FRAGMENTS: Portraits from the Inside by Andre de Toth

FRAGMENTS: Portraits from the Inside

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Faber's latest entry in its excellent film book series is the autobiography of one of Hollywood's most underrated filmmakers. De Toth is probably best known to non--film buffs as the one-eyed man who directed one of the first 3-D motion pictures, House of Wax (1953). In reality, that trifle is one of his lesser efforts. De Toth's filmography includes some of the best examples of action genre films the studio system has to offer: dark, brooding westerns like Ramrod and Springfield Rifle, chilling film noir like Pitfall, and the bleakest of WW II anti-heroic films, Play Dirty. None of which could have prepared readers for this delightful, somewhat rambling, but charming autobiography. It is telling that de Toth is halfway through this long book before he even gets to Hollywood; he is more interested in recounting the bizarre happenstances of his youth, and how he at long last stumbled into movies, than in boring readers with the obligatory ""and-then-I-made"" anecdote. Even his Hollywood tales tend to focus more on strange occurrences off the set than on filmmaking. It comes as no surprise that de Toth remembers Howard Hughes more as an aviator than as a producer. From his youthful encounter with the great Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnr through his fond recollections of the brothers Korda to a memorable several weeks on shipboard with England's Prince Charles, de Toth has known some incredible people; the best stories in the book involve noncelebrities, a memorable parade of hustlers, whores, and madams. He is a surprisingly graceful writer, witty and flamboyant, as befits a former race-car driver, aviator, and polo player with seven wives, numerous dogs, a twice-broken neck, and one eye. Although it suffers a bit from longueurs in the last hundred pages and is unforthcoming about de Toth's actual filmmaking experiences, Fragments is an entertaining and unexpected look at an unconventional life.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 466pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber