MOVIE BOOKS FOR THE NEW YEAR – Leonard Maltin’s crazy movie

Some of these books are new, while others were published under the guise of pandemic darkness. In any case, this is my first opportunity to acknowledge and write about them.


Thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and diligent research, Richard Koszarski has produced a definitive chronicle of New York film production in the century. What’s more, he expands and corrects misinformation found in a myriad of existing articles and books.

This book provides long elusive details about the making (and funding) of Soundies, “race” films, and other niche films of the 1940s and 50s. The arrival of producer Louis de Rochemont and his semi-documentary feature is well covered along with the promotional hooey that came with their creation. Even a movie as well known as The naked city could not separate fact from fiction in his mention. Behind the scenes, the mysterious financing logistics caused movies like Sir. The universe (with Jack Carson and Bert Lahr) and St. Benny the Dip (with Dick Haymes and Nina Foch) to get on TV early – and often.

From interviews and primary sources – as the notes kept by “script girls” like Faith Elliott (later known as Faith Hubley) and Dede Allen (later to become a famous film editor) – he has put together the story of how Elia Kazan came to be On the waterfront and Stanley Kubrick clarified his second feature, The killer’s kiss, at about the same time, using some of the same resources. In the process, the author explodes many legends – both large and small – around these remarkable films. How close did Frank Sinatra get to playing the role of Brando in On the waterfront? Why did the author, whose original treatment served as the basis for that film, see his name disappear from the creditors, along with the newspaper reporter, whose dirty columns on waterfront corruption gave him a Pulitzer Prize?

Koszarski also explores the schism that existed for decades between the unions that had jurisdiction over the east and west coasts. Here is a common story of corruption, elitism, feathered and other ills. (Even after winning an Oscar for shooting On the waterfrontcinematographer Boris Kaufman could not get a job in Hollywood due to turf wars.)

Low-budget producer-director Joseph Lerner offered his freelance prop man $ 10 above the scale if he wanted to share the kickbacks he received from the prop houses. “‘I can not, Joe, for I have to earn a living.’ I’ll never forget it. Same with the gaffer (chief electrician). He says, ‘I bring Charlie Ross, we buy from Charlie Ross because their stuff is the best.’ I said, ‘OK, what’s your setback?’ He says: “Fifteen percent. ‘I’ll give you ten dollars a week over scale, and I will share that with you.’ “No, Joe!” ”

This is a unique work of research and writing, years in the making. If the production of cheesy movies with Pigmeat Markham does not interest you, you can be sure that the story will become more captivating as it goes on. Keep them in the east is a knockout.


One of my favorite cartoonists and illustrators, Edward Sorel, gives fans like me an overview of his life as a) New Yorker, b) apostate Jew, and c) freelance artist, not to mention devoted husband and father. (He often collaborated with his wife Nancy.) A self-described “old leftist,” he was never afraid to express his political views, even when they were not popular. But his pen was in line with his wit to create unforgettable visual interpretations of everyone from New York Mayor Ed Koch to Ronald Reagan. Rumbling like a subway train throughout the book is Sorel’s lifelong devotion to his youthful films. There are loving caricatures of many Hollywood greats, including his favorite, Edward G. Robinson. The only thing I can say to Sorel is: please do not stop!

20TH CENTURY FOX AND DARRYL F. ZANUCK by Scott Eyman (Running Press)

William Fox was a pioneer in the image industry, perhaps the most sinister of the immigrants who built a film company and a large chain of theaters to exhibit his product. To no one’s regret, he ran aground in the early 1930s and lived to see his studio co-opted by a young upstart: 20th Century Pictures, founded by United Artists’ Joseph Schenck and ex-Warner Bros. production manager Darryl F. Zanuck (a rare heathen among study leaders) – and partly funded by MGM’s Louis B. Mayer! This fact-packed volume reviews the colorful history of the company that merged to become 20th Century-Fox and remained intact until media mogul Rupert Murdoch sold it to the Walt Disney Company. This is not a deep dive like author Scott Eyman’s definitive biographies, but an airy collection of sharp observations and quirky anecdotes that tell the “life story” of a company even non-film lovers know from its logo and fanfare.

GARBO by Robert Gottlieb (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

After reading about Garbo for years, including Barry Paris’ seemingly definitive 1995 biography, I wondered what this book might have to offer. I quickly found out: it’s a witty, often cheeky study of the actress’ life and career, written by a venerable writer, editor and critic. Dive in anywhere and I dare you to put it down from you. Gottlieb’s many years of experience have given him the license to express sometimes bold and sharp opinions that contribute to the fun. There are 250 beautifully printed photos and several entertaining appendices: mentions of Garbo in books and songs, accounts of Garbo observations, and a detailed filmography that includes budget and revenue figures. This is a perfect volume to have by your bed or on a coffee table, to pick up and browse at your leisure.

CITIZEN KANE: A FILMMAKER’S JOURNEY by Harlan Lebo (Angel City Press)

Here is another book that overcame my skepticism. What I did not already know about Orson Welles and Borger Kane? A lot, it turns out – and in high time for a refresh. This welcome update and extension of a 1990 book in paperback form tells the whole story of Welles and his infamous debut film in a concise and straightforward manner. He settles the Herman Mankiewicz script in a short time, as the final script lacks dialogue and whole scenes that Welles added or invented at the last minute.

I had forgotten how far William Randolph Hearst and his deputies went to keep sleigh from American cinema screens. Aside from a blackout of coverage or advertising in the Hearst newspapers, Harry Warner personally promised that it would not play in any of his Warner theaters, and Fox’s Spiros Skouras did the same – meaning that even people who wanted to see it, might not have had access to a showing in their community. The only question that remains unanswered is, who contradicted their own stories more often, Hearst or Welles? (Has the WR ever shielded Borger Kane? Either yes or no, depending on which of the many answers you choose to believe. Did Welles ever meet the formidable publisher? Yes, he did or no, he did not, depending on when the topic appeared in his long anecdote.)

CLAUDE COATS: WALT DISNEYS IMAGINEER: FROM TOAD HALL TO THE HAUNTED PEAR EAR AND ON by David A. Bossert; foreword by Alan Coats; Foreword by Tony Baxter (The Old Mill Press)

One of Walt Disney’s gifts was to recognize talent and steer it in sometimes unexpected directions. Like most of the original planners of Disneyland (later renamed Imagineers), Claude Coats had made huge contributions to Disney’s landmark animated features. Then Walt pushed him to design three-dimensional attractions for his ambitious amusement park. Coats built another career working at the original park as well as Disneyland Europe in France. This loving tribute includes memories from colleagues and family, never-before-seen illustrations and more. It’s a beautifully produced volume that Disneyland aficionados will appreciate.

BUT WHAT I REALLY WANT TO DO IS DIRECTLY by Ken Kwapis (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Kwapis may not be a household name, but he has directed a number of good films (Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird, Dunston Checks In, The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants) and TV shows (Larry Sanders Show, The Office, Space Force) and draws on this experience to impart pieces of wisdom about the arts, crafts, and job of instructing. He’s smart enough to know how to keep his ego in check, but still take command of a set … and he mentions a host of great movies as role models, from Completely quiet on the western front and The Magnificent Ambersons to American graffiti. His book provides good reading even if you are not aiming to step behind the camera.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *