August 13, 2014
This week, 2 Hollywood legends passed. Robin Williams was a comic genius and Lauren Bacall was a symbol of Hollywood’s golden era. Very different stars who millions came to know and love from afar. Our Curated Booklist this week pays tribute to them and to the history of the movies, with books we have come to treasure as some of the best biographies and books about film. It also includes recommended books on subjects that touched both Williams’ and Bacall’s lives: addiction and mental illness.
Robin Williams – Named the Funniest Person Alive by “Entertainment Weekly” in 1997, Robin Williams was one of the most popular screen actors of his era. This biography provides a detailed look at the comedian’s life and career, from his poor-little-rich-kid childhood to his first big break to his battle with substance abuse to his screen successes.
By Myself and Then Some – The epitome of grace, independence, and wit, Lauren Bacall continues to project an audacious spirit and pursue on-screen excellence. The product of an extraordinary mother and a loving extended family, she produced, with Humphrey Bogart, some of the most electric and memorable scenes in movie history. After tragically losing Bogart, she returned to New York and a brilliant career in the theatre. A two-time Tony winner, she married and later divorced her second love, Jason Robards, and never lost sight of the strength that made her a star.
“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”
When, at the age of sixty-three, on August 11, 2014, Robin Williams departed this world, apparently by way of suicide, the outpouring of sorrow was overwhelming. Many marked his death by drawing on his richest and most enduring legacy: his own words. In this book are assembled his best, funniest and most poignant lines, from both the stage and the screen.
“A whole human life is just a heartbeat here in Heaven. Then we’ll all be together forever.”
Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People – Proceeds Benefit Save The Children. This star-studded tribute to the kings and queens of comedy draws together such legendary names as Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, and many more. Granted extraordinary access, photographer Matt Hoyle has captured his subjects in portraits that are works of art in themselves—by turns zany and deadpan, laugh-out-loud and contemplative. Accompanying them are first-person reflections from each of the comedians on life and laughter that always cut straight to the heart of comedy: it’s funny because it’s true. Page after sidesplitting page inComic Genius offers prose as engaging as each portrait is memorable. Here, in one handsome package, is the gift of laughter itself. Comic Genius is proud to support Save The Children.
Bogart: In Search of My Father – For countless millions, Humphrey Bogart’s screen performances and real-life persona merged to make him one of the world’s most fabled figures—a legend of mythic proportions. Or, as his Sam Spade would have put it—the stuff that dreams are made of.
But for his only son, Stephen, eight years old in 1957 when his father died of lung cancer, Humphrey Bogart’s giant shadow was a burden he carried until he finally came to understand the private man behind his father’s public face. And now, in this candid and insightful biography, Stephen Bogart explores and illuminates Humphrey Bogart’s life, work, and relationships as they never have been before.
Writing with the encouragement of his famous mother, Lauren Bacall, Stephen calls on his memories, and take full advantage of the extraordinary access he has had to friends and colleagues of his father. The result is an intimate and personal profile of an enigmatic man whose tough image contrasted with very human ambitions and vulnerabilities. It is also a vastly entertaining book, filled with fascinating stories involving Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn, “Swifty” Lazar, John Huston, Stephen Bogart’s stepfather, Jason Robards, and many others.
Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland – She lived at full throttle on stage, screen, and in real life, with highs that made history and lows that finally brought down the curtain at age forty-seven. Judy Garland died over thirty years ago, but no biography has so completely captured her spirit — and demons — until now.
From her tumultuous early years as a child performer to her tragic last days, Gerald Clarke reveals the authentic Judy in a biography rich in new detail and unprecedented revelations. Based on hundreds of interviews and drawing on her own unfinished — and unpublished — autobiography, Get Happy presents the real Judy Garland in all her flawed glory.
With the same skill, style, and storytelling flair that made his bestselling Capote a landmark literary biography, Gerald Clarke sorts through the secrets and the scandals, the legends and the lies, to create a portrait of Judy Garland as candid as it is compassionate.
Here are her early years, during which her parents sowed the seeds of heartbreak and self-destruction that would plague her for decades … the golden age of Hollywood, brought into sharp focus with cinematic urgency, from the hidden private lives of the movie world’s biggest stars to the cold-eyed businessmen who controlled the machine … and a parade of brilliant and gifted men — lovers and artists, impresarios and crooks — who helped her reach so many creative pinnacles yet left her hopeless and alone after each seemingly inevitable fall.
Here, then, is Judy Garland in all her magic and despair: the woman, the star, the legend, in a riveting saga of tragedy, resurrection, and genius.
