Books by Patrick McGilligan

FUNNY MAN by Patrick McGilligan
Released: March 19, 2019

"In response to a negative review, Brooks wanted to tell the critic, 'I meant no harm. I only wanted to entertain you.' Readers can decide for themselves whether the Brooks who emerges in these well-researched yet sometimes-tiresome pages caused more joy than harm."
A biography of America's "self-proclaimed emperor of bad taste." Read full book review >
YOUNG ORSON by Patrick McGilligan
Released: Nov. 17, 2015

"McGilligan works overtime trying to justify such a massive book about only a part of Welles' life, but it's also buoyed by a dependably powerful subject at the center."
A boy wonder's life—overlong but also filling. Read full book review >
Released: July 12, 2011

"The sad story, well and respectfully told, of an American original struggling with procrustean politics, timorous producers and personal demons."
A veteran biographer of film legends records the sad career arc of Nicholas Ray (1911-1979), the director of one of Hollywood's most iconic films, Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2007

"Essential for anyone interested in racial issues and the history of American filmmaking; a well researched, passionately felt and endlessly fascinating look at a singular American life."
The frankly amazing story of the black D.W. Griffith. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"Master-ful. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)"
The Master of Suspense finally gets an authoritative life. Read full book review >
FILM CRAZY by Patrick McGilligan
Released: July 1, 2000

"This is an often fascinating slice of Hollywood history, although it is geared primarily to serious film buffs."
The "legends" interviewed by film historian and biographer McGilligan (Fritz Lang, 1997, etc.) are mostly directors whose careers date back to the silent movie days. His anthology brings together a dozen pieces published during the 1970s. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 12, 1997

A massive, slow-moving oral history of 30-plus Hollywood blacklistees. The Hollywood blacklist starred few heroes and far too many villains. The latter range from the studios and networks that illegally abetted the blacklist to those who ``named names'' to many blacklistees themselves, staunch Stalinist ideologues who would have gladly extirpated any opposition if the tables had been turned. The real victims were those whose left-wing ties provided the thinnest pretext for informers to trap them in the mad gyre. This collection presents a wide range of blacklistees, from a few of the more well known, such as Martin Ritt, Jules Dassin, and Ring Lardner Jr., to a large number of the obscure and marginal, most of them writers. Because the subjects tell their own lives in their own words, this leads to both an idiosyncratic freshness as well as a lack of focus, with opinion and anecdote substituting for depth. Also, with many interviews, the blacklist is only a small component, and we are treated to biographical minutiae of extremely minor figures (some with only a handful or less of films to their name). Even die-hard film and blacklist buffs will find their patience tried. McGilligan (Fritz Lang, 1997, etc.) and veteran oral historian Buhle know their material well, but their questions tend to be facile and unrevealing. But though this book is almost impossible to read cover to cover, it is interesting to see just how varied the experiences of blacklistees were. Some fled to Europe or Mexico and built careers there; some used ``fronts,'' or pseudonyms; some got out of the biz. Some have forgiven their tormentors, some bear deep grievances. But the careers of all of them were seriously damaged by the experience: Perhaps this explains why so many of these interviewees are not household names. Invaluable source material, but much more than the ordinary reader wants or needs to know. (32 b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
FRITZ LANG by Patrick McGilligan
Released: June 25, 1997

An adroit and revealing biography of the talented director of such classics as Metropolis and M. Few directors weathered the transition from silent movies to sound as successfully as Lang. His success in doing so may have been, in part, due to the fact that his aesthetic remained essentially visual, a masterful and calculated use of angles, framing, and lighting. Beyond their usefulness in creating tableaux vivants, actors were, he seemed to feel, more of an annoyance than anything else. Not surprisingly, the notoriously perfectionist Lang mistreated some very high-priced talent, including Peter Lorre, Spencer Tracy, and Marlene Dietrich, as well as a raft of hapless producers. As Henry Fonda once remarked: `` `It just doesn't occur to him that actors are human beings. . . . He is the master puppeteer, and he is happiest only when he can manipulate the blank puppets.' '' Only perhaps in M, the tale of a wretched child-killer, did Lang achieve a full and rich psychological portrait. With his ever-present monocle and soldierly bearing, Lang seemed the epitome of the autocratic Prussian, but in truth he was not only Viennese but half-Jewish and a committed leftist. Soon after Hitler came to power, Lang—then considered Germany's greatest director—went into self-imposed exile in Hollywood. He was a dedicated mythomaniac, and veteran film biographer McGilligan (Jack's Life, 1994, etc.) does an extraordinarily thorough job of separating Lang fact from Lang fable. Despite the constant battles on the set and budget overruns, Lang worked well into his 70s. His retirement years, however, were pure Sunset Boulevard, as the nearly blind Lang kept detailed diaries of the minutiae of his day, conversed with his wooden pet monkey, Peter, and had longtime live-in ex-lover Lilly Latte regularly procure him prostitutes. McGilligan is not a graceful stylist, but he has a great story to tell, and he tells it with verve, originality, and insight. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
JACK'S LIFE by Patrick McGilligan
Released: March 21, 1994

