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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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Robert Vaughn has had a long and successful acting career.  As well as being The Man from U.N.C.L.E., he was also one of The Magnificent Seven, and in more recent times, was a main cast member on the BBC show Hustle.  But in addition to such achievements, he has also starred in countless other films, and appeared on stage many times.  In this book, he describes his life, from his childhood with a mother and step-father who were also actors, to his unconventional adolescence, to his ascension to genuine Hollywood star.

However, this book also covers much more ground than just his acting career.  With a keen interest in politics (he is a staunch Democrat), Vaughn also describes his friendship with Robert F. Kennedy, and his theories on the truth behind RFK’s assassination.  There are fascinating tales of being trapped in Czechoslovakia at the time of the Soviet invasion, and being placed under house arrest while filming in South America.  Amongst all of these stories are of course, anecdotes from Vaughn’s lengthy career, in which he talks about many of his friends, famous and otherwise, including Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen.

Vaughn is clearly a highly intelligent and thoughtful man, and he has written an absorbing autobiography.  I had only seen him in the aforementioned Hustle, and more recently on stage in a (breathtakingly wonderful) production of Twelve Angry Men, and was large unfamiliar with his earlier work, but the stories from that part of his career made for interesting reading.

I would certainly recommend this book to fans of Robert Vaughn, but also to anyone who enjoys reading autobiographies.

 

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