More New And Notable Film Books

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
December 11, 2013 2:48 PM
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Here’s a second helping of recent film-related books worth checking out. Please bear in mind that this is just a survey, as I haven’t had time to read these tomes from cover-to-cover. Still, I hope the listings are useful, whether you’re looking for Christmas gifts or adding to your own library. And yes, there are even more books worth mentioning, which I’ll do next week, in time to make your gift-giving deadline.

Archive Editions

RAY HARRYHAUSEN, MASTER OF THE MAJICKS Volume 1: BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS by Mike Hankin; foreword by Tom Hanks; preface by Sir Christopher Frayling (Archive Editions)

If you’ve been acquiring and reading publisher Ernest Farino’s elaborate series of oversized hardcover volumes on Harryhausen, you’ll need no urging from me to complete your collection with the third and final book in the series. BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS opens with a chronicle of Ray’s latter years, covering unfinished and unrealized projects as well as the many honors that came his way, including an Academy Award. Then the book hops back in time to trace how The Lost World and King Kong influenced the young artist, with valuable background material on both films and their brilliant animator Willis O’Brien. Finally there is an in-depth look at Harryhausen’s earliest work on George Pal’s Puppetoons and his own Fairy Tale short-subject series. The book is jam-packed with information, observations, and a mind-boggling number of illustrations. It’s a must for any Harryhausen fan.

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.

HOLLYWOOD COSTUME edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis; preface by Debbie Reynolds (Abrams)

In conjunction with an enormous, far-reaching exhibition of movie costumes she curated at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Landis has prepared an equally impressive coffee table book on the subject. Not only is it beautiful to behold, and filled with well-chosen photos and costume designs; it offers a series of essays by costume designers, film historians, and experts in the field that provide a comprehensive look at this underappreciated facet of filmmaking. The book is divided into four sections: The Art of Becoming, Defining the Character, Collectors & Collecting, and New Frontiers, which tackles the way digital filmmaking and CGI have affected the work of costume designers. A talented practitioner herself who memorably outfitted Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Landis also interviews such actors as Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro about the way costumes help them develop their characters. I’m sorry I couldn’t attend the exhibition in London (which is coming to Phoenix, Arizona this coming spring), but I’m glad Landis has left behind a permanent record in the form of this majestic book.

Simon and Schuster Publishing

A LIFE OF BARBARA STANWYCK: STEEL-TRUE 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson (Simon & Schuster)

An editor at Knopf who has shepherded many fine books into print, Wilson has spent untold years working on a definitive biography of Barbara Stanwyck, with the cooperation of family members and access to private letters and photographs. Yet even at nearly a thousand pages, this is only the first part of the story. That’s because Wilson lingers over every film, exploring it in detail (from early, minor efforts to later classics), and provides contextual background about each new figure who is introduced in Stanwyck’s life, from husband Frank Fay to such influential directors as William Wellman and Frank Capra. I think it’s fair to say that this biography, when completed, will be the last word on Stanwyck.

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BearManor Media

CHAPLIN’S VINTAGE YEAR: THE HISTORY OF THE MUTUAL CHAPLIN SPECIALS by Michael J. Hayde (BearManor Media)

 I don’t think any major film artist has equaled Charlie Chaplin’s achievement of 1916-17, turning out twelve superb comedy shorts in a row that have stood the test of time for nearly a century: The Floorwalker, The Fireman, The Vagabond, One A.M., The Count, The Pawnshop, Behind the Scenes, The Rink, Easy Street, The Cure, The Immigrant, and The Adventurer. Author Hayde (co-author of last year’s exhaustive Little Elf: A Celebration of Harry Langdon) places these films in the context of silent-film comedy and Chaplin’s burgeoning career, before  examining each of the “golden dozen” in detail. The book also includes many rare newspaper and magazine advertisements that help us understand just how popular these films were—not only when they were new, but in later theatrical reissues. A book-length study of these influential comedies is long overdue and most welcome.

 

Harper Design

 GUILLERMO DEL TORO CABINET OF CURIOSITIES by Guillermo del Toro and Marc Scott Zicree; foreword by James Cameron (Harper Design)

 As a filmmaker and storyteller, del Toro has few peers in modern cinema, expressed in such memorable films as Cronos, Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. As his detailed notebooks and drawings reveal, he’s been preparing to bring these ideas to life for years. As a fan and collector, he is also in a class by himself; he describes himself as a “a well financed 10 year old.” This handsome volume opens the doors to Bleak House, the lair adjacent to his family home that he has filled with toys, models, and artifacts representing his lifelong love of fantasy and horror, in comic books as well as movies. A series of interviews with co-author Zicree reveal del Toro’s thought process and creative inspirations. Essays by such prominent admirers as Neil Gaiman, John Landis, and Alfonso Cuarón testify to del Toro’s unique imagination and his gift for friendship. This elaborate book is the next best thing to a personal visit with the charismatic filmmaker. 

Oxberry Press, LLC

THE ART OF JAY WARD PRODUCTIONS by Darrell Van Citters; foreword by June Foray (Oxberry Press)

Here is a perfect Christmas present for any dyed-in-the-wool cartoon fan: an affectionate, informative, lavishly illustrated history of Jay Ward Productions, written by an animation insider. Van Citters has scoured the Ward archives for model sheets, storyboard drawings, and finished artwork to help tell the story of the can-do company that played by its own rules and created Rocky and his Friends, The Bullwinkle Show, and the long-running Cap’n Crunch commercials, to name just a few of its notable achievements. Individual profiles of directors, writers, animators, layout personnel, and other contributors give us a clearer picture of the creative team behind some of the funniest animated series in television history. The Ward style also reflected modern graphic design—a result of the fact that key studio personnel got their training at the Walt Disney studio in the 1940s before breaking off to work with the forward-thinking UPA. The Art of Jay Ward Productions offers an embarrassment of riches that are well worth savoring.

The Monacelli Press

THE CG STORY: COMPUTER GENERATED ANIMATION AND SPECIAL EFFECTS by Christopher Finch (The Monacelli Press)

Only a lavishly illustrated book that weighs as much as a coffee table could do justice to the subject of CGI and special effects—visually and verbally. With copious production stills and behind-the-scenes photos, Finch (author of the landmark coffee table volume The Art of Walt Disney) traces the history of the computer as a moviemaking tool, from John Whitney’s pioneering experimental films through the breakthroughs of George Lucas and his protégés, (including the group who broke off and became Pixar). Citing the earliest adopters of CG effects, Finch shows how one step led to another in the refining of visual effects, from Young Sherlock Holmes to The Abyss. On a parallel track, the Disney studio’s integration of computer-assisted imagery in Beauty and the Beast opened the door for broader use in its subsequent features. Finch’s text is authoritative but written for fans and laymen, thank goodness.

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