Pat H. Broeske

This season’s Hollywood-themed offerings shine a spotlight on golden age stars, a timeless Italian beauty, an iconic ’60s film and an atlas of cinematic favorites.

We’ll start with the cleverly titled Cinemaps, which delineates the physical settings, plotlines and the comings and goings of characters from 35 beloved films.

This stylish coffee-table book offers guides to films such as King Kong (1933), Star Wars, Terminator 2 and Pulp Fiction. Artist Andrew DeGraff, who previously gave us Plotted: A Literary Atlas, explains his work in captions. The maps for Raiders of the Lost Ark reference the film’s “frantic, fast-paced nature.” The circular cemetery in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is akin to “a gladiatorial arena attended by an audience of the dead.” Accompanying essays by A.D. Jameson remind us why these films have endured.

TO YOU, MRS. ROBINSON
Speaking of endurance, it’s been 50 years since moviegoers first lined up to see The Graduate. Anticipated to be a small art house film, the story of Benjamin Braddock—just out of college and facing an uncertain future—became a box office hit, made Dustin Hoffman a star and earned an Academy Award for director Mike Nichols. Seduced by Mrs. Robinson traces the film’s journey to cultural benchmark with savvy insight and scholarly acumen.

Author Beverly Gray utilizes special collections and open access to Hollywood producer Lawrence Turman and his papers in order to chart his hunt for financial backing, the script, the director and stars. Finalists for the plum role of Benjamin included Robert Redford and Charles Grodin, but Hoffman, who couldn’t envision himself as a romantic lead at the time, won the role. The fact that this all happened during the seismic shake-up of the ’60s makes the film’s ambiguous ending all the more compelling.

FAMOUS FRIENDS
Scott Eyman’s Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart reveals that the legendary actors were best buddies, despite their disparate views and lifestyles. Stewart was a staunch Republican; Fonda was a lifelong supporter of liberal causes. Stewart married late (at 41) and for life; Fonda married early, then four more times. Stewart’s image was warm and welcoming; Fonda’s was chilly and remote. Still, theirs was an unshakable 50-year friendship.

They met while working on the stage in the 1930s and later shared a New York apartment that Fonda called “Casa Gangrene.” Both went on to have roles in enduring classics: Fonda as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, Stewart as George Bailey in the perennial holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life. Eyman interviewed the pair’s family members—including famed Fonda kids Jane and Peter—friends and industry folk, and mined existing sources to deliver an endearing portrait of their intersecting lives and careers. The friends’ devotion lasted until Fonda was on his deathbed, with Stewart making daily visits. This detailed account of Fonda and Stewart off camera is a testament to the power of friendship.

(From Grace Kelly, an MGM portrait used to promote The Swan, 1952. Courtesy MPTV. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins.)

STYLE AND GRACE
A salute to a woman who was as disciplined as she was determined, Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl offers what authors Manoah Bowman and Jay Jorgensen call an “alternative story” by focusing on her Hollywood years. More than 400 photographs, some never before seen, accompany the eloquent text, which takes us from her work on TV to her success on the big screen. She co-starred with the era’s biggest actors (having affairs with a number of them, including Clark Gable and Ray Milland) and worked with leading directors. She made three films for Hitchcock—Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief—which the authors credit with transforming her into a glamour girl. The show-stopping Hitchcock chapters include wardrobe test shots, behind-the-scenes candid photos and pages from campaign manuals (which were sent to exhibitors).

Of course, it all wraps up with her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco—though Hollywood remained close to her heart. For die-hard Kelly fans, or those angling for an introduction to the gal from Philadelphia who became a real-life princess, this beautifully designed book is a must-have.

