A master gives a guided tour of Hollywood films in the second half of the 20th century.
Legendary actor and director Reiner (Alive at Ninety-Five, 2017, etc.) begins the second of his captivating two-volume pictorial memoir in 1950, when he joined Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on the TV series Your Show of Shows. The author continues through the highlights of modern Hollywood history, closing out in the 2010s with films like The Wolf of Wall Street, The King’s Speech, and Ocean’s Eight, in which Reiner reprises the cameo role of Saul Bloom he originated in the 2001 George Clooney remake of Ocean’s Eleven. As in the previous volume, the author here reverses the usual pattern of memoirs, presenting page after page of set photographs and striking movie posters and adding only minimal text comments, a feat of restraint that becomes all the more remarkable when his tour reaches classic films he directed, like That Old Feeling, The Jerk, and Oh, God! As he approaches the rawer and raunchier topicality of modern movies (including Blazing Saddles, the hilarious 1974 comedy directed by his frequent collaborator Mel Brooks), he refers to his own favorite contention: “Any sexy, dirty, racist or offensive joke is totally acceptable as long as it’s funnier than it is dirty, sexy, racist or offensive.” And he allows himself the occasional nod to industry scandal, as in the case of Sunset Boulevard: “On screen, Gloria Swanson played a vixen and off screen, she was a bit of a vixen, having an ongoing affair with the scion of one of America’s wealthiest and most prestigious families.” Throughout the book, there’s a tone of enthusiastic invitation, an undimmed sense of exploration (“If you haven’t seen the documentaries on the careers of Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera, get copies of them, invite some friends over and you’ll thank me”). The cumulative effect should convince readers that they are in the presence of one of the world’s oldest—and most passionate—film geeks.
A tremendously welcoming survey of modern movie classics.