities.  It also describes his private life, including his first marriage to Greta, his second marriage to Veronique, and the tragic suicide of eldest son Jonathan.

I thought this book was clearly well researched, and well written.  Lynn Haney apparently was a friend of Gregory Peck, and the warmth she feels for him comes through loud and clear.  She does however manage to remain objective, and although she clearly holds Peck in high regard, there are constant reminders throughout that he was a man, not a god, and he had flaws and idiosyncrasies which made him all too human.

It’s a shame that the book does not seem to have any first person interviews with Peck or any of his family.  There are plenty of quotes from other interviews however.  (Early on in the book, Haney mentions another biography of Peck, and notes that the author of that book never met with nor spoke to Gregory Peck at all; implying that she had spoken to him.  As they were apparently friends, this is not surprising, but it does not appear that he had any part in the writing of this book.)  Having said that though, it’s clear that Haney knows her subject well.

The book discusses most of Peck’s films – the hits and the misses – giving anecdotes from the set, and offering glimpses into the actor’s interactions and relationships with colleagues.  It does not shy away from discussing disagreements that Peck had with other actors, producers or directors, or his disappointment with the way some projects turned out.

There is a saying that you should never meet your heroes because you will always be disappointed – you could broaden this saying and add that it’s best not to know too much about your heroes in case you are disappointed.  I can’t deny that at some points while reading this biography I read things that did disappoint me somewhat.  But I also believe that no man or woman on earth is perfect (whatever perfect is), and that all we can do is the best that we can at the time.  At the end of this book, I was left with the impression that Gregory Peck had done just that…and he will always be one of my favourite actors.

This isn’t the only available biography of Gregory Peck – it might not even be the best one around, but for fans, it is definitely worth reading.

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