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.
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.”