The Million Dollar Mermaid – Not since David Niven wrote the bestselling The Moon’s a Balloon and its sequel Bring on the Empty Horses has one of Hollywood’s great stars written with such genuine wit and candor about
* what it was like to work in the movie factories where actors were pampered and coddled, yet expected to work without complaint for long, hard hours
* what it was like to be young and sexy and to be turned into an object of desire for millions of moviegoers
* what it was like to live in a world of almost total unreality, yet be expected to go about the business of finding a mate and raising a family, and avoiding personal scandal at all costs.
Now, for the hundreds of thousands of people who read and loved both of Niven’s books, comes Esther Williams’s wonderfully witty, fresh, and frank autobiography, all about an eighteen-year-old girl who reluctantly answers the siren call of MGM — at the time, the most powerful and prestigious movie studio in the world — and who soon finds herself launched on a career that will last more than twenty years, during which time she will help to create a genre of film that seems almost unimaginable today, yet which still holds all its original freshness and fascination, and who becomes during those years one of the world’s top box office stars.
George Hurrell’s Hollywood: Glamour Portraits 1925-1992 – George Hurrell (1904–1992) was the creator of the Hollywood glamour portrait. Before his arrival, movie star portraits were “soft focus” and undistinguished, derivative of the Main Street USA portrait salon. The maverick artist instituted a sharp, dramatic look and captured movie stars of the most exalted era in Hollywood history with bold contrast and seductive poses. This lavishly illustrated book spans Hurrell’s entire career, from his beginnings as a society photographer to his finale as the celebrity photographer who was himself a celebrity, a living legend.
From 1929 to 1944 Hurrell was the “Rembrandt of Hollywood,” creating portraits of Marlene Dietrich, Norma Shearer, Bette Davis, Carole Lombard, and Joan Crawford that were a blend of the ethereal and the erotic. His photos of Jane Russell sulking in a haystack made the unknown girl a star—and without a film credit to her name. He immortalized leading males stars of the day from the Barrymores to Clark Gable to Gary Cooper. Latter photo shoots magnified the glamour of the likes of Warren Beatty and Sharon Stone.
The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies – The Big Screen tells the enthralling story of the movies: their rise and spread, their remarkable influence over us, and the technology that made the screen—smaller now, but ever more ubiquitous—as important as the images it carries.
The Big Screen is not another history of the movies. Rather, it is a wide-ranging narrative about the movies and their signal role in modern life. At first, film was a waking dream, the gift of appearance delivered for a nickel to huddled masses sitting in the dark. But soon, and abruptly, movies began transforming our societies and our perceptions of the world. The celebrated film authority David Thomson takes us around the globe, through time, and across many media—moving from Eadweard Muybridge to Steve Jobs, from Sunrise to I Love Lucy, from John Wayne to George Clooney, from television commercials to streaming video—to tell the complex, gripping, paradoxical story of the movies. He tracks the ways we were initially enchanted by movies as imitations of life—the stories, the stars, the look—and how we allowed them to show us how to live. At the same time, movies, offering a seductive escape from everyday reality and its responsibilities, have made it possible for us to evade life altogether. The entranced audience has become a model for powerless and anxiety-ridden citizens trying to pursue happiness and dodge terror by sitting quietly in a dark room.
Does the big screen take us out into the world, or merely mesmerize us? That is Thomson’s question in this grand adventure of a book. Books about the movies are often aimed at film buffs, but this passionate and provocative feat of storytelling is vital to anyone trying to make sense of the age of screens—the age that, more than ever, we are living in.
Life’s a Drag Paper Dolls – Men dressing as women, women dressing as men—even a woman dressing as a man dressing as a woman! This collection features 17 dolls and 30 costumes that spotlight the gender-bending roles of well-known Hollywood stars. Featured artists include comedic drag performers — Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Tyler Perry, and RuPaul — as well as actors such as Barbra Streisand in Yentl, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. Mature content.
A to Z of Classic Hollywood Style – The latest book in the clothbound series that includes the bestselling Little Dictionary of Fashion and A to Z of Style, A to Z of Classic Hollywood Style is the perfect compendium of fashion wisdom from Hollywood’s most glamorous era. From Alfred Hitchcock on elegance, to Sophia Loren on sex appeal, to Edith Head on making a woman more beautiful, this book gathers the opinions of the world’s most beloved classic film stars, as well as directors, designers, and critics. Including Joan Crawford’s five fashion rules and Marlene Dietrich’s tips for dressing on a budget, A to Z of Classic Hollywood Style is packed full of stylish advice for would-be starlets—or simply anyone who loves the Golden Age of Hollywood style.