Long-awaited, first-class, admiring but unauthorized life of the most popular film actor since Brando—from the author of George Cukor (1991) and Robert Altman (1989). McGilligan could not get to Nicholson, or to many of his close friends, and so depended on those he could, on print interviews (Nicholson has been ``interviewed to death,'' says the author, who himself met or otherwise interviewed Nicholson several times for magazines), and on superior sleuthing in old court records, 1930's newspapers, phone books, and so on. He has undoubtedly turned up stuff about Nicholson's family even the actor didn't know, and Nicholson's veiled but tangled family life is one of Hollywood's knottiest. In 1974, a Time reporter researching a cover story on Nicholson (with Chinatown opening and The Fortune being filmed) unearthed the fact that the woman he thought was his mother was actually his grandmother and that his sister was his mother—a situation amazingly parallel to Chinatown's ``sister-mother'' theme. Nicholson had carefully built up an image of truthful acting and prided himself publicly that ``my family was always big into honesty....'' This revelation caused him many tears, especially since everyone who might have told him something about his mystery father was dead. A native of Asbury Park, Nicholson spent his first 11 years in TV and films as a ``younger leading man'' in duds such as The Cry Baby Killer and Roger Corman schlock epics before his breakthrough in Easy Rider. The still unmarried father of two recent children, Nicholson's constant adultery while professing otherwise to Anjelica Huston for 14 years adds much paprika to McGilligan's book. The thoughtful Nicholson rasp adds vividness to every page. Read full book review >
GEORGE CUKOR by Patrick McGilligan
Released: Nov. 25, 1991

Rich character study of homosexual film-director Cukor, famed for his handling of actresses, by McGilligan (Robert Altman: Jumping off the Cliff, 1989, etc.). A Hungarian-American Jew with no interest in Judaism, Cukor spent his professional life fearful of exposure as a gay—though nearly everyone knew that he was one. In his early years in the theater, as a stage director in Rochester and on Broadway, homosexuality was commonly accepted, although in the 30's Cukor tried in vain to have the ``moral turpitude'' clause removed from his MGM contract. The 40's and 50's found gays less accepted and Cukor's fears justified. Only once did scandal brush him, when he and a fellow gay looking for rough trade were mugged by sailors—an incident hushed up by MGM. Cukor was famed for lavish parties and the quiet Sunday get-togethers of his ``chief unit,'' or old-time gays. He resisted any deeper feelings about sex, always paying off his young men in cash, even into his 80s. On the other side of his double life, he was the only gay film director of major rank. His career included discovering Katharine Hepburn, with whom he made ten films; directing Garbo in her greatest film, Camille, and possibly her worst, Two-Faced Woman; directing Judy Garland in A Star Is Born, Marilyn Monroe in Let's Make Love and her tragically ill-fated Something's Got to Give. Gable had him fired from Gone with the Wind, claiming he couldn't work with ``a fairy.'' Cukor's other classics included David Copperfield, Jean Harlow's Dinner at Eight, Ingrid Bergman's Gaslight, and Hepburn's The Philadelphia Story, among many others. The past recaptured, keenly and zestfully. Not to be missed. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >
ROBERT ALTMAN by Patrick McGilligan
Released: May 10, 1989

Jumbo, sympathetic trek through the incredibly productive life of hard-drinking, maverick, anticommercial film director Robert Altman. Seen up close and at moderate length, Altman's 20 feature films and countless TV shows reveal a towering talent oft gone awry—bored, unfocused, and credit-hogging but often unrecognized for his real successes as an independent. From Kansas City, Altman is the son of an insurance salesman so prodigiously charming that he could sell a policy to a cigar-store Indian, and of a mother who was "a perfect, all-American heartland Mom." The Altman who emerges from this biography is sometimes lovable, often "scrambling, wretched, vindictive," and envious ("At Elaine's Restaurant. . .Atlman always made a point of sitting with his back to Woody Allen"). Often recriminating, broke, and flying about on a creditless credit card, he resents not having had his directorial breakthrough (M.A.S.H.) until past 40. Before cutting all ties with Kansas City at 36, Altman made some 60 industrial films, then in Hollywood spun out endless episodes of serial TV shows (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bonanza, The Millionaire, Kraft Theater) before knocking off a set of respectable B-pictures and getting bis big shot at M.A.S.H. In this he developed his trademark ensemble effect of overlapping dialogue and dozens of actors occupying the eye and ear. Gradually he gave up full scripts and began inventing characters via the actors. In McCabe and Mrs. Miller, both Warren Beatty and Julie Christie wrote much of their own dialogue and helped focus the story of the two leads rather than vitiate it into a group effort, which may account for this picture often being thought of as both Altman and Beatty's warmest. Not that many of Altman's group pictures aren't buoyant good fun, with Altman respected by his fellow participants, whose input is welcomed. Huge but not heavy and—for film buffs—not to be missed. Read full book review >