AN ICONIC DIVA
Sophia Loren: Movie Star Italian Style is a largely pictorial celebration of the Italian diva and her six decades in the spotlight. Cindy De La Hoz, who has authored similarly lavish tomes on icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner, offers a mini-biography followed by a compendium of Loren’s film roles. Loren made popular films such as Houseboat opposite Cary Grant, with whom she had an affair. But it’s the Italian entries, largely unknown to American audiences, that are the highlights of this book. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar for Two Women (1960), and was the first performer from a foreign film to win in that category. Now a proud grandmother, Loren remains a head-turner. As critic Bosley Crowther put it, “[T]he mere opportunity to observe her is a privilege not to be dismissed.”

 

This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

This season’s Hollywood-themed offerings shine a spotlight on golden age stars, a timeless Italian beauty, an iconic ’60s film and an atlas of cinematic favorites.

For TV and film lovers, this year’s crop of books offer fun “best of” rankings, behind-the-scenes tours, photos from the vaults of Hollywood A-listers, touching tributes and more.

TOP PICKS IN TV
Is “The Simpsons” really the best TV show ever? Does “Deadwood” belong in the top 10? Is “The Larry Sanders Show” TV’s most influential series? Readers will be fighting for the remote and cruising Netflix to see how their picks compare with those of authors Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, who name the greatest American shows of all time in TV (The Book). In choosing the greatest scripted comedies and dramas, criteria included innovation, influence and storytelling. The bulk of the nods are for shows from the ’80s (when TV first hit its artistic stride, per the authors) through today. Still, “I Love Lucy” makes their top 10.

PIONEERING LEADING LADIES
For fans of Hollywood’s Golden Age, there are lavish, large-format celebrations of two indelible leading ladies. Audrey: The 50s tracks the early years of Audrey Hepburn’s career. Author David Wills utilizes his own photo archives to spotlight the actress and her movies, her relationships with colleagues (her Roman Holiday co-star Gregory Peck called her “a magical combination of high chic and high spirits”) and her undeniable impact on fashion, a Hepburn legacy that began with Sabrina. This carefully curated photographic retrospective contains restored shots of Hepburn from a decade of acting on sets like Funny Face and The Nun’s Story, with snippets from her interviews and charming candids of Hepburn at home. Audrey is a great gift for fashion and film lovers alike.


Hepburn on the set of Sabrina courtesy of Wills' collection.

Natalie Wood (Turner Classic Movies): Reflections on a Legendary Life is the first family-authorized book about the Oscar-nominated actress who starred in classics including Miracle on 34th Street, Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story. Authored by Manoah Bowman with Natasha Gregson Wagner, Wood’s eldest daughter, this book has a straightforward agenda: to restore Wood’s legacy. As the opening chapter notes, her “accidental death” in 1981 has for too long overshadowed her life. Moving chronologically through her life and career, the chapters feature remembrances from various colleagues, friends and family. Fans will love the shots of Wood on the set of the iconic Rebel Without a Cause and other favorites like Splendor in the Grass, along with her magazine covers, wedding photos and never-before-seen images from her family’s private collection. An introduction penned by Robert Wagner, to whom she was famously twice married; her friend Robert Redford’s brief afterword; and a special chapter on the making of West Side Story make this a standout tribute.

FILMMAKING FINESSE
Let’s not forget the filmmakers. The Oliver Stone Experience is appropriately hefty, with 500 color photos and illustrations, including facsimiles of script pages and correspondence. This dramatically designed book looks at the life and work of one of Hollywood’s most audacious, controversial artists. Author Matt Zoller Seitz (co-author of the aforementioned TV) and Stone participate in a probing Q&A that provides an engaging through line in the book.

Stone doesn’t hold back about his privileged upbringing, his relationships with his parents and women, behind-closed-doors Hollywood dealings, how Vietnam changed his worldview and more. 

In the preface, Seitz states that this isn’t just a portrait of the director responsible for iconic films such as Scarface, Platoon, Wall Street, JFK and the loony Natural Born Killers, but a celebration of one of America’s film titans. The book wraps with Snowden, Stone’s latest eyebrow-raising and politically charged title. Love him or loathe him, his movies are never boring and neither is this book. For Stone’s followers, it’s a must-have.

