Favorite Books about Movies: Part 3
Most movie addicts like me want to read as much as possible about films and filmmaking. Below are ten more of my favorite movie-related books. Each one listed made me feel involved, entertained and informed. My first and second lists can be found on RealTalk Movie Reviews in the “Features” section.
A Twist of Lemmon. Chris Lemmon (Algonquin Books, 2006). Chris Lemmon wrote this acclaimed book about his father Jack Lemmon, one of Hollywood’s legendary movie stars. He has created a touching memoir, one that reveals the beloved family man behind Jack Lemmon’s star persona. Fortunately, Chris also includes many fascinating behind-the-scenes stories relating to his father’s remarkable movie career as well as personal tributes from such well-known show biz greats as Neil Simon, Cliff Robertson, Andy Garcia, Julie Andrews, Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine. .
Casablanca Film Trivia: Here’s Looking at You, Kid! Tom Barnes (Papyrus Publishing, 2008). Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the classic movie Casablanca can be found in this fun trivia book. Author Ted Barnes includes 1,130 questions about Casablanca. These questions cover such areas as history, actors, script, critics, images, characters, production staff, music, geography, goofs, and clothing. Each of the 33 chapters centers on a specific category or theme, and most of the chapters end with interesting “factoids” about this wonderful movie. I had a great time trying to answer Barnes’ questions while reading his book. I also learned some intriguing new information about one of my favorite movies
CLORIS. Cloris Leachman and George Englund (Kensington Books, 2010). The late great Cloris Leachman’s enthralling autobiography is such a candid, entertaining and inspirational book! As expected, it’s filled with delicious behind-the-scenes anecdotes about her work in films, television, radio and live theater. But it also reveals fascinating surprises concerning her private life and personal philosophy for living to the fullest. Cloris boasts a wealth of acting experience to draw from -- and she offers readers many humorous incidents to enjoy.
Dishing Hollywood. Laurie Jacobson (Cumberland House Publishing, 2003). Film historian Laurie Jacobson writes about the most notorious scandals that have rocked Tinseltown from the early part of the 20th century up to the present. Her scintillating book contains tales of lives cut short, unsolved mysteries, dramatic suicides and steamy affairs fill the pages of Jacobson’s revealing romp through some of Hollywood’s biggest scandals involving stars like Gary Cooper, Lana Turner, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Debbie Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, River Phoenix and many more. This one is a real page-turner, folks!
In Search of Lost Films. Phil Hall (BearManor Media, 2016). Author Hall is on an important mission, and he reveals all about it in this impressive book. He explains why so many films throughout the world have disappeared. Hall also describes a number of these movies and discusses the difficulty of evaluating the work of stars like Theda Bara and Lon Chaney because so many of their films are missing. But my favorite part of the book lists the various (and sometimes strange) places where certain lost films have already been discovered. After reading this book, I started looking closer at storage areas, closets and yard sales for suspicious-looking film canisters.
In the Company of Legends. Joan Kramer and David Heeley (Beaufort Books, 2015). Kramer and Heeley describe interesting behind-the-scenes experiences while making their marvelous movie star documentaries. Starting with award-winning profiles of Fred Astaire in 1980, they produced film portraits of the lives and careers of many other Hollywood legends including Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, John Garfield, Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Judy Garland, Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. This dynamic duo established a reputation for finding the un-findable, persuading the reluctant, and maintaining unique relationships long after the end credits rolled. Their dedicated team work is something to be admired!
Madeline Kahn: Being the Music – A Life. William V Madison (University Press of Mississippi, 2016). Madison’s in-depth biography of this beloved actress who won so many fans by combining her musical talent and flair for comedy gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at Madeline Kahn’s personal and professional life. It’s an inspiring tale about the persistence and dedication of an insecure but highly talented artist. Although earning a degree in speech therapy and receiving training as an opera singer, Madeline became famous as a popular star of film, stage and TV. She wowed me in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. This book is a must-read for people who love Madeline as well as books about troubled showbiz stars.
Shut Up! I’m Talking! Coming Out in Hollywood and Making It to the Middle. Jason Stuart (CCB Publisher, 2019). Jason Stuart was the first openly gay stand-up comedian. But he’s also performed character work in many feature films including Tangerine and The Birth of a Nation. He has the ability to take on various roles of any genre, and make them believable. And he has earned over 150 credits that prove he is talented, professional, and persistent. This memoir documents his long and curious career. As a mentor of many people “across all ages, straight and gay,” Stuart wanted to share what he learned, and that’s the purpose of this unique book.
Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White. Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen. (The University of Chicago Press, 2009). Back in the tumultuous 1960s, actor Tim Reid and comedian Tom Dreesen began to use their talents as entertainers to help people deal with the serious problems of that chaotic time. This splendid book chronicles their experiences -- both positive and negative -- while entertaining and educating audiences as America’s first interracial comedy team. Reid has starred in many movies (including Trade, Dead Bang, and Say a Little Prayer), but he’s known best for his role as Venus Flytrap in WKRP in Cincinnati. Dreesen, a stand-up comic, has appeared on film in Man on the Moon and Spaceballs.
Writing with Hitchcock: A Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes. Stephen Derosa. (Faber and Faber, 2001). Derosa explains how Hitchcock and Hayes worked together in four of Hitchcock’s early films (The Trouble with Harry, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, and The Man Who Knew Too Much). Biographical sketches of both men as well as a breakdown of all four films are included. For Avid Hitchcock fans like me, this book is a treasure.