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.
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.
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.