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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Favorite Books about Movies, Part 2
by Betty Jo Tucker

As I mentioned before, most movie addicts enjoy reading books about films and filmmaking. That’s why I am pleased to add the 10 books below to my list of favorites.  

A Poet Among Critics. Richard Jack Smith (UK, 2016) What a treat to read an entire book of impressive movie poems from this prolific British film critic and poet! A diverse collection, the book showcases this author’s extensive film knowledge and unbridled passion for the cinema. Unique and candid, Smith’s poems cover many genres and eras. Plus, Smith’s use of lush language makes every poem come alive and emerge as a gem on its own.    

A Screenwriter’s Notebook: Reflections, Analyses and Chalk Talks on the Craft and Business of Writing for the Movies. Bill Mesce Jr. (Serving House Books, 2020). The author shares his personal experiences and intriguing insights as a screenwriter and teacher of this subject. While extremely helpful to wannabe screenwriters and people already working in this field, the book boasts considerable appeal for film critics and for avid movie fans. It’s highly entertaining and packed with details about all kinds of movies.             

CLAPTRAP: Notes from Hollywood. Stephen Gyllenhaal (Cantara Books LLC ) Movie and television director Gyllenhaal, father of Jake and Maggie, takes readers on a profoundly humanistic journey in his first book of poetry. This impressive offering includes 46 poems that evoke marvelous cinematic images and stir the emotions, two things I always expect good poetry to do.  

Hollywood Haunted. Laurie Jacobson (Angel City Press, 2014) This acclaimed book covers more than 100 years of ghostly goings-on in filmland. Spooky tales about haunted houses, hotels, studios and theaters abound in Jacobson’s entertaining exploration of Hollywood hot spots and famous ghost sightings, including such stars as Bela Lugosi, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Errol Flynn.

I’ll Be in My Trailer: The Creative Wars Between Directors and Actors by John Badham and Craig Moddorno (Michael Wiese Productions, 2006) Veteran director Badham passes on helpful information about how to work with actors, and not just from his own point of view. He also includes advice from numerous directors and actors. This impressive book is now being used in film schools worldwide.   

John Badham On Directing. 2nd Edition: Notes from the Sets of Saturday Night Fever and War Games and More. John Badham (Michael Wiese Productions, 2020). Badham adds more fascinating and valuable information from and about directors and actors in this welcome new edition. Television and streaming projects receive considerable attention here because of their widespread content now. Like Badham’s first On Directing, this book is a must-read for people in the business but also for serious movie addicts like me.

The Force Is with You. Stephen Simon (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2002) The producer of such acclaimed films as Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come explores over 70 movies that deal with such important topics as the nature of love, the meaning of life and death, the concept of time and space, and the visions of our future. Simon believes there are mystical messages in movies that inspire our lives -- and he has a wonderful way of illuminating these films.    

The Liveliest Art. Arthur Knight (The MacMillan Company, 1957) Would you like a panoramic history of movies through the late1950s -- one that emphasizes the growth of film from an 1895 novelty to an important 20th century art form? Then this amazing book is definitely for you.

Unsinkable: A Memoir. Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway (William Morrow, 2013) Good mornin’, good mornin’!  I stayed awake the whole night through -- reading this fascinating book until I finished it. Thanks to these two authors for giving me such enjoyable insomnia. But describing Unsinkable is not easy. Is it a thriller? A modern Book of Job? A humorous showbiz romp? A behind-the-scenes Hollywood exposé? A heartfelt love story?  I think the answer has to be “Yes” to all of the above.               

What’s It All About? An Autobiography. Michael Caine (Turtle Bay Books, 1992) This is one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read. Caine writes with a humorous style as he reveals how he overcame his impoverished London childhood that included growing up with an eye disorder, rickets and a name like Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. But, for movie buffs, the most important part of this terrific book involves the wonderful detailed  stories about Caine’s many films.            


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