IT'S "FRON-KEN-STEEN"
On the lighter side is Young Frankenstein, a collection of photos and ruminations about one of the funniest movies ever made. Written by beloved crazy man Mel Brooks, it’s got behind-the-scenes surprises plus never-before-seen art. Brooks’ voice comes through in his writing, and like the movie, it’s both distinctive and hilarious.

The 1974 film Young Frankenstein was the brainchild of the late Gene Wilder, who played Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Their teamup, says Brooks, was “a fierce collaboration” marked by an especially big fight involving Wilder’s desire to have the movie’s monster perform the song and dance number, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” If you’ve seen the film, you know who won that one.

In the book’s introduction, contemporary comedy king Judd Apatow calls the film “the comedy equivalent of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ or The Great Gatsby, or the ’86 New York Mets.” He won’t get any arguments.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

For TV and film lovers, this year’s crop of books offer fun “best of” rankings, behind-the-scenes tours, photos from the vaults of Hollywood A-listers, touching tributes and more.

An unstoppable film franchise. A luminous Golden Age star. A beloved oddball actor. This season’s standout entertainment-themed books run the gamut from design to drama, from stand-up to the stage. 

THE NAME'S BOND
Whatever your take on the Bond films—including the vastly differing opinions on which actor is the best Bond—the franchise’s production value is not up for debate. The large-format Bond by Design salutes the behind-the-scenes artists—including renowned production designers Ken Adam, Syd Cain and Peter Lamont—and features a copious display of artwork, sets, costumes and embellishments, making this hefty tome a must-have for 007 fans and devotees of production design. 

With many sections written by Meg Simmonds, the archivist for the Bond empire’s production company, the book moves film by film, featuring storyboard sequences, costume illustrations, gadgetry ruminations and more. Styles vary from artist to artist. Adam, whose Bond career dates back to the 1962 debut title, Dr. No, liked to work with a Flo-master felt tip pen. Jump ahead many decades, and the artists embrace digital design; what is consistent is the quality and attention to detail. No wonder Bond is the most successful franchise in film history, with the 24th entry, Spectre, now in theaters and thoroughly represented in this elaborate collection. 

A HOLLYWOOD LEGEND
Though she won three Academy Awards, Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman is best known for her role opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Published to commemorate the centenary of her birth, the lavish and loving Ingrid Bergman: A Life in Pictures takes readers on a journey through her career, including her downward spiral and triumphant encore. 

With daughter Isabella Rossellini serving as co-editor, this book boasts more than 350 photos—some from Bergman’s private collection—an introduction by her co-star and friend Liv Ullmann, a lengthy Bergman interview and texts by various acquaintances. 

Her highly controversial liaison with Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini is detailed alongside the image that sparked the media frenzy: Bergman and Rossellini, who were both married to other people, walking hand in hand on the Amalfi coast. Published by Life magazine, the photo established Bergman’s reputation as a loose woman. When she became pregnant with Rossellini’s child and delivered the baby prior to their marriage, she became a Hollywood pariah. 

Beauty, talent, choices and sacrifice—they’re all on display here in Bergman’s intriguing story, all of it captured by the camera.

THE CULT OF BILL
Whether he’s battling gophers, ghosts or zombies, Bill Murray is the quirky king of offbeat humor. As Robert Schnakenberg puts it in The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, his on-screen persona is that of “the sardonic slacker-trickster who charms his way out of precarious situations.”

Topics are arranged alphabetically: Under “cats,” we learn that he’s allergic to them; under “Chase, Cornelius ‘Chevy,’ ” we hear about his rocky relationship with his fellow “Saturday Night Live” alum, including their fistfight prior to a February 1978 taping. His movies are all featured, as are the roles he turned down (like porn producer Jack Horner, subsequently played by Burt Reynolds, in Boogie Nights).  

As the book observes, the beloved Murray is a complicated guy. (See the listing under “Ramis, Harold,” about his two-decade estrangement from his former pal and director.) Comedians usually are. 


