Navigate / search

Film Noir: The Directors

It’s been an excellent few months for fans of the film noir genre. Several noir films were screened at the 3rd Annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood back in April. There’s the new Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics III DVD collection filled with hidden gems. Also the Noir City Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood just wrapped up its fantastic run on May 6th. In March, the much anticpated book Film Noir: The Directors,edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini was released.

Read more

Quick Reviews: Sherlock Holmes on Screen

Sherlock Holmes on Screen by Alan Barnes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes has been featured in more films and television programs than any other fictional character. With each adaptation and performance, different aspects of the beloved character are explored, including Holmes’s drug usage and personal relationships. With the these portrayals, it is difficult to keep track of them all. Super-fan Alan Barnes has collated information about his favorite sleuth into a detailed encyclopedia. It features every single Sherlock performance to appear in film and on television. In its third edition, Sherlock Holmes on Screen is an excellent guide to the world’s favorite detective. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will not be disappointed.

Sherlock Holmes on Screen(Updated)
Author: Alan Barnes
ISBN: 9780857687760
Titan Books
January 2012
320 pages

I received a copy from Titan Books

Quick Reviews: The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia

The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia by Glen Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent resource for fans of The Marx Brothers. Contains detailed information about the production of all their films, television appearances, stage, and solo endeavors. Presented in A-Z format with photos throughout. Contains information on co-stars like Margaret Dumont and Louis Calhern. If it has to do with the Marx Brothers, it’s in this book. A must have.

The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia (revised)
Author: Glen Mitchell
ISBN: 9780857687784
Titan Books
January 2012
309 Pages

I received a copy from Titan Books

Book Review- Judy: A Legendary Film Career

Photo courtesy of Running Press
Photo courtesy of Running Press

I have never considered myself a huge Judy Garland fan, but that’s not to say I don’t like her. I adore her. I respect her. I hold her in the highest regard. I suppose I never considered myself a fan because I do not feel worthy of that title. Honestly, like those who abused and exploited her, I have taken her for granted. She’s more than Dorothy, you know.

In the world of star biography and filmography, it’s rare to find a tribute that is not only well researched but also visually stunning. Judy: A Legendary Film Career by John Fricke is a perfect example of what a bio-filmography should be. Following a brief introduction, Fricke gives a short, but incredibly detailed history of Garland’s sometimes difficult upbringing. Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm to parents Frank and Ethel. “Baby” Gumm, as she was nicknamed, made her stage debut at just two years old. Through the years, Baby Gumm and her two older sisters performed at a number of theaters and in 1934, while performing in Chicago, The Gumm Sisters were discovered. During this time Ethel Gumm, who could easily be described as a “stage mom”, frequently gave her daughters stimulants to keep them working despite exhaustion. Likely unaware of the horrendous consequences of her actions, Ethel introduced Baby to a unhealthy pattern of overwork, exhaustion, medication, and crash dieting. This pattern would continue through Baby’s transformation into Judy Garland, her days at MGM, and up until her death at the age of 47. Judy’s relationship with her mother was strained, to say the least. However, Judy was incredibly close to her father, who faced significant demons of his own. When Frank died in 1935, Judy was devastated.

Fricke divides the filmography into four main sections, each highlighting a different era in Garland’s career. From her film debut in Pigskin Parade until her very last film I Could Go on Singing (with radio, television, and stage performances in between), Fricke provides incredibly in-depth information about each production. Cast and crew, filming budgets, reviews, photos, and anecdotes from co-stars, directors, producers accompany each film outline. The filmography is arranged chronologically and in between each section in the Garland timeline, Fricke gives insight into the personal triumphs and turmoils in that particular time of her life. And there were plenty of triumphs and turmoils. Even though her illness might have shown in her physical appearance, it very rarely affected her finished performance. That’s not to say she didn’t have difficulty getting to the point of finishing…

Throughout the 1940s Garland struggled immensely with her addiction to prescription drugs–a combination of diet pills/speed to get her up and going and sleeping pills to counteract the effects of the stimulants. Some periods in this decade were worse than others, in particular the unraveling of her marriage to second husband, director Vincente Minnelli. Even with her personal problems (which Fricke is very clear were not just Garland’s fault–studio heads at MGM most assuredly exploited her), she was still a top draw for MGM. That is until she was unable to fulfill contract obligations. After being fired from The Barkleys of Broadway and Annie Get Your Gun, Garland was released from her contract. Although she was considered largely unemployable, Garland had some of her best work ahead of her.

One thing I love about Judy: A Legendary Film Career is that Fricke doesn’t hide Garland’s flaws. With those flaws he celebrates her successes with such a defined passion (which only a true admirer could) that it’s hard not to immediately drop the book, put in one of her films, and bask in her infectious glow. Fricke also lists all the projects Garland lost or was rumored to have lost. This is something I always love reading about–the “what could have been” collaborations. Quotes about particular productions also renew my love for many of Garland’s co-stars and directors like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, George Cukor…and reaffirm my dislike of others like Ginger Rogers (yeah, that’s right. I don’t like Ginger Rogers). It’s refreshing to know that Kelly, Astaire, and Rooney loved Judy so much and understood her troubles. They, along with others, defended and protected her the best they could.

I absolutely loved Judy: A Legendary Film Career, and it was pleasure to read from start to finish. I highly recommend it for Judy Garland and classic film fans alike. This is the ultimate guide to Garland’s illustrious career and has the added bonus of looking wonderful on the bookshelf or table. Thanks to John Fricke, I feel like I possess the knowledge and respect to finally call myself a fan.

Judy: A Legendary Film Career
ISBN: 9780762437719
Running Press (Perseus Books)
August 2011
352 pages

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of Judy: A Legendary Film Career directly from the publisher, Running Press, which is an imprint of Perseus Books. I thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.