Addiction and Mental Illness
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness – A work of great personal courage and a literary tour de force, this bestseller is Styron’s true account of his descent into a crippling and almost suicidal depression. Styron is perhaps the first writer to convey the full terror of depression’s psychic landscape, as well as the illuminating path to recovery.
The Noonday Demon, An Atlas of Depression – With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, award-winning author Andrew Solomon takes the reader on a journey of incomparable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets. His contribution to our understanding not only of mental illness but also of the human condition is truly stunning.
The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policymakers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has had on various demographic populations around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness.
The depth of human experience Solomon chronicles, the range of his intelligence, and his boundless curiosity and compassion will change the reader’s view of the world.
Permanent Midnight, A Memoir – “An extraordinary accomplishment. . . . A remarkable book that will be of great value to people who feel isolated, alienated and overwhelmed by the circumstances of their lives.”—Hubert Selby, Jr., author ofLast Exit to Brooklyn
“[Stahl] is a better-than-Burroughs virtuoso.”—Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker
“Original, appalling, indelible picture of a man trying to swim and drown at the same time. Stahl has nerve, heart, a language of his own and a ghastly, riotous humor.”—Tobias Wolff, author of This Boy’s Life
“Permanent Midnight is one of the most harrowing and toughest accounts ever written in this century about what it means to be a junkie in America, making Burroughs look dated and Kerouac appear as the nose-thumbing adolescent he was.”—Booklist
A searing confessional infused with the darkest humor, Permanent Midnight chronicles the opiated abyss of a Hollywood screenwriter and his formidable climb into sobriety.
Made into a major motion picture starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, Permanent Midnight is revered by critics and an ever-growing cult of devoted readers as one of the most compelling contemporary memoirs.
The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir – Plagued by the suicides of both his siblings, and heir to alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, and economic ruin, James Brown lived a life clouded by addiction, broken promises, and despair.
In The Los Angeles Diaries, he reveals his struggle for survival, mining his past to present the inspiring story of his redemption. Beautifully written and limned with dark humor, these twelve deeply confessional, interconnected chapters address personal failure, heartbreak, the trials of writing for Hollywood, and the life-shattering events that finally convinced Brown that he must “change or die.”
In “Snapshot,” Brown is five years old and recalls the night his mother “sets fire to an apartment building down the street.” In “Daisy,” Brown purchases a Vietnamese potbellied pig for his wife to atone for his sins, only to find the pig’s bulk growing in direct proportion to the tensions in his marriage.Harrowing and brutally honest, The Los Angeles Diaries is the chronicle of a man on a collision course with life, who ultimately finds the strength and courage to conquer his demons and believe once more.
DVDs, Movies, Documentaries
Robin Williams Weapons of Self Destruction – Robin Williams – comedian, writer and Academy Award-winning actor – returned to HBO for his first solo TV concert since 2002. The show was filmed at Washington D.C.’s DAR Constitution Hall on his sold-out “Weapons Of Self Destruction” national tour. Robin covers such topics as global warning, health care in America (suggesting a “cash for clunkers” for elderly relatives), and more personal topics such as his recent open heart surgery. Bonus features include clips from Robin’s previous concerts – some dating back to 1978 – as well as tour highlights filmed all along the 2009 tour.
Bogie & Bacall The Signature Collection – They met on the WB lot. The year was 1944. “I just saw your screen test,” Bogart said to Bacall. “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together.” And so it began… Listed as the Greatest Male Star of All Time and one the Greatest Female Legends by the American Film Institute, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall star in the all new Bogie & Bacall: The Signature Collection. This giftset includes all four films that starred one of classic Hollywood’s noted couples.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey – An unprecedented cinematic event, an epic journey through the history of world cinema that is a treat for movie lovers around the globe. Guided by film historian Mark Cousins, this bold 15-part love letter to the movies begins with the invention of motion pictures at the end of the 19th century and concludes with the multi-billion dollar globalized digital industry of the 21st. The Story of Film: An Odyssey heralds a unique approach to the evolution of film art by focusing on the artistic vision and innovations of filmmaking pioneers. Cousins’ distinctive approach also yields a personal and idiosyncratic rewriting of film history. Filmed at key locations in film history on every continent, from Thomas Edison’s New Jersey laboratory, to Hitchcock’s London; from post-war Rome to the thriving industry of modern day Mumbai–this landmark documentary is filled with glorious clips from some of the greatest movies ever made and features interviews with legendary filmmakers and actors including Stanley Donen, Kyoko Kagawa, Gus van Sant, Lars Von Trier, Wim Wenders, Abbas Kiarostami, Claire Denis, Bernardo Bertolucci, Robert Towne, Jane Campion and Claudia Cardinale.