Photo of Bill Murray in Caddyshack from The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, reprinted courtesy of the Everett Collection.

MAKE ’EM LAUGH
Speaking of comics, more than a century of stand-up gets the spotlight in The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. Author Kliph Nesteroff, a former stand-up comic, conducted more than 200 interviews for a book that manages to be both encyclopedic and hugely entertaining. 

Did you know that the term “stand-up comic” was invented by the Mob, which owned the early clubs? Or that it was Redd Foxx, of TV’s “Sanford and Son,” who triggered the comedy album boom in the 1960s?  

Nesteroff takes us through the history of stand-up, with vivid stop-offs in burlesque, radio, early television, Vegas and the talk show circuit. Of course, comedy has a dark side. Nesteroff uses Robin Williams to remind us that the funniest guy in the room is sometimes hiding a world of pain. 

BROADWAY'S BEST
Celebratory and jam-packed with facts and great imagery, Musicals: The Definitive Illustrated Story focuses on more than 140 great musicals of stage and screen from the past century. The enduring classics are all accounted for, from Show Boat to The Phantom of the Opera, from Jesus Christ Superstar to Hair. Lush production photos, fascinating essays and facts about the genre’s geniuses, including Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, make this a choice coffee-table tome. There’s much to sing about here, in what could easily become a favored reference work.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

An unstoppable film franchise. A luminous Golden Age star. A beloved oddball actor. This season’s standout entertainment-themed books run the gamut from design to drama, from stand-up to the stage.

An imposing book by virtue of size alone, the 640-page Dietrich & Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives is also decidedly ambitious. The dual biography explores the profoundly different paths taken by two iconic and influential German artists in the years before and after Hitler’s rise to power.

The parallel stories of actress-singer Marlene Dietrich and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl are told via an interweaving of politics, culture, German filmmaking, Hollywood and the uncompromising personal lives of the two women. The author, Berlin-based historian Karin Weiland, is up to the task. She doggedly mined a mountain of source materials, including various German archives, and gives context to the complex historical narrative that shaped Dietrich and Riefenstahl. As translated by Shelley Frisch, who previously translated examinations of Einstein, Kafka and Nietzsche, this is a compelling work that provides both scholarly assessment and page-turning dish.

Born within a year of one another, Dietrich and Riefenstahl were part of the early German film industry. They even competed for the same role—cabaret headliner Lola Lola in the 1930 classic The Blue Angel. Dietrich got the part, which paved her way to Hollywood and international stardom. Riefenstahl went on to appear in a series of “mountain films,” a genre that showcased physicality and German nationalism. She also become a comrade of Hitler, and directed documentaries extolling the Third Reich. As every student of film knows, Triumph of the Will (1935) remains one of the greatest, most disturbing pieces of propaganda ever made. Riefenstahl followed it with the equally famous Olympia (1938), about the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Dietrich, meanwhile, emigrated and became a favorite of American moviegoers—the most exotic transplant since Garbo. She took on U.S. citizenship and more than proved her patriotism with wartime work for the USO. She was actually given a rank and a uniform. Captain Dietrich was the first woman to be awarded the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest distinction for civilian contributions to the war effort.

As for Riefenstahl, she later insisted she had no knowledge of what went on behind the walls of Germany’s concentration camps, and claimed to be ignorant of her country’s virulent and deadly anti-Semitism.

The two women enjoyed long lives, as well as latter-day attention. Dietrich reinvented herself in Las Vegas and took her act on the road—complete with diaphanous gown and teetering Ferragamo heels. Riefenstahl became a sought-after photographer and a darling of the film festival circuit. In covering their stories, the author has a clear favorite in the less complicated–and controversial–Dietrich. Your decision awaits.

An imposing book by virtue of size alone, the 640-page Dietrich & Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives is also decidedly ambitious. The dual biography explores the profoundly different paths taken by two iconic and influential German artists in the years before and after Hitler’s rise to power.

Forget Ben, Jennifer and the nanny. Don’t give a second thought to Gwen and Gavin. Contemporary Splitsville sagas are dullsville compared to the craziness of Golden Age Hollywood stars Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Their four decades-plus romance, detailed in John Brady’s juicy and judiciously reported Frank & Ava: In Love and War, was the stuff of both dreams and nightmares and makes for a doozy of a read.

They met in the 1940s at the trendy Mocambo club on the Sunset Strip. Budding actress Gardner was with new husband and MGM star Mickey Rooney. (Yes, Mickey Rooney.) Frank Sinatra, a family man who was nonetheless on the prowl, ambled over and said to her, “Hey, why didn’t I meet you before Mickey?” 

Rooney and Gardner lasted less than a year. Ditto Gardner’s subsequent marriage to big band leader (and famed Lothario) Artie Shaw. Inevitably, Sinatra and Gardner married. He called her Angel, she called him Francis. He liked being in charge, she hated being told what to do. His career was at a crossroads. She had become a box office queen.

They both liked booze and drama. They’d fight, she’d threaten to leave, he’d threaten suicide. They once tore into the desert night—in a Caddy—with a bottle and a pair of Smith & Wesson .38s. They shot out shop windows in a small burg. The cops got involved. Sinatra made a phone call and no charges were filed. 

Best known previously for his tell-alls about writing (The Craft of Interviewing), former Writer’s Digest editor Brady once worked for Reprise Records, where he met Sinatra and many of his musical chums. The gig obviously resonated. In addition to original interviews, the book makes adroit use of the author’s knowledge of the music scene, Sinatra in particular, along with sourced materials in previous works. 

More than a story of a dizzying love affair, Frank & Ava depicts the profound aftershocks of a relationship. For instance, Gardner campaigned for Sinatra to get the role of doomed Angelo Maggio in the screen version of the era’s hot book, From Here to Eternity. He got the part, won an Oscar and saw his movie career skyrocket. Hers, alas, went the way of aging actresses. 

The marriage fizzled, too. Divorced, they went their colorful ways. But they kept reconnecting, even talking remarriage. The sequel never happened.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Forget Ben, Jennifer and the nanny. Don’t give a second thought to Gwen and Gavin. Contemporary Splitsville sagas are dullsville compared to the craziness of Golden Age Hollywood stars Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Their four decades-plus romance, detailed in John Brady’s juicy and judiciously reported Frank & Ava: In Love and War, was the stuff of both dreams and nightmares and makes for a doozy of a read.

Clad in Starfleet regulation red and black, Kate Mulgrew helmed the USS Voyager for seven seasons as Captain Kathryn Janeway in “Star Trek: Voyager.” In the hit series “Orange Is the New Black” she co-stars as take-no-guff Galina “Red” Reznikov, who shrewdly navigates the echelons of a minimum security federal women’s prison. Now, Mulgrew proves equally commanding as a storyteller—with a new memoir that is equal parts triumph and heartbreak. 

The tellingly titled Born with Teeth is no cookie-cutter career chronicle. Yes, Mulgrew mentions the more notable film, TV and stage projects of her 40-year career. And there is occasional name-dropping. (A boozy Richard Burton, with whom she is co-starring in an Arthurian romance, tells her to “Get. Out.” Get out of what, she wonders? He replies, “This business will kill you. . . .”) But the book’s emphasis is on family and friendships, along with the actress’ own indomitable spirit, which is a hallmark of the characters she’s known for portraying. 

“If there is an arc to my life it is that wherever there is light, there is shadow,” Mulgrew says.

Speaking by phone from her Manhattan apartment, just days after recording the audio version of Born with Teeth, she describes what it was like to read her own words: “It was an existential, revelatory, bizarre, but strangely exhausting and moving experience. I encouraged the director and the engineer to keep rolling through it. Because if there were tears or a huskiness in my voice or an unexplained pause, the audience would certainly understand, and I think it endows it with an authenticity.”

The going was particularly difficult when it came to the passages about her beloved younger sister, Tessie, who died of a brain tumor. And then there were the sections about an early-in-her-career unplanned pregnancy and the decision to give the baby up for adoption. 

“My own life—and I realize I’m at risk of sounding arrogant, but I assure you this is not intended that way—has surpassed, in richness, size and depth, anything that I have lived as an actress,” Mulgrew says. “The people that I’ve loved, the losses that I’ve experienced. . . . My upbringing alone was extraordinary.”

The eldest daughter of a loud, boisterous, unconventional Irish-Catholic family, Mulgrew grew up in a rambling house in Dubuque, Iowa, where she was mother hen to her six siblings (a seventh died in infancy), and the best friend and confidante to her mother, Joan, whose own dashed artistic dreams propelled her to urge Kate toward success.

A pivotal moment came when the young Mulgrew became transfixed by both writing and the theater. “You can either be a mediocre poet or a great actress,” said her mother.

Looking back at that exchange, Mulgrew, on the cusp of turning 60, says, “I was to complete her incomplete journey. At the time I couldn’t have understood that she needed to live through me, vicariously.”

It was after making her way to New York University, and into the acting program taught by the legendary Stella Adler, that Mulgrew encountered another defining figure. “Stella unleashed in me the things that allowed me to become who I did become. My mother had the map. She understood the road. But Stella knew the way.” 

Mulgrew was just 19 when she was cast in a new daytime soap, “Ryan’s Hope,” and as Emily Webb in the Broadway revival of the Thornton Wilder perennial, Our Town. “I spent my days in the studio, my nights on the stage. I knew that I would never be this happy again in my life. Or feel so exhausted. Or joyful.” Adds Mulgrew, “I was elated. I was alive. I was unfettered and I was free.” Then came the unplanned pregnancy. 

The soap opera star lived a soap opera of her own. A pregnancy was written into “Ryan’s Hope,” and Mulgrew made arrangements with a Catholic adoption agency.

After giving birth, she wasn’t allowed to hold her baby daughter—though a hospital nurse allowed her one quick peek at Baby Girl Mulgrew before closing the Venetian blinds that shielded the newborns from onlookers. Three days later Mulgrew was back at work—where the script called for her character to cradle a stunt baby.   

Mulgrew subsequently moved from daytime to primetime TV as the title character in “Mrs. Columbo,” and starred in sweeping miniseries like “The Manions of America,” which introduced viewers to a handsome Irishman named Pierce Brosnan. There were movies, too, and lots of stage work. And romances and marriage and motherhood (two sons). And divorce. Through it all, Mulgrew agonized about the daughter she had given up. When queries to the adoption agency were ignored, she hired an investigator.

When, in 1998, Mulgrew was at last put in touch with her daughter, Danielle, and asked for an in-person meeting, the young woman said, “I’ll have to ask my parents first.” Today, birth mother and daughter are close. (“She’s coming in this weekend,” Mulgrew notes.) Danielle was given an advance galley of Mulgrew’s book—as were a handful of close friends, siblings and Mulgrew’s soulmate—husband Tim Hagan. (The memoir chronicles Mulgrew’s romance with Hagan, an Ohio politician.)

Mulgrew wrote Born with Teeth over a year-long period without the usual co-author (or ghostwriter). “Writing is different than acting, but it’s the same longing. It’s tapping into the same primitive place.”

 

This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

UPDATE: Mulgrew has confirmed in an interview posted on her website that she is now divorced from husband Tim Hagan.

Clad in Starfleet regulation red and black, Kate Mulgrew helmed the USS Voyager for seven seasons as Captain Kathryn Janeway in “Star Trek: Voyager.” In the hit series “Orange Is the New Black” she co-stars as take-no-guff Galina “Red” Reznikov, who shrewdly navigates the echelons of a minimum security federal women’s prison. Now, Mulgrew proves equally commanding as a storyteller—with a new memoir that is equal parts triumph and heartbreak.

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