Santa’s gift bag is heavy with books celebrating enduring filmmakers, the making of a Golden Age screen classic, two beloved cult films and a toast to Hollywood’s drinking circuit.
Scorsese on the set of Goodfellas, copyright ©1990 The Kobal Collection. From Martin Scorsese, reprinted with permission from Abrams.
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN MASTER
Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective celebrates one of America’s most original and audacious filmmakers. Written by incisive film critic Tom Shone and lavishly illustrated, this book—like a Scorsese film—packs a passionate wallop and is elevated by scrutinous attention to detail.
The film-by-film format encompasses Scorsese’s student films, B-movies (the Roger Corman-produced Boxcar Bertha), slick Hollywood entries (New York, New York), curiosities (The Last Temptation of Christ), documentaries (The Last Waltz) and iconic titles that established him as “the patron saint of blood and pasta” (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas).
A SINGULAR STYLE
In The Ultimate Woody Allen Film Companion, author Jason Bailey—film editor for Flavorwire—focuses on professional output, not controversial personal life, as he moves through nearly 50 years of Allen’s films—from What’s Up, Tiger Lily? to Blue Jasmine. The book’s lively, intuitive essays include surveys of Allen’s recurring themes (Jewish mothers, magic and magical realism, Groucho idolatry, infidelity, younger women, hypochondria), intermingled with charts and pages on related subjects including New York (complete with a map showing locales of film scenes), his favorite leading ladies and more.
BEHIND THE ULTIMATE EPIC
Lawdy! Who’d have guessed—after all these years and so much dissection—that The Making of Gone with the Wind would be as startlingly informative as it is sumptuous? But, then, author Steve Wilson, curator of the film collection at the University of Texas at Austin, had the benefit of access to the archives of David O. Selznick, the film’s producer, and his business partner. As a result, more than 600 rarely seen items, including storyboards, telegrams, contracts, fan mail, concept art and more, are grandly reproduced and scrutinized.
The book doesn’t skirt the racial controversies that have dogged the movie over the decades, but in this, its 75th year, neither is there any denying of its influence—and endurance.
AN IMPROBABLE CLASSIC
It was at a 25th anniversary gathering for the 1987 cult movie The Princess Bride that Cary Elwes—Westley to the film’s many devoted fans—was inspired to pen, with the help of Joe Layden, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.
The filmmakers and stars share their stories as Elwes charts the film’s unlikely journey from modest hit to cult status (thanks to VHS sales) to a timeless favorite featuring derring-do, pirates, giants, oversize rodents and the quest for true love.
UNABASHEDLY CAMPY FUN
Thanks to a magical blend of music, madness and gender bending—the lead, played by the riotous Tim Curry, is a transsexual mad scientist—a strange little musical became a pop culture legend. The Rocky Horror Treasury: A Tribute to the Ultimate Cult Classic, by devotees Sal Piro and Larry Viezel, follows the film’s history, includes lots of fun facts (an entire episode of TV’s “Glee” was devoted to RHPS) and has a side panel with eight buttons that play musical clips of songs like “Dammit Janet” and more. An envelope in the back contains extras: a poster, temporary tattoos and an instructional Time Warp dance chart.
RAISE A GLASS
And finally, hoist a glass to Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History, a clever compendium of equal parts showbiz and booze. Written by Mark Bailey and illustrated by Edward Hemingway, the book includes often outrageous stories of famed inebriates (John Barrymore and Liz Taylor among them), the bars they frequented, hangover cures and cocktail recipes.
Read all about that bastion of Tiki glory, Don the Beachcomber, and discover the origins of Chasen’s Shirley Temple (yes, it was created expressly for the tiny starlet). Sprinkled with celebrity quotes (Dennis Hopper: “I only did drugs so I could drink more.”), this book also works as a kind of tour guide—find “Open” signs hanging over sections in which the bars and other alcohol-centric joints are still serving. My personal favorite bartender, the legendary Manny Aguirre of Musso & Frank Grill, gets a shout-out and shares his martini recipe. Cheers